When the USC Trojans suffered a heartbreaking 42-43 defeat at the hands of the Utah Utes, their hopes of a national championship nearly imploded. It won’t single-handedly prevent them from being able to win the conference. Losing is never ideal, and losing a conference game is even worse, but because it was Utah, it isn’t the end of the world.
The #12 UCLA Bruins were defeated at the hands of #8 Oregon, who has claimed first place in the North Division and possesses an unblemished conference record. #10 USC is second in the conference and leads the Southern division by virtue of four conference wins.
There are five teams with six wins in the conference and three with one or two losses. Making 2022 one of the most competitive PAC-12 conference races in a long time. The PAC-12 is a six-horse field.
Oregon Ducks (6-1, 4-0): @Cal, @Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Oregon State
USC Trojans (6-1, 4-1): @Arizona, Cal, Colorado, @UCLA, Notre Dame
UCLA Bruins (6-1, 3-1): Stanford, @Arizona State, Arizona, USC, @Cal
Utah Utes (5-2, 3-1): @Washington State, Arizona, Stanford, @Oregon, @Colorado
Oregon State (6-2, 3-2): @Washington, Cal, @Arizona State, Oregon
Washington Huskies (6-2, 3-2): Oregon State, @Oregon, Colorado, @Washington State
The Trojan March to Pasadena
Incredibly, the Trojans have arguably the easiest path to the Pac-12 Championship. They will likely be two-to-three touchdown favorites over Arizona, Cal, Colorado, and Notre Dame. Leaving their toughest remaining challenge, the cross-town rival UCLA. In fact, the biggest threat may be falling into the trap of looking past inferior opposition.
To be fair, the matchup against the Bruins is going to be a special game. Both schools have journeyed into the top ten in the Coaches’ and AP polls. Both are playing at high levels, with quarterbacks competing for top awards in the country. Both have elite workhorse young running backs capable of taking over a game and making life miserable for opposing defenses.
On the flip side, USC is the toughest remaining opponent on the Bruin schedule as well. So this game will carry a championship-level atmosphere for UCLA. But the Trojans will need help to get back into the playoff conversation.
Help SC out!
Oregon may be in the lead and the top dog in the conference currently, but they have the hardest remaining path to Pasadena. Utah, Washington, and Oregon State can all aid the Trojan cause, but they may end up further separating Oregon from the rest of the pack.
Having taken care of their business against Oregon State, the Trojans put themselves in a tie-breaking situation if they were to lose another game. Utah is still a game back, with a game against Oregon that could make or break their season. It makes it imperative that the Trojans take care of their own business.