Photo by Steve Cheng

How Can UCLA Win The Pac-12 South?

Oct. 25 -- At this stage, what is UCLA's path to winning the Pac-12 South and, potentially, winning the conference?

With Utah losing to USC last night, the Pac-12 South is back to being fairly wide open — especially for UCLA. Utah still has a one-game lead in the conference, but the Utes still have to play UCLA, which is just one game behind Utah in the standings.

The tricky thing for the Bruins is that they must almost certainly win out if they want any shot at the Pac-12 South. Utah only has five games left, and the only one remotely challenging after UCLA is at Washington on November 7th. Washington has a tough defense that could cause Utah’s offense some issues, but it’s hard to envision Washington’s offense scoring on anyone at this point. If Utah somehow lost that game, UCLA could afford perhaps one more loss, but only to a North team, and only if ASU loses another game as well. It's too complex to consider at this point, so we'll stick to this: if UCLA wants to win the conference, the Bruins must almost certainly win out.

There’s an argument to be made, actually, that UCLA doesn’t want Utah to lose anything more than the one game to UCLA. If Utah somehow loses two, and UCLA wins out, there’s a chance UCLA could end up in a tie with ASU, and a head-to-head tie there would, naturally, favor the Sun Devils, since they beat the Bruins this year. On the other hand, from our read of it, any situation where UCLA wins out and ends up in a three-way tie for the South will favor the Bruins (they’d have the best record against South teams in any combination of teams, as long as they win out — you can read all the tiebreaker rules here). So, if ASU wins out and UCLA wins out, UCLA wants another team to be 7-2 as well.

If you’re a UCLA fan, and you actually have some interest in seeing UCLA play Stanford again, the ideal scenario the rest of the way is for UCLA to win out, Utah to win four of its next five (loss to UCLA), and ASU to win out and finish 9-3 and probably ranked in the College Football Playoff. If UCLA is 10-2 entering a Pac-12 title game, with the only losses against two teams ranked in the CFP Ranking (and Stanford probably top 5 by that point), the Bruins will have likely risen up to somewhere in the top 10 of the College Football Playoff Ranking, and would potentially be in line for a New Years’ Day Bowl even with another loss to Stanford. If they win, it’s hard to envision a scenario where they’d make the Playoff with two losses this year, but it would still be very cool to appear in the Rose Bowl again for the first time in forever.

If you’re interested, here’s how we see the rest of the conference season playing out at this juncture:

Stanfordwin out, 11-1, 9-0
Washington Statelose to Stanford, ASU, and UCLA, beat Colorado and Washington, 7-5, 5-4
Californialose to USC, beat Oregon, beat Oregon State, lose to Stanford, beat ASU, 8-4, 5-4
Oregonbeat ASU, lose to Cal, lose to Stanford, lose to USC, beat Oregon State, 6-6, 4-5
Washingtonbeat Arizona, lose to Utah, lose to ASU, beat Oregon State, lose to Washington State 5-7, 3-6
Oregon Statelose to Utah, lose to UCLA, lose to Cal, lose to Washington, lose to Oregon 2-10, 0-9

Pac-12 North Standings
1. Stanford 9-0 (Playoff)
2. California 5-4 (Foster Farms)
3. Washington State 5-4 (Las Vegas)
4. Oregon 4-5 (Cactus Bowl)
5. Washington 3-6
6. Oregon State 0-9

Utahbeat Oregon State, beat Washington, beat Arizona, beat UCLA, beat Colorado 11-1, 8-1
UCLAbeat Colorado, beat Oregon State, beat Washington State, lose to Utah, beat USC, 9-3, 6-3
USCbeat Cal, beat Arizona, beat Colorado, beat Oregon, lose to UCLA, 8-4, 6-3
ASUlose to Oregon, beat Washington State, beat Washington, beat Arizona, lose to Cal, 7-5, 5-4
Arizona lose to Washington, lose to USC, lose to Utah, lose to ASU — 5-7, 2-7
Coloradolose to UCLA, lose to Stanford, lose to USC, lose to Washington State, lose to Utah, 4-9, 1-8

Pac-12 South Standings
1. Utah 8-1 (Rose)
2. UCLA 6-3 (Holiday — probably wouldn’t do Alamo again)
3. USC 6-3 (Alamo)
4. ASU 5-4 (Sun Bowl)
5. Arizona 2-7
6. Colorado 1-8

Pac-12 Championship Game: Stanford beats Utah

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