Pac-12: Cotton Bowl

Last year, the chant of "We're No. 2! We're No. 2!" was heard in both Pac-12 and Big 12 country.

That other conference, however much it makes folks grumble, gets to be No. 1 until somebody dethrones it. But the debate among Pac-12 and Big 12 fans for second place was a spirited one.

The Big 12 just clipped the Pac-12 in the Stats & Info power rankings by 0.6 points after going 2-1 versus the Pac-12 in bowl game, with Baylor whipping UCLA in the Holiday Bowl and Texas outlasting Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl.

Of course, Oregon, the Pac-12 North runner-up behind Stanford, blew out Kansas State, the Big 12 champion, in the Fiesta Bowl, and Arizona beat Oklahoma State in the regular season -- by 21 points -- to even the conferences' overall mark at 2-2. So even then there was some wiggle room.

The Pac-12 went 4-4 overall in bowl games, winning two BCS bowls, while the Big 12 went 4-5, losing its only BCS bowl. Both conferences finished with three Top 25 teams, but the Pac-12 had two teams in the top-seven compared to no top-10 teams for the Big 12.

Like we said: It was close. And highly subjective to judge.

This is all prelude to the new Pac-12 bowl agreements, which haven't yet been officially announced but we can strongly conjecture upon.

What the Big 12 could always counter in bowl matchups with the Pac-12 is a lower seed. The past three Alamo Bowls matched the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Pac-12 team against the No. 2 non-BCS bowl team from the Big 12. The Holiday Bowl featured the No. 2 Pac-12 team against the No. 4 team from the Big 12.

(There's even a Pac-12 counter to this, with the Pac-12 sending two teams to BCS bowl games the past three years and the Big 12 sending just one during the same span, which thereby evening out the seeds).

Guess what, though? Since the Pac-12 signed on with the Alamo Bowl, the Big 12 is 3-0 against it. Baylor beat Washington in 2012 and Oklahoma State crushed Arizona in 2011.

The new bowl contracts likely will match the No. 1 non-playoff/non-Rose Bowl Pac-12 team vs. the No. 1 non-playoff/non-Sugar Bowl Big 12 team.

Previously, the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Big 12 team played in the Cotton Bowl, which is now part of the College Football Playoff. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has already commented on the change for his conference.

What does that upgrade mean for the Pac-12?

Well, if we go by teams that played in the Cotton Bowl that means UCLA would have played No. 11 Oklahoma, Washington would have played No. 11 Kansas State and Arizona would have played No. 18 Texas A&M.

Now, these trades aren't exact and aren't always better because bowls have their own selection politics. For example, No. 16 Oklahoma State was ranked higher than Texas A&M in 2011 but the Cotton Bowl preferred a Texas-based team.

Still, this means the bowl competition for the Pac-12 is moving up. It will be a test worth watching.

And the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Big 12 team might like getting out of the Cotton Bowl rotation. The Big 12 has lost nine of the past 10 Cotton Bowls to the SEC, and the lone victory was No. 7 Missouri over No. 25 Arkansas in 2008. Of course, the Tigers are now in the SEC.

By the way, the Big 12 and Pac-12 also appear headed to a matchup in the Buffalo Wild Wings in Sun Devil Stadium -- the Big 12 likely will be replaced by the Big Ten in the Holiday Bowl -- so the conferences will matchup at the top as well as measure each other's depth.

While both conferences would like to move up to No. 1, neither wants to yield the perception of being at least No. 2. The Alamo Bowl will provide a nice annual measuring stick for the two conferences.

Opening the mailbag: Pac-12 & Fiesta Bowl

April, 5, 2011
Happy Tuesday.

Missed last week's mailbag, so we're coming back at you three days late.

