The 2009-10 Pac-10 bowl lineup is as follows: first place to the Rose Bowl vs. Big 10 Champ/BCS at-large, second choice to Holiday Bowl vs. Big XII No. 3, third choice to Sun Bowl vs. Big East No. 2 or Big XII No. 5/6, fourth choice to Emerald Bowl vs. ACC No. 7, fifth choice to Las Vegas Bowl vs. MWC No. 1, and sixth choice to Poinsettia Bowl vs. MWC No. 2.
The Pac-10 has seven bowl eligible teams with Arizona State, Washington, and Washington State unable to get eligible for postseason play. Arizona and UCLA are fighting for the sixth spot as both only have six wins. If either finishes 6-6, they could be left out of the bowl picture altogether.
The Holiday Bowl has never hosted USC in its 30+ plus years of existence. After four consecutive years of playing in Pasadena, Trojan fans are anxious to travel outside of the Los Angeles vicinity even if it is just 100 miles down the I-5. Even if USC stumbles down the stretch against either UCLA or Arizona, it's hard to imagine the Holiday Bowl passing on USC unless the Trojans lose both and/or bowl officials are forced to.
In that case, Oregon State likely gets the Holiday Bowl berth in USC's place if the Beavers lose to Oregon in the season finale. Cal can sneak into the picture by winning out, USC loses again and Oregon State wins the Pac-10. Holiday Bowl took Oregon last season and Cal has not been to San Diego in five years. The likely opponent would be Missouri or Oklahoma (if the Sooners upset Oklahoma State).
The Sun Bowl will not pass on USC if available. However, Arizona is a favorite if they win out – with a win over the Trojans – because of proximity. Now, Cal can make a case assuming the Bears beat Washington on the road on Dec. 5. Cal would rather play in a bowl game not taking place during finals (Las Vegas), and it beat Arizona head-to-head. The Sun Bowl is the second oldest bowl game west of the Mississippi, and it has never hosted the Bears.
Oregon State played in El Paso last year and Oregon two years ago. This looks like Cal's bowl spot unless Arizona wins one more game and the Bears agree to play in Vegas instead. The likely opponent will be Texas Tech or Oklahoma. A Cal-Texas Tech rematch would be fun to watch.
The Emerald Bowl got its wish with Cal defeating Stanford on Saturday night. Now, the Cardinal is out of Rose Bowl hunt and the possibility of a BCS at-large berth is dead as well. Regardless of the outcome versus Notre Dame next week, Stanford will face an ACC team (Florida State or Boston College) in San Francisco.
The Las Vegas Bowl could wind up with one of five different Pac-10 schools. Whether it's a Oregon, Cal, Oregon State, or even a 7-5 L.A. team (USC or UCLA), the MWC opponent will have its hands full. With TCU on its way to the BCS, the BYU-Utah winner will play here.
The Poinsettia Bowl will likely have UCLA or Arizona left to choose. As long as the Wildcats don't suffer a hangover versus rival Arizona State, they can lock up their Pac-10 bowl spot next week. A Bruin win over USC next week doesn't lock up a bowl spot unless Arizona and UCLA win out – meaning both beat USC. In that scenario, the Trojans and Bruins would finish tied for sixth in the Pac-10 standings with UCLA having the head-to-head tiebreaker. And USC would be left out of the Pac-10 bowl tie-ins.
Farfetched, can the Trojans really fall that far? We don't think so. This is how we see the Pac-10 bowl picture shaking out.
Rose Bowl – Oregon vs. Ohio State
Holiday Bowl – USC vs. Oklahoma
Sun Bowl – California vs. Texas Tech
Emerald Bowl – Stanford vs. Boston College
Las Vegas Bowl – Oregon State vs. BYU
Poinsettia Bowl – Arizona vs. Utah
*UCLA as an at-large berth somewhere, possibly to the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl. Humanitarian Bowl officials are rumored to be interested in the Bruins if available as an at-large team.
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