Just a week ago I opined that the Pac-12 Championship game would be less than it could be with the exclusion of the Oregon Ducks. May the Stanford Cardinal and UCLA Bruins accept my deepest apologies. The teams that played for a trip to the Rose Bowl are the class of the Pac-12.
Yes, the game was a rematch from last Saturday, and yes, that took a little bit of the drama away. That said, anyone who witnessed what transpired last night in Palo Alto saw that there was plenty of drama to go around.
Both programs provided a comeptitive closely-contested game that took us to the final moments with a UCLA missed field goal and Stanford winning 27-24. Both the Cardinal and Bruins feature talented running backs who will be future NFL draft picks. Each program started freshman quarterbacks that will likely be the face of their respective teams for the next several seasons.
With all due respect to the USC Trojans and Oregon, there are two other teams that have moved into the Pac-12′s version of the Hamptons. If there was any doubt as to the viability of the Stanford program after the departure of Jim Harbaugh, it has been laid to rest. David Shaw has officially carried the torch.
The battle for Los Angeles is in its early stages between Jim Mora and Lane Kiffin. Mora has taken round one leaving the Trojans with bruised egos. USC isn’t going to run away with the Pac-12 South as many predicted. The Bruins are here to stay and are little brothers no more.
Oregon must contend with a program in Stanford, that is their complete antithesis. Where the Ducks are flashy, the Cardinal is sturdy. Chip Kelly has a built a team that races, and Shaw has taken over at team that fights. Another factor that weighs in favor of the Cardinal is that Kelly, the architect of Oregon’s attack, could depart to the NFL.
This year, the Pac-12 was treated not to a predictable championship match-up, but one that was a pleasant surprise instead. The Cardinal had to replace legend Andrew Luck. After a season of mediocre and inconsistent play at quarterback, Shaw made the move to freshman Kevin Hogan. Four starts in a row against a ranked opponent led to four wins, including a ticket to the Rose Bowl.
UCLA went with a redshirt freshman quarterback in Brett Hundley and plenty of questions on the defensive side of the football. Mora was brilliant guiding the Bruins to a Pac-12 title appearance and a chance at 10 wins.
You’ve been put on notice, Pac-12. Stanford and UCLA are here to stay.