Pac-12 winds down possible final season with 2 teams in playoff hunt

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The Pac-12 has hit the final stretch of what may be the conference's final season.

It's been a wild ride so far, with two teams in contention for the College Football Playoff and the second spot in the Pac-12 championship game against No. 4 Washington still up for grabs.

There's been surprises, disappointments and plenty of memorable moments as the Pac-12 prepares to lose 10 of its members to other conferences next season.

A rundown of the way it went before the conference potentially goes dark:

STAR POWER

Bo Nix, Oregon. The Ducks' quarterback has been stellar in his second season since transferring from Auburn. Nix is among the frontrunners to win the Heisman Trophy after throwing for 3,539 yards and 35 touchdowns with two interceptions while completing 78% of his passes.

Michael Penix Jr., Washington. The Huskies' quarterback gives the Pac-12 two legitimate Heisman contenders. Penix has thrown for 3,695 yards and 30 touchdowns with seven interception while putting Washington in the mix for a College Football Playoff spot.

Jayden Ott, California. Ott has been superb in an otherwise middling season for the Bears, leading the Pac-12 with 1,182 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing.

Laiatu Latu, UCLA. The Bruins' defensive lineman has been a wrecking ball to opposing offenses and is tied for third nationally with 13 sacks.

Jacob Manu, Arizona. The Wildcats have taken huge strides on defense this season and Manu has been a big reason for it, leading the Pac-12 with 99 tackles.

GOING BOWLING

Washington and No. 6 Oregon are still in the hunt for CFP spots heading into the regular-season finale. The Huskies are in the Pac-12 title game and the Ducks can clinch a trip to Las Vegas with a win over rival Oregon State on Friday.

No. 15 Oregon State is headed to a bowl game for a third straight season for the first time since going to four straight from 2006-09.

Two years after going 1-11, No. 16 Arizona is going bowling for the first time since 2017. Utah and USC fell out of the Pac-12 title race, but are bowl eligible. So is UCLA.

HOT SEATS

Chip Kelly, UCLA. The Bruins got off to a strong start, but have faded to middle of the pack in the Pac-12. A loss to Cal this weekend could cause UCLA to start looking at making a change.

Justin Wilcox, Cal. After going to consecutive bowl games early in Wilcox's tenure, the Bears have not had a winning record since going 8-5 in 2019. Cal is 5-6 heading into Saturday's game against UCLA.

YOUTH MOVEMENT

Noah Fifita, Arizona. The redshirt freshman started the season behind Jayden de Laura, but was called into action after de Laura was injured against Stanford on Sept. 23. Fifita has played so well — 1,988 yards, 18 TDs — that he kept the starting job when de Laura returned.

Parker Brailsford, Washington. The 6-foot-2, 275-pound guard has started every game on an offensive line that's been one of the best in the conference.

Tackett Curtis, USC. The Trojans linebacker has had a solid first season with 40 tackles, including 4.0 for loss.

RECRUITING WATCH

Oregon. The Ducks have been one of the Pac-12's best teams on the recruiting trail in recent years and this year is no different. Oregon's 2024 class is No. 6 nationally in the 247 Sports composite.

USC. Coach Lincoln Riley will keep the talent flowing into Southern California with the nation's No. 18 recruiting class.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll