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Originally published November 15, 2009 at 5:33 PM | Page modified November 15, 2009 at 8:16 PM

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Bud Withers

Rose Bowl outlook: We could see a six-way tie for Pac-10's top spot

Four football teams have two league losses or fewer. Today, all of them claim more than a puncher's chance at the Rose Bowl berth opposite Ohio State.

Seattle Times colleges reporter

Apologies to Ernest Thayer, who wrote "Casey at The Bat." Somewhere kids are laughing and somewhere hearts are light. Somewhere they're talking about bowl games and BCS berths.

Just not here in our state, where Washington and Washington State, confoundingly, will combine to go a sixth straight football season without a bowl game, not easy to do in the age of the Duluth Dust-Bunny Classic.

While we in our little Northwest nook snipe at coaches and second-guess play calls, this is what they're doing today around the rest of the Pac-10: contemplating how, in the wildest season ever, there could be a six-way tie for the championship.

Believe it.

• Oregon (6-1) loses at Arizona (4-2) this week and Oregon State (5-2) Dec. 3 in Eugene.

• California (4-3) beats Stanford (6-2) and Washington.

• Arizona beats Arizona State.

• USC (4-3) beats UCLA and Arizona.

• OSU loses this week at Washington State (hey, we didn't say you wouldn't have to work with us a little).

Voilà. Half a dozen teams with 6-3 conference records, and a headache bigger than any other six-pack would give conference administrators.

Four teams have two league losses or fewer. Today, all of them claim more than a puncher's chance at the Rose Bowl berth opposite Ohio State.

• Oregon: The Ducks control their destiny.

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• Arizona: The Wildcats control theirs as well.

• Stanford: Needs to beat Cal and have Arizona beat Oregon, the Ducks beat OSU and have Arizona lose to either ASU or USC.

• Oregon State: Needs to beat WSU and Oregon and have Arizona lose once.

Two-team tiebreakers are broken by the head-to-head game. Multiple-team knots are settled by comparing the teams' record against each other, and if that doesn't break them, by comparing how they did against the next-lowest team in the standings.

The aim is to reduce the tie to two teams, and then compare their game head-to-head.

I can't recall a more contentious race, and certainly not one in which there was more quality in the first division. There was a three-team tie in 2000 (Washington, OSU, Oregon) and another in 1993 (UCLA, USC, Arizona).

In 32 years of Pac-10 football, that's it for the multiples.

Here's how loony the Pac-10 season has gone: Arizona's two losses came on the carom-off-a-cleat interception that beat the Wildcats at Washington; and Saturday, Arizona was positioned for a possible winning field goal when, on third-and-three, quarterback Nick Foles caught his own batted pass and tried to throw it again, drawing a penalty that took the Wildcats out of field-goal range and killed the drive.

Oh, that six-team Rubik's Cube?

USC wins it. Just don't tell the Trojans that their life-supported hopes of going to a BCS bowl rest partly on a win by Washington State.

Fun stuff, no doubt.

It's just that once more in the state of Washington, it's somebody else's fun.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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About Bud Withers

Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-10.
bwithers@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8281

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