Rankman hits highway 101 to unravel the mysteries of tonight's Pac 12 title-game

SAN JOSE—The stakes for tonight’s Pac 12 championship game at Levi's Stadium are…confusing?


Maybe “muddled” is a better word, or “befuddling.” Or six words with a question mark: "beats the hell out of me?"

Or, any words that stand in opposition to “clear” or "that's what I thought."

I cried at the end of “The BCS Story” because the directors killed off the thing I loved best about college football—the utter chaos.

I thought the new four-team playoff, selected by men and women in suits and pants suits, would be boring.

This weekend has not only proved me wrong, it put Rankman in the back of a Dodge rental mini-SUV and headed up Highway 101 to Washington vs. Colorado.

Part of me still doesn’t know what I’m here for. Part of me feels like Geraldo Rivera looking for Al Capone's vault.

Maybe I came for a better explanation.

The Rose Bowl, so long the thrilling landing spot for the Pac champion, can’t even extend an invitation or hand out roses. It’s that complicated.

Let’s see if I don’t have this straight.

Colorado will win a Rose Bowl bid if it wins tonight, but also if it loses. If Colorado loses bad, however, then maybe USC goes to the Rose Bowl and Colorado slides to the Davy Crockett (Alamo).

Washington clinches the Pac 12 title with victory but not a spot in the playoff. The Huskies must win and stay No. 4 in the final committee ranking on Sunday.

That seemed a reasonable think to think until chairman Kirby Holcutt this week said this:[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

“I can tell you from the discussion, the debate, the separation between Washington and Michigan is very small,” Holcutt said. “…I know there was a number of committee members that were really struggling with who was the better team there.”

Wow, that should freak Washington out. It seemed Holcutt was saying there was a chance two-loss Michigan, currently ranked No. 5, could pass one-loss Washington for a playoff spot.

Holcutt left out some important information. Michigan’s two-loss regular season is over. Washington can add additional win to its total, over No. 8 Colorado, which would seem to clinch the deal.

If the teams are close, but Washington's ahead, how does Washington fall with an additional win?

Washington would also be a conference champion, not a divisional runner-up.

It is also funny that Michigan is getting strength of schedule credit for scheduling Colorado, until 10 minutes ago the worst program in the short history of the Pac 12. While Washington is getting punished for scheduling Rutgers.

Anyway, this really is crazy committee talk. If Washington beats Colorado tonight, it should be in the playoff...right?

You can’t say that until the Saturday games play out. But...if Washington wins tonight but does not make the playoff, it goes to the Rose Bowl.

The best Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott can do for now is congratulate the league champion and wish them luck “wherever you may end up.”

The league should play the winner out with “When You Wish Upon A Star.”

Ok, so what about USC, sitting at 9-3 this weekend?

Wouldn’t a Colorado loss put USC in the Rose Bowl if Washington makes the playoff?

It all comes down to the committee’s final ranking.

Three spots now separate No.8 Colorado from No.11 USC. The schools sandwiched in between, though, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, play each other Saturday.

That means one team will move up and one team will move down.

If Colorado stays ahead of USC, the Buffaloes would go to the Rose Bowl. If USC jumps Colorado, the Trojans are in.

USC would not win the Pac 12, but would own victories over both its participants.

I was somewhat surprised with Rose Bowl chief Scott Jenkins’ public comments this week to L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke. Jenkins said he did not think Colorado, with a loss, would fall below USC.

That doesn’t make sense. Look, it’s one thing if the Rose Bowl would rather have Colorado than USC.

That’s fine. Just use your discretionary card and take Colorado.

The committee, though, isn’t supposed to consider bowl pairings. It is supposed to rank the best teams, in order.

It would be wrong for the Rose Bowl to say they will take the committee's decision if they are lobbying behind the scenes.

The good news about the Pac 12 title game tonight is that Levi Stadium is located right next to the Great American Parkway.

And amusement park.


And if you thought the Pac 12 side battle for the Rose Bowl is hilarious, check out the Big Ten.[/membership]