A USC bye week meant lots of time spent on the couch in front of the television watching games. It meant ice cold beer and BBQ, to go along with the most exciting day of college football of the season. Within all of that time spent soaking up total man-dom, it became clear that the Pac-12 is fact the best conference top to bottom.
And no, I’m not taking a shot at the SEC. They have four teams in the top six of the rankings, and it’s well deserved. They’ve won six straight national titles and they have earned every bit of bragging rights that comes with that. (Well, if you’re a Kentucky fan repping the SEC and claiming the success of Alabama as your own, you’re doing it wrong.) Simply stated, the SEC has a case for housing the nation’s best teams. If we’re talking about depth however, look westward.
Not only has the Pac-12 had up to five teams ranked in the AP Poll, but six teams have been ranked for at least one week and eight have some sort of argument of currently being ranked. Yes, eight, if you consider that Arizona is hands down the best two-loss team in the country, no matter what Rich Rodriguez’s former team says.
At the moment, the Pac-12 has two teams that consider themselves as vying for a BCS Title Game berth (Oregon and USC), two very good teams(Stanford and Oregon State), and four teams(UCLA, Washington, Arizona and Arizona State) that can hang with anyone in the country and are all capable of being ranked in the 15 to 35 range, based on form. Then there’s two teams that have plenty of talent but are greatly underachieving(Cal and Utah), followed by an even greater underachiever(Washington State) and an FCS team to round out the conference (Colorado).
The Big XII has a similar argument that can be made, but if you look at head-to-head matchups between the Pac-12 and the other AQ conferences, the Pac has proved to be better. Arizona beat an Oklahoma State team that took undefeated Texas to the wire. Then, consider that Wisconsin and Nebraska were ranked when they lost to Pac-12 teams and one of the conference’s worst teams, Cal, nearly beat undefeated Ohio State on the road in Columbus. The three AQ losses the conference has suffered were all as underdogs, especially Washington’s Week 2 loss to LSU.
The Pac-12 is just playing an extremely exciting and strong brand of football right now.
If the polls were strictly based on resume without any other biases present, then Oregon State would have to be the No. 1 team in the nation, as they’re 3-0, beating two ranked teams and a third who was ranked the week before. Plus, two of those wins came on the road while Vegas had them as underdogs. Considering that the Beavers were the laughing stock of the conference a year ago, Mike Riley could already be sealing up the conference’s Coach of the Year award.
And look at Washington. Until their 17-13 victory over Stanford on Thursday, the Huskies were considered an underachieving team. Yes, they’d won the games they were expected to and lost the trip to LSU as they should have, but they hadn’t looked nearly as good as they did at the end of last year. But yet here they are now, 3-1 with a win over No. 8 Stanford and the only loss being to No. 3 LSU. Who cares that they didn’t blowout San Diego State and looked terrible in Baton Rouge. Going into the season if you would have told Steve Sarkisian that he could be 3-1 after four games and have momentum going to Autzen Stadium to play the No. 2 Ducks, he would have taken it in a heartbeat.
Plus, it’s not just the results that the Pac-12 is putting up, it’s the way they’re playing. Oregon State’s win in Tuscson was riveting, and if you want to talk about individual players, look at the Beavers’ Sean Mannion or the Wildcats’ Matt Scott. Washington State