The bowl scenario is ever-shifting, and it’s done that in the past few days for some Pac-12 programs. Before this week, there was strong sentiment within the league that Stanford, if it didn’t prevail in the league-title game Saturday against Arizona State, was going to slide all the way down to the Sun Bowl.
Now that’s changed. One reason is that USC is apparently out of the equation for the Holiday Bowl, where it was going to get strong consideration, never having played in it. But with the appointment of Steve Sarkisian Monday as head coach, the Trojans have indicated a strong desire to play in an early bowl to get on with the transition to a new staff, which points them squarely at the Las Vegas Bowl. Vegas is the second bowl on the slate this year, 90 minutes after the New Mexico Bowl Dec. 21 — and nine days before the Holiday.
The buzz is that of the Rose, Alamo and Holiday, it will be some combination of Stanford, Arizona State and Oregon. That may not be breaking news, but there was thought that the Alamo might see UCLA (9-3) as attractive for the LA TV market. Now the belief is that UCLA is out of that mix, although the Alamo is renowned for being tight-lipped about its intentions.
The Alamo’s choices could be limited anyway, if Stanford beats ASU. If that happens, the Alamo can pick from only ASU (8-1) and Oregon (7-2), because the 6-3 teams in the league are two games distant in the standings from ASU, and the rules require a maximum one-game spread if you’re going to jump one team for another.
UCLA thus ends up in the Sun, and I’m told that the Fight Hunger (Dec. 27) is still focused on Washington despite the departure of Sarkisian. And I still think Washington State ends up in the New Mexico Bowl Dec. 21. Arizona is pitching hard for the Heart of Dallas Bowl Jan. 1 (a spot the Big Ten probably can’t fill), and Oregon State is working the rest of the bowls unaffiliated with the league that might have an opening.
Until the latest developments, the Stanford-to-the-Sun notion had been fed by the idea that of the top three (Rose, Alamo and Holiday), UCLA and USC still figured prominently, but now neither one does. The conference, which lobbies some bowls hard at this time of year, may have had some sway in that.
Who knows? Things may change again, and the weekend’s games (including the Friday-night Bowling Green-Northern Illinois game) will impact the slim chance Oregon still holds of sliding into a BCS game. If that happens, it turns the league’s bowl prospects upside down.