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Pac-12 has alternates in place for league title game if Washington or USC can’t play

The Pac-12 Conference is going with the flow of 2020 and has installed backup plans in case either Southern California or Washington can't play in the league's football  championship game as scheduled Friday in Los Angeles.

The conference confirmed to USA TODAY Sports Saturday night that Oregon (3-2) would replace Washington (3-1) if the Huskies can’t play because of issues related to COVID-19. If USC (5-0) can’t play for the same reasons, Colorado (4-1) would replace the Trojans as the representative from the league’s South Division.

This creates a highly unusual potential scenario: Alternates who didn’t earn the right to be there apparently would be getting the right to play for the league title, essentially because of a fluke.

But this is 2020 and this is the Pac-12, which started its season later than all other Power 5 leagues and elected to cram its regular season into November and December.

Oregon will play in the Pac-12 championship game if Washington can't. (Photo: Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports)

OPINION: Pac-12 should cancel conference title game and declare USC champion

Such a scenario is also well within the realm of possibility. Washington didn’t play Saturday because its game at Oregon was canceled because of a COVID outbreak at Washington. Those COVID issues could linger into the coming week, jeopardizing the Huskies’ participation in the league title game.

Meanwhile, USC finished the regular season as the conference's only undefeated team after beating UCLA in the final minute Saturday night, 43-38. The Trojans will have just five days to prepare while Washington or Oregon would be coming off two weeks of rest and preparation.

Washington or Oregon will have backed into the title game by default if either plays in it. Washington “won” the North Division because it had COVID issues and missed the Oregon game. If the Huskies can’t play Friday, Oregon will back into the title game by default as well.

The league could elect to just declare USC as its champion and cancel a title game that might appear unworthy. It likely won’t, however, because money is at stake. Fox is broadcasting the game and the Pac-12 doesn’t want to lose money by canceling.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: [email protected]

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