UCLA has a chance to get to the Rose Bowl, yet UCLA also has a chance to end up with no bowl berth at all. Cal could end up in the Emerald Bowl or the Armed Forces Bowl or no bowl at all depending on the results of its game at Stanford and Arizona's game at Arizona State on Saturday. Obviously, analyzing bowl possibilities is a nightmare at the moment. With one week left in the regular season, half the Pac-10 teams have a chance to earn a share of the conference championship, and USC, UCLA and Arizona State still have a shot at the Rose Bowl berth. So before looking at the national picture, our four Rs will begin with the range of possibilities for Cal and the Pac-10. Range of Cal's possibilities: Four scenarios are relevant:
1. If Cal beats Stanford and Arizona State beats Arizona, Cal gets a bowl berth, probably the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, with Maryland a likely opponent.
2. If Cal beats Stanford and Arizona State loses to Arizona, Cal gets a bowl berth, probably the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, Texas, with Air Force or TCU the likely opponent.
3. If Cal loses to Stanford and Arizona State beats Arizona, Cal gets a bowl berth, probably the Emerald Bowl if USC beats UCLA or the Armed Forces Bowl if USC loses to UCLA.
4. If Cal loses to Stanford and Arizona State loses to Arizona, Cal probably will not play in a bowl game.
The salient point for Cal is that a win over Stanford would give the Bears a 7-5 record, which would give them a bowl berth before any 6-6 Pac-10 team, regardless of where they are in the conference standings. In short, Cal assures itself a bowl berth if it wins Saturday. If Cal loses, it needs Arizona to lose.
Rose Bowl possibilities: Three scenarios are relevant:
1. If USC beats UCLA, the Trojans are in the Rose Bowl.
2. If USC loses and Arizona State beats Arizona, Arizona State finishes alone in first and is in the Rose Bowl.
3. If USC and Arizona State both lose, UCLA is in the Rose Bowl.
The last one requires some explanation. If UCLA and Arizona win, there would be a four-way tie at 6-3 between UCLA, USC, Arizona State and the winner of the Oregon-Oregon State game. The tiebreakers for determining the Pac-10's Rose Bowl representative is based on head-to-head results. UCLA, thanks primarily to wins over Oregon and USC the final two weeks, would wind up in Pasadena despite a 7-5 overall record.
Note: If USC and Arizona State both win, USC would go to the Rose Bowl and ASU probably would go to the Fiesta Bowl, giving the Pac-10 two teams in BCS games and seven available bowl slots. If Arizona State loses to Arizona or USC loses to UCLA, the Pac-10 would get only one team into a BCS game and have six bowl vacancies. Ramifications nationally: If the season ended today, the matchups for the five major bowls might look like this:
BCS national title game: No. 1 Missouri vs. No. 2 West Virginia
Rose Bowl: USC vs. Ohio State
Fiesta Bowl: Arizona State vs. Kansas
Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Hawaii
Orange Bowl: ACC champ (Boston College or Virginia Tech) vs. Georgia.
Missouri would be the first team unranked in the preseason to play in the national championship game.
Random monkey wrenches: In the past nine weeks, there have been eight different pairings of top-two teams, so expecting the expected is naive. It's still possible for Ohio State, which was No. 5 in the BCS standings after its final regular-season game, to play for the national championship. A loss by either Missouri or West Virginia would make that happen. It's still possible for a team that did not make it to its conference title game (Georgia) to play in the national championship game. That probably would happen if West Virginia loses to Pittsburgh and Missouri loses to Oklahoma. It's still possible for the current No. 1 team, Missouri, not to get into any of the five BCS games, but Kansas, which did not win its conference title and lost to Missouri on Saturday, could get one. That could happen if Oklahoma beats Missouri in the Big 12 title game. It's still possible for LSU to get shut out of the BCS games, which probably would happen if Tennessee beats the Tigers in the Southeastern Conference title game. It's possible for Hawaii not to get a BCS berth even if it beats Washington to finish 12-0. The Warriors are No. 12 in the BCS standings, and a top-12 finish guarantees them a BCS berth. But if Arizona State and Tennessee both win Saturday, they might jump over Hawaii, which could drop out of the top 12.