Pac-12 South Race Analysis

Dave bends his brain into a pretzel shape to come up with the scenarios for UCLA to win the division based on the last three games of the year...

Tiebreaker Rules
Two team tiebreaker: Head to head record
Three team tiebreaker: 1. Head to Head record among teams tied. 2. Record against Pac-12 South opponents. 3. Record against the next highest place team in the division. 4. Record in common Conference games. 5. Highest BCS ranking following the last weekend of games.

The Pac-12 South race, heading down the final three game stretch, is a remarkably tight race. Three teams have semi-reasonable chances of winning the league, with Arizona State currently in the lead position at 5-1. UCLA is likely in the next best position, a loss behind Arizona State but with ASU left on the schedule, meaning that the Bruins control their own destiny thanks to tiebreaker rules.

It will actually be a tremendous feat if the Bruins are able to pull off the third straight Pac-12 South title. USC and ASU both avoided the almost sure loss against Oregon this year, giving both teams effectively a leg up in the south race. The Bruins, of course, had to play at Stanford and at Oregon on back-to-back weekends, which gave UCLA two Pac-12 losses in their first four conference games.

There are still many scenarios, even a few where Arizona could still potentially end the season in a tie for the division, so we'll instead analyze each of the situations UCLA could find itself in and how that might affect their chances of winning the league.

If UCLA Loses Out: if UCLA loses out, it is eliminated from the race, full stop. Not only would ASU and USC have fewer losses at that point, but they would also have the tie breaker.

If UCLA goes 1-2: if UCLA were to lose two of the remaining games, the Bruins would need the one win to come against ASU, for the Sun Devils to lose their remaining games, for USC to lose to both Colorado and Stanford, and for Arizona to lose at least one more game to either Oregon or Washington State. In that scenario, if UCLA were tied with all three teams, or even just ASU and USC, the Bruins would have the tiebreaker by virtue of their record against Pac-12 South teams (they would be 4-1) and would have the head to head advantage over all but USC.

If UCLA were to go 2-1: If UCLA were to lose just one remaining game, things get decidedly muddier. There are three basic situations:

1. If the Bruins beat both USC and ASU, but lost to Washington, UCLA would need ASU to lose at least one of Oregon State or Arizona to achieve the tie breaker. UCLA would obviously have the tiebreaker with ASU, and if Arizona or USC were to also have only three losses at that point, the Bruins would win the tiebreaker by virtue of their record against the teams tied (they'd be 3-0) and they'd have the heads up tiebreaker with ASU, USC, and Arizona. If ASU were to lose to both Oregon State and Arizona in this scenario, UCLA would win the south.

2. If the Bruins beat both USC and Washington, but lost to ASU, UCLA would need ASU to lose to both Oregon State and Arizona, and would need, weirdly, Arizona to win out. If that were to happen, UCLA would have the tiebreaker between ASU, Arizona, UCLA, and/or USC by virtue of the Bruin's record against Pac-12 South teams (again, they'd be 4-1), and would have the heads up tiebreaker against all but ASU.

3. If the Bruins beat both ASU and Washington, but lost to USC, UCLA would need ASU to lose to Oregon State and beat Arizona, and would need USC to lose to Stanford (no one is losing to Colorado this year except possibly California) to force at least a three way tie. In that scenario, all three teams would have a 1-1 record against the others tied, all three would have 4-1 records in the south, so it would eventually work its way down to the BCS Standings, in which UCLA would likely still be ranked highest.

So, simple, right? Looking at the teams, it's difficult to predict how the remaining stretch will go, because if you take off your blue-shaded glasses for a bit, you'd have to say that USC is playing well at the moment, and ASU has had a stretch of pretty impressive games. USC, reasonably, probably won't beat Stanford, but the Trojans should pound Colorado, putting them at 5-3 heading into the UCLA game at the end of the year. ASU looks good, and will likely be favored or a pick ‘em in each of its remaining games, so it's difficult to assume that the Sun Devils will lose to either Oregon State or Arizona. So, if we're betting on this, we'd say that there's very little chance for UCLA to win the South unless the Bruins win out. ASU has too weak of a remaining schedule to bank on another Sun Devils loss.

Still, as we said up top, it's quite an accomplishment for UCLA to be in the running at this point because, again, neither ASU nor USC had to play Oregon this season. If the Bruins somehow do win out, and, thus, win the South, it will be easily their most impressive division title of the three consecutive.

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