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Glen from Sacramento writes: What do you think the likelihood of the Fiesta Bowl losing BCS status to the Cotton Bowl is? That is, the New Cowboys Stadium version.Could this benefit the Pac-12, if the Fiesta were demoted, yet still a high profile (New Years?) bowl? Us Pac-10'rs have long been annoyed by the lack of high profile western region bowls available for our conference. We're stuck watching numerous SEC/Big10 matchups in Florida on New Years day, while a 2nd place, maybe 1 or 2 loss, Pac-10 team often plays in the Holiday Bowl (or now Alamo Bowl) on Dec 30, against a 4th or 5th place Big-12 team.With 12 teams now, can we start pulling some weight with respect to bowl arrangements?

Ted Miller: It's certainly possible that the Fiesta Bowl will get the boot from the BCS. But you know what the Powers That Be in college football want? The story to go away. If you took a magnifying glass to other BCS bowl games -- heck, most bowl games -- you'd almost certainly find similar levels of excess, though maybe not on as grand a scale. Know why there are so many bowls, and why so many fight to maintain the present bowl system? We don't even need a word to answer: $.

Understand: Longtime Fiesta Bowl president and CEO John Junker got away -- allegedly -- with such stunningly excesses because he'd built a stunningly successful enterprise.

If the Fiesta Bowl gets banished from the BCS, the Pac-12 would make sense as a suitor, a topic Bud Withers of the Seattle Times visited on Tuesday. And you really can't count out Larry Scott, the conference's aggressive commissioner, from making any move.

But it's not a slam dunk. For one, the conference's bowl contracts are signed through 2013. So, the Pac-12 can't just swoop in and scoop up the Fiesta Bowl, at least not immediately, or without some complicated legal wrangling.

Further, what would the matchup be? Could the Fiesta Bowl, which presently is aligned with the Big 12 champion, and Pac-12 put together a deal that lures the Big Ten or SEC away from one of their Florida Bowls -- the Capital One Bowl or the Outback Bowl? Or would the game automatically go after the No. 2 team from the Big 12, which presently plays in the Cotton Bowl, if the Cotton Bowl becomes a BCS bowl and gets the Big 12 champion instead of the Fiesta Bowl?

And would the Fiesta Bowl even want the Pac-12? If it could match the No. 3 team from the Big Ten or SEC versus the No. 2 team from the Big 12, it might prefer that matchup. Why? Those conferences offer more big stadium teams with fans who travel in large numbers and fill up hotel rooms and stadiums -- particularly ones trying to escape cold weather.

The present situation is complicated and fluid. My guess is the Fiesta Bowl, after cleaning house, won't get dumped by the BCS. But you never know.

And I'd guess Scott at least has a raised eyebrow over potential opportunities here.

Phillip from Springfield, Ore., writes: Can I ask you a question? Why is everyone --even you -- so high on Oregon winning the PAC-12 hands down. Is their any hope that they will fail big time to get this done. I will give you 2 reasons why i think they will fail.1being they are new at this being on the big time level. 2 they cant stay on the level with the big boys of college football. And now i will throw this out there: Colorado will not be easy for Oregon. I know they are down but it is in their house they can get it done, not to mention a host of teams that i did not mention. And before you think it, no i am not from Colorado i am a Beaver fan. i will listen to any thing you respond about this. i am a fair man i love collage football.

Ted Miller: There's always a chance that Oregon could not live up to high -- read: top-five -- expectations in 2011. There are always disappointing teams, just as there are surprising teams. When quarterback Jeremiah Masoli got the boot, most folks didn't anticipate the Ducks would actually be better off and end up playing for the national title.

In fact, I got no email last preseason from Ducks fans stating, "You're an idiot. Obviously, Oregon will play Auburn for the national title. How can you not see that? Can we get a writer who knows anything!?!"

As to why folks are high on Oregon, well, that's pretty easy.

The Ducks are the two-time defending Pac-10 champions. They have won 41 games over the past four seasons and have finished ranked in the top-11 the past three seasons.

Sure, they lose some key athletes from the 2010 team that played for the national title, including three linemen on both sides of the ball, but the competitions to replace them feature experienced, talented players. As a media member, it's meaningful when a backup is familiar to you.

