College Football Playoff: Will Pac-12 be shut out?
Utah's loss at USC is hardly the end of the playoff world for the Pac-12.
No, the conference champ doesn't control its own destiny to get in, but it'll be hard to keep the Utes out if they close out the year with a Pac-12 championship and a tremendous overall resume.
Losing at USC isn't awful – it's not like losing to Colorado or Oregon State – and to be 12-1 the Utes will have to beat Washington and Arizona on the road, UCLA at home, and get by Stanford – most likely – in the conference championship. That won't be strong enough to get in over a one-loss Florida, Alabama or LSU from the SEC, but with wins over Michigan, Oregon in Eugene, California and Arizona State – and Utah State, too, if the Aggies end up winning the Mountain West title – it'll be a far better body of work than anything coming from any one-loss champion from the ACC, Big Ten or Big 12. It would also beat an 11-1 Notre Dame.
Stanford is just as much of a sure-thing at 12-1, meaning it would have wins over USC and Washington State on the road, Arizona, UCLA, Washington, Oregon and Cal at home, and the big one, a victory over Notre Dame at the end of the regular season.
Northwestern beating Nebraska at Nebraska helps – it proved the team is okay and the losses to Michigan and Iowa were because the Wolverines and Hawkeyes are strong. The loss came early enough that it can easily be blown off, and with a 12-game winning streak to end the year, especially if they beat an 11-1 Utah in the Pac-12 title game, the Cardinal would be as good as in.
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