Let’s just start with this.

If there’s any GIF in the world that sums up the Pac-12’s emotions right now, it’s this one.

Can’t you see it? The faintest flicker? The narrowest window? A crack in the door?

Does Lloyd Christmas have to spell it out for you?

Left for dead by a system that has historically looked down upon the Pac-12, the stretch run just got a lot more interesting for the Conference of Champions, dealt a new hand on a shocking Saturday that saw both No. 4 Clemson and No. 6 Alabama go down, with the Tigers going down in particularly embarrassing fashion.

This upheaval throws a wrench in the College Football Playoffs.

All of a sudden, the Pac-12 is alive. Barely breathing, but alive.

I’m telling you, there’s a chance.


In my back-and-forths with Saturday Out West editor Derek Peterson, I have long maintained that the Pac-12’s playoff window had slammed shut on Week 1, that there was no chance.

It wasn’t just Oregon’s embarrassing loss to Georgia, it was Utah’s loss at Florida, which has proven to be a particularly damaging loss. I said it then and I’ll say it now: The league just doesn’t often get the benefit of the doubt. So when 2 of its top 3 teams fell in disastrous fashion — the Ducks losing to defending-champion Georgia, 49-3, and the Utes losing by way of a goal-line interception by Cameron Rising — I thought the path would be too arduous for another conference contender to get the nod.

Now, I still don’t think the Pac-12 gets in the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Don’t forget, this league doesn’t get nice things. It settles for the Alamo Bowls of the world. I can easier see a scenario in which 2 SEC and 2 Big Ten teams get the bids — or, even likelier, one in which undefeated TCU gets the nod — and the Pac-12 gets a consolation second NY6 bowl berth than one that sees the league out west get its just dues.

But you can’t deny: The league is in a vastly different place today than it was even three days ago.


First of all, kudos to the cream of the Pac-12 crop for avoiding slip-ups in a way it traditionally does not.

Prior to this season, we were more likely to see a fluky upset than the UCLAs of the world taking care of business. And TCOB the Bruins have, this year, moving to 8-1 on Saturday to match 8-1 Oregon and 8-1 USC. The Pac-12 has another pair of 7-2 teams, as well, in Utah and Washington, which should bump into the top 25 after defeating Oregon State on Friday.

On Saturday, Oregon, UCLA and Utah won handily while USC survived a 21-point 4th quarter by Cal to send the Bears to 3-6.

Even Washington State got in the act, dominating Stanford, 52-14, to drop the Cardinal to 3-6 as well.

In fact, I can’t remember the last time the Pac-12 has been so bifurcated.

As good as Oregon, USC, UCLA and Utah have been, 3-6 Arizona State, 3-6 Arizona, 3-6 Stanford and 1-8 Colorado have been terrible. Normally, one of those patsies would’ve somehow dug from the depths to snag a league leader, but not this year.

And that’s why the Pac-12 is in the position it is.


A good position, that is. But not a great one.

It’d be one thing if it was clear sailing from here for the league’s elite, but Oregon has a tough task against Washington on Saturday and against Utah in Week 12. And if that’s not rough enough, the Ducks must defeat Oregon State in the always-heated Civil War. If they can make it through that gauntlet — then win the Pac-12 title game — they’ll make a compelling case to earn a CFP bid.

Will that case be as compelling as a one-loss Michigan or a one-loss Tennessee squad? What about a potentially undefeated TCU team that has beaten 4 teams ranked when they played?

At this point, the Pac-12 is all but praying for one more upset during the stretch to anyone not in the west.

Hopes abandoned weeks ago, it’s not as if the league should be a favorite to get any kind of preferential treatment, if that’s what it calls.

But, hey, they’ve still got a chance, right?