Getting it done on the field
Last Saturday, I watched Arizona, which finished 2-7 in Pac-12 play last year, stomp the defending Big 12 champion, Oklahoma State, by three touchdowns.
On Monday, I was asked to write that the Pac-12 is the second-best conference -- behind, of course, the SEC -- ahead of the Big 12.
This is not the most difficult assignment I've ever had. And I feel bad for Big 12 blogger David Ubben.
Let's start with what should matter most: Résumé. As in: What have you done this season?
The Pac-12 is 6-1 against other BCS-conference teams. Three of those wins came against then-ranked teams: Oregon State held defending Big Ten champion and 13th-ranked Wisconsin to 207 total yards in a 10-7 victory, UCLA rolled up 653 yards in a 36-30 win over No. 16 Nebraska and those Wildcats beat the No. 18 Cowboys 59-38.
Note: These Pac-12 winners are not projected to finish at the top of the conference. This is the middle class.
Really, we could stop there. No need to mention wins over Illinois (Arizona State), Syracuse (USC) and Duke (Stanford).
Of course, there's the counter-argument for the Big 12. It has beaten ranked teams, too, right?
Nope. Zero. The Big 12 doesn't play that sort of schedule, as Ubben observed here:
Kansas State whipped rebuilding Miami -- an impressive performance, yes -- and Iowa State beat what looks like a woeful Iowa team. That's it for teams from BCS conferences.
Oh, Kansas State could have played Oregon in a home-and-home series in 2011-12. But the Mildcats ran away like a frightened little kitty.
So, in terms of actual football, there is no debate. The Pac-12 is the far more accomplished league so far.
Then there's the elite. While both conferences presently have five ranked teams, you tick off two ranked Pac-12 teams -- No. 2 USC and No. 4 Oregon -- before you arrive at any Big 12 teams.
We can all agree that USC or Oregon would take any Big 12 team to the woodshed, right? Good. Glad you won't venture down unrealistic paths just for the sake of a false rhetorical flourish. I mean, really, would you rather have Oklahoma or USC take a shot at the SEC champion for the national title, knowing a seventh consecutive title would make our friends from down south even more insufferable?
Now, to be fair, you could make the "depth" argument for the Big 12: Oklahoma, West Virginia, Texas, Kansas State and TCU are quality programs, without a doubt. And Baylor has perked up, as has Iowa State. That leaves only mediocre-to-bad Texas Tech and Kansas, your doormat, the equivalent of Colorado in the Pac-12.
Cough, cough. Bet you guys miss the Buffaloes.
But in terms of on-field accomplishments and multiple elite teams, the Pac-12 shines. And, therefore, it's the conference that will knock off the SEC in the national title game on Jan. 7 and inspire sighs of relief nationwide.
Quality and quantity
The SEC has won the last six national championships, leaving it the indisputable champ among the nation's strongest conferences.
Or so we're told, anyway. Silly me, I thought conferences were made up of more than one or two teams.
Oh well, that's a debate for another day. Today, I'm told there's a "debate" between the Pac-12 and the Big 12 for who's No. 2?
C'mon man. That's like debating the which of USC's bowl appearances the past two seasons was most impressive. Does not compute.
The simple math says this is indeed a debate: Both leagues have five teams in the Top 25. The Pac-12 has two teams in the nation's top four. The Big 12 doesn't have any.
But no matter what the folks from the SEC may tell you, a league is made up of more than just the best and most prominent piece or pieces.
From top to bottom, no league in college football has been better than the Big 12 through two weeks. (We'll leave Kansas out of this for now).
I see your five teams in the Top 25, Pac-12. I also see your standings feature two divisions and 12 teams.
The Big 12? It's trimmed to just 10 teams these days, meaning exactly half of the league is in the polls. The Pac-12? That league's only got 42 percent of its teams ranked.
And what about the good teams who haven't quite made the poll? Arizona vaulted into the rankings last week after beating Oklahoma State in Tucson, but take a good look at the bottom of the AP poll. Every single Big 12 team other than Kansas and Texas Tech got votes, meaning at least a few media members believe eight of the league's members deserve a spot in the polls.
Only seven Pac-12 teams earned votes, less than 2/3 of the league. The Big 12? Eighty percent.
Hey, I get it. Right now, the Pac-12 and the SEC have the headline-making national title contenders. There's probably not a team in the Big 12 as good as USC or Oregon, or Alabama and LSU. But we're not talking national title picture.
We're talking which league has the best teams.
The Big 12 has the same amount of teams as the Pac-12 in the top 10 (two), but when you look up and eight of the Big 12 teams have made a case for the Top 25? That's insane.
The Big 12 so far this season has just two losses, including one from Kansas, and another in the only head-to-head game versus the Pac-12. That's it, though.
The Pac-12 has six losses, including an FCS loss by Colorado this past weekend.
In those 17 games, Big 12 teams have bested opponents by an average of nearly 31 points. The Pac-12 has won its nonconference games by an average of only 11 points.
The Big 12: The home of style points ... and tons of good football. Certainly more than the Pac-12.
A debate? This one was over before it started.