Monday, November 19, 2012
A look at present, future Pac-12 scenarios
By Ted Miller
Just when you think the plot twists are over, college football turns from Verbal Kint into Keyser Soze and gives you a wink.
Nos. 1 (Kansas State) and 2 (Oregon) upset on the same weekend? Who saw that coming?
So let's figure out where the Pac-12 stands, as of today.
- Scenario No. 1: If Oregon loses at Oregon State on Saturday, Stanford and UCLA will play twice within six days. The first would be Saturday in Pasadena; the second would be at the house of the winner on Nov. 30 for the Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl berth. That also means Stanford could play at the Rose Bowl three consecutive games.
- Scenario No. 2: If Oregon beats Oregon State, it will win the North Division if UCLA beats Stanford. That means Oregon would play host to the Bruins on Nov. 30 for the Pac-12 title. That game could be for a Rose Bowl berth. Or something else ...
- If Scenario No. 2 plays out, and USC beats Notre Dame on Saturday, enter "something else." The Ducks then could end up in the national title game opposite the SEC champion, Alabama or Georgia.
- So, Ducks fans, you are big USC and UCLA fans this weekend.
- If Stanford beats UCLA and wins the Pac-12 North Division, and Oregon beats Oregon State, then the Ducks likely head to the Fiesta Bowl, where they likely would end up opposite the Big 12 champion, which could be Kansas State. Hey ... wasn't that supposed to be the national title game?
Oregon's loss does bring some good news to the Pac-12, even if the Ducks can't finagle their way back into the national championship picture. It now seems likely that the Pac-12 will have two BCS bowl teams. That would mean an extra $6.1 million for the conference, which means a half-a-million-plus for every team.
Let's hear it for more money!
Further, two BCS bowl teams would mean the Pac-12 could fill out its seven contracted bowl spots perfectly. Because eight Pac-12 teams are bowl eligible, if there were only one BCS bowl team, then the conference would have to scramble to find a bowl with an available at-large spot.
So everybody should thank the Ducks for taking one for the team.
Further, the Pac-12 has eclipsed the Big 12 and is suddenly giving the SEC a run for its money as the nation's best conference, at least in terms of depth. Six Pac-12 teams have spots in the BCS standings, just as many as the 14-team SEC. Of course, the SEC's six teams are between Nos. 2 and 12, so that's a lot of front-line depth.
And there's even a plot twist for that Pac-12 depth angle: It doesn't include USC.
Just imagine if someone said to you in August: Six Pac-12 teams will be in the penultimate BCS standings, and that group won't include USC.
Of course, if the Trojans, the first team ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP poll to lose four games since Auburn in 1984, upset Notre Dame with backup QB Max Wittek on Saturday, they'll likely jump back into the BCS standings. If the other six hold serve, particularly Arizona and Washington, there would be seven Pac-12 teams in the BCS standings at the end of the regular season.
That's impressive depth. Then come the bowls to test that depth.
If the Pac-12 could win two BCS bowl games and finish with at least a 5-3 bowl record, that would significantly buoy the conference's national perception. That matters, because the final judgment on this Pac-12 season will have ramifications for next season.
That improved national perception, translated into 2013, likely would mean a lot of teams ranked in the preseason polls. At this point, I'd guess that Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Oregon State and Washington all likely would be ranked in the first 2013 AP poll. And Arizona State and Arizona likely would receive votes.
There's more to that than just feeling good about your conference. Just three Pac-12 teams were in the 2012 preseason AP poll, so perking up to six or seven would mean a more attractive Pac-12 product next fall.
Here's a guess that commissioner Larry Scott could use that as an alluring selling point as he tries to reach an accord with DirectTV and other recalcitrant cable companies to carry the Pac-12 Network.
Let's hear it for (maybe) more money!