If I told people at the beginning of the 2012 season that UCLA and Stanford would be the two teams playing in the Pac-12 Championship game at season’s end, they would have either laughed in my face or asked me what went wrong to create such a lackluster matchup.
The Pac-12 title game played on Friday will not feature the flashy game everyone wanted to see at the beginning of the season between Oregon and USC, but rather two teams that went about their business and did what they had to do.
Take Stanford, for instance. They delivered the biggest early blow in the college football season when they upset then No. 2 USC. Unfortunately, they fell flat on their face the next week at Washington. Stanford almost lost to Arizona and could have beaten Notre Dame if not for a questionable call in overtime. However, since then they have not lost a game, including a monumental upset of another Pac-12 No. 2 ranked team: Oregon. It’s not too much of a shocker to see the Cardinal in the title game without Andrew Luck, but it’s how they got there that’s been the biggest surprise.
On the other hand, not many people expected a return appearance for UCLA in the title game, seeing how they backed into it last season. They came into the year unranked but early season success boosted them into the top 25. Losses to Oregon State and Cal diminished most thoughts of a return to the championship game, but a string of five straight wins, including one over cross-town rival USC, secured the Pac 12 South division title for the second straight year.
So now instead of the high-flying, flashy, offensive showdown between the Ducks and the Trojans, the country will see a physical battle between two teams that played just a week ago. It’s rare that two teams will play each other twice in the same season, and even rarer that it will happen in back-to-back weeks, but that’s the type of year it’s been for the Pac-12–out of the ordinary.
Will this game live up to the preseason game that many expected? Not likely, but whose to say that this game won’t still be worth a watch?