The feather in the cap of a college football team’s season is a bowl victory at the end of the year, a victory that elevates the conference and galvanizes the fan base. But even sweeter is the pride and achievement of making and winning a College Football Playoff game.
Unfortunately, fans of the PAC-12 will not be represented in the final four again (or at least not for a painfully long time).
Why, you ask? Why, when the team has sent two programs to the playoff already? Why, when the conference consistently has teams ranked in the top 10 of the country? Why, despite talent spilling into the NFL from the PAC-12 every single draft? Why, when a Power Five conference should always be in a position to find a spot among the final four?
Because the Pac-12 conference has excelled at cannibalizing the top teams with the best chances of playoff glory, thanks to a potent concoction of top-level quarterback talent across the mediocre and bad teams of the PAC-12, creating a perilous gauntlet for those in pursuit of perfection.
But take a look at some of these signal-callers: Justin Herbert (Oregon Ducks), Jacob Eason (Washington Huskies), Anthony Gordon (Washington State Cougars), K.J. Costello (Stanford Cardinal), Khalil Tate (Arizona Wildcats), the list goes on and on. Each worthy of a career after college. Each enjoying varying degrees of team success.
Great quarterbacks do make in-conference battles entertaining, but ultimately detrimental to the case some teams are trying to make.
For example, WSU was in the top 25 early in the season, but a loss to the UCLA Bruins derailed any case the program could make for even a late bowl bid. Familiar foes causing trouble for the top teams is a common occurrence in the PAC-12.
“Well, maybe you should beat the bad teams,” said some dumb football fan who doesn’t watch any game that starts after 6:30.
It is a lot easier to beat a Miami or a Tennessee (two of the many rudderless ships in the ACC and SEC) than it is to beat USC. Think about it: USC’s third-string QB (Matt Fink), tossed for over 300 yards against a ranked Utah Utes team.
Obviously, there are 21 other positions on the field outside of QB that need to step up to win a football game. But college football is brimming with receiving talent, bragging about that is like bragging about toes, everyone has them. And everyone outside of Ohio State has a secondary that quarterbacks can move the ball on, even if your program has only half an offensive line.
Let’s be honest, if you have a talented passer, you have won half the battle in college, and the PAC-12 keeps landing studs who are good for 300+ when they hit the turf.
This article is not about making excuses or even complaining. Every team for the past six years has earned a spot in the final four, just like the four that will make it this year.
The thing that is to the utter detriment of the PAC-12 is also why it is so fascinatingly entertaining: every Saturday, someone can tumble to anyone.
But it is worth remembering that the PAC-12 eats its own like no other conference. Ohio State has dogged teams like Northwestern and Nebraska for much of the year. Clemson’s conference slate is a joke. Even the SEC has a crop of real creampuffs at the bottom of the conference (I see you, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt). Not for the PAC-12. This is the conference where the middling teams are WSU or Stanford.
And that is to say nothing of the travel. What other conference would stick you in the mountains, before launching you into the heat of the desert, just to toss you into a Northwest rain storm all in a matter of weeks?
The PAC-12 has made itself a frightful bed, one that is not conducive to produce a college playoff resume, at least not the type sought by the committee.