Pac-10 football notes: Emerald Bowl hoping for Cal or Stanford

SAN FRANCISCO — Emerald Bowl director Gary Cavalli has mapped out the dozens of possible scenarios for how the Pac-10 bowl situation could play out.

About half of those scenarios are best-case ones for Cavalli, who would like to have either Stanford or California play in the San Francisco-based bowl for the first time in its seven-year history.

“It would fill the place. It would get a whole lot of local attention and probably generate more interest in the game than we’ve ever had,” Cavalli said. “This would be part of our continued effort to raise our profile in the Bay Area. Getting one of those two teams would be like a dream come true.”

The Emerald Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl alternate fourth and fifth picks, with this season being Las Vegas’ chance to go first. But Cavalli is negotiating with the Las Vegas Bowl to leave a Bay Area team for the Emerald Bowl if possible.

But that won’t happen if the Emerald Bowl’s possible nightmare scenario comes true, leaving it without a Pac-10 team to pit against an ACC opponent.

“If there’s not a team, then Las Vegas will not bargain with me,” Cavalli said. “They will take the Pac-10 team. I will be the one looking. Next year when we’re four we don’t have to worry about it. Going forward I want to get to where we’re four every year and I don’t have to lose sleep.”

If the conference gets two teams into the BCS, it’s possible there won’t be a bowl-eligible team left for the Emerald Bowl.

For that to happen, Oregon State would have to win its final two games to make the Rose Bowl based on its head-to-head win over Southern California. If USC wins its final two games, the Trojans would likely earn an at-large bid to a BCS bowl.

Oregon, California and Arizona are already bowl eligible and would then be slotted in some order into the Holiday, Sun and Las Vegas bowls. But no other team is assured of a bid, leaving the Emerald Bowl possibly without a team.

Stanford needs to beat California on Saturday to qualify for its first bowl since 2001. The loser of next week’s game between Arizona State and UCLA will also be eliminated, while the winner will need to win its rivalry game the following week to make a bowl.

In that scenario, Cavalli said he has talked to the WAC about getting possibly Fresno State, Nevada or San Jose State to fill the Pac-10’s spot. The WAC, which could have six bowl eligible teams and three bids, is already in position to fill the Pac-10’s spot in the Poinsettia Bowl.

NO GUARANTEE: Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh hopes his players are smarter than he was as a college student.

Harbaugh said he has talked to his players about not making any sort of guarantees or other inflammatory comments leading up to this week’s Big Game against rival California.

Harbaugh, of course, made his own memorable guarantee before Michigan played against Ohio State in his senior season in 1986.

“The thing I hope I can pass on to my players at Stanford is the guarantee is something that really just brings attention on yourself,” Harbaugh said. “It puts you, the individual, above the team. The team is the most important thing. That’s the culture I want to give to our guys.”

Harbaugh delivered, leading Michigan to a 26-24 victory and a berth in the Rose Bowl, but says that the guarantee was kind of hollow since there wasn’t anything to back it up.

“There really is no guarantee. It’s not like you’re going to give the fans their money back if you don’t win,” he said. “It’s a meaningless thing to say. Even though I did that in college, hopefully my players can learn from that mistake.”

Harbaugh talked to his team about avoiding bulletin-board material earlier this season after offensive lineman Chris Marinelli said he hated Notre Dame and receiver Doug Baldwin questioned TCU’s schedule strength.

RIVALRY GAMES: For three Pac-10 teams, their regular seasons won’t end after their traditional rivalry games.

Both Washington and Washington State have one game to play after the Apple Cup on Saturday and California also has one contest left following the Big Game this weekend against Stanford.

It’s a development that some of the coaches aren’t so happy about.

“I’m a little bit more of a traditionalist,” said Washington State coach Paul Wulff, whose Cougars go to Hawaii for their season finale next week. “I’m a big believer that your rivalry game should be your last game of the year, outside of bowl games.”

That is happening less often in the Pac-10 now that the NCAA has added a 12th game and there are nine conference games. Washington and California juggled their schedule this season to create an extra bye week, moving their game to Dec. 6 — two weeks after their rivalry games.

“Those changes have necessitated some changes in scheduling and it may be difficult to get the Apple Cup game in that position where it is the last ballgame,” Washington coach Tyrone Willingham said. “But in a perfect world, that’s the way you’d like to have it.”

Washington State does not want to move its home games in the Apple Cup later in the season because of the potential for bad weather in December and to avoid playing on Thanksgiving weekend when the students might be home.

ROOTING INTEREST: Oregon State has an unusual backer for this weekend’s game at Arizona that could keep the Beavers in the driver’s seat for a berth in the Rose Bowl.

Oregon coach Mike Bellotti said he’s rooting for the Beavers, in hopes of creating even bigger stakes for next week’s rivalry game between the teams.

If Oregon State wins its final two games, the Beavers would go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1964 season.

“Obviously we want the Civil War to have as much importance as possible,” Bellotti said. “If they win we’ve set the stage for a great game that can have not just conference implications or state implications but national implications.”

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