Pac-12 Has Big Opportunity to Prove Conference Strength
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Conference power and rankings is what some believe to be a pointless debate. However, when it comes to BCS computer rankings, it actually means a lot. The SEC is undoubtedly the best conference in the nation, boasting 7 straight national championships, and a very good chance at making it 8. If you look at 2011, two SEC schools played in the national championship. This is not only because the human pollsters believed that Alabama and LSU were the 2 best teams, but also because the computers looked at Alabama's schedule and saw them as the number 2 team in the country. Last year, Oregon was ranked 2nd in the human polls, but the computers put them at 7. This may be the last year the BCS computers cause drama, but none-the-less, this year the Pac-12 can assert itself as the number 2 conference and get favorable computer rankings.
The Pac-12 (Pac-10 until 2011) conference has had some ups and downs as a conference in the past 6 years. In 2007, Arizona State, Cal, USC, and Oregon all reached No. 2 in the AP Poll at some point during the season. In 2008, the Pac-12 went 5-0 in bowl games. However, for some reason, 2009-2012 were unkind to the Pac-12. In those 4 years, the Pac-12 went 9-16 in bowl games, with losses in the championship, Rose Bowl Game, and Fiesta Bowl.
So what has to happen? Well first off, by getting teams into the preseason top 25. This year's preseason top 25 contained Oregon, Stanford, USC, UCLA, and Oregon State in the top 25, with Oregon and Stanford in the top 5. But how else does the Pac-12 fix things? By winning non-conference games early. The unfortunate thing for the Pac-12 conference is that it plays 9 conference games a year instead of 8. Therefore, the teams must play each other more, and they beat each other up. As a result, the Pac-12 must really take advantage of big non-conference games. This year, the Pac-12 has some major opportunities to do so.
Washington beating #19 Boise State was a good start, as Washington was the 6th best Pac-12 team at the time. Oregon State hurt the cause by losing to FCS opponent Eastern Washington, and Cal/Washington State missed out on big time opportunities in winnable losses to #22 Northwestern and Auburn. But there are big upcoming games that are going to be huge for the conference.
Arizona State, who is just a few votes away from the top 25, hosts #21 Wisconsin in Week 3. This game is very winnable for ASU. It also plays #14 Notre Dame in Arlington Week 6, another game that ASU could win if it plays some of its best football.
UCLA will getits chance when it plays #22 Nebraska in Week 3. Nebraska fell to the Bruins last year and looked very unimpressive in its win over Wyoming in week 1.
USC will play Notre Dame as usual this year, which could go a long way if they were able to pull off the upset. Dont expect this to happen though.
Stanford too will play Notre Dame, which should be a Stanford Cardinal win.
California missed out on a chance to help the conference by beating Northwestern. Take away a few silly late-game turnovers, and the Bears may have won this game. The Bears will host #3 Ohio State in week 3. Scoff at this game if you will, but the Bears came into Columbus last year and only lost 35-28 to Ohio State, and they finished the season 3-9. If the Bears can rally and put up a big fight, it could make this game interesting nationally.
Oregon plays Virginia Week 2 and Tennessee Week 3. These teams aren't ranked or held as big-time games this year, but if Oregon is able to completely dominate them, and then they go on to compete in the ACC/SEC, it would go a long way for the Pac-12 as well.
Utah and Colorado round it out with winnable games vs BYU and Fresno State.
In the end, the Pac-12 is what I believe is the 2nd best conference this year, with 5 teams that could make it to the BCS in different scenarios. In order to prove the conference's strength though, it needs to win a majority of these games.
Ok, from now on, every week I am going to rank the Pac-12 teams and predict the Pac-12 games.
Thu, Sept. 5 -
Arizona State 52, Sacramento State 10
Saturday, Sept. 7 -
(2)Oregon 55, Virginia 16
(5)Stanford 42, San Jose St. 13
Arizona 34, UNLV 13
Utah 30, Weber St 10
Colorado 31, Central Arkansas 10
(25)USC 28, Washington State 25
Oregon State 45, Hawaii 20
5. Arizona State
8. Oregon State
9. Washington State
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