While it may be difficult for some to care much about what bowl game UCLA ends up in after its playoff hopes were dashed this week, there's still an opportunity for UCLA to end up in its best bowl game, the Alamo Bowl, since the 1998 season. According to multiple reports, the Alamo Bowl would love to take UCLA -- as long as Arizona, a team ranked ahead of the Bruins, isn't available to be chosen. So, in other words, Arizona needs to finish the year ranked in the top 10 of the College Football Playoff ranking, which would mean a berth in the Fiesta, Cotton, or Peach Bowls (with an outside chance of the playoffs if they beat Oregon). That would likely ensure that UCLA ends up in the Alamo Bowl and, from where we sit, it seems very likely that will end up happening.
Here's what we anticipate the top 15 will look like when the CFP Ranking is released on Tuesday, though there's a chance Arizona leaps Michigan State as well to take UCLA's place as the best two-loss team:
3. Florida State
5. Ohio State
7. Michigan State
9. Mississippi State
10. Kansas State
12. Georgia Tech
14. Ole Miss
Here are the scenarios:
Scenario 1: No. 8 Arizona beats No. 2 Oregon
In this scenario, both Arizona and Oregon clearly finish the year in the top 10, making them both shoe-ins for either the playoffs or Peach, Cotton, or Fiesta. So, since both of those teams would be taken by top ten bowls, the Alamo would likely opt for UCLA.
Scenario 2: No. 2 Oregon beats No. 8 Arizona
This is where it gets tricky, so bear with us. During championship weekend, much of that likely top 15 will play against other top 15 teams. Here's how it will shake out:
No. 1 Alabama plays No. 13 Missouri
No. 2 Oregon plays No. 8 Arizona
No. 3 FSU plays No. 12 Georgia Tech
No. 4 TCU plays Iowa State
No. 5 Ohio State plays No. 11 Wisconsin
No. 6 Baylor plays No. 10 Kansas State
No. 7 Michigan State is done -- they will finish in the top ten
No. 8 Arizona plays No. 2 Oregon
No. 9 Mississippi State is done -- they will more than likely finish in the top ten
No. 10 KSU plays No. 6 Baylor
No. 11 Wisconsin plays No. 5 Ohio State
No. 12 GT plays No. 3 Florida State
No. 13 Missouri plays No. 1 Alabama
No. 14 Ole Miss is done -- almost no shot at the top ten
No. 15 UCLA is done -- no shot at the top ten.
So there are 13 teams with non-ridiculous chances at finishing in the top ten, but every team (save Mississippi State) with real potential to leap Arizona also plays against a top six opponent. For Arizona to fall out of the top ten (assuming our rankings are more or less a correct appraisal of the situation) at least two of Missouri, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, and Kansas State would need to upset their higher-ranked opponent, which would allow them to force their way above the Wildcats. But even in the event that Kansas State does beat Baylor, or Missouri does beat Alabama, we don't see a likely scenario where the committee, which selects the teams for every New Years bowl game, would opt for a third SEC or Big 12 or Big Ten team over a second Pac-12 team that won the tough South division -- at least not in the first year of the College Football Playoff. We could easily see a KSU win pushing Baylor out of the top ten, or even a Missouri win squeezing out non-SEC champion, non-division winner Mississippi State.
Given the unlikelihood of at least two of those upsets happening, and the ultimate result being just one Pac-12 team finishing in the top ten in a year when the Pac-12 was accepted to be at least the second-best conference in the country, we have to figure that even a loss for Arizona should leave the Wildcats in the top ten, and propel UCLA into the Alamo Bowl.
So...UCLA has that going for it. Which is nice.
Which Bowl Game is Most Likely for UCLA?
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