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.
The 14-team SEC is another league that may overfill its bowl commitments.
The league has 10 bowl spots and like the Pac-12 could get an extra if it has two schools in BCS bowls. Right now, only Kentucky (1-6) and Arkansas (3-4) have losing records. Six schools already have the requisite six wins, one has five and five schools have four wins.
The SEC has an advantage over the Pac-12 in that it only plays eight league games, giving teams the opportunity to load up on FCS schools for extra victories.
BYU just gets better and better each week behind the dynamic play of Taysom Hill, and the Cougars’ wins look better each week as most of their former opponents keep on winning.
Texas lost to Mississippi the week after going to Provo, but has won four straight since then and is receiving votes in the polls. Georgia Tech has won twice since losing to BYU. Utah State is 1-1. And Houston won this week, handily over Rutgers.
Alas, it’s the teams BYU has lost to that haven’t fared well since playing the Cougars. Virginia fell to 2-6 with its fifth-straight loss Saturday, while Utah has lost three of four since beating the Cougars in September.
The Cougars are now officially eligible for the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco and could face one of the aforementioned Pac-12 teams in the Dec. 27 game, since the Pac-12 No. 6 team is slated for that game.
The Cougars definitely won’t be facing Oregon or Stanford and probably not UCLA or Oregon State or Arizona State. That leaves Washington, Arizona, USC or Utah as their most likely opponent.
Utah State, which had last week off, appears to have righted its ship after the loss of Chuckie Keeton. At 4-4, the Aggies are relying on a defense that ranks 19th in the country and backup quarterback Darell Garretson and running back Joey DeMartino on the offensive side.
With games remaining against Hawaii, UNLV, Colorado State and Wyoming — all are home games except UNLV — the Aggies should make it to six wins and become eligible for one of the Mountain West Conference’s six bowls.
The Ags are unlikely to make the Las Vegas or Poinsettia Bowls, but could end up at the Armed Forces Bowl, the Hawaii Bowl, the New Mexico Bowl or the Famous Potato Bowl.
Fresno State, which hopes to become the latest BCS buster, stayed unbeaten at 7-0, blocking a field goal at the end of regulation to defeat San Diego State 35-28 Saturday night in a game that ended well after midnight Utah time.
The Bulldogs were ranked 17th in the initial BCS standings last week and can earn a BCS berth by finishing in the top 12 of the BCS standings or in top 16 if they finish ahead of a bowl-eligible conference champion. That is, if they are the highest-ranked of non-BCS schools.
Utah was the original BCS buster back in 2004 and since then, Boise State, Hawaii, TCU and Northern Illinois have joined the club.
This will be the last year of the BCS, as next year a four-team playoff will be instituted and there will be a new method of choosing teams for the major bowls.