Pac-12: 2012 Sun Bowl

Can the Pac-12 get into better bowls?

December, 19, 2011
Larry Scott has worked magic in many areas since taking over as Pac-12 commissioner, but one of the next key areas for him to wave his magic commissioner's wand doesn't offer any obvious solutions: Conference bowl contracts.

It's one of the most popular complaints among Pac-12 fans: Why are the conference bowl tie-ins so mediocre? Why can't the Pac-12 play the SEC in a bowl game?

Before we, again, look at that, let's consider what Ryan McGee thinks about their Pac-12 bowl tie-ins. One word: Lame. He ranks them fifth among BCS conferences.

Here's his breakdown.
5. Pac-12

Tie-ins: 7

January games: 1

Bowls: BCS (Rose), Alamo, Holiday, Sun, Maaco, Kraft Fight Hunger, New Mexico

2011 bowl teams: 7

All-time BCS at-large berths: 4

If the bowl fall-off for the Big 12 is a cliff, then for the Pac-12 it's a canyon. Win the conference, and you're headed to the Rose Bowl or better. Finish second and if you haven't secured a BCS at-large berth, which has happened only four times, then you're playing in San Antonio on Dec. 29.

Don't get me wrong, the Alamo Bowl is a solid game, but is the Big 12's third option really where the Pac-12's conference runner-up should be?

The good news is the Rose Bowl. It's the best bowl game, and it's so much better than all the others that I'd rank the Fiesta No. 3, leaving No. 2 blank so everyone understands that that the Grandaddy is the Big Daddy.

Second, nothing major can happen here for a while. The Pac-12 bowl contracts run through the 2013 season. And who knows what college football will look like heading into 2014? You might have noticed how things have been a-changing lately.

But as far as the present frustration, considered for the sake of considering it: What's the solution for the Pac-12? Get better bowl contracts, right? Which ones? Are there bowl games in this region?

That's the first problem: Geography. If the Pac-12 wants better West Coast bowls, it's either going to have to get someone to create one or elevate one of its current games to a higher level. That's complicated.

The reason the ACC rates ahead of the Pac-12 twofold: 1. Geography; 2. It's been a 12-team league for longer than the Pac-12.

Geography: The best bowls are on the East Coast, many of them close to ACC schools. And the Pac-12 negotiated its bowl contracts when it was a 10-team league (other than the New Mexico Bowl last summer).

Of course — 10 or 12 teams — the Pac-12 didn't fill all its seven bowl contracts, which is why you forgot all about the New Mexico Bowl.

The reasons the Big 12 has better bowl games is simple: The Cotton Bowl. It's a nature Texas tie-in, and bowl games love signing up the SEC. The Cotton Bowl is widely viewed as the most likely candidate to become a fifth BCS bowl destination, in large part because you can't beat the venue: Cowboys Stadium.

The Pac-12 playing in the Cotton Bowl just doesn't seem like a possibility. And the Cotton Bowl gives the Big 12 a leg up on the Pac-12 in the postseason.

Here's the reality folks: The Pac-12 as it is presently configured won't get better bowl games than the SEC and Big 10. Those conferences combined to fill 17 of the top-25 spots in the attendance rankings in 2010. Those numbers translate to bowl games in terms of travel, selling tickets and filling up hotel rooms, which is the primary task of bowls.

Of course, what I am giving you is the conventional wisdom — the why not. Scott isn't much of a conventional wisdom guy. He's a "what if" thinker.

Which means it's not unreasonable to hold out hope that the Pac-12 will have better bowl agreements in the future.

Hyundai Sun Bowl

December, 4, 2011
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4) vs. Utah Utes (7-5)

Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET (CBS)

Georgia Tech take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Georgia Tech, which has the nation’s No. 3 rushing offense, will face the No. 7 rushing defense when it plays Utah in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. It will be Georgia Tech’s 15th consecutive bowl appearance, but the first time in the Sun Bowl since beating Texas Tech there in 1970. Despite its consistent appearances in the postseason, Georgia Tech hasn’t fared well recently, and will be trying to snap a string of six straight bowl losses. Georgia Tech got off to a surprising 6-0 start, but faltered down the stretch and enters the bowl game having lost four of its past six games, including a 31-17 loss to rival Georgia. With only 10 scholarship seniors on the roster, it’s a young team, but the Jackets still lead the ACC in rushing offense (316.8 yards per game), total offense (459.6) and scoring offense (34.9). Georgia Tech’s biggest problems offensively have come when its trailing and is forced to throw the ball more than it would like. Defensively, Georgia Tech has been average at best in the second season under coordinator Al Groh. The Jackets are allowing 25.75 points per game, but Utah has struggled offensively and ranks No. 110 in the country in total offense.

Utah take by Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller: Utah had two seasons and a yeesh in its first year of Pac-12 play. Actually, you could make that three seasons if you wanted to, considering the Utes joined California, Stanford and USC as the only conference teams to be perfect in nonconference play. Utah started its conference slate, however, 0-4, and there was a wee bit of crowing from the old guard Pac-10 about the Utes being in over their heads, no matter that starting quarterback Jordan Wynn was lost for the season with a shoulder injury in the Game 4 against Washington. But after getting crunched at California, Utah righted itself and reeled off four consecutive wins. Suddenly, the Utes were in the middle of the South Division race.

What made the difference was stout defense, great production from running back John White and steady if unspectacular play from quarterback Jon Hays. It became clear that if Utah didn't make a bunch of turnovers, it had a chance against anybody. As it turned out, all Utah needed to do on the final weekend of the regular season was beat lowly Colorado. UCLA and Arizona State would both lose their final games, which was how the Utes would ascend into the top spot. This, as you know, became the "yeesh." Colorado ended a 24-game road losing streak with a 17-14 win.

Still, the Utes made it clear they can complete. Now they are headed to a bowl that's one rung better in the Pac-12 pecking order than the destination for the Mountain West Conference champ, the Las Vegas Bowl.