Pac-12 says Farewell with Return to Playoff, 8 Teams Going Bowling
For its final act, the Pac-12 as we've known it is returning to the College Football Playoff for the first time in seven years, has another school participating in a New Year’s Six bowl and will send a total of eight teams to bowls.
Most of those eight — the most since the Pac-12 landed nine teams in bowls in 2017 — will be representing the conference for the last time after it got picked apart this summer during the latest round of realignment.
No. 2 Washington is the highlight, becoming the first Pac-12 team to be selected for the playoff since the Huskies last made the semifinals in 2016. Washington will be the No. 2 seed and faced third-seeded Texas in the Sugar Bowl.
But even the Huskies' return comes with a tinge of disappointment after they were sent to New Orleans rather than the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
"I think for the program and the fans, and just because of our geographical location, I think certainly the Rose Bowl would have been something that was probably what everyone was thinking and wanting,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said. “But here’s the deal -- we’re in the Final Four, and we’re going to go play in an exciting venue against a very good football team.”
The current Pac-12’s final football season was one of its best in recent memory. Washington and Oregon played two of the best games of the college football season, first in their regular-season meeting and again in Friday’s conference championship game, where the Huskies clinched a playoff spot with a 34-31 victory.
But there was depth throughout. Nine of the 12 teams were ranked in the AP Top 25 at one point during the season including two teams — Colorado and Washington State — that didn’t achieve bowl eligibility in the end.
No. 8 Oregon will be the other team in a New Year's Six game, although the matchup may leave some Ducks fans disappointed. Oregon will face No. 18 Liberty in the Fiesta Bowl after the Flames were the highest-ranked Group of Five school.
Aside from the Huskies, the best matchup for a Pac-12 school may be in the Alamo Bowl, where No. 14 Arizona will face No. 12 Oklahoma in a meeting of two schools moving conferences. Oklahoma is headed to the SEC, while Arizona will be one of the schools replacing the Sooners in the Big 12.
Southern California and UCLA will play bowl games near home before departing for the Big Ten next season. USC will face Louisville in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, while UCLA will take on Boise State in the LA Bowl, although neither the Trojans nor Bruins may have their starting quarterbacks if USC's Caleb Williams opts out and after UCLA’s Dante Moore announced plans to transfer.
Utah’s two-year run as conference champions came to an end this season but the Utes will still get a trip to Las Vegas to face Northwestern in the Las Vegas Bowl. California will play in its first bowl game since 2019 when it travels to Shreveport, Louisiana, to face Texas Tech in the Independence Bowl.
And No. 21 Oregon State, which along with Washington State was left out in the realignment chaos but has hopes of rebuilding the conference in the future, will play in the Sun Bowl against Notre Dame.