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Pac-12 playoff chances get muddled with Utah’s win over USC

NCAA Football: Southern California at Utah

Oct 15, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising (7) runs against USC Trojans defensive back Jaylin Smith (19) in the second half at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The conference now has one undefeated team, two with one loss and the 15th-ranked Utes hanging around with two losses.

The odds aren’t exactly stacked in the Pac-12’s favor, but it still has a CFP shot if the rest of the season plays out just right.


The ninth-ranked Bruins have been one of college football’s biggest surprises, yet can’t seem to get much respect outside of their own conference.

UCLA (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) has wins over Utah and Washington on its resume, but also struggled to put away South Alabama at home in Week 3.

The Bruins have been arguably the conference’s best defensive team, allowing 344 total yards per game, and have been solid offensively behind Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The dual-threat quarterback has taken his game to a new level in his fifth season with coach Chip Kelly, throwing for 1,510 yards and 15 touchdowns, with 231 yards and four more scores rushing.

UCLA has a massive test coming off its bye this week, playing at Oregon on Oct. 22. The Bruins also face rival USC on Nov. 19.

Win those two, avoid any other slipups and win the Pac-12 Championship and the Bruins could make a case for the CFP - particularly with the unpredictable landscape in college football this season.


The 10th-ranked Ducks (5-1, 3-0) put a big dent in their CFP chances with a blowout loss to top-ranked Georgia in the first game of the season.

Oregon has revved up its offense since then, scoring at least 40 points in five straight games. The Ducks are 10th nationally with 241.7 yards rushing per game and Auburn transfer Bo Nix has been sharp since the dud of an opener against the Bulldogs, throwing for 1,536 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Oregon has a win over then-No. 12 BYU on its resume, but the Cougars have fallen off and the Ducks still have some tough games left. After hosting UCLA, Oregon plays Utah on Nov. 19 and closes out the regular season with a rivalry game against Oregon State.

Win out in the regular season and take the Pac-12 Championship, Oregon could offset some of the ugliness from its opening flop against Georgia.


The Trojans (6-1, 4-1) looked like the Pac-12’s best CFP shot until last Saturday’s tense 43-42 loss to Utah.

The road gets tougher now, but at least there’s still a road.

Quarterback Caleb Williams has been superb since following coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma. Williams has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards with 19 touchdowns and one interception, and has been an electric runner, putting himself in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy.

The Trojans had to eke out a win over Oregon State, but rolled through the rest of their schedule before the loss to Utah.

The loss hurts, as does Nov. 26 opponent Notre Dame falling off, but USC can boost its resume by beating UCLA on Nov. 19 and winning the Pac-12 Championship.

Pull it off and the Trojans will be a one-loss Pac-12 champion, which could be good enough if Clemson stumbles or the Big 12 ends up with a two-loss champion.


The emotional win over USC was massive, but the Utes are pretty much out of the CFP with their two losses.

Utah (5-2, 3-1) probably could have survived a three-point season-opening loss at Florida, but a 10-point loss to UCLA on Oct. 8 knocked its CFP hopes off the rails.

Now, even if the Utes win out, it would take an unlikely perfect storm for them to get a CFP nod. Still, a second straight Pac-12 title and trip to the Rose Bowl would be a nice way to finish out the season if they can win out.