Why Oregon will play USC in Pac-12 championship instead of Washington

Written By Billy Heyen

COVID-19 cases within the Washington football program will prevent the Huskies from playing in the Pac-12 title game, and Oregon will take their place.

Originally, UW and the Ducks were scheduled to play Dec. 12 in a game that would've determined the Pac-12 North champion and a spot in the conference championship game. A COVID-19 outbreak at Washington resulted in that game's cancellation, and the Pac-12 announced Monday that, "in consultation with Washington," the decision was made to slide Oregon into a title-game matchup with USC on Friday night in Los Angeles.

Here's what you should know about the Pac-12's decision.

MORE: College football bowl projections

Why was Washington removed from Pac-12 title game?

Washington's COVID-19 issues began on Wednesday, Dec. 9, when the Huskies paused team activities due to the coronavirus making its way into the program. The Pac-12 announced the following day that UW and Oregon wouldn't play last Saturday.

As it stood, Washington had a better (3-1) record than the Ducks (3-2), which would've put UW into the conference title game against USC. But the COVID-19 cases haven't suddenly gone away, meaning Washington is still unable to field a full roster.

According to the Pac-12's release Monday, Washington isn't able to field the minimum 53 scholarship student-athletes nor the minimum number of scholarship student-athletes at an unspecified position group.

"Since discovering a handful of cases within our program last week, we have taken pro-active steps, including immediately pausing all football-related activities in our program to try to mitigate the further spread of the virus," said Washington team physician Dr. Kim Harmon, according to Yahoo. "Unfortunately, we have continued to see positive cases over the course of the last several days which has continued our pause of activities and ability to return to the practice field."

Harmon also said that Washington hopes to return the requisite negative tests to get back on the practice field and prepare for some sort of postseason competition.

Why is Oregon playing USC in the Pac-12 title game?

Once Washington was deemed unfit to play against USC, the Pac-12 went to the team in that Pac-12 North division with the next best record. In this case, that's the Ducks, who'll get a chance to win the Pac-12 title for the second-straight season.

At 5-0, USC was already locked into the title game as the Pac-12 South representative. Because of the conference's split schedule this season, the championship matchup will be the first meeting between Oregon and USC this season. The Trojans are coming off a 43-38 win over UCLA, while Oregon most recently lost 21-17 to Cal on Dec. 5. 

And in a sign of the weirdness that is 2020 (and the Pac-12 conference's sad current reputation), an undefeated USC team isn't in the conversation for the College Football Playoff. 

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