We live in a world that values entertainment over excellence, so why should the Pac-12 cater to a minority who like their football magisterial and coldly dominant? We call those folks snobs. Antiquated snobs at that. The Pac-12 is of the people, where each team is as likely to go rear-end-over-tea-kettle as it is to win with dramatic and inspired verve.
Heck, the rest of college football is providing a less vivacious version of the Pac-12's entertainment over excellence, in any event. Alabama and all those five-star recruits? It lost to Ole Miss and barely survived against Arkansas. Florida State? Last year, it was Muhammad Ali -- brash, svelte and lethal. This year it's Buster Douglas, distracted and indolent and ripe for the picking, if still holding the championship belt.
There are just six unbeaten teams left -- two reside in the state of Mississippi -- and one unbeaten team will go down Saturday when Notre Dame visits Florida State, with the winner still not likely to be called "perfect" in anything but record. Last year at this point in the season, there were 14 teams without a loss. In 2012, there were 12.
And none of those six play in the Pac-12 after Arizona pulled defeat from the jaws of victory against USC, despite those jaws of victory upchucking opportunity after opportunity on the no-longer-10th-ranked Wildcats.
Oregon? Remember how the Ducks were summarily dismissed last week after their home loss to the Wildcats? No? Well, it happened. Google it. Those weakling Ducks, however, welcomed back tackle Jake Fisher to their offensive line against UCLA, and the unit transformed from the "Little Rascals" to the "Super Friends." It was as though Fisher walked into the huddle and, just like Adrian provided a perfect inspirational plot segue from her hospital bed after giving birth in "Rocky II," told the other O-lineman, "There's one thing I want you to do for me... block," and offensive line coach Steve Greatwood, playing the role of Mickey, erupted with,"What are we waiting for!" as the adrenaline-churning workout montage music started to play.
The "Rocky" reference is admittedly tortured, but Fisher did get socked by Bruins defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes, who was unhappy Fisher had road-graded him. So, yeah, boxing.
And so the Ducks are back in the top 10, well within striking distance of the College Football Playoff. Just like everyone was saying.
Fisher's next project? Perhaps Middle East peace? Or maybe he needs to get in between Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, whose sideline spat made Twitter go all aflutter.
The Bruins are the latest team to be written off, cast off from the national rankings and dismissed as this season's cautionary tale, filed under "overrated." They have issues everywhere: Fighting coaches, struggling offensive line, underachieving defense and an inconsistent star quarterback in Brett Hundley. And, yet, we'd still probably rank the Bruins as the favorites to win the Pac-12's South Division. As good a choice as any, really. For what that's worth.
UCLA, after all, did beat Arizona State on the road. And Arizona State beat USC on the road. And USC beat Arizona on the road. Ah, but Utah beat UCLA on the road, and Washington State, owner of the conference's worst record, beat Utah on the road. Oh, whatever.
Maybe all this parity -- parody? -- is the fans' fault. Nobody can win at home. Home teams are 4-14 in Pac-12 play. Last year, they were 31-21. In 2012, the record was 29-25. Whatever happened to home cooking?
We've only hit the midseason mark and the "what-ifs" are piling up all over the Pac-12. What if Stanford were just semi-competent in the red zone? What if UCLA and/or Arizona could make a game-winning field goal? What if successful Hail Mary passes were as rare as an Asian crested ibis or a Madagascar pochard? What if Washington State could magically eliminate four plays this season? What if Utah didn't -- apologies, Cougars -- "Coug it" in the fourth against Washington State?
Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre is running into this column screaming, "Hey, the Buffs are outraged, too!" And, to throw out a forward-looking "what if," what if Washington wins at Oregon next weekend, ending a 10-game losing streak?
At this point in Pac-12 play, the sports cliche "on any give day..." has become a statement of fact. No team is invincible and no team is milquetoast. This midseason realization suggests that the team that crawls out of the dust on Dec. 5 after the Pac-12 championship game is more likely to have three losses than one, more likely to be a national afterthought rather than a favorite for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
And yet it's ridiculous to believe we suddenly see things clearly, at home in the Pac-12 or abroad in the MIGHTY SEC WEST (all-caps required, per edict from SEC Dark Lord Mike Slive). Oregon might get healthy and become the contender many foresaw in the preseason. What if Stanford's offense gets out of its own way and pairs with its elite defense? And what if UCLA distills its seeming chaos into an elixir that provokes it to play to its on-paper potential?
Chances are it will be messy, though. There will be fits and starts of great football, but it won't be sustained.
What seems certain is it will be entertaining, if often painful for the emotionally invested. Pac-12 football in 2014 is likely to end up becoming something like that 1980s movie that critics hated but you feel compelled to watch until its conclusion every time you cross it while doing a late-night channel surf.