Eight weeks down, four teams have the inside track for the two berths in the Pac-12 championship game.
Oregon, USC, UCLA and Utah are the cream of the conference. They are 14-3 combined in conference play, with the losses coming only to each other.
Against everyone else, they are 11-0.
Two games loom large, both on Nov. 19: Utah at Oregon and USC at UCLA
It’s easy to see some combination of the quartet tying for the regular-season title or second place, with a berth in the championship game at stake.
For that reason – and because we have received numerous inquiries from readers – the Hotline concluded the time is right for a brief overview of the tie-breaking procedure.
Here we go …
This is easy, unless it’s not.
A two-team tie is broken by the head-to-head result. But if the teams did not play (for example: USC and Oregon), then the second tiebreaker is each team’s winning percentage against the next-highest-placed common opponent in the standings (and proceeding through the standings).
And if that doesn’t work, the third step is winning percentage against all common conference opponents.
With ties involving more than two teams, the goal is to unlock the tie as soon as possible via the procedures. Per conference policy:
“After one team has an advantage and is seeded, all remaining teams in the multiple-team tie-breaker will repeat the multiple-team tie-breaking procedure. If at any point the multiple-team tie is reduced to two teams, the two-team tie-breaking procedure will be applied.”
1. Head-to-head results, unless not all of the tied teams have played each other. (In that case, head-to-head is ignored.)
2. Winning percentage against common conference opponents
3. Record against the next-highest-placed common opponent in the standings
Note: If there is a group of tied teams, then “use each team’s win percentage against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to that group’s own tie-breaking procedure) rather than the performance against individual tied teams.”
4. Combined winning percentage in conference games of conference opponents (essentially: strength-of-schedule)
5. Highest ranking by SportSource Analytics
Beyond that, it’s a coin toss. But we’re quite confident a three-team tie won’t get past the third step.
If there’s a need to revisit the tiebreaker in the final weeks of the season and explain all possible scenarios, we’ll do it.
To this week’s power ratings …
Disclaimer: The Hotline power ratings don’t necessarily track with the order of teams listed on my Associated Press Top 25 ballot, which is based on guidelines provided by the AP.
All times Pacific
1. Oregon (6-1/4-0)
Last week: 1
Result: beat UCLA 45-30
Next up: at Cal (12:30 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: Following his stellar performance against UCLA, quarterback Bo Nix is now 35-to-1 to win the Heisman Trophy. Those seem like long odds, but there are only two players under 10-to-1: Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker.
2. UCLA (6-1/3-1)
Last week: 2
Result: lost at Oregon 45-30
Next up: vs. Stanford (7:30 p.m. on ESPN)
Comment: The defense is beginning to resemble last year’s version – not because of the coaching, which is better, but the personnel, which is worse. When the starting free safety (Mo Osling III) has more than twice as many tackles as anyone else (17), your front seven has been overwhelmed.
3. USC (6-1/ 4-1)
Last week: 3
Next up: at Arizona (4 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: We have revised upward our outlook for the UCLA game. First team to 60 points wins.
4. Utah (5-2/3-1)
Last week: 4
Next up: at Washington State (Thursday, 7 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: If the Utes play every remaining half the way they played the second half against USC, they could be playing two halves in Las Vegas on Dec. 2.
5. Oregon State (6-2/3-2)
Last week: 5
Result: beat Colorado 42-9
Next up: idle
Comment: In response to a slew of questions in the past 24 hours about why the Hotline didn’t slot OSU into our latest AP Top 25 ballot, here’s the answer: Lack of quality wins relative to other teams on the bottom tier of the ballot. But it’s close. We thought long and hard about including the Beavers.
6. Washington (6-2/3-2)
Last week: 6
Result: won at Cal 28-21
Next up: idle
Comment: After a string of awful performances, UW’s defense finally held an opponent under 30 points. Then again, that same opponent (Cal) scored just 13 the previous week against lowly Colorado.
7. Washington State (4-3/1-3)
Last week: 7
Next up: vs. Utah (Thursday, 7 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: The Cougars haven’t been the same since the 4-minute mark of the Oregon game, particularly on offense. And they’re running out of time to recapture the early mojo.
8. Arizona State (2-5/1-3)
Last week: 8
Result: lost at Stanford 15-14
Next up: at Colorado (4:30 p.m. on ESPNU)
Comment: We never considered interim coach Shaun Aguano a serious candidate for the permanent gig, and at this point, his chances are close to null and void. On the other hand, Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, an ASU alum, had himself a pretty good Saturday.
9. Stanford (3-4/1-4)
Last week: 10
Result: beat Arizona State 15-14
Next up: at UCLA (7:30 p.m. on ESPN)
Comment: Three wins down, three to go and a schedule that includes Cal (3-4), Washington State (4-3) and Brigham Young (4-4) – yeah, a bowl berth is absolutely a possibility.
10. Arizona (3-4/1-3)
Last week: 9
Next up: vs. USC (4 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: In two games against the Trojans while with Washington State, quarterback Jayden de Laura completed 58.3% of his passes (28 of 48) with two touchdowns, three interceptions and two blowout losses.
11. Cal (3-4/1-3)
Last week: 11
Result: lost to Washington 28-21
Next up: vs. Oregon (12:30 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: If the Bears were to make an in-season change, the staff member most qualified to replace offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave is probably tight ends coach Geep Chryst, who has NFL play-calling experience (with the 49ers).
12. Colorado (1-6/1-3)
Last week: 12
Result: lost at Oregon State 42-9
Next up: vs. Arizona State (4:30 p.m. on ESPNU)
Comment: This week brings the last remotely winnable game for the Buffaloes. On Homecoming, maybe they can take advantage.
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