Pac-12 Hotline mailbag: The future (and present) of the Rose Bowl, CFP rankings, Deion and Colorado

The Hotline mailbag is published every Friday. Send questions to or hit me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline.

Please note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and brevity.

How often will the Rose Bowl be played on New Year’s Day in the expanded playoffs? — @J51017178

The future of the Rose Bowl is very much in doubt — not its existence but its role and relationships with the longtime partner conferences.

Here’s what we know:

The Rose Bowl scheduled for Jan. 2, 2023 will feature a traditional Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup (probably Utah or Washington against Penn State).

Next season, the Granddaddy is scheduled to host a College Football Playoff semifinal.

And in the 2024 and 2025 seasons, it will stage quarterfinal matchups in the expanded playoff.

But that’s it. The CFP’s contract with ESPN, which includes the sites and rotation of games, expires at the end of the 2025 season. There is no plan for 2026 and beyond — other than the event will feature 12 teams with the selection process outlined previously.

Where does the Rose Bowl fit in the next era?

Presumably, it will host quarterfinal games two out of every three years, on Jan. 1, and host a semifinal in the third year.

That’s where it gets complicated.

With the added rounds, the semifinals will be played a week after the quarterfinals — probably Jan. 8 or 9. What would replace the Rose Bowl game on New Year’s Day in the years the bowl hosts a semifinal?

The Tournament of Roses’ parade isn’t going anywhere, and event organizers would like to have a football game attached (preferably at 2 p.m.).

Most likely, there will be a second Rose Bowl game every third year, on Jan. 1, opposite whichever CFP quarterfinal is being played at that time.

That game would exist outside the playoff structure, meaning the participants would not be any of the 12 teams selected for the CFP.

The little Rose Bowl (for lack of a better term) could match the Pac-12 against the Big Ten, but the participants likely would be third-, fourth- or fifth-place finishers.

So enjoy the matchup next month, which could very well be the last of its kind.

If USC makes the playoff, could the Rose Bowl pass on the three-loss loser of the conference title game (Utah)  in favor of a two-loss team (Washington) that missed out on the title game due to the arcane multi-team tiebreaker? — Mike Stahlberg

If the Trojans win the Pac-12 title and advance to the playoff, I expect the Rose Bowl to select Washington over Utah to face a Big Ten opponent.

Yes, there are guidelines for picking the replacement team. But ultimately, the Rose Bowl wants the best possible matchup.

If the options are a 10-2 team with an excited fan base that hasn’t been to the Granddaddy in four years or a 9-4 team that’s coming off a loss in the Pac-12 title game and was in the Rose Bowl 11 months ago, we suspect bowl officials will pick the Huskies.

Why do you think the committee ranked Utah higher than Washington this week? — @namthien_v

Selection committee chair Boo Corrigan was asked about that very situation, and his answer — “The Washington loss at Arizona State was surprising to everyone in the room” — was so unconvincing that we wonder if an ulterior motive exists.

(UW’s loss in Tempe was in early October and should have been reflected in the rankings long before the edition released Tuesday.)

What that ulterior motive could be, we won’t speculate. But there have been past instances of the committee creating  rankings that make little sense in the moment but are designed to justify future moves.

Bottom line: As long as Washington and Utah are closely grouped in the final rankings — and they should be, if Utah loses — the Rose Bowl can justify selecting the Huskies.

Is the radio silence on the new Pac-12 media deal a credit to administrators keeping quiet or a condemnation of  commissioner George Kliavkoff for no progress being made? — @jlahaye76

Mostly, the former — and perhaps entirely the former.

The conference has done a masterful job avoiding leaks to the media. Whether Kliavkoff has moved with the requisite urgency stands as a topic of public debate, particularly on social media.

We believe the conference has been waiting for UCLA’s situation to be resolved. Kliavkoff must know whether the Bruins are in or out before finalizing the contracts.  (Even if the chance of a reversal is microscopic, he cannot assume.)

The University of California regents are expected to make a final decision Dec. 14, leaving one week until the Christmas shutdown.

That’s not enough time to wrap things up, based on Kliavkoff’s explanation Thursday that the negotiations will carry into 2023.

With the expansion of the playoff, do you think conference championship games go away, as did the division format? — @CBRDeli

Quite the opposite, actually. The conference championships will have more value in the era of a 12-team playoff by serving as play-in games.

Recall the selection process: The six highest-ranked conference winners will receive automatic bids. In most title games, the stakes will be enormous.

Expansion to 12 teams was the university presidents’ way of adding relevance to the ACC, Big 12 and Pac-12 (plus the Group of Five) in the aftermath of expansion by the Big Ten and SEC.

