There’s a plausible scenario out there where Washington, Oregon, Stanford, and Wazzu all have 2 conference losses at season’s end. Of course, we’re well aware of all head-to-head tie-breaker scenarios. Oregon’s got a leg up on us in that regard, which is why their loss in Pullman last week was so huge, as that got them to their second conference defeat. We have a home game against Stanford and go on the road for the Apple Cup. The easiest path for Washington to make the Pac-12 Championship Game is to win out; that leaves us with 1 loss and everyone else with at least 2. Simple math.
But, here’s how all those teams end up with 2 losses:
- Oregon would have to win out. They host UCLA and ASU and go on the road to face Arizona and Oregon State. They should be favored to win all those games. They still have a tough road test at Utah that could eliminate them from contention, but it’s totally reasonable for Oregon – if they play like they’re capable of playing – to finish with 2 conference losses.
- Stanford would have to beat Wazzu this week and lose in Washington next week. They finish home against the Beavers, and at Cal and UCLA; odds are they win all of those. That – combined with their loss to Utah earlier – would leave them with 2 conference losses.
- Washington State would lose at Stanford and beat the Huskies in the Apple Cup. There are other opportunities for them to Coug up their season – particularly a road game against Colorado – but again, if they play like they’re capable of playing, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
- Washington would beat Stanford at home, win the other games they should be favored in, and lose the Apple Cup on the road. At Cal this week could be a sneaky trap game for us; we still have a BYE week left, so the only other team we play is Oregon State, who should be dominated.
If all that happens, all four teams would be 7-2. Ever wondered how the tiebreaker scenario shakes out for multiple teams with the same conference record?
Well, it starts out by comparing your record against the other teams you’re tied with (so, for Washington’s case, our record against Stanford, Oregon, and Wazzu). In the scenario I outlined above, the Huskies and Ducks would each be 1-2 against those teams; while the Cougs and Stanford would be 2-1. That would knock off Washington and Oregon, and the next tiebreaker would be head-to-head record between the two remaining teams, which means it would be Stanford over Wazzu. Nobody wants that.
That makes this weekend’s game between the Cougs and Cardinal that much more important. I can’t imagine a scenario where Wazzu goes on the road and wins a tough game against an elite opponent just a week after the hullabaloo that was last Saturday’s win over the Ducks. It just seems impossibly crazy. But, if they pull it off, and Washington is able to take care of business at home next week, that effectively eliminates Stanford from contention.
Which would ultimately set it up for the Apple Cup to decide who plays for the Pac-12 North (and, in my opinion, who plays for the Rose Bowl, because I don’t think there’s a chance in Hell that the Pac-12 South champion wins it all).
In an ideal world, I’d rather have it come down to just the Washington schools, because I like our chances of beating the Cougs more than I like the notion of Stanford slipping up against one of their final three useless opponents.
Something else to keep in mind is if there’s a 3-way tie for first. Let’s say the Ducks or Cardinal slip up in one of their games against the non-Washington schools. For instance:
- If Stanford, Washington, and Wazzu all finish with 2 conference losses (Stanford beats Wazzu, loses to Washington; Wazzu beats Washington); we’d all be 1-1 against each other, with the same record against intra-divisional opponents. The subsequent tie-breaker is record against the next-best team in the division, which would likely be Oregon. That knocks Washington out.
- If Oregon, Washington, and Wazzu all finish with 2 conference losses (Oregon beat Washington, lost to Wazzu; Wazzu beats Washington & loses to someone else), Washington gets knocked out because we would’ve lost to both the Ducks & Cougs.
- If Stanford, Oregon, and Washington all finish with 2 conference losses (Oregon wins out; Stanford beats Wazzu & loses to Washington; Washington loses the Apple Cup; and Wazzu cuogs it in another game to get their 3rd conference loss), that would leave us all 1-1 against one another, and tied in intra-divisional games. Next up would be record against the next-best team (Wazzu), which Stanford would’ve won in this scenario. That pits Oregon against Washington, and we already lost to them, so that knocks the Dawgs out.
The point is, there’s really no way the Huskies have any advantage in any multi-team tie-breakers. Better for us to get this thing down to the two Washington schools and play for all the marbles on November 23rd. In that case, I mean Hell, at least it wouldn’t be Stanford or Oregon getting the glory.