The Pac-12 South might be the most wide open division in the Power Five with every team within a game and half of first place. The Utah Utes at 4-2 in conference are the frontrunners, but every other team is only one game behind Utah in the loss column. Let’s look at some scenarios for how each team can win the Pac-12 South because no team is eliminated yet. I believe if Arizona State wins the Utah-Arizona State game, no team would control their own destiny because every team would be tied in the loss column and there are some insane tiebreaker scenarios.
Utah Utes (6-2, 4-2 Pac-12)
Key tiebreakers: Arizona, UCLA, USC
Tiebreaker against: None
Remaining Pac-12 games: at Arizona State, Oregon, at Colorado
The Utes are the leaders, so let’s start with them first. Utah is the only team that controls their own destiny. They have three conferences games remaining. Utah wins the South without needing any help if they win all three or defeat their two Pac-12 South opponents. If Utah beats ASU and Oregon, and Colorado loses either tomorrow at Arizona or at home against the Washington State Cougars, Utah clinches the South before the Rumble in the Rockies game.
The Arizona State game is the most important because they hold a key tiebreaker against USC and would hold one against Utah with a win. If Utah beats Arizona State, the Sun Devils are eliminated from the South race. If Utah loses on Saturday at ASU, the Utes would need the Sun Devils to lose a game down the stretch. I believe no team would control their own destiny if Utah loses. If Utah lost to both ASU and Oregon (but beat Colorado), Utah would need ASU to lose twice, and Arizona, UCLA, and USC all to lose once. A win against ASU makes things a whole lot easier for the Utes.
If Utah loses to Colorado (but beats both Arizona State and Oregon), they still win the South if Colorado loses another Pac-12 game. The only interesting three-way tie scenarios I could come up with involving Utah is if Colorado, USC, and Utah all finish with three conference losses (meaning CU and USC win out and Utah’s only loss is to Colorado). (If UCLA finishes with three losses along with Colorado and Utah, they would be eliminated due to head-to-head losses to both Colorado and Utah.) Utah beat USC but lost to Colorado who lost to USC but beat Utah. This means that the tiebreaker comes down to record in the division. USC has losses to both Arizona State and Utah in the South, while Utah and Colorado would each only have one conference loss. This eliminates USC and means Colorado would win the South by virtue of the head-to-head win over Utah.
If Utah beats ASU but loses to both Oregon and Colorado, things get messy. Utah would need Arizona, UCLA, and USC to all lose once, and Colorado to lose to Arizona (or to two Pac-12 North teams). If Colorado lost once say to WSU, CU and Utah would hold tie breakers over any of Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, and USC that had four losses due to a better record in the South at 4-1 each. Colorado would get the nod over Utah with the head-to-head win. However, if Colorado lost to Arizona instead of WSU in the above scenario, Utah would win the South given that they would be the only team in this mess with a 4-1 record in the South.
Those cover the most likely scenarios, but if you have questions, ask in the comment, and I will try to answer.
Arizona State Sun Devils (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12)
Key tiebreakers: USC
Tiebreaker against: Colorado
Remaining Pac-12 games: Utah, UCLA, at Oregon, at Arizona
If ASU loses on Saturday, they are out of the South race. If they beat Utah, they still need help to win the South. They lost to Colorado, so they need Colorado to lose one. If both Arizona State and Colorado win out, Colorado wins the South. A three-way tie between Arizona State, Colorado, and USC would go to Colorado (USC eliminated first because of a 3-2 record in the South) because of Colorado’s head-to-head win over ASU.
Colorado Buffaloes (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12)
Key tiebreaker: Arizona State
Tiebreaker against: USC
Remaining Pac-12 games: at Arizona, No. 10 Washington State, Utah, at California
Colorado’s situation is a bit weird. They do not control their own destiny because they lost to USC. However, Colorado would win any three-way tie they might fall in with USC and either Utah or Arizona State. Colorado needs to beat Utah to win the South, and they either need USC to lose one, or Arizona State or Utah to win out (except the CU game). If Colorado is in a two-way tie with USC (meaning Utah lost twice and ASU lost once), USC wins the South.
Key tiebreakers: Arizona, Colorado
Tiebreakers against: Arizona State and Utah
Remaining Pac-12 games: at Oregon State, California, at UCLA
The Trojans need Utah to lose twice and Arizona State to lose once, and USC needs to win out to win the Pac-12. USC would even lose the three-way ties mentioned above to Colorado, who they beat because of their two losses in the South. The Trojans are not eliminated from the Pac-12 South, but they need quite a bit of help to win the division.
Key tiebreakers: Arizona
Tiebreakers against: Colorado, UCLA
Remaining Pac-12 games: at Oregon, at Arizona State, USC, Stanford
To win the South, UCLA needs Utah to lose twice and Colorado to lose once and win out to win the Pac-12 South. They are in a similar position to USC, but they have a tougher conference slate down the stretch.
Key tiebreakers: None
Tiebreakers against: UCLA, USC, Utah
Remaining Pac-12 games: at Colorado, at No. 10 Washington State, Arizona State
Ya, Arizona is in trouble, but they are not done in the South. They need to win out and need Utah to lose twice and UCLA and USC both to lose once. I believe a loss to Colorado tomorrow eliminates Arizona from the South (if not eliminated, their South hopes would require so much help it is essentially impossible).