With half the field reserved for conference champions, the regular seasons mean more … and are worth more.

In the past, you ranked the Pac-12 divisions. I know they technically went away, but the schedules did not. Which division do you think was better? — @ScottLehiUte

If they existed, the divisions would have been extraordinarily balanced this season.

The South would claim the best team (USC) and the worst team (Colorado).

The six entries in the current College Football Playoff rankings are split evenly, with three from the North (Washington and the Oregon schools) and three from the South (Utah and the L.A. schools).

We might give the North a slight edge, because Washington State (4-5 in conference) was all alone in seventh place and walloped Arizona (3-6), which finished eighth.

But it’s too close to provide a clear answer, especially because USC didn’t play Oregon or Washington.

What are the odds Deion Sanders comes to Colorado? — @TBrady1200

The Hotline’s view is quite simple: We’ll believe it when we see it.

Sanders would elevate the profile of CU’s program and attract first-rate talent — his success at Jackson State is indisputably impressive.

But does his style and personality fit in Boulder?

Would the school offer the necessary compensation?

Would it be flexible enough with admissions, especially for transfers, to satisfy Sanders?

Count us as skeptical on every front.

But there’s an unknown element: Todd Saliman, the recently-appointed University of Colorado system president, might have a different vision for the program than Phil DiStefano, chancellor of the Boulder campus.

We won’t have to wait long for a resolution. The final game of Jackson State’s season is Saturday. If Sanders hasn’t accepted the job by Sunday night, it probably won’t materialize.

Is it possible that Stanford and Cal just drop football to the Football Championship Series and join Harvard, Princeton, etc.?  It’s getting too expensive. — @SailorGabe1

I don’t expect that course of action in the short or intermediate terms but understand why you would ask. And it would not surprise me if that’s where the schools end up in 10 or 15 years.

Operational expenses are soaring, sure, but that’s only a symptom of the larger issue.

The institutional commitment needed to compete at the highest level of major college football is getting exponentially greater and, at the current pace, could exceed acceptable levels for the Bay Area schools in the 2030s.

Coaching salaries, recruiting budgets, the transfer portal and name, image and likeness opportunities are the prime movers right now.

But eventually, there will be a revenue-sharing component with football and basketball players getting paid for services rendered directly from the athletic departments.

They will be either outright or pseudo employees — a step too far for Cal and Stanford, in our opinion.

With all the talk about the Big Ten eventually adding more West Coast members, it’s worth wondering if the Bay Area schools will make the commitment required.

Who will be Cal’s next offensive coordinator? — @davidw_ng

I can’t give you a specific answer but would offer this context: It stands as Justin Wilcox’s most important hire in his six seasons in Berkeley.

He cannot make another mistake or the program, which already faces immense challenges with regard to resources and talent acquisition, could fall so far behind that it cannot catch up.

Bill Musgrave was the right model but the wrong coach.

His preference for a Pro Style offense works for Cal’s natural recruiting pool, but Musgrave himself made inexplicable decisions — many of them related to abandoning an effective running game at crucial times.

Yes, the offensive line was flawed this season. But the playcalling was a major problem, and we didn’t see enough progress from quarterback Jack Plummer, either.

I ran the math for a scenario in which Oregon State had beaten USC and came up with a five-way tie for first. Any info on the specifics of how the conference would settle the fifth step in that multi-team tiebreaker? — @BuskingTeacher

I haven’t looked into the matter but would have loved to see it unfold.

I was confused by your Associated Press top-25 ballot this week, when compared to your Pac-12 power rankings. — @brianbikefit

Just comparing your poll vote to your power ranking: Can you explain why you have Oregon State over Oregon in one and vice versa? — Tom Latta

The top-25 ballot is designed to follow the guidelines provided by the AP, which ask voters to base their ballots on results, first and foremost.

The power ratings, on the other hand, are considerably more subjective.

From that standpoint, the Beavers are playing better than the Ducks right now and obviously have the head-to-head victory, which explains OSU’s edge in the power ratings.

But when the totality of results are considered, the advantage shifts to Oregon.

Each team has three losses, but the Ducks played top-ranked Georgia, a vastly more difficult assignment than anything Oregon State — or any other team, anywhere — has faced this season.

(We have factored that outlier result into our assessment of Oregon throughout the season.)

If you level-set the schedules, Oregon has fewer losses and more quality wins than the Beavers:

— OSU lost to Washington, USC and Utah but beat Oregon.

— Meanwhile, the Ducks lost to OSU and Washington but beat UCLA and Utah.

But admittedly, it’s close — much closer than I would have ever expected. And that’s a credit to the work performed by OSU coach Jonathan Smith and his staff.

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