The PAC-12 Tiebreaker And Conference Championship Scenarios, Explained

Flickr/Eric Chan

If you haven’t heard, things got a little crazy last night. The top two teams in the BCS, Kansas State and Oregon, both lost, leaving Notre Dame as the clear No. 1 going into its final showdown against USC next week.

But lost in this mess is the impact of Stanford’s win over Oregon in regards to the PAC-12 title race. Throw in UCLA’s triumph over USC, and you’ve got a really, really complicated set of scenarios heading into the final set of games this upcoming weekend.

So let’s set the stage. Here are the PAC-12 standings after last night’s insanity:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remaining Games That Matter:
Stanford @ UCLA
Oregon @ Oregon State

Here’s what we know:
1. UCLA’s victory over USC clinched the Bruins the South division, and a spot in the PAC-12 Championship Game.
2. The North division title, and the championship game location are still undecided.

Scenarios:
1. If Stanford wins and Oregon wins, the Cardinal will win the North based on their head-to-head win over the Ducks. UCLA would travel to Stanford for the PAC-12 Championship Game.
2. If Stanford wins and Oregon loses, it’s the same as above.
3. If Stanford loses and Oregon wins, Oregon would win the North, and UCLA would travel to Eugene for the PAC-12 Championship Game.
4. If Stanford loses and Oregon loses, there would be a 3-way tie for the North division. Cue the tiebreaker rules. Since Stanford has beaten both Oregon and Oregon State, the Cardinal would win the North. In this scenario, because UCLA would also be 7-2 due to its win over Stanford, the Bruins would host the PAC-12 Championship Game on head-to-head tiebreaker.

Now let’s apply logic:
1. UCLA has already won its division. It wants to win the PAC-12, above all else. If the Bruins lose to Stanford, they get another shot at them again for the PAC-12 title.
2. That being said, if UCLA beats Stanford, there’s a very strong chance the Bruins would see the Ducks in the PAC-12 title game. They may not want that.

Conclusion: Besides playing for pride, which is immeasurable, UCLA can only gain home-field advantage in the PAC-12 Championship Game – and that’s if the Bruins defeat Stanford AND Oregon State beats Oregon. So the obvious question here is: Are the Bruins better off resting their stars and preparing themselves for the PAC-12 title game?

Bonus: Oregon obviously needs help to reach the PAC-12 title game. What would be interesting is if, just like Alabama last year, the Ducks would be able to finish No. 2 in the BCS standings without reaching their own conference championship. It’s possible, but don’t count on it.

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Matt is a Co-Founder at College Spun. He can be reached at matt@collegespun.com.