It’s been a rough start for the PAC-12 in the 2019 season.
UW and USC were strong candidates to be in the college football playoffs, but losses to Cal and BYU, respectively, have all but eliminated them from being a Pac-12 2019 College Football Playoff team.
Oregon looks strong, but an early-season loss to Auburn, while respectable, gives them a razor-thin margin of error if they want to make the playoffs this year.
The conference still has six teams ranked in the top 25: Utah (10) Oregon (16) WSU (19) Washington (22) Cal (23) and Arizona State (24), with USC just getting bumped following their loss.
The question now, however, is will any of these teams make it out of the hyper-competitive PAC-12 conference play in order to participate in the College Football Playoff, or will the competitive nature of the conference knock every team out of contention with a handful of losses?
No. 10 Utah
Utah might have the best shot at it, although they have a classic trap game coming up on Thursday when they play the Trojans down in Southern California. They have No. 19 Washington State after that, but at least they’ll be in front of the home crowd. Most of the rest of their tough opponents will be at home, although a date with the No. 23 Huskies in Montlake won’t be easy.
They likely can’t afford to lose any games if they want to make the playoffs, so this will be a huge challenge.
No. 19 Washington State
Washington State is 3-0 and ranked No. 19, but they haven’t played anyone yet and all their tough games are on the road this year, including @ Utah, @ Arizona State, @ Oregon, @ Cal and @ UW for the Apple Cup. It’s hard to imagine them not taking a loss (or two) out of that murderer’s row, all but ensuring they won’t be playing for a title.
No. 16 Oregon
Oregon has to get by the Huskies in Seattle, the Sun Devils in Tempe and the Trojans in Los Angeles, but – lead by star quarterback Justin Herbert – they may actually have the best shot at playing meaningful football in early 2020.
I just don’t see it for UW, Arizona State or Cal.
UW already lost to Cal, which gives them a miniscule margin of error – unless Cal kills it this year which would make the loss not look as bad. Still, UW has to get through Oregon and Utah (both at home) as well as Arizona in Arizona, Colorado in Colorado and a sneaky-good BYU team this weekend. They have a favorable home schedule, but that Cal loss looms large for the Huskies and their new quarterback, Jacob Eason.
Arizona State’s win over Michigan State looks nice, and they have a decent home schedule, but road games against Cal, Utah and home matchups against USC and Oregon will be a tough gauntlet to emerge 4-0 from, which they’ll likely have to do if they want a college football playoff berth.
Finally, Cal is a surprise team on this last after beating UW in the lightning fest at Husky Stadium, but road games against Ole Miss, Oregon and Utah will be extremely difficult to power through for a team that wasn’t expected to do much this year.
This doesn’t even include the fact that teams like UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State are known spoilers, and could easily trip one of these teams up on their quest for a championship.
All-in-all, the PAC-12 seems likely to shoot themselves in the foot again this year, limiting their opportunities to make a name for themselves on the national stage with continued losses against each other in conference play.