The “power 5″ conferences in college football will have more to compete for this season with the emergence of the four-team, wide open playoff system. One football conference is superior to the rest, and no, it’s not the SEC.
The Pac-12 is not only the best in the west, but should be considered the best football conference in the nation. A list of experienced coaches makes the conference stronger than it has ever been, with a combined 82 seasons of Division I head coaching experience that has accumulated 63 bowl game appearances.
The coaches are backed up by the very capable quarterbacks of the Pac-12, with 10 of them returning this season. Among the list of starters, eight are listed on the Davey O’Brien award watch list, including the Heisman trophy front-runner from the Oregon Ducks, Marcus Mariota. He is joined by Arizona State Sun Devils‘ Taylor Kelly, Oregon State Beavers‘ Sean Mannion and UCLA Bruins‘ Brett Hundley, who all passed for more than 3,000 years last season. USC Trojans‘ Cody Kessler was only 32 yards short of that mark with 2,968 yards along with 20 touchdowns.
Out of the top 20 quarterbacks returning from last season, five of them reside in the Pac-12 conference. The only thing more impressive than the Pac-12 having a good core of quarterbacks is the conference’s strength of schedule factor. There’ s no other conference in college football in which a team plays nine league games with a possibility of 10 in the event of playing in the conference championship.
This formula makes a stronger schedule for the Pac-12, knowing there will a guaranteed extra week of conference play and that six of the 12 teams will lose. It’s not something that can be said for the SEC with dominant powerhouse Alabama Crimson Tide playing four non-conference games, including division II opponent Western Carolina Catamounts the week before an Iron Bowl showdown with the Auburn Tigers.
Oregon only plays three non-conference opponents this season, including the defending Big Ten champion Michigan State Spartans in just the second week of the season. Every SEC team plays a soft schedule of at least one FBS opponent, going against their strength with four teams in the Pac-12 not playing a division II opponents this season.
The Pac-12 may not win a national championship this season, but they are the best conference in college football. With the great competition, one team, if not two, could be representing the conference in the final four when the playoff committee makes their selections.