We’re two weeks into the 2016 season and I must admit that I am afraid the Pac-12 has lost a lot of its mojo as a Power 5 Conference. Yes, that’s quite a bold statement. Looking at the Pac 12 as an entire conference, I’m not convinced that any team will have a shot at making the College Football Playoff. Moreover, I feel the Pac-12 is not what it should be.
I’m sure there are dozens of people who would vehemently disagree with my claim. And I would agree that those who oppose my position would have a valid argument or two to refute my point. However, the sample size over the past two weeks has provided me with ample cause for concern. Now, before we get too deep into this, let me preface my point in saying that I think the Pac-12 is still worthy of Power 5 Conference membership, but, the quality of teams that comprise this conference has dipped a bit from last season to this one. That “dip” is evidenced in the level of consistent performances from the top teams in the Pac-12, both in the North and South divisions.
Pac-12 North Division
The favorites in this division (Stanford, Oregon, Washington) have performed as expected, strictly from a win-loss record perspective. Take a closer look at the games played. The opponents aren’t world-beaters by any stretch of the imagination.
Washington beat up Rutgers and the University of Idaho. Quite the daunting task, no? Oregon quacked past UC Davis and Virginia. Although the wins were rather lopsided, Oregon’s defense is allowing 27 points per game. Is this what they brought Brady Hoke in for?
Stanford only has one game under their belt and their ho-hum 26-13 win over Kansas State certainly didn’t turn any heads. Christian McCaffrey bears the weight of the Cardinal and to some extent the Pac-12 on his shoulders being one of few stars in the division. Bottom line, if he struggles, Stanford struggles. It’s as simple as that.
California and Washington State are in some serious trouble in the coming weeks. The Bears outplayed Hawaii down under, but did surrender some points and down the stretch. Some would point to that as a lack of focus in putting away an opponent. Last week’s heart breaker to San Diego State was just that, a heart breaker.
I won’t poo-poo the Aztecs. They are a quality opponent with a workhorse running back that ran rough shod over the Bears. Next for California is a surging Texas team that has found new life. Last year’s narrow escape against the Longhorns will only prove one thing, if Cal can’t catch that same miracle; it’s going to be a long season, because it doesn’t get any easier for them.
Washington State, a team many thought would add some complexity to the division has not been able to catch a break. The Cougars are 0-2 with both losses each by three points. It’s that same old so-close-yet-so-far vibe. Luke Falk has continued to live up to the bill though. He’s thrown for nearly 1,000 yards and has eight touchdowns. Respect due Luke, but if those stats don’t churn out wins, that’s what they are, stats and nothing else.
Pac-12 South Division
I certainly thought the Pac-12 South was going to have the greatest opportunity to re-establish the Pac-12’s reputation of being one of the nation’s premier divisions. With the favored teams in the division sporting nifty 1-1 records (with the exception of Utah, 2-0), Colorado and Arizona State have jumped out the gate undefeated. That’s right. Colorado is undefeated.
UCLA came up short against Texas A&M, but bounced back the following week, doubling up UNLV 42-21. I’m not sold on UCLA. Yes, they have a talented squad, but not enough to crack the top four teams in the land. Their only saving grace is that A&M somehow, some way, makes some serious noise in the SEC and UCLA handles their business. Then and only then, maybe, they’ll get a respectable bowl bid. Maybe.
Oh USC. Where do I begin? I figured the match up with Alabama would give some serious credence to the Pac-12 if they won or made it a close contest. Alas, Trojans couldn’t get either one to go their way. To add insult to injury, after a 52-6 beat down at the hands of the Tide, an SC player got himself ejected for stomping on an Alabama player. I guess he couldn’t bear the embarrassment of being on the field any longer than he had to.
It’s still too early to tell how the Pac-12 will shake out. There’s still hope that the expected teams in the conference will show and prove and establish their presence to the nation and the College Football Playoff committee. However pessimistic I may be about that actually occurring, I will gladly eat crow if at least one team from the Pac-12 were to make a substantial run toward the National Championship. However, in ironic bit optimism, I think the birds will be safe this year.
E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin.
Photo: Neon Tommy/Flickr.