Further, quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James give the Ducks the nation's best backfield, which is nice, the secondary looks outstanding and recent recruiting has been strong. There are no obvious holes that Ducks fans should lose sleep over.

And, you know, this Chip Kelly guy. He sorta seems like he knows what he's doing.

Washington and Oregon State fans -- and Pac-12 fans in general -- don't want to hear this but Oregon is a "big boy." No, the Ducks can't match Notre Dame, USC, Ohio State, Alabama, etc., in historical terms, but the present suggests they are every bit those program's equal. Or superior.

C-Note from San Francisco writes: When's the Pac-10 Blog officially changing its name to the Pac-12 Blog?

Ted Miller: This is the most popular inquiry I get. I've answered a few times, but will reiterate again.

If you go here -- the official conference website -- the conference remains the Pac-10 until the change is official on July 1. That's not just for business purposes: Pac-10 spring sports are on-going.

For our informal purposes, I only refer to the conference as the Pac-12 -- unless I suffer a brain cramp, which I do regularly -- and I am now covering both Utah and Colorado with all the love and respect and pride I have for my other 10 children.

And, yes, when the name change is official, everything will shift over, the blog and the Twitter account. And hopefully the fine folks at the newly minted Pac-12 office will send me some new logos for the background in my videos.

Dana from Dallas writes: Fact check on your CU-Utah "once a bitter rivalry" piece. I'm proud to announce that CU picked up it's 18th NCAA championship a few weeks ago. Your column only gave CU credit for 17. The Buffs just want to show some more good faith efforts prior joining the Conference of Champions.Utah came into the championships ranked #1 in the nation, only to place second when it was all said and done.

Ted Miller: My bad. And more fuel to the simmering enmity between Utes and Buffaloes.

Jeremiah from Mukilteo, Wash., writes: You gotta check out this link. The general public has got to know about [Washington State coach Paul] Wulff's shady recruiting practices. This has got to be a secondary violation somewhere, right?

Ted Miller: And, in a first, the Pac-12 blog enters into the field of scatology.

Are the Pac-10 bowls a bust?

October, 8, 2010
An interesting -- and critical -- look at the Pac-10 bowl arrangements from Ryan McGee.

While much of the focus during the first year-plus of Larry Scott's tenure as commissioner has been on expansion -- what that means in the future with divisions and a championship game and the ensuing broadcast contracts -- the Pac-10's bowl arrangements have long been a source of frustration.

They aren't as good as the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12. And there aren't enough, either.

The problem, though, is there is no obvious solution. Name a major West Coast -- or even Mountain Time -- bowl the Pac-10 doesn't play in (Fiesta doesn't count as a BCS bowl)? Exactly.

The SEC and Big Ten have the Florida bowls wrapped up. The Big 12 gets the Cotton Bowl because it's in Dallas.

SEC, Big Ten and top-level Big 12 teams travel better than Pac-10 fans, at least that's the reputation.

As in most things: It's all about money. Bowls want to make it. So do conferences. It's not about East Coast bias. It's about a bias for making money.

I, personally, like the addition of the Alamo Bowl. Big fan of San Antonio. With the right sort of business savvy, that game could be nurtured into something more on par with the Capital One or Outback Bowls. For example, what might happen if Larry Scott and local and corporate partners go to the SEC and say: "We've got a $6 million payout for your No. 2 team to face the No. 2 team from the Pac-10 on Jan. 1."

SEC commissioner Mike Slive would provide a pregnant pause. And then give Scott a Cheshire Cat grin. (Of course, it's not that simple, but you get the idea.)

That scenario also could work if the Cotton Bowl gets upgraded into a BCS bowl in the future: The Alamo could step into that void.

But in order to take that next step -- either by upgrading a current bowl or creating a new one for New Year's Day -- it's going to take some creativity on the business end.

Scott hasn't exactly been the retiring sort thus far on going after Big New Things. Guess here is bowl arrangements are also on his agenda.