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Mike Sorensen: Pac-12 may get more than its share of bowl berths

Published: Friday, Sept. 4 2015 3:32 p.m. MDT

Utah Utes running back Lucky Radley (44) evades tacklers as the University of Utah plays USC  in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif.  
 (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah Utes running back Lucky Radley (44) evades tacklers as the University of Utah plays USC in PAC 12 football Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif. (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.

Next: SEC might also overfill

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