Nov. 10, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports

The way things are going in the Pac-10, the conference could have as many teams playing in the four Bowl Championship Series games as it has in the other 24 bowls.

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No. 1 Southern California can clinch a berth in the Rose or Orange bowl with a win against Arizona this week, and No. 4 California is in good position to grab an at-large spot in the BCS with wins in its final three games.

Arizona State and the winner of this week's UCLA - Oregon game also will be bowl bound. But after that it gets dicey. The conference could have anywhere from zero to three more bowl teams, leaving four spots possibly open.

Being unable to fill all of its bowl slots is less important to commissioner Tom Hansen than getting two teams into the BCS for the third time in the system's seven years.

"That's the important measurement," Hansen said. "We've been the best conference top to bottom for a number of years. People said, 'You have good teams but not great teams.' This year we have two great ones. It's a very fine development. I'm proud of it."

It also has some outside observers very interested in how the next few weeks play out in the Pac-10. Because every bowl berth the Pac-10 doesn't fill is one that could open up for a school from the Mid-American Conference or an independent such as Navy.

Hansen has already given the Silicon Valley Bowl and Emerald Bowl permission to talk to other teams in case the Pac-10 doesn't have teams for those games.

"We told them, 'It does not hurt our feelings. You have to protect yourself,"' Hansen said.

MAC commissioner Rick Chryst, whose conference already has four eligible teams and only two bids, has already begun lobbying for a spot in the Silicon Valley Bowl.

"Three times in the last six years, the MAC has had a 10-win team not get invited to a bowl game," Chryst said. "We're trying to do our work and make our calls."

There are a few problems contributing to the Pac-10's inability to fill its bowl slots, most importantly an 11-game schedule that requires teams to go 6-5 instead of 6-6 to become bowl eligible and dominant teams at the top of the conference.

This week's games will go a long way in determining which Pac-10 teams will be bowl eligible. The conference has seven bowl tie-ins and would have eight if two teams make the BCS.

The loser of the Oregon State- Stanford game will join Arizona and Washington as teams eliminated in the running. Washington State also would drop out if it loses at Arizona State or next week to Washington.

The UCLA-Oregon loser would need to win its final game with the Bruins ending against USC and the Ducks finishing with Oregon State. The Oregon State-Stanford winner must also win its finale with the Cardinal ending the season at Cal.

"This conference right now is improved at the top and it has also been one of those deals where the bottom has come up," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "The competition is tremendous this year."

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