How Can USC Win the Pac-12 South? Scenarios and Tiebreakers Explained

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What if there’s a three-way tie?

Oct 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans tailback Javorius Allen (37) carries the ball against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Tiebreakers? You want to talk about tiebreakers? Well, saddle up. Let’s do it.

Multiple team tiebreakers can be a little bit tricky and with USC having losses to Utah and Arizona State, the Trojans are a bit behind the eight ball.

Here’s the official Pac-12 tie-breaking procedures for three or more teams:

"In the event of a tie for a division championship between more than two teams, the following procedure shall be used to eliminate all but two tied teams, at which point the two-team tie-breaking procedure shall be used."

  1. Head-to-head (best record in games among the tied teams).
  2. Record in inter-divisional games.
  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 in the CFP poll entering the fnal weekend of regular-season games.

Simple enough, eh? Alright, let’s get to some scenarios and apply the procedures.

Arizona, Arizona State and USC tie at 7-2

This scenario would be the only possible way for the Trojans to win the South despite ASU having a 7-2 conference record. It would require a three-way tie in which USC, Arizona and Arizona State all beat each other, going 1-1 in head-to-head tiebreakers.

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Since the Trojans have beaten Arizona and Arizona State beat USC, that would require Arizona to beat Arizona State in the Territorial Cup on November 28th. Moreover, this scenario would hinge on USC winning out in conference and Arizona picking up one loss at some point.

Who Arizona loses to would determine the fate of the division.

If Arizona lost to Washington, they would win the Pac-12 South based on the second tiebreaker: divisional record. A loss to the Huskies would mean that Arizona would have beaten UCLA to finish with a 4-1 record within the South.

However, a loss to UCLA would not break the tie, as all three teams would have a 3-2 divisional record.

At that point, the determining factor would be the team or teams that finish in fourth place.

If it winds up being UCLA, then USC would win the division, as the Bruins would have beaten both of the Arizona schools.

If it winds up being Utah, the winner of the Territorial Cup wins the tiebreaker, that being Arizona. This is because the Utes would eliminate the Trojans due to last week’s result, thus defaulting back to the two-team head-to-head tiebreaker between the Arizona schools. In this scenario, that would be Arizona.

Utah, Arizona and USC tie at 7-2

Similarly to the previous tiebreaker scenario, this would require Arizona to beat Utah to force a three-way tie with 1-1 head-to-head records all around. However, unlike the previous scenario, USC would lose the tiebreaker.

If Utah winds up finishing 7-2 in conference, they’re guaranteed to have at least a 4-1 record in Pac-12 South play due to their first loss coming at the hands of Washington State out of the north. USC can finish no better than 3-2 within the division.

Therefore, this scenario would be decided by whether Arizona’s second loss came within the division or out of it. A loss to UCLA would give the tiebreaker edge to Utah, as the Utes’ 4-1 divisional record would trump UA and USC’s 3-2 records.

However, if Arizona were to lose to Washington, both the Cats and Utes would finish at 4-1, resulting in Arizona’s hypothetical win over Utah serving as the tiebreaker.

Utah, Arizona State and USC tie at 7-2

Since USC lost to both the Utes and Sun Devils, they could not win a three-way tiebreaker with these two teams. The winner of Saturday’s Utah at Arizona State game would ultimately be the decider in such a three-way scenario.

USC ties with multiple teams at 6-3

Unless Colorado pulls upsets over Arizona and Utah, this would require multiple teams to lose games to the North division.

With USC only able to finish 3-2 at best within the division, the Trojans would only be able to win a three-way 6-3 tiebreaker if it was UCLA and Arizona.

Any other combination of teams would have the Trojans lose tiebreakers due a head-to-head edge or their divisional record, as losses to the north do not affect teams’ divisional record.

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