PHOENIX — The Pac-12 got an invite to the inaugural College Football Playoff, with Oregon making it to the national championship game.
The conference may have a tougher road this season as the teams have taken turns knocking each other off.
At the core will be whether the CFP committee looks at the conference's parity as a strength or a weakness. The first rankings were released Tuesday night and the ones that count will be on Dec. 6, when the final four teams are announced.
There is still a long way to go, but here's a rundown of the teams still left in the Pac-12 race and the implications that each team winning the title game would have on the conference's CFP chances:
Record: 7-1, 6-0 Pac-12.
Ranking: No. 11 in CFP rankings, No. 9 in the AP Top 25.
Impact of winning Pac-12 title: The Cardinal are the Pac-12's best shot at earning a CFP spot. Stanford has been in the top 10 of the AP poll the past three weeks and winning a conference like the Pac-12 would carry a lot of weight, especially if it finishes the regular season with one loss. The playoff committee was certainly impressed despite the Cardinal's season-opening clunker against Northwestern, ranking them sixth. Stanford still has conference games against Oregon and California, and then closes out the regular season with a crucial game against No. 8 Notre Dame. Win out and it would be tough to keep the Cardinal out.
Record: 7-1, 4-1.
Ranking: No. 12 in CFB, No. 13 in AP poll.
Impact of winning Pac-12 title: The Utes were being touted as a strong CFP contender after blowing out Oregon in Eugene, then beating California and Arizona State. A loss to Southern California on Oct. 24 put a big dent in their hopes. Utah does have some quality wins, but losing to an unranked team so late in the season probably won't look good in the eyes of the selection committee. Utah's best shot at getting in the playoff is to win the rest of its games and beat Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game. Winning the Pac-12 championship regardless of whom it's against is a must.
Record: 6-2, 3-2.
Ranking: No. 22 in AP poll.
Impact of winning Pac-12 title: An awful lot of things would need to happen for the Bruins to get into the playoff. It starts with UCLA running the table the rest of the season, which would include, obviously, a Pac-12 championship. After that, UCLA would need a few of the teams ahead of it in the CFP rankings to falter, allowing a two-loss team from the Pac-12 to earn one of the final four spots. Eventual champion Ohio State started 16th in the initial CFP rankings a year ago, but did it with one loss. The Bruins still have games against Washington State, Utah and USC before even thinking about the playoff.
Record: 5-3, 3-2.
Impact of winning Pac-12 title: As well as the Trojans have played since coach Steve Sarkisian was fired, they're not getting into the playoff. Southern California kept it close against Notre Dame in its first game under interim coach Clay Helton on Oct. 17 and followed with wins over Utah and Cal. All that did was diminish the Pac-12's CFP chances by sending the Utes down the pecking order. The Trojans already have three losses and even if they win out, there aren't enough overlapping scenarios for them to end up in college football's final four.
Record: 5-3, 3-2.
Impact of winning Pac-12 title: Like USC, the Ducks will not be in the playoff no matter what they do the rest of the season. Oregon lost a close game to No. 6 Michigan State, which is making its case to be in the CFP, but lost to Utah by 42 at home and was outlasted in double overtime by Washington State. It would be a nice turnaround if the Ducks do win the Pac-12 North — they're 2 1/2 games behind Stanford — and the conference title game, but all that will do is get them into a better bowl.
Record: 5-2, 3-2.
Impact of winning Pac-12 title: No playoff chances, but what a nice turnaround season for the Cougars under Mike Leach. Once the punching bag of the Pac-12 North, Washington State still has an outside shot at catching Stanford in the North. Problem is, Stanford is playing well and the Cougars still have games against Arizona State, UCLA and rival Washington left.