The College Football Notebook

November 18, 2010 7:33 AM

The Pac-10's Last Bowl Push Starts Tonight

Pac10BowlRaceHeatsUp.jpgESPN's Thursday night college football action is UCLA-Washington and that's probably not going to pull too many viewers from the Chicago-Miami game on the NFL Network. But the Bruins-Huskies is part of what is a wild Pac-10 race for bowl eligibility. It's a game Washington must win to save its hopes, and the Bruins realistically need to win. At the top of this league, you have Oregon running off to at least the Rose Bowl and perhaps more. Stanford is a solid second, and right below them are USC & Arizona, both 7-3. The Wildcats are assured of a bowl bid with no chance at a really marquee spot. The Trojans are on probation. That leaves the action underneath and there are five teams fighting for their lives these next three weeks.

UCLA (4-5): Needing two wins, it's not going to be easy for Rick Neuheisel and it gets very hairy if he loses tonight in Seattle. The remaining games are on the road at Arizona State and against Southern Cal. UCLA can win one of those games, but they are too inconsistent for me to predict a sweep.

Washington (3-6): A disappointing season isn't too likely to end in a bowl bid. But if they can win tonight, they have the season finale at Washington State. In spite of WSU's impressive showing on Saturday, that's still a good winnable spot for the Huskies. In between these two games is a road trip to Cal. So Steve Sarkisian has to take two winnable games, starting tonight and then he hope he draws Cal on one of their infamous nights off. Not likely, but not impossible.

Oregon State (4-5): The loss to Washington State on Saturday took a lot of steam out of their sails and the remaining schedule is Southern Cal, at Stanford and Oregon. The Beavers' chances of winning two of those aren't good. Come to think of it, they're chances of winning one are nothing special. They represent the last chance to salvage what's been a disappointing season.

Cal (5-5): Being right at .500 is perfect for this up-and-down program that can go from being within one play of beating #1, like they were against Oregon last week, to losing 50-17. Their rivalry game with Stanford is this week and Washington is next, both at home. Getting the one win they need for a bowl is a good bet.

Arizona State (4-6): Perhaps the best 4-6 team in the country, with competitive games against Oregon and Wisconsin and only self-inflicted mistakes on turnovers and penalties keep them from doing more. They're off this week, and have UCLA at home on Black Friday and a road trip to Arizona on a Thursday night, December 2. If they finally stop beating themselves, they can beat this competition.

The next three weeks tell the story. For coaches like Dennis Erickson at Arizona State this could be about their future employment. For Rick Neuheisel it will say a lot about his rebuilding. The same goes for Steve Sarkisian at Washington. It starts tonight with UCLA-Washington. And you thought there was no reason to watch this game.

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Dan Flaherty is the editor of the Sports Notebook Family, published through the Real Clear Sports Blog Network, offering daily commentary in college football ,game analysis in the NFL. and coverage of college basketball. He is the author of The Last New Year's, a book that revisits the historic high points of college football's New Year's Day bowl games.

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