Going into the last week of the season in Pac-12 play, the Pac-12 South standings are:
- USC 6-2
- UCLA 5-3
- Arizona State 4-4
- Utah 4-4
- Arizona 2-7
- Colorado 1-7
If UCLA beats USC, they will finish tied at 6-3 and UCLA will win the division tiebreaker on head-to-head results. If USC beats UCLA it will finish 7-2 and will take first place in the division, but USC is not eligible to play for the conference title, so the championship game participant will be the second-place finisher.
The season's head-to-head results among the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place team went like this: UCLA>ASU>Utah>UCLA. So UCLA wins a tiebreaker against Arizona State, but not Utah. Utah wins a tiebreaker against UCLA, but not Arizona State. Arizona State wins a tiebreaker against Utah, but not UCLA. Therefore:
- UCLA goes if it wins at USC (winning outright), or if Colorado wins at Utah (winning outright or in a tiebreaker against Arizona State).
- Utah goes if it beats Colorado and USC beats UCLA, but Arizona State loses at home to Cal (because it would finish a game ahead of ASU, and would win the head-to-head tiebreaker against UCLA).
- Arizona State goes if it beats Cal, and USC beats UCLA and Utah beats Colorado (because ASU has the advantage in a three-way tie by virtue of UCLA being eliminated on divisional records, then ASU winning the head-to-head tiebreaker ober Utah). Barring an upset, this is the likely scenario.
How does that 3-way tie get settled? I've copied and pasted the tiebreaker rules below, but here's how it would apply this season if UCLA, Arizona State and Utah all finish with 5-4 conference records.
- First, you would go to head-to-head records. Each team is 1-1 against the other two teams, so the tie is not yet broken.
- Next you go to record in games played in the division. ASU finished 3-2 against the Pac-12 south. Utah would be 3-2 against the south with a win over Colorado. UCLA would fall to 2-3 against the south with a loss to USC. So UCLA is eliminated.
- With UCLA eliminated, ASU and Utah would be decided by head-to-head play. ASU beat Utah, so ASU heads to Eugene (if the Ducks beat Oregon St.), or Palo Alto (if the Beavers beat Oregon.
The loser of the Pac-12 championship game is assured of nothing. It doesn't get the #2 bowl spot (now the Alamo Bowl), and in fact, it could finish ineligible for a bowl. If UCLA were to lose on Saturday, and Utah were to lose to Colorado, even if ASU wins, the Bruins and Sun Devils would finish second at 5-4, with Utah third at 4-5, and UCLA would take its 6-6 record to the championship game by virtue of its win over Arizona State and USC's post-season ban. If UCLA then lost to Oregon (or Stanford) in the conference title game, it would be 6-7, and not eligible for an at-large bid to any bowl.
Curiously, last week, the Pac-12 put out a release saying Arizona State needed 2 wins and a UCLA loss, or a win and 2 UCLA losses. That's actually not true. As I mentioned above, Arizona State goes to the Pac-12 championship game if it finishes in a three-way tie with UCLA and Utah. Here are the Pac-12 tiebreakers for two teams, and for three or more teams:
Divisional Champion Tie-breaker
Head-to-head competition between the two tied teams. If no game is played between the two tied teams or that game ends in a tie, the following tie-breaking procedures would be applied:
1. Record in games played within the division.
2. Record against the next highest placed team in the division (based on record in all Conference games, both divisional and cross-divisional) proceeding through the division.
3. Record in common Conference games.
4. Highest BCS Ranking following the last weekend of regular-season games.
5. Total number of wins in a 12-game season. The following conditions will apply to the calculation of the total number of wins:
- Only one win against a team from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision or lower division will be counted annually.
- Any games that are exempted from counting against the annual maximum number of football contests per NCAA rules (current Bylaw 126.96.36.199) shall not be included.
6. Coin toss.
Three or More Teams:
The following procedures will only be used to eliminate all but two teams, at which point the two-team tie-breaking procedure will be applied.
1. Head-to-head (best record in games among the tied teams).
2. Record in games played within the division.
3. Record against the next highest placed team in the division (based on record in all Conference games, both divisional and cross-divisional), proceeding through the division.
4. Record in common Conference games.
5. Highest BCS Ranking following the last weekend of regular-season games.