Q: What are the odds of UCLA winning their next three games at this point? Assuming that does happen, is it better for UCLA not to play in the Pac-12 title game enhancing their chances of landing a “New Year’s Six” bowl or wish for a rematch against Oregon but risk falling to the Alamo or Holiday Bowl with a third loss? Can UCLA even make the playoffs as Pac-12 champs despite an 11-2 record?
A: UCLA’s chances at winning out the regular season actually don’t look half bad given its defensive resurgence against Arizona. Stanford and Washington have both struggled on offense recently, and it’s hard to imagine the Bruins playing sloppily against USC — particularly considering that they get a bye week beforehand. Even a worst-case scenario for UCLA now looks like going 1-2 the rest of the way.
But the Bruins aren’t going to make it to a “New Year’s Six” bowl without making it to the Pac-12 title game. The Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl are playoff semifinal games this year, so they’re obviously out of the picture. The Orange Bowl still has tie-ins with the ACC and the SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame. That leaves the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Peach Bowl — one of which will be filled by the highest-ranked “Group of Five” mid-major conference champion. With just five more spots, there’s almost no way the selection committee will pick a two-loss team that couldn’t make the Pac-12 title game.
As for the playoff … even assuming UCLA wins out convincingly and beats a top-five Oregon team at Levi’s Stadium, it’ll still need a lot of other teams to lose. It’s not impossible, but there’s little purpose in hoping for a playoff berth given where the Bruins currently stand. Continue reading