After setting a record for bowl participants with a remarkable 10 last season, the Pac-12 has just six headed to the 2016 postseason. That's less an indictment on the conference's strength, and rather an indicator of a more top-heavy look in the past campaign.
All six of the Pac-12's bowl participants boast at least eight wins. The league can finish with as many as four double-digit-win teams, should the bowl games go as planned. Perhaps best for the Pac-12: After a one-year layoff, the conference once more has representation in the College Football Playoff.
Champion Stanford barely missed the cut in 2015, a year removed from Oregon reaching the inaugural tournament's title round. This season's Pac-12 champ, Washington, enters the field — and that's where we begin our countdown of Pac-12 bowl games.
Note: All times are ET.
1. Peach Bowl — Washington (12-1) vs. Alabama (13-0)
Dec. 31 — 3 p.m., ESPN
A 31-point rout of Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship Game couldn't elevate Washington out of the No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff standings, which means a cross-country trip and date with dominant Alabama.
Crimson Tide games have not qualified as particularly watchable this season — through no fault of Alabama's. Chalk it up to blowout after blowout, as the Tide rolled to a perfect record.
With talent on both sides of the ball and a month to game plan, however, Huskies head coach Chris Petersen could give Nick Saban and his team a fight in the national semifinal.
2. Rose Bowl — USC (9-3) vs. Penn State (11-2)
Jan. 2 — 5 p.m., ABC
College football offers few traditions quite as grand as The Granddaddy of 'Em All. The 103rd installment of college football's original bowl game emanates once more from one of the sport's most beautiful backdrops, and the action on the field should match the majesty of the San Gabriel Mountains framing the Pasadena stadium.
USC and Penn State roll into the 2017 Rose Bowl Game as two of the nation's hottest teams, winners of a combined 17 consecutive games. Among those victories are a pair of wins over playoff participants, Ohio State and Washington.
This contest could very well steal the show for the entire bowl season — and serve as a preview of next season's playoff.
3. Alamo Bowl — Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. Colorado (10-3)
Dec. 29 — 9 p.m., ESPN
Two doors are before the Colorado Buffaloes: Behind Door No. 1 are the 2004 Cal Golden Bears. Arguably the second-best team in the nation throughout that regular season, a Rose Bowl snub left them dejected. The result was a listless loss in the Holiday Bowl.
Behind Door No. 2 are the 2006 Cal Golden Bears. That season after missing out on a BCS bowl berth, Cal went into the Holiday Bowl with designs on proving the BCS process wrong, and in turn, blew out Texas A&M.
Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre stated a logical case for his Cinderella Buffs to play in the Rose Bowl, but for The Rise to continue, it must do so at the Alamo. The Pac-12 Championship Game loser has never won its bowl game, and Colorado seeks to reverse that trend in a Big 12 reunion.
Oklahoma State's up-tempo offense and Colorado's turnover-creating defense should make for an intriguing chess match.
4. Sun Bowl — Stanford (9-3) vs. North Carolina (8-4)
Dec. 30 — 2 p.m., CBS
The bowl season may not have a contest pairing two more different teams than this. Stanford reflects the cool demeanor of its head coach, David Shaw, with a methodical offensive style and imposing defense. North Carolina takes on the identity of Red Bull-chugging head coach Larry Fedora, evident in an explosive offensive attack.
The clash in styles should make for a fun one in El Paso. A Stanford win gives the Cardinal its sixth 10-plus-win season in seven tries. The Sun Bowl also marks the farewell of standout running back Christian McCaffrey.
In last year's bowl game, McCaffrey electrified those in attendance at the Rose Bowl with one of the best individual performances in the Granddaddy's illustrious history. Don't be surprised to see similar fireworks in the Sun Bowl.
5. Holiday Bowl — Minnesota (8-4) vs. Washington State (8-4)
Dec. 27 — 7 p.m., ESPN
The Holiday Bowl offers another stark contrast in styles, this time with Minnesota bringing a run-oriented, defensive-minded approach to San Diego to pair opposite Washington State's pass-happy, air-raid assault. Minnesota arrives in the Holiday Bowl as a classic overachiever, exceeding most expectations in Tracy Claeys' first full season as head coach.
Washington State perhaps underachieved, given just a few weeks ago, the Cougars had a clear road map for the Rose Bowl laid out, but losses to Colorado and Washington derailed them. With book-ending regular-season losses against Eastern Washington and Boise State to start the year, 2016 was quite a roller coaster for Mike Leach's bunch.
The Golden Gophers rank No. 32 nationally in scoring defense. Washington State's No. 14-ranked scoring offense promises to test that.
6. Foster Farms Bowl — Indiana (6-6) vs. Utah (8-4)
Dec. 28 — 8:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Bowl games featuring programs with interim head coaches is nothing new. Indiana's situation ahead of the Foster Farms Bowl is unusual in that Tom Allen is no interim, but his ascent to permanent Hoosiers head coach came unexpectedly last week when Kevin Wilson was fired.
That's in sharp contrast to Utah. Kyle Whittingham is one of the most well-tenured head coaches in the game, 2016 marking his 12th campaign at the helm with the Utes. In that time, Utah's won 8-of-9 bowl games, including three straight. As for Indiana, 2016 marks the first time in a quarter-century the Hoosiers have gone bowling in consecutive years.
With a win in the Bay Area, Utah will reach the nine-win threshold for the third time in as many years. The Utes may have missed on their opportunity at a Pac-12 championship with season-ending losses to Oregon and Colorado, but adding another bowl victory would provide a more fitting finale.