clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Where College Football is Now and the Immediate Future – Conference Details: PAC-12

So, we looked at the SEC and the B1G. It’s time to take some sort of peek at the PAC-12. It’s a league that we don’t know much about out here on the East coast. It’s also in the odd position of being a 12-team conference in a world expanding to bigger footprints. Where do they go and what are they up to. Take the Poll.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Utah at Ohio State
Utah almost gets the Roses
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a Look at the Situation

Face it, we don’t hear or see much about the PAC-12 teams. The only information that most East coast sports fans get will be the occasional game played late enough to watch after whatever conference game or favorite team wraps up and the chili is still piping hot.

As an overall conference, the PAC12 is loaded with money, but that sits basically with a few teams, Stanford, Oregon, USC, and UCLA. Utah was very good in 2021 nabbing a 12 ranking and winning the “South” (look at a map… more like East) Division in 2021 and then crushed Oregon to win the PAC-12 championship. The Utes might just be in line for a good run. They have good coaching and a decent offense. They did lose the Rose Bowl to the Buckeyes on a wild OSU comeback with a game winning field goal. The issue wasn’t that the Utes lost it was that they played well. They led most of the contest, and it basically ended up being a shootout instead of an Ohio State blowout.

The big Ws are coming to the PAC12 North, the big bucks come into the PAC-12 South which are dominated by a stagnant USC team, and a hit or miss UCLA. Though Utah dominated in 2021 that isn’t always the case. For most of football history it’s been the Los Angeles duo at the top.

The roundup of the PAC-12 teams and conferences looks like this:

PAC-12 Conference Lineup for the Present and Foreseeable Future

Team Viability Grade Comment
Team Viability Grade Comment
California Golden Bears C+ Cal has had good players, but rarely good teams.
Oregon Ducks A- Routinely challenge for the conference title, but also routinely sink nationally
Oregon State Beavers B- Flashes of something quickly snuffed by dreary rainfall. They came in 2nd in the north for 2021.
Stanford Cardinal B+ Their mascot is a nondescript redwood tree. They have been really good and near great. But of late nozzomush
Washington Huskies B Sometimes good, sometimes not, they can win sometimes.
Washington State Cougars C Nope, can be horrid, or good, or whatever but rarely good enough to get better than average.
Arizona State Sun Devils B- Nope, again except they are better than just average most seasons.
Arizona Wildcats B- See the other team in their state.
Colorado Buffaloes C They always seem to look like they'd be good, and then reality sets in.
UCLA Bruins B+ Can be an A- and challenge for the championship it all depends on coaching and personnel.
USC Trojans B+ Used to be a solid A, but the last several seasons they've had coaching and personnel issues.
Utah Utes A- They can stir it up and put together good seasons. With good coaching they push the A- level.
Looking at the PAC Gobbler Country

External, not Internal Expansion - They Want Real Playoffs

As far as the expansion and growth issue, there doesn’t seem to be much of an impulse for the conference to expand, internally, beyond its 12-team layout – even if the divisions are directionally challenged. There also seems to be another impulse at play. The SEC is growing to gargantuan proportions in both teams and money. The PAC-12 is on board with an anti-SEC alliance with the B1G and the ACC (which looks like a counter move to the SEC expansion). The problem is that association has stymied the conference’s CFB playoff intents, because of the ACC’s reticence to expand the playoffs. The PAC-12’s better teams don’t get much ‘Fakeoff’ consideration. The conference has gotten the short shrift in the current formula so is ready and eager to expand the playoffs and has stated so as late as January 2022. Pac-12 statement on CFP expansion - Jan. 10, 2022 | Pac-12

There is more to note than the PAC-12’s obvious directional location issues. The first thing is that most of the better teams are located in the Pacific strip with only Utah (California’s idea of South, I suppose.) being a real current threat to push the conference championship out of the coastal plain. There are some interesting teams, but in general the histories and win/loss records of teams other than UCLA, Oregon, Stanford, and USC are pretty mundane. None of those programs are horrible, mind you, and stacked up against some Eastern “power teams” can be pretty stout competition, but there are limits.

Their Alliance Deal Might Be a Drag

Even though there are no anticipated changes coming for the conference and divisions, there does seem to be a drive to push the promise of playoff expansion. The “Alliance” also looks like an effort to pull back on the throttle for the big realignment of better teams into fewer conferences with paid players and bigger revenues. It’s not hard to understand. The PAC-12 occupies a huge Pacific coast viewer base that runs from San Diego to Puget Sound. It’s one of the largest markets in the nation (especially the San Diego to San Francisco stretch) and there just isn’t much impulse to dilute the 1/12th share of that pie. A powerful SEC becomes a nation-wide ratings draw, and certainly becomes a revenue threat to PAC-12 teams trying to keep their audiences focused on their football games.

The Tournament of Roses is Slipping Away

Is the PAC-12 doomed to be a Conference Championship – nice slate of bowl league or does it finally get its desire for at least a 12-team playoff? The Rose Bowl is the oldest national interconference post season bowl game, and has an international viewership draw. For most of its existence it was an East-West Contest between the Big 10 and Pac 10. But with the dawn of the first playoffs (BCS) and the change to the CFB Championships, the Rose Bowl has often been pulled away from its traditional contest of conference champions. In 2021 it even ended up being played in “Jerry World” Texas instead of Pasadena, California because of the COVID restrictions there. The Rose Bowl is one of the big six bowls and the messy reality is that the guarantee of that high dollar cut is no longer there. Something eventually has to give.

Looking at a Dry Well for the Current Championship Format

We already talked about the draw for that contest from the old Big Ten’s perspective in the last article. As you realize that the non-playoff-oriented bowls have increasingly become pure exhibition where players are opting out, and ‘head coachless’ teams often appear, the money draw of established “classic” bowl events is real salve for the wounds of routinely being ignored for the top 4 manufactured slots in the “Fakeoffs”.

The questions will continue to be begged, though. Will there eventually be an expansion in the PAC-12 to bring in at least 2 more teams and present a better more even “Power” label to the Power 5? Will the PAC-12 just settle back and wait until something happens after the 2025 realignment and renegotiation of the big media contracts in the Eastern powerhouses?

Those questions are just not having many satisfactory answers pop up on the horizon. What’s your opinion on the subject?


Which of these do you think will happen? (Remember if you don’t agree with one comment)

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    It is going to stay where it is in its current configuration. They really don’t have any expansion bait, and the playoffs are on hold.
    (4 votes)
  • 3%
    They will play and schedule non-conference games with the Alliance programs, but there will be heavy pressure to expand and share more media money.
    (1 vote)
  • 23%
    The Conference will eventually collapse due to imbalance and lack of real size in the face of a 16 team SEC. It will reorg with someone.
    (6 votes)
  • 57%
    Who really knows? After 2025 all bets will be off. Programs and conferences will be scrambling to keep up with the SEC as it drains capital and resources.
    (15 votes)
26 votes total Vote Now

Next up we’ll deal with the rapidly Group of 5 devolving BIG XII. It’s going to be a challenge because of all of the conferences in the P5 the BIG XII is a BIG HOT MESS.