Oregon must win the Civil War to keep alive any hope of playing in the Alamo or Holiday bowls, but even a victory in Corvallis on Friday most likely would send the Ducks to either the Redbox Bowl or Sun Bowl.
Oregon is 4-4 in the Pac-12 as it heads into its regular-season finale at Oregon State. At 7-4 overall, the Ducks have exceeded the six victories needed to qualify for a bowl game.
The conference has agreements to place teams in seven bowls and already has enough teams eligible for the postseason to fill each of those spots with three other teams needing a win this weekend to qualify for a bowl game.
The Pac-12 champion appears headed to play in the Rose Bowl, although Washington State still has an outside shot at the College Football Playoff. If the Cougars reached the CFP, another Pac-12 team would be put into the Rose Bowl.
If Washington State does not win the conference title, it could be selected for a New Year’s Six game — likely the Fiesta Bowl — and that would also move the rest of the Pac-12 teams up in the bowl order.
Washington State (7-1), Utah (6-3) and Washington (6-2) remain in the hunt for the Rose Bowl. The Utes have clinched the South Division title and will face the winner of Friday’s Apple Cup in the conference title game at Levi’s Stadium on Nov. 30.
The Alamo Bowl on Dec. 28 has the second pick among Pac-12 teams followed by the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 31. It seems likely those two games would pick between the two teams left out of the Rose Bowl among WSU, UW and Utah.
The Redbox Bowl, formerly known as the Foster Farms Bowl, has the fourth pick out of the Pac-12. However, the Alamo, Holiday and Redbox bowls can go out of order and pick a team within one loss of the others. For example, if Utah and Washington each finish 6-3 and Oregon goes 5-4, those three bowl games could pick the Ducks over the Utes and Huskies because they finished within one game of each other.
If the Cougars, Utes and Huskies take the first three spots in the Pac-12 bowl games, the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 31 at Levi’s Stadium will be able to pick from among a few teams.
Stanford is 4-3 in conference play with UCLA and Cal left on the schedule while Oregon is tied at 4-4 with Arizona and Arizona State, who face off Saturday in Tucson, Ariz. ASU is eligible for a bowl at 6-5 overall while Arizona must beat the Sun Devils to get to six wins.
California is 3-4 in conference, but eligible for a bowl at 6-4 overall. USC is 4-5 in the Pac-12 and must beat Notre Dame Saturday to get a sixth victory and qualify for the postseason while Colorado must beat the Bears to reach a bowl game.
The Redbox Bowl probably would choose between Stanford and Oregon with the Cardinal the most likely pick if they beat the Bruins and Bears to finish 6-3 in conference, including a win over the Ducks. The Cardinal also would give the game a local fan base to face a team out of the Big Ten.
The other three bowl games affiliated with the Pac-12 are the Sun, Las Vegas and Cheez-It games, which pick in that order and have to take the remaining team with the best conference record.
That scenario would likely drop Oregon into the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, on Dec. 31 against an opponent from the ACC. However, even if Oregon defeats Oregon State, the winner of the Arizona-ASU game will finish tied with the Ducks at 5-4 and could be a more attractive pick for the Sun Bowl because their fans would have a shorter trip to the game.
That could leave Oregon headed back to the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 15 against a team from the Mountain West Conference. The Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix, which was formerly the Cactus Bowl, is Dec. 26 with the Pac-12 team facing a school from the Big 12.
If Oregon loses the Civil War, it would only be able to play in the Las Vegas or Cheez-it bowls as long as WSU does not make the CFP or a New Year’s Six bowl and Stanford defeats either UCLA or Cal.