Beginning in 2012, the Pac-10 will become the Pac-12 now that Colorado and Utah have agreed to join the conference. While the move adds television markets to the conference, it fails to enhance the conference’s profile.
For the last eight years, USC has dominated the national scene and represented the Pac-10 with force as its flagship program. In fact, the last time the Men of Troy lost a regular season game out of conference was September 21,2002, at Kansas State. Throw into the mix wins against Ohio State, Auburn, Virginia, a rout of Oklahoma in the 2004 National Championship game, and you have a pretty impressive resume.
Despite the out of conference play, one thing has been lacking from USC’s resume: conference prestige. Whether it is true or not, the perception around the country is that the Pac-10 is a tier below the SEC and the Big XII. How else do you explain Florida getting the nod over the Trojans to play in the 2008 BCS National Championship game. USC lost on the road to an unranked conference opponent three games into the season while Florida lost four games into the season at home to an unranked conference opponent. The only plausible explanation for the choice stems from the perceived superiority of the SEC.
Adding Colorado, who is one of the weaker teams in the Big XII North, and Utah, who has become the third-best program in the non-BCS Mountain West, will do little to bring prestige to the Pac-10. However, if Larry Scott had been able to pull off adding the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State, the Pac-16 would have been the premiere conference in all of college football. Texas and Oklahoma are perennial threats to win the national title, and the other programs always field respectable teams.
Although a Pac-16 would mean more competition for the conference crown, it wouldn’t be that much harder for USC. Traditionally, the Trojans schedule tough out of conference so the increased level of opponent within the conference would not be overwhelming. Also, USC would only see Oklahoma and Texas roughly once every four years since neither program would have been in USC’s division.
In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. USC would have finally get the chance to prove its worth on the field in a conference championship game. Playing in the new Pac-16, USC would have not had to politick to reach the national title game. Instead, the Trojans would have had their chance to prove their worth on the field. With the idea of a Pac-16 dead for now, USC is left at the mercy of the rest of the Pac-12 to perform well out of conference and bring prominence to the conference, and that is a scary thought.