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#pounditFriday, January 15, 2021

Do Pac-12 teams Oregon or USC have a path to the CFP?

Clay Helton

The first rankings from the College Football Playoff have been released, and we already talked about how BYU got hosed. Another question to be asked is whether the Pac-12 will factor into the CFP this year. The answer is probably no, but the possibility should not be discounted.

The Pac-12 got a late start to their season and has teams playing just six games. That just isn’t very much time to prove you are worthy of a national championship. The initial CFP rankings seemed to confirm the committee feels that way.

The Oregon Ducks, which have been the best team in the Pac-12 in recent years, debuted at No. 15 in the rankings. They are 3-0 after wins over Stanford, Washington State, and UCLA. USC is also 3-0 and ranked No. 18. They have narrow wins over Arizona State and Arizona, and a win over Utah.

The Pac-12’s best shot at the CFP seems to be having both Oregon and USC at 6-0. The teams would then meet in the conference championship game, and the winner would be their best representative.

But can even a 7-0 USC or Oregon team surpass all the teams ranked ahead of them? If Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State or Northwestern remain unbeaten, those three teams would make the CFP and leave just one spot. A 7-0 Pac-12 champion would then have to jump possibly undefeated Cincinnati and BYU teams, and a slew of one-loss teams like Texas A&M and Miami. That is reasonable.

But if Alabama loses to Florida in the SEC championship, for instance, and Clemson beats Notre Dame in the ACC championship, that’s when things would get tough for the Pac-12. The committee would probably rank a 1-loss Bama or ND team (that already beat Clemson once) ahead of an unbeaten Pac-12 team.

Oregon or USC needs to go undefeated and hope for Bama, Notre Dame and Ohio State to win out. That would be their best shot at making the CFP.

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