With bowl season fast approaching, the Arizona State Sun Devils are playing for the chance to earn a bid to represent the Pac-12 in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.
The Sun Devils have finished the regular season at 10-2, and on Saturday, they will host Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game with a Rose Bowl bid on the line. Stanford enters the matchup at 10-2 as well, and the Cardinal will be fighting for the opportunity to play in their second consecutive Rose Bowl.
It's time to break down the scenarios and possible opponents for Arizona State's postseason destination.
Scenario 1: Beat Stanford
Destination: Rose Bowl
If the Sun Devils win on Saturday night, it will be time to book your trips out to Pasadena for the New Year's Day affairs. Arizona State would play in its third Rose Bowl in program history, and have a chance to win "The Granddaddy of Them All" for the first time since 1987.
Likely Opponent: Michigan State
Possible Opponents: Baylor, Clemson, Alabama
If the Spartans defeat the Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday, then Michigan State will clinch its spot in the Rose Bowl game as well. Mark Dantonio's squad ranks No. 9 in the country, and an upset victory against No. 2 Ohio State wouldn't come as a shock to the college football universe.
Of course, beating Ohio State is easier said than done. Still, if Ohio State defeats Michigan State, the Spartans might end up in the Rose Bowl anyway. This hinges on a number of outcomes including a Florida State victory over Duke on Saturday.
If Florida State wins, the Seminoles will play in the national championship and the Orange Bowl will have the first shot at picking an at-large BCS team from the pool of eligible candidates. In all likelihood, the Orange Bowl committee would choose Alabama, because the No. 4 Crimson Tide will be the highest ranked at-large team.
In this scenario, the Rose Bowl would have the second chance to pick an eligible at-large team. Baylor and Clemson are also likely at-large candidates, but an 11-2 Michigan State team out of the Big Ten is still an appealing selection because of the Pac-12-Big Ten tradition.
Scenario 2: Lose to Stanford
If the Sun Devils lose to Stanford, Arizona State will not be an at-large candidate for a BCS bowl game. In this scenario, the Cardinal would earn the Pac-12's automatic qualifier status and go to the Rose Bowl. The 10-2 Oregon Ducks would still have a chance to play in a BCS game, but the Ducks will have to rely on losses from a few other teams to qualify as an at-large team.
Possible Destinations: Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl
If Baylor loses to Texas, the Bears will throw away the Big Ten's chances of having two teams play in BCS bowl games. If Michigan State loses to Ohio State, the Spartans may also fall out of favor with the BCS, although they could still end up in the Rose Bowl. If Northern Illinois loses, then the BCS becomes madness.
The point of all of those losses is to suggest that Oregon still has a chance at playing in a BCS bowl game as an at-large team. The SEC champion and Alabama will give the conference two BCS teams, and Florida State and Clemson are both likely to play in BCS bowl games as well. The Pac-12 is a third conference that could have two teams in BCS games as well, although it will need a little help.
If Oregon does qualify as an at-large team, the Sun Devils will likely head to the Alamo Bowl as the Pac-12's top non-BCS qualifier. If Oregon is kept out of the BCS, the Ducks will go to the Alamo Bowl and the Sun Devils will play in the Holiday Bowl. However, the Alamo Bowl has the option of choosing Arizona State over Oregon if the committee so chooses.
Possible Alamo Bowl Opponents: Oklahoma, Texas
If Oklahoma State and Baylor both win and play in BCS games, then the third place finisher from the Big 12 will play in the Cotton Bowl. If either Oklahoma State or Baylor lose, then the third place Big 12 team will play in the Alamo Bowl.
The Big 12's top four teams all play each other this weekend as Baylor plays Texas and Oklahoma State plays Oklahoma, so the final standings depend on the outcomes of this weekend's games. The picture will become much clearer after Saturday, but as of now, Oklahoma and Texas are the top top Alamo Bowl candidates.
Possible Holiday Bowl Opponent: Kansas State, Texas Tech
The Wildcats appear to be the front-runner for the Holiday Bowl if the Big 12 does not land two BCS qualifiers. As it stands, Kansas State is 7-5 overall with a 5-4 mark in conference play.
Coach Bill Snyder's squad is two full games behind fourth place Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings, so even if Oklahoma loses, the Sooners will still finish fourth.
The Wildcats are also a full game ahead of the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the standings, which means the Wildcats will finish fifth and the Red Raiders will finish sixth. However, the Wildcats could slide into the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl if both Baylor and Oklahoma State are selected for BCS games.
In this scenario, a 7-5 Texas Tech squad would bump up to the fifth bowl slot the Big 12 controls and play the Pac-12 representative.
With one week remaining, the bowl picture is still unclear. But one thing remains certain: if Arizona State wins, nothing else matters. The Sun Devils will go to the Rose Bowl.