Well this is weird. After a weekend of upsets and big wins in the Pac-12 two teams might end up play each other twice at the end of the season. Saturday the Stanford Cardinal, the top team in the North Division, head south to play the UCLA Bruins who just locked up the South Division.
There is a possibility that both teams could meet just a week later for the Pac-12 Championship. Stanford could lose to UCLA but would then need the Oregon Ducks to lose in Corvallis. A win over the Bruins in Pasadena would punch a Cardinal ticket to their first conference title match.
UCLA’s win over the USC Trojans just this past Saturday guaranteed the Bruins a South Division first place finish. Even a loss to Stanford cannot derail Jim Mora’s crew from a possible conference championship.
Where does this leave the Pac-12 nationally? Well, it doesn’t look that good. Unlike the SEC, the Pac-12 does not get the benefit of the doubt with intra-conference victories. When the Georgia Bulldogs take down the Florida Gators, or the Texas A&M Aggies upset the Alabama Crimson Tide, it only proves the strength of the SEC.
For the Pac-12, Stanford beating Oregon and USC only fuels the hater’s fire. Yes, the Pac-12 has had some very disappointing performances this season. The Trojans aside, a huge letdown has taken place in Seattle by the way of the Washington Huskies. The bottom feeders, the Washington State Cougars and Colorado Buffaloes need no introduction.
However, credit must be given not just to UCLA, but to the Oregon State Beavers who have rebounded tremendously from a three win season. Both Arizona schools have shown great promise under the new regimes of Todd Graham (Arizona State Sun Devils) and Rich Rodriguez (Arizona Wildcats).
If the BCS National Championship excludes a Pac-12 team it will not be because of the lack of competition or viable programs within the conference. It will simply be because the Ducks lost a week after the Crimson Tide. Voter perception has a memory as good at Ten Second Tom from 50 First Dates.
Just as the secret to comedy is timing, so is nabbing a spot in the National Championship. Hope is alive for Oregon, and a Pac-12 title appearance. Blaming Stanford for putting the SEC back in the championship hunt is missing the point. Oregon lost to a top fifteen team in overtime, and still has the chance to beat a ranked Oregon State and maybe even UCLA. Given some help, that could be enough to place the Ducks in Miami January 7.
Regardless, until the new four team playoff format is implemented in 2014, good teams will be left out, and the Pac-12’s only enemy is itself. My only advice to Pac-12 schools is to lose a little earlier next time.