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November 26, 2013

Bowl picture clearing up...sort of

So, where does Oregon State go from here?

Saturday night's embarrassing 69-27 loss to Washington at Reser Stadium in a game overflowing with bowl repercussions has put the Beavers' postseason prospects in peril, and unless they snap the five-game losing streak in the Civil War on Friday, they face the possibility of staying home for the holidays unless an available at-large berth opens up.

Why? The Pac-12 has just seven guaranteed bowl spots, including the BCS, and the conference currently has six teams with seven or more victories. Moreover, just one Pac-12 team is currently situated in the Top 10 of the BCS standings (Stanford at No. 8) and every conference team has at least two losses, so the league's chances of getting a second team into the BCS are nominal.

The two teams joining Oregon State (6-5) at the six-win level are Washington and Washington State. With the Apple Cup rivalry game scheduled for Friday at 12:30 p.m. PT in Seattle, the Huskies or Cougars are assured of achieving seven wins.

That would likely leave a six-win Beavers team on the outside looking in as far as Pac-12 affiliated bowls are concerned. The solution? Beat the Ducks.

Oregon enters the Civil War on a down note after meekly conceding a possible Pac-12 title and the prestigious Rose Bowl berth accompanying it with a shockingly listless performance at Arizona.

Instead, the winner of the December 7 Pac-12 championship game between Stanford and Arizona State will square off with Ohio State or Michigan State of the Big 10 in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

Depending on the outcome of the Civil War, the winner of the Apple Cup could land in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. But the Beavers could stake a claim to that spot by upsetting the Ducks in Eugene, a win sure to generate enormous publicity and send a jolt through the OSU program.

Here's how the Pac-12 currently lines up in terms of number of victories heading into the final weekend of the regular season:

9 wins: Arizona State (9-2), Oregon (9-2), Stanford (9-2), USC (9-3);
8 wins: UCLA (8-3);
7 Wins: Arizona (7-4), Washington (7-4);
6 wins: Oregon State (6-5), Washington State (6-5).
Less Than 6 Wins (All Bowl Ineligible): Colorado (4-7), Utah (4-7), California (1-11).

At the top of the Pac-12 bowl ladder, we know the winner of the Stanford-Arizona State title game on December 7 at a site to be determined (if Arizona State beats Arizona in the Territorial Cup, the Sun Devils host. Otherwise, Stanford hosts) will punch their ticket for Pasadena and the Rose Bowl.

Assuming only one Pac-12 team slips into the BCS (this is where Oregon's puzzling lopsided loss to Arizona hurts the conference because the Ducks fell from No. 5 to No. 13 in the BCS), the loser of the Pac-12 championship game would likely compete with Oregon for the Alamo Bowl bid.

Considering the condescending comments directed at the Rose Bowl by a few Ducks players in the last week or so, does the Alamo Bowl risk inviting the Ducks? If Arizona State beats Stanford, the choice is easy. The Cardinal go to San Antonio. If the Sun Devils lose, the Alamo has a tough decision on their hands.

Right now, the Alamo and Holiday Bowls will likely divide Arizona State and Oregon between themselves.

The Sun Bowl in El Paso, which has the No. 5 pick in the selection order, could eye Saturday's winner of the UCLA-USC game in Los Angeles. But what happens if the suddenly feel-good Trojans earn a 10th overall win under interim head coach Ed Orgeron? Do they jump up and snag the Holiday Bowl bid?

Would the Sun Bowl bypass USC if the Trojans were available based on their deplorable behavior last year when they essentially dissed the bowl by showing up late for the kickoff dinner and playing with little heart or emotion against Georgia Tech?

Right now, pencil in the Bruins for the trip to El Paso, while the Trojans land in Las Vegas. Hey, who said life was fair?

That leaves Washington for the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco unless they fall to rival Washington State in the Apple Cup on Friday. In that event, the Cougars could snag the bid. And the Beavers could get serious consideration as long as they win the Civil War.

Washington State's bowl hopes were left for dead when they lost to Arizona State, but the Cougars have rebounded with victories over Arizona and Utah. Suddenly, Mike Leach has an opportunity to take WSU to a bowl game for the first time in a decade in his second season in Pullman.

Utah's bowl aspirations were dealt a fatal blow when they lost, 49-37, at Washington State. Utah had to win its last two games to attain bowl eligibility, but the best they can do now is 5-7.

In the event other BCS conferences fail to fill all their affiliated bowl spots, one or more Pac-12 schools could grab an at-large berth. Right now, the Independence (Shreveport, La.), BBVA Compass (Birmingham), Heart of Dallas (Dallas, Tex.), Pinstripe Bowl (New York, NY) or the Famous Potato Idaho Bowl (Boise, ID) could all be in the market for participants because their affiliated conferences lack a sufficient number of bowl eligible teams.

In fact, respected college football expert Phil Steele and ESPN's Mark Schlabach predict the Beavers will face a MAC team in Boise. Another national analyst has Oregon State going to Birmingham.

Pac-12 Week 14 schedule (11/29-30):
Friday, Nov. 29:
Washington State at Washington, 12:30 p.m. (FOX)
Oregon State at Oregon, 4 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

Saturday, Nov. 30:
Colorado at Utah, noon (Pac-12 Networks)
Notre Dame at Stanford, 4 p.m. (FOX)
UCLA at USC, 5 p.m. (ABC)
Arizona at Arizona State, 6:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks)
(All Times Pacific)

Pac-12 bowl projections after Week 13:
Rose Bowl (Jan. 1, Pasadena) - Stanford
Alamo Bowl (Dec. 30, San Antonio) - Arizona State
Holiday Bowl (Dec. 30, San Diego) - Oregon
Sun Bowl (Dec. 31, El Paso) - UCLA
Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 21, Las Vegas) - USC
Fight Hunger Bowl (Dec. 27, San Francisco) - Washington
New Mexico Bowl (Dec. 21, Albuquerque) - Arizona
At-large - Oregon State and Washington State.

NOT ELIGIBLE (Definite): Colorado (4-7), California (1-11), Utah (4-7).


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