Arizona and Missouri have playoff hopes.
Really? Here’s why.
The Wildcats and Tigers locked up spots in their conference championship games Friday. Arizona won a wild Territorial Cup game 42-35 over rival Arizona State, and Missouri beat Arkansas 21-14.
If the Wildcats and/or the Tigers can win their conferences, they would have to be in the mix for a playoff spot.
The Pac-12 title game was set after UCLA lost and Arizona won: A rematch between Arizona and No. 3 Oregon on Dec. 6 in Santa Clara, California.
The Wildcats are 12th in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, which is a long way to climb for coach Rich Rodriguez’s team. Not impossible.
A second victory over Oregon this season — assuming the Ducks take care of business Saturday at Oregon State — both away from home, would be about as good a pair of victories as any team in the country can claim. Throw on top of that wins over Arizona State and at Utah and the Wildcats (10-2, 7-2) would have an interesting case as the winner of one of the best divisions and best conferences in the country.
Arizona’s problem is its overall resume has some holes, specifically three nonconference games with little zing (UNLV, UTSA and Nevada). Arizona’s losses were to UCLA (17-7) and Southern California (28-26 on a last-second missed field goal), no shame there. But all conference schedules are not created equal. Arizona drew last-place Washington State from the Pac-12 North.
The Wildcats might need some help in the form of losses by a couple other playoff contenders, but win and they’re in the mix.
Missouri has an even longer road to the playoff.
Coach Gary Pinkel’s Tigers, 17th in the playoff rankings, will play either Alabama or Mississippi State in the SEC championship game on Dec. 7 in Atlanta. If Alabama beats Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Saturday, the Tide goes to Atlanta. If Alabama loses and Mississippi State beats Mississippi in the Egg Bowl, the Bulldogs go.
If both teams lose, Alabama goes.
No matter what happens with the West, a Missouri victory in the SEC championship muddles the playoff picture and creates some difficult questions for the selection committee.
The Tigers (10-2, 7-1) played the two worst teams in the SEC West. Texas A&M and Arkansas are not bad teams, but they don’t fall into the category of resume-making victories. Missouri also lost at home to lowly Indiana and was shut out at home by Georgia.
If Missouri beats one-loss Alabama in Atlanta, not only would that likely eliminate the Tide but it could scratch a one-loss Mississippi State team off the list, too. Sure the SEC West is tough, but at that point it could be difficult to justify putting a team that didn’t win its division in the playoff.
Would the committee leave out the toughest conference in the country? Or just take its champion?
BRUINS GO BUST
With everything to gain, UCLA flopped.
The Bruins’ 31-10 loss to Stanford at the Rose Bowl was all kinds of ugly and cost them a Pac-12 South crown. UCLA had played itself back into the playoff race and could have made a great case for a playoff spot, even with two losses, by beating Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. UCLA has played one of the toughest schedules in the country.
Instead, quarterback Brett Hundley and the Bruins played their worst game of the season and lost to Stanford for the seventh consecutive time.
“We were aware of what was to come if we handled our business, but it didn’t happen that way,” UCLA linebacker Myles Jack said.
AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Pasadena, California, contributed to this report.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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