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Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Can the Pac-12 go 8-0 this bowl season?

By Ted Miller

The Pac-12 has never before had eight bowl teams. But so what? It's only been a 12-team league for two seasons. Eight bowl-eligible teams should become the standard.

What's more important is the final bowl record. And that should -- emphasis on should -- sparkle this bowl season.

While there is no line yet on the Arizona State-Navy matchup in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, the Pac-12 is favored in six of the other seven games, including both BCS bowls (and the Sun Devils figure to be double-digit favorites). The lone underdog is Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl against Boise State, and I wonder if the 5 1/2-point spread is due largely to the Huskies' monumental choke against rival Washington State on Nov. 23.

In other words, 8-0 is a legitimate hope this bowl season.  Going 7-1 would be good, too. And anything less than 6-2 will be disappointing.

Marcus Mariota
A bowl win by Marcus Mariota and Oregon over Kansas State would certainly help the Pac-12's national perception.
The first priority is the BCS bowl games. Those are high-profile matchups that everyone will watch. And pass judgment on the Pac-12.

Stanford is in a tough position. Wisconsin certainly looked better than its 7-5 record when it drubbed Nebraska, but the Cardinal won't get much credit for beating the Badgers after the Big Ten suffered through a horrible year. If the Cardinal should get upset, it certainly wouldn't boost the Pac-12's Q-rating.

But Oregon's showdown with Kansas State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is the real measuring stick. The Pac-12 and the Big 12 have been battling all season for the spot of "Second Best AQ Conference" behind the SEC (the SEC could sweep its bowl games, so don't expect there to be much headway in the "SEC is overrated" argument). If the Ducks beat the Wildcats, the Big 12 champs, that would be the biggest step toward establishing supremacy.

Of course, then come two more Pac-12-Big 12 matchups: Oregon State-Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl and UCLA-Baylor in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl. The Pac-12 is favored in each, but by less than a field goal in both cases.

If the Pac-12 wins two of three in these matchups, its claim to second-best conference would be legitimate, particularly if Oregon is one of those wins. Lose two of three, particularly if the Ducks take one of those losses, and this purely speculative trophy goes to the Big 12.

A couple more thoughts.
And, again, here's the Pac-12 bowl schedule.

Sat., Dec. 15 Gildan New Mexico Bowl, Albuquerque, N.M. (University Stadium)

Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5), 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT, ESPN

Sat., Dec. 22 MAACO Bowl Las Vegas, Las Vegas (Sam Boyd Stadium)

Washington (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2), 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT, ESPN

Thurs., Dec. 27 Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, San Diego (Qualcomm Stadium)

UCLA (9-4) vs. Baylor (7-5), 9:45 p.m. ET/6:45 p.m. PT, ESPN

Sat., Dec. 29 Valero Alamo Bowl, San Antonio (Alamodome)

Oregon State (9-3) vs. Texas (8-4), 6:45 p.m. ET/3:45 p.m. PT, ESPN

Sat., Dec. 29 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, San Francisco (AT&T Park)

Arizona State (7-5) vs. Navy (7-4), 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT, ESPN2

Mon., Dec. 31 Hyundai Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas (Sun Bowl)

USC (7-5) vs. Georgia Tech (6-7), 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT, CBS

Tues., Jan. 1 Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, Pasadena, Calif. (Rose Bowl)

Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5), 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT, ESPN

Thurs., Jan. 3 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, Ariz. (University of Phoenix Stadium)

Oregon (11-1) vs. Kansas State (11-1), 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT, ESPN