ESPN will pull out all the stops on December 7th, when it airs the 2013 Pac-12 Football Championship Game in a primetime Saturday night slot, but will the contest on the field live up to the rest of the broadcast?
The Pac-12 has only held a conference title game since 2011, when the league added Colorado and Utah and split into North and South divisions, and the first two games were underwhelming, to say the least.
In 2011, the USC Trojans had the best record in the Pac-12 South division but were ineligible to play in the inaugural conference championship game. Instead, the UCLA Bruins, whom USC had slaughtered, 50-0, just a week earlier, were steamrolled by the North’s Oregon Ducks. The Ducks were ranked fifth in the nation, while the Bruins had to apply for a waiver to play in a bowl game after the title game left them with a losing record.
Last season, the Bruins were back in it on their own merit, with a new coach who’d shaken things up and a flashy young quarterback. They faced the Stanford Cardinal, who’d recently upset Oregon in overtime to pull ahead in the Pac-12 North.
It could’ve been a good matchup — if the two teams hadn’t played each other in the regular season finale six days earlier.
The Cardinal won the first game, 35-17, which meant the teams would face each other again to play for the conference title and a Rose Bowl berth.
Stanford was ranked eighth, while the Bruins were at no. 16. The first game wasn’t close. And it was a Friday night football game…on Fox. In other words, it didn’t seem like must-see tv.
The Pac-12 has to hope the 2013 regular season leads to a much more riveting finish to get people to tune in for the title game. In its third year, the game has finally moved to Saturday, instead of Friday night, and it will be a heavily-hyped primetime broadcast on ESPN.
Will the third time prove to be the charm that helps the Pac-12 football championship game live up to the hype?