Ragnarok over at California Golden Blogs has been doing a great series on the probabilities of which bowl Cal ends up in. One of the possibilities is “no bowl”. The point of this post is to re-phrase the good work he has done in scenarios instead of percentages.
UPDATE at 7:30 AM on 11/20/07: I’ve been unsure about a rule that I heard about 7-5 vs. 6-6 teams and so I didn’t include it. Ragnarok found it and it can be located here on page 9 (although for 2006, one has to believe it applies to 2007). As such, it adds another criteria to avoid missin a bowl:
For Cal to end up not going to a bowl game, ALL of the following must happen:
- Arizona must be bowl eligible
- Cal must lose the Big Game (added on update)
- UCLA must be bowl eligible
- The Pac-10 must send only one team to a BCS bowl game
Breaking those down, Arizona has one game left against Arizona State that they must win to be bowl-eligible. They’ll of course be the underdog. Computers and others who don’t know the subtle details might think that Arizona, although an underdog, has a good shot at beating ASU, particularly after Oregon lost to Arizona having previously beat ASU. What that fails to consider is that Oregon lost their star QB during the Arizona game and their team completely fell apart. Also, ASU was in Oregon and Arizona was in Tuscon. Finally, the game is at ASU’s home stadium, so I don’t give Arizona much of a chance. In any case, whatever the odds, if ASU wins that game, the Bears are in a bowl no matter what.
Similar to Arizona being bowl eligible is Cal losing the Big Game. If Cal wins the Big Game, they’ll go to a bowl over any 6-6 team because of the above noted rule. Since the best Arizona could do is 6-6, if Cal wins the Big Game, they have to be selected before Arizona and therefore will go to a bowl game. This logic also applies to UCLA if they are 6-6. (Paragraph added on update)
UCLA has two games left and is 5-5 making them less clear cut than Arizona. With two games left they only have to win one to be bowl eligible at 6-6. However those games are against what have been the toughest teams in the Pac-10, Oregon and USC. I give UCLA almost zero chance against USC in the Coliseum, but the big catch here is that Oregon, who I’d normally say would blow away UCLA, has lost Dixon, their star QB. This is the big variable that is nearly impossible to predict. It’s definitely the “risky” of the two games. In any case, if UCLA loses both of these, which is definitely within the realm of possibility, Cal goes to a bowl.
As for the BCS bowls, this is the biggest unknown of the three criteria. Of course the Pac-10 gets one for sure, the Rose Bowl. Assuming ASU can’t win out and leapfrog enough teams to get into the championship game, what we’re talking about is the winner of the Pac-10 going to the Rose Bowl and likely the Fiesta Bowl liking a second Pac-10 team for their at-large berth(s). There are too many different scenarios to play out here and be comprehensive but the way I see it, if there are two 2-loss Pac-10 teams, the Pac-10 will get two BCS berths. The three candidates for that are Oregon, who has games left against UCLA and OSU, USC, who has games against ASU and UCLA and ASU, who has games against USC and Arizona. If you want to root for the scenario with the most opportunities for two 2-loss teams, root for USC to beat ASU who is currently a 1-loss team to date and then for those three teams to win the rest of their games. In that scenario Oregon ends up in the Rose Bowl because they win the Pac-10 tie-breakers and ASU is a VERY tempting opportunity for the Fiesta and USC is always a favorite for every BCS game. I could see them getting an offer from any of the four. (Please note that the BCS can only take two teams from each conferences, so all 3 can’t go.)
You’ll notice that both Arizona and UCLA factor into how many 2-loss or better teams there are. Because of this it’s tempting to view the first two criteria as mutually exclusive to the third. While there is definitely a lot of overlap, it is possible for the Pac-10 to have two 2-loss teams with both UCLA and Arizona being bowl eligible. The scenario is a USC meltdown: USC loses to both ASU and UCLA. That way ASU still has a game to lose be a 2-loss team (Arizona’s needed win) and Oregon can wins out (thus beating UCLA) without preventing UCLA from being bowl eligible. While it’s a bit odd, it’s not out of the realm of possibility and is a wonderful scenario for USC haters.
Whatever the scenario, if the Pac-10 gets two BCS bowls, even if both Arizona and UCLA are bowl eligible, Cal will get a bowl.
As for the scenarios where Cal doesn’t end up in the Armed Services Bowl in Fort Worth, TX, basically if two or three of the above criteria work out the way of Cal it’ll bump Cal up to either the Vegas or the Emerald “San Francisco Nut” Bowl depending on how the chips fall. Since the scenarios where only one of the three criteria come true seem to be small because of the BCS bid overlap, it seems likely that Cal will be in either the Las Vegas or Nut Bowl or sitting at home by my counting.