ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Who can still win the Pac-12 Championship? Yes, Arizona has a shot

Nov 17, 2023, 7:49 AM

Arizona vs. Oregon State...

Quarterback Noah Fifita #11 of the Arizona Wildcats throws a pass during the first half against the Oregon State Beavers at Arizona Stadium on October 28, 2023 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

The Pac-12 is winding down to the finish of what may be its final football season before most of its members leave for other conferences next season.

With two weeks left, the race for spots in the conference title game in Las Vegas on Dec. 1 is down to four teams.

A look at the contenders:

Who can still win the Pac-12 Championship in football?

Arizona Wildcats

That’s right, the Wildcats are in the mix for a spot in the conference title game. The Wildcats need multiple scenarios to fall into place, starting with winning their final two games against Utah and Arizona State.

They’ll need some help, but it’s a massive leap for a program that went 1-11 two years ago.

Arizona will need the Oregon Ducks to fall to the Oregon State Beavers in the final regular season week of the year if it’s a two-way tie. A three-way tie between Arizona, Oregon and Oregon State would give the Ducks the edge because of the fourth tiebreaker based on strength of schedule.

The Wildcats would not receive help from Arizona State if the Sun Devils this week upset Oregon and the Ducks then beat the Beavers because the third tiebreaker is win percentage against all common conference opponents.

No. 19 Arizona (7-3, 5-2, No. 21 CFP) is ranked and bowl-eligible for the first time since 2017 in Jedd Fisch’s third season as coach.

The Wildcats lost quarterback Jayden de Laura to an ankle injury early in the season, but Noah Fifita played so well in his absence he kept the starting job when de Laura was healthy again.

Fifita has thrown for 1,735 yards and 16 touchdowns with four interceptions in nine games, and the Wildcats have one of the nation’s best pass catching duos in Tetairoa McMillan and Jacob Cowing.

Arizona also has made huge strides defensively after struggling on that side of the ball for years.

Washington Huskies

The fifth-ranked Huskies (10-0, 7-0 Pac-12) have not only been the class of the league, they’re still in the mix for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Washington, fifth in the CFP rankings, has passed every test so far with one of the nation’s best offenses.

The Huskies survived an early showdown with No. 6 Oregon, pulling out a 36-33 win on Oct. 14, and have won consecutive games against ranked opponents the past two weeks. Washington beat then-No. 24 Southern California and knocked off No. 16 Utah last week.

Led by Heisman Trophy candidate Michael Penix Jr., the Huskies have the nation’s top passing offense at 378 yards per game and are sixth in total offense, averaging 503.9 yards.

Beat No. 10 Oregon State this week or rival Washington State in the regular season finale and Washington will be in the Pac-12 title game.

Oregon Ducks

Despite the loss to Washington, the Ducks are also still in the mix for a CFP spot.

No. 6 Oregon (9-1, 6-1) has won four straight since its only loss, including victories over Utah and USC.

Bo Nix has been superb for the Ducks, throwing for 3,135 yards and 29 touchdowns with two interceptions while completing 78% of his passes. Oregon is averaging 540 yards per game, second nationally, and has a defense to go with it, allowing 309.4 yards per game, 18th in the FBS.

The Ducks, sixth in the CFP rankings, can clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship game by beating Arizona State and rival Oregon State the next two weeks.

Oregon State Beavers

The No. 10 Beavers (8-2, 5-2, No. 15 CFP) face huge games against Washington and Oregon to close out the season.

Oregon State’s title game chances took a hit with a 27-24 loss to No. 19 Arizona on Oct. 28, but the Beavers can still get into the title game by winning their last two games.

The Beavers bounced back from the Arizona loss with a win over Colorado and blew out Stanford 62-17 last week.

Oregon State is tied for the nation’s sixth-best turnover margin at 1.0 per game and has 19 sacks the past four games, its best stretch since 2007.

DJ Uiagalelei has been excellent since transferring from Clemson, throwing for 2,254 yards and 20 touchdowns, and Damien Martinez has rushed for 1,024 yards and seven touchdowns.

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