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Evaluating ASU's New Path to Pac-12 Championship Game

The Arizona State Sun Devils are down but not out of the division race in the South.

A 5-2 record for any football team would generally carry a good feeling almost anywhere across the country. Yet through seven weeks of play, the consensus around the Arizona State Sun Devils isn't exactly full of five-star reviews. 

After road losses to BYU and Utah, the Sun Devils currently find themselves behind the Utes in the Pac-12 South divisional standings:

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The Sun Devils have five games remaining on their schedule:

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So, what do the Sun Devils need to do in order to find their way into Allegiant Stadium for the Pac-12 title game? 

Evaluating Arizona State's New Path to Pac-12 Championship Game

Winning out: Arizona State no longer has the benefit of controlling its own destiny thanks to their two losses. However, to have any hope of rescuing the season, the team must win out the rest of the way to best position themselves for contention. Should ASU win the rest of its games, the 8-1 final conference record should fare well against the remainder of division teams, who are set to play each other and sort themselves out within the next few weeks. 

Utah losing multiple games: Even if Arizona State wins out, they'll be out of commission unless the Utes can drop multiple games. 

The good news for ASU? The Utes are set to begin a touch stretch of games that includes the following: At Oregon State, UCLA, at Stanford, at Arizona and Oregon.

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If you're a Sun Devils fan, surely you're confident Utah can handle business (by not winning) two of those games, although the Utes have turned a corner since quarterback Cam Rising emerged. 

UCLA winning out, or at least beating Utah: Although the Sun Devils have the same conference record as the Bruins (3-1), ASU's victory over the Bruins in the Rose Bowl currently has Arizona State over UCLA in the standings due to their head-to-head tie-breaker. 

However, ASU fans will be huge fans of the Bruins on Saturday, Oct. 30 when UCLA travels to Salt Lake City to take on the Utes. 

Should UCLA win (and Arizona State win vs Washington State that day), that would effectively put the teams into a three-way tie for first place in the Pac-12 South, with each team having a 1-1 record against the two other teams. 

The following procedures will only be used to eliminate all but two teams, at which point the two-team tie-breaking procedure will be applied.

Per the Pac-12 website, here are the tie-breaking rules for a three-way tie between divisional teams:

  1. Head-to-head (best record in games among the tied teams).
  2. Record in games played within the division.
  3. Record against the next highest placed team in the division (based on record in all games played within the conference), proceeding through the division.
  4. Record in common conference games.
  5. Highest ranking by SportSource Analytics following the last weekend of regular-season games.

There's quite a few ways the tie-breakers can fall, as the ending of the season will be quite the finish to watch between Arizona State, UCLA and Utah. It's important to note the tie-breakers would be used to only eliminate one team from the three-team tie, effectively putting the teams at a head-to-head consequence.

Essentially, Arizona State would need Utah to lose two games to avoid the tie-breaker with the Utes thanks to their recent loss. UCLA finishing square with ASU would see the Sun Devils propel themselves to the championship game. 

Difficult? Absolutely. Yet nothing is impossible, and with a conference that loves to play musical chairs with winners, the Sun Devils are absolutely still in the race for the Pac-12 South title.