The Buffs are unbeaten against the Pac-12. They’re unbeaten against the Mountain West. More importantly, they’re unbeaten against COVID-19.
So why does it feel like they’re being punished? Why can’t they play for a conference title?
To heck with divisions, Larry Scott. This is 2020. You started late. Arizona State barely started at all.
Tradition is 2021’s problem. We’re all making this up as we go, Pac-12. Put your two best teams in the title game. Cinch something that should’ve been cinched on the field ages ago.
CU is 4-0, 3-0 in Pac-12 play. AP ranking: 21.
USC is 4-0, 4-0 in Pac-12 play. AP ranking: 16.
If the conference’s last two undefeated sides both win or both lose — the Buffs host Utah (1-2) on Friday; the Trojans visit UCLA (3-2) on Saturday — the Men of Troy get to represent the South Division in the title game on this lovely technicality: More division victories.
The two teams didn’t meet head-to-head. They were supposed to. The league on Thanksgiving Day canceled the Nov. 28 matchup at the Coliseum between the Buffs and Trojans because, get this, USC didn’t have enough players available in a specific position group after coronavirus testing and contact tracing.
What’s that, Vic Fangio?
Yeah, yeah, I know.
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“I guess, in my mind, I can’t really go with what-ifs and ‘Oh man, this really hurt us,’ or anything like that,” CU coach Karl Dorrell said Monday. “We’re still trying to prove to each other the type of program we are. And I think we’re getting some notice from that, just with our play.
“And if it works out with us having success this week and obviously (USC), they’ve got a big matchup, too, against their crosstown rivals, so … anything can happen.”
Anything, that is, except a Buffs-Trojans game. Apparently.
“Prior to the start of the football season, the Pac-12 Conference established a 2020 schedule and related tie-breaking protocol,” conference spokesman Andrew Walker wrote in an email to The Post on Monday. “The schedule and tie-breaking protocol were developed in consultation with, and approved by, Pac-12 athletic directors. We are following this agreed-upon schedule and tie-breaking protocol.”
Great. Change the protocols.
If the Pac-12 CEOs can create a provision to allow CU to play San Diego State in a pinch on Thanksgiving weekend instead of the USC, then they can create a provision to let the Buffs play the Trojans, too.
“We are excited to play Utah,” CU athletic director Rick George told several outlets and The Post on Monday, “and I strongly disagree with the conference’s decision.”
If you’re CU chancellor Phil DiStefano, you don’t bail on this. If you’re George, you demand a recount, twist every arm within reach. Your kids, against all preseason odds, made this fall count for something. It’s time for Buffs administrators to do the same until every avenue, political or otherwise, is completely exhausted.
“Our goal this season was to win a Pac-12 championship,” CU linebacker Carson Wells said. “But we’ve got to control what we can control.”
And let’s clear up two Twitter misconceptions, right now. First, CU didn’t “duck” USC. Second, this wasn’t a “both-sides-had-COVID” thing. The Buffs have zero losses and zero cancellations forced.
Remember Trojans Week? The hype started building up steam three Mondays ago: Dorrell, a former Bruins player and coach, taking on Tommy Trojan; the Buffs, the division’s new money, visiting the South favorite.
Then on Thursday night, it all stopped. In a flash, the game was off. Rules is rules, and the league decreed USC had to opt out. Good news, they said: CU was still getting a game in, but it was at home against … the Aztecs. Fine. Whatever.
But now that tilt — a 20-10 Buffs victory, by the way — could help deny CU a shot at a conference title?
No wonder the rest of the country laughs. No wonder the world east of Ovid looks at the Pac-12 as the Big Ten’s doofus, hipster valet.
“I’ll worry about those emotions when they get there,” Dorrell said with a chuckle. “I’d be disappointed, for sure, just because it probably didn’t play out the way that it probably could’ve been planned out.”
Ironically, they did plan for something like this, but only as a worst-case scenario. Pac-12 protocols for the 2020 league title game include a clause that says if the average number of league games per school is at four or below, the two teams with the best record, regardless of division, will meet for the championship.
The current league average: 3.8.
Which means the Buffs would need several cancellations in the coming days, including possibly their own game, in order to force that clause to take effect.
Is that a chill, Nate Landman? Did you suddenly lose your sense of taste, Sam Noyer?
We kid. But sometimes, when logic won’t play ball, subterfuge is all ya got. CU vs. USC shouldn’t be a hypothetical in this, or any other, universe.
“I’d like to think we’d win,” Wells said with a wicked smile. “We always want to win. That’s about it. I won’t say much about that.”
The scoreboard’s said plenty. It should settle this argument, too.