The Pac 12 came into the bowl season with high expectations and an opportunity to stake their claim as one of the best football conferences in the country. While they didn’t quite hit the heights they were hoping for, but there was still plenty to be proud of for the Pac 12 this postseason. With that, let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly for the conference this bowl season.
The top of the league represented the conference extremely well with the Stanford Cardinal and Oregon Ducks both winning BCS bowls. Stanford out-muscled the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Vizio, using their stout defense and tough running game to salt the game away for a 20-14 win. Oregon, meanwhile, ran circles around the Kansas State Wildcats and ran away with their second straight BCS win in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Once they got rolling, there was no looking back and they coasted to a 35-17 win.
The conference also put their best running backs on display this bowl season. In five of the eight bowl games, a Pac 12 running back rushed for at least 100 yards and three of them went over 150; Marion Grice for the Arizona State Sun Devils (159), Ka’Deem Carey of the Arizona Wildcats (172) and Bishop Sankey for the Washington Huskies (205). Two of the backs who didn’t hit 100-yards, Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor and Silas Redd of the USC Trojans, still had respectable games rushing for 88 yards a piece. As a group, Pac 12 running backs averaged 24.8 carries for 143.8 yards per game and scored nine rushing touchdowns.
Even the kickers stepped their game up this bowl season! The Pac 12 kicking game has not been a strength all season long with the league connecting on just 67 percent of its attempts (148-of-218). The eight kickers in the bowl games converted 10-of-12 field goal attempts (83 percent) for a much better showing all around. Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson got some much-needed redemption following last year’s Fiesta Bowl struggles, kicking a pair of field goals, including a 47-yard clutch kick, in the Rose Bowl during a six-point win.
The middle of the conference did not fare quite as well as Stanford or Oregon. The Oregon State Beavers, who many considered the third-best team in the conference, fell apart in the Valero Alamo Bowl, allowing the Texas Longhorns to rally with 14-unanswered points in the fourth quarter, falling 31-27. At least they showed up, however, unlike the Pac 12 South champion UCLA Bruins who were blown off the field by the Baylor Bears in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl 49-26. Washington blew a huge day from Sankey (noted above) to choke away the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl to the Boise State Broncos and USC was just ugh, but we’ll talk more about that later.
The two losses to the Big 12 especially hurt given the ongoing debate between Pac 12 and Big 12 fans about which conference is superior. With the way that Oregon, the No. 2 team in the Pac 12, manhandled Kansas State, the champs of the Big 12, getting just one of the other two games would have given the edge to the Pac 12. As it stands now, it just gives both sides different things to shout about. For Pac 12 supporters, “We’re better at the top!” while Big 12 fans have the “We have more depth!” argument on their side. Can’t we all just get along?
USC treated the Hyundai Sun Bowl against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets like the pre-bowl dinner and failed to show up. It was an embarrassing display, particularly by the offense which mustered just 205 yards and a single touchdown against the No. 65 scoring defense in the country. Max Wittek likely lost his “quarterback of the future” title filling in for an injured Matt Barkley going just 14-of-37 for 107 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions.
The loss makes USC the first preseason No. 1 in history to lose six games and the first since 1964 to finish unranked. They continued their end of season slide right through the bowl season, finishing the year losing five of their last six games and solidifying their dubious place in history as one of the biggest wastes of talent that college football has ever seen. But, Lane Kiffin returns for another season, so we’ll see what the Trojans can do for an encore.