With four games left in the regular season, what the Washington Huskies are playing for now — in terms of this particular season — is getting bowl eligible.
Recall that all teams have to do is get to six wins to be bowl eligible, and with 35 bowls — here’s a look at all of them — there is no real worry about being left out if a team gets eligible.
Also worth a refresher is the Pac-12’s bowl lineup, meaning the bowls with which the conference has contractual agreements. Here it is:
Champion — BCS title game (this year in Miami) on Jan. 7, or Rose in Pasadena on Jan. 1.
No. 2 — Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12 No. 3, San Antonio, Dec. 29.
No. 3 — Holiday Bowl vs. Big 12 No. 5, San Diego, Dec. 27.
No. 4 — Sun Bowl vs. ACC No. 4, El Paso, Dec. 31.
No. 5 — Las Vegas vs. MWC No. 1, Las Vegas, Dec. 22
No. 6 — Kraft Fight Hunger vs. Navy (if bowl eligible), San Francisco, Dec. 29.
No. 7 — Gildan New Mexico Bowl vs. MWC, Albuquerque, Dec. 15
One thing to remember, though, is that the order does not mean the teams will go to those bowls strictly by where they finish. Instead, the number is the order by which the bowls pick teams. Each bowl has the option to go down by one game in terms of conference record to pick a team — meaning they can take a 6-3 team over one at 5-4 (but not 4-5) if they desire (EDIT — This is clarified from my original post — this pertains to conference record in terms of not being able to skip down two games in the standings, not overall record). They also are not bound to any tiebreaking rules (such as who won head-to-head). Largely, it’s about trying to get the best matchup, both in terms of selling tickets and for TV.
At this point, UW’s most likely options seem to be the last three on the list, obviously depending on how the Huskies do from here. Anything above that seems more of a reach, especially given that UW has also played in the Holiday and Alamo bowls the last two years.
As you can read, the selection of opponents for the last three bowls is a little limited. Navy is almost a slam dunk at this point to get bowl eligible, at 5-3 and with Florida Atlantic, Troy, Texas State and Army still on the schedule.
The Vegas and New Mexico bowls feature matchups with teams from the Mountain West Conference. The bowl eligible teams in that conference at the moment are Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State and Nevada, with Air Force likely to get there and possibly New Mexico.
UW has already played San Diego State this year. So you’d figure they would try to avoid that. And UW opens next season with Boise State, you also might think they would try to avoid that. But then you might have thought they would have avoided UW and Nebraska playing a second game in 2010 with another one already on the schedule for 2011.