Parity has ruled the Pac-12 this season
Phoenix • The Pac-12 Championship participants are set: No. 8 Stanford will face No. 13 Arizona State with a spot in the Rose Bowl on the line.
The site will be determined by Saturday's rivalry game between the Sun Devils and Arizona; Win and Arizona State will host the Dec. 7 game, lose and it'll be played at Stanford.
The matchup isn't too much of a surprise since the Cardinal and Sun Devils were picked to finish second in their respective divisions.
How we got here and where some of the other teams ended up was a little more unpredictable, thanks to the rising parity in the Pac-12, which regained its foothold as one of the strongest conferences in the country.
As a reminder of just how unstable it was, here's a recap of how the other 10 teams in the conference have done so far this season:
Oregon (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12). The 12th-ranked Ducks opened the season with national-title expectations. The head into their final regular-season game hoping to gain enough footing to avoid playing in a lower-tier bowl for the first time since 2009. Oregon got off to a great start, stumbled against Stanford, then again against Arizona last weekend. The surprising loss to the Wildcats knocked the Ducks out of the national-title and Rose Bowl picture, and may have put a big dent in their BCS bowl hopes.
Southern California (9-3, 6-2). The 23rd-ranked Trojans were upended by Washington State at the Coliseum their second game of the season and were crushed by Arizona State in Week 5, a loss that cost coach Lane Kiffin his job. Since then, USC has rebounded nicely, becoming one of college football's surprise teams under interim coach Ed Orgeron. Following a close loss to Notre Dame in Orgeron's first game at the helm, the Trojans reeled off five straight wins heading into Saturday's rivalry game against UCLA, with the Las Vegas, Alamo or Sun bowls as possible postseason destinations.
UCLA (8-3, 5-3). The 22nd-ranked Bruins had a great start in their second season under coach Jim Mora, but went through a rough stretch to end their BCS bowl chances. UCLA opened with five straight wins before losing consecutive games to Stanford and Oregon. The Bruins still had a shot at winning the Pac-12 South, but had their second-half rally fall just short in a home loss to Arizona State last weekend. A trip to the Las Vegas Bowl could be in the cards after the final game against USC.
Arizona (7-4, 4-4). The Wildcats had a few bumps in their second season under Rich Rodriguez, notably consecutive home losses to UCLA and Washington State. Arizona turned its fortunes around quickly with a stunning victory over Oregon last weekend, rolling over the Ducks 42-16 behind another huge game by workhorse running back Ka'Deem Carey. Next up is an opportunity to spoil rival Arizona State's chance to host the Pac-12 title game and then likely the Wildcats' second straight bowl appearance under Rodriguez.
Oregon State (6-5, 4-4). It's been a season of big momentum swings for the Beavers. They opened with a deflating loss to FCS school Eastern Washington, reeled off six straight wins and are currently on a four-game losing streak. The last two have been tough, too: by 13 at Arizona State and a 69-27 blowout at the hands of Washington. Oregon State faces a tough closing game against rival Oregon and could end up in a smaller bowl if it doesn't get shoved aside in a crowded bowl pool.
Washington (7-4, 4-4). The Huskies got off to a great start, winning their first four games fairly easily. Then came a difficult stretch in the schedule: Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State. Washington lost all three, derailing what had been a season of high expectations. The Huskies bounced back with some lopsided victories wrapped around a loss UCLA, including last week's 69-27 crushing of Oregon State, their highest-scoring game since 1944. Washington closes the season against rival Washington State in the Apple Cup and can boost the level of bowl it gets into with a victory.
Washington State (6-5, 4-4). The Cougars made some decent strides over Mike Leach's second season in Pullman. Washington State beat USC in the Coliseum for the first time in 13 years and overcame a rough stretch in the schedule to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2006. The Cougars have a chance to finish off their first winning season since 2003 against rival Washington this weekend and would like to get to seven wins to prevent the possibility of being passed over for a bowl, like they were in 2006.
Utah (4-7, 1-7). The Utes had one of the biggest wins in program history by knocking off Stanford at home on Oct. 12. There also were a couple of close home games against UCLA and Oregon State. Since then, Utah has been in a downward spiral, losing five straight, including a 49-37 setback last week to Washington State. The Utes close the season at home against struggling Colorado.
Colorado (4-1, 1-7). The Buffaloes' first season under Mike MacIntyre got off to a solid start: They won their first two games to pass last season's win total. Since then, it's been an uphill fight. Colorado had consecutive three-game losing streaks all by lopsided margins wrapped around a win over Charleston Southern, but did manage to beat California on Nov. 16 to end a 14-game conference losing streak. Colorado could build a little momentum toward next season by beating Utah in its finale.
California (1-11, 0-9). It's been an ugly start to the Sonny Dykes era. The Golden Bears' only win was against Portland State and they were overmatched in nearly every Pac-12 game to finish with their worst record since going winless in 1999. Cal's season ended with last weekend's Big Flop in the Big Game, a 63-13 loss to rival Stanford.
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