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December 7, 2020


Jarek Broussard is coming off a 301-yard night against Arizona as the Buffaloes prepare for Utah. (Arizona Athletics.)


(UPDATE: The Utah-Colorado game has been moved from Friday night to Saturday morning at 10:05, filling the "Big Noon Kickoff" slot on Fox left open when Michigan-Ohio State was canceled. Some guy named -- let me check the release -- Klatt will serve as the analyst with play-by-play voice Gus Johnson.)


We all knew the gist of the answer coming from Colorado coach Karl Dorrell.


I even mentioned him being an only-worry-about-what-you-can-control kind of guy in prefacing my question on the Monday afternoon Zoom session. But I plowed on and asked, anyway.

Are he and the Buffaloes assessing the possibilities if Southern California and Colorado win their final scheduled conference regular-season games coming up? 


"Terry, basically honest with you," he began, “if we win our game, that is the best thing we can do for ourselves. I know there is chatter about other things and about matchups and stuff like that. Right now, we are scheduled to play Utah and it has been on our schedule from the very beginning. We are preparing for that.


"We have to take care of Utah. . .  We will see where things unfold after the weekend. We are in a good position but the only thing we can do is take advantage of the position and put us in position to be in the championship game." 


There are no precedents for this. Conventional thinking does not apply in 2020 ... not about anything. The Pac-12 needs to disregard its divisional setup and standings and, if the picture still is the same after this weekend, match Colorado and Southern California -- both from the South -- in the Dec. 18 championship game.     


If under the circumstances, the now-nationally ranked Buffaloes beat Utah Friday night, USC beats UCLA Saturday and Colorado is shut out of the Pac-12 championship game because of a half-game advantage in the South standings, that would be a travesty.


I use "travesty" above with a major qualification. Everything is relative against the backdrop of COVID-19, and outrage over a football issue becomes unseemly if carried too far.      


Yet ...


If you're here, you probably know how the scenario is unfolding, but I'll throw it out there, anyway.


USC would be 5-0, all of it in Pac-12 play in the wake of the university presidents' mandate that the delayed season be limited to conference games. (That was the plan, anyway.)

Colorado would be 4-0 in conference play -- yes, also undefeated, but a half-game back. The Buffs would be 5-0 overall, though, because after the presidents backed off the non-conference game ban, CU beat San Diego State in a hastily-arranged replacement game because a scheduled conference opponent couldn't play due to COVID-19 issues within the program. 

Of course, that scrubbed game was USC vs. Colorado, at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Trojans couldn't go. 


Up in the North, there are no undefeateds. Only Washington (which faces Oregon Saturday) has one loss. Declaring that a once-beaten Washington team won't be in the conference title game wouldn't be "right" either. But it would be closer to fair. Also, if Oregon wins that battle of tthe Northwest, the Ducks would be atop the North at 4-2, a half-game aahead and with the head-to-head win. Again, not putting the Huskies or (if applicable) the Ducks in the title game, it essentially would be retroactively eliminating divisions, which is what some leagues did, anyway. And the Pac-12 schedule did include one non-division game for each team among the six, so arguing it would be wrong to toss out divisional distinctions now would start out with that flaw. (The teams not in the conference championship game are scheduled to play "crossover" games that weekend instead.)     


I have no idea if the USC program's problems the week of the scheduled Colorado game had anything at all to do with a lack of zealousness in following COVID-19 protocol, or was just unfortunate amid the spikes. It's probably not necessary to make that judgment -- unless there's a case to be made that USC has to be held responsible for the cancellation of the game that would have cleared up the picture. Yes, in that case, I could even make the argument that the Pac-12 presidents -- so zealous about COVID-19 -- make a statement by putting undefeated CU in the championship game ahead of undefeated USC. But I won't go that far.     

The USC-Colorado cancellation happened.


If that game had gone as scheduled, CU and USC still wouldn't have played the same number of conference games, but the head-to-head would have prevented them both from being undefeated in the conference. (All this is based on CU and USC winning their final games. Or, for that matter, both losing their final games, because no other South team has fewer than two losses.) The Pac-12 South's representative in the championship game would been evident.       


Frankly, my assumption is that USC would have beaten -- or would beat -- the Buffs, perhaps unless the Trojans played with a threadbare roster barely meeting the league's week-to-week standards. So? That doesn't have to come into play. In this weird  year, it doesn't have to come down to deciding this on a technicality -- that half-game difference. Also, I'll admit that anyone who claims to have seen this coming from the Buffs is lying, and completely counting them out now would be unwise. And this is about taking away a chance to again confound us they will have earned.       


So, to repeat: If both teams win this weekend, the conference championship game should be USC vs. Colorado. 


Dorrell also was asked about what his emotions would be if the Buffs are undefeated, but don't make the conference championship game.


“I'll worry about those emotions when we get there," he said. "I wouldn't be bitterly disappointed but I would be disappointed for sure because it probably didn't play out the way it could have been planned out. I have to go by what we have done with the opportunities we have had. We have to control this week and not really think about what is going on a week from now. All of that would be for not if we don't play well this week. We have to take care of this week. We know that is going to be a tough task. Utah is a really good team. We are a really good team. We have to play better. This is going to be a great test for us on Friday night."


If the Buffs pass that one, too, they should be in the conference championship game. Somehow.  






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