After the Stanford Cardinal lost to the Washington Huskies, we talked about how Stanford had hurt the national reputation of the entire Pac 12. Well, after their overtime win against the Oregon Ducks, they’ve gone and done it again, damaging the conference’s brand and perpetuating the perception that there aren’t any great teams out west.
When Stanford followed up their loss to Washington with a road loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, they were written off by the average fan as being an average club and, fair or not (it’s not), were forgotten about by and large in the discussion of great college football teams.
Fast forward to now, and Stanford has knocked off a pair of the Pac 12′s potential top ten clubs in the Oregon State Beavers and Oregon. The Ducks were in a position to represent the conference in the national championship game and give the whole conference a boost in credibility.
But it wasn’t meant to be and now Oregon, the Pac 12′s highest ranked team, sits behind three one-loss SEC teams at No. 5 in the latest BCS rankings. Because in BCS math, fair or not (it’s not), a one-loss Pac 12 team is less than a one-loss SEC team every single time.
The Pac 12 currently has six teams ranked in the BCS top 25 with Oregon at No. 5, No. 8 Stanford, No. 15 Oregon State, No. 17 UCLA Bruins, No. 24 Arizona Wildcats and No. 25 Washington. That’s just as many teams as the SEC has ranked, with one major difference; All six SEC teams are ranked in the top 12 with five teams in the top 10.
In college football, perception matters when it comes to the strength of a conference. The margin for error to change that perception is razor thin for the Pac 12, which has been seen as an average conference for most of the BCS era. Oregon had a chance to change that, but Stanford’s win ended any shot this season of bringing some prestige to the Pac 12.
So, good for Stanford. The win is their second over a AP top five squad this season and gives them control over their own destiny for a Rose Bowl bid. However, Stanford’s success, fair or not (it’s not), hurts the entire conference and will leave them on the outside looking in during debates on the best conferences in college football.