Well, it’s Monday morning, as good a time as any to get the bad news out of the way, I suppose. Let’s start with the current Pac-10 standings:
Yep, that’s Cal all the way down there, firmly in 7th place, ahead of only Stanford and the Washington schools. Ugh. Now, because the Apple Cup is the only Pac-10 game left for UW and WSU, Cal cannot finish last in the Pac-10, but a loss to Stanford in the Big Game would mean a 3-way tie for 7th place, a finish so disappointing I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around it.
In fact, even should Cal win the Big Game, the best they could finish would be in a 3-way tie for 5th place, which would happen if Arizona and UCLA both lost out (a distinct possibility, as neither should be favored in any of their remaining games). Honestly, even this result is depressingly mediocre. I suppose I should stop showing the standings, as at this point, they’re basically irrelevant. All that matters is retaining the Axe. We CANNOT lose the Axe. Heads might roll if we do.
So you think this team deserves a bowl game as a reward? I don’t, at least not at this point. Still, the Pac-10 has contractual obligations to fill, so odds are, Cal will still get an invitation to a bowl game. However, those odds are no longer as overwhelming as they once were. The Holiday and Sun Bowls are now both mathematically out of reach, and while the lesser bowls are looking more and more likely, so too is the dreaded ‘no bowl’ result. Here’s your updated bowl odds for this week:
Armed Forces - 39.37% - Yes, the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth, Texas is now the most likely destination for our Bears. If either UCLA or Arizona manage to become eligible for a bowl, this is probably where Cal falls to. Thud.
No Bowl - 33.58% - That’s right, there’s now a 1 in 3 chance that Cal will miss bowl season entirely. If both UCLA and Arizona become bowl eligible, they will both finish ahead of Cal in the Pac-10 standings, and their wins will means bad losses for ASU and either Oregon or USC, which probably keeps the Pac-10 from sending two teams to the BCS. Worse still, Cal no longer controls its destiny here; the results are the same whether Cal manages to bounce back and beat Stanford or not.
Of course, as long as Cal beats Stanford, they’ll finish the season 7-5, which makes them a viable free agent for any bowls looking for at-large candidates, of which there will probably be a couple. There’s still a lot of football left to play, but if UCLA manages to knock off a Dixon-less Oregon this weekend, we’ll look at the doomsday scenarios next week.
Emerald - 15.00% - At this point, Cal has disappointed us all so much that I can no longer assume that the Emerald would reach down and take Cal instead of a team that finished ahead of them in the standings. The 15% represents the probability that the Pac-10 gets two teams in the BCS and both UCLA and Arizona lose out, thus leaving the Emerald no choice but to take Cal.
Las Vegas - 12.05% - This number assumes that either a) the Pac-10 fails to get two teams in the BCS, or b) UCLA or Arizona manage to get eligible, but not both. If you think that the Emerald will still take Cal over a team that finished above them in the standings (and if the Nut Bowl has a choice between Cal and a UCLA team that crapped out against a middling Florida State team in the Emerald last year, I’d have to think they’d want Cal), add this number to the one above. Notice that 27.05% is still less than either of the other two possibilities.
To get Cal into the best bowl game possible, here’s your rooting guide for the rest of the season:
Oregon over UCLA
USC over UCLA
Oregon over Oregon State
Arizona State over Arizona
Although I think USC would travel well anywhere as a BCS at-large, it would also help if the Fiesta Bowl had an at-large slot or two. Thus, Kansas winning out and getting to the BCS title game would be a good result, as would the winner of the WAC (Hawai’i or Boise State) failing to get a BCS bid. Arizona State reaching the BCS title game would also help, but I think that would mean not only them winning out, but Kansas losing to Missouri, and then Missouri losing to Oklahoma in the Big XII title game. West Virginia losing to Connecticut would also help, or at least not winning impressively. Lots of intricate possibilities here; we’ll discuss next week.