Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE — Just three years ago, what was then known as the Pac-10 Conference only had four bowl-eligible teams and couldn’t fulfill its bowl obligations. The Sun Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl and Fight Hunger Bowl had to fill their slots with non-Pac-10 teams.
This year, however, the Pac-12 could have an opposite problem with too many bowl-eligible teams.
Right now it looks like the league could have as many as 10 bowl-eligible teams to fill seven bowl commitments (eight if two league teams make BCS bowls). With a 30-6 nonconference record, the league has a lot of winning teams and most are heading toward the six-win minimum to be eligible for a bowl.
Oregon, Stanford and Oregon State already have clinched bowl spots, while five schools — Arizona State, Arizona, Washington, UCLA and USC — are just a win away with five wins. Two schools, Utah and Washington State, each have four wins with four games left.
Even Colorado, with a 3-4 record, has a shot at a bowl. The Buffs have yet to win in Pac-12 play but have league bottom feeder Cal at home as well as USC before playing at Utah in the season finale. The Buffs also have a game at Washington this week.
Only Cal, at 1-7 under first-year coach Sonny Dykes, is out of the bowl running among Pac-12 schools.
The guess from here is that nine Pac-12 schools will end up going bowling. The eight with at least five wins will certainly get to six wins and the ninth school would be the winner of the Utah-Washington State game on Nov. 23. Both the Utes and Cougars have three other chances to get another win, although WSU has a tougher road with Arizona State, Arizona and Washington, while Utah gets Colorado at home to finish the season along with No. 25 Arizona State and No. 2 Oregon.
If the Pac-12 does get nine bowl-eligible teams, it’s likely another spot will open up in a bowl that doesn’t have a bowl-eligible team from its appointed conference. Otherwise, a 6-6 team from the Pac-12 may have to stay home for the holidays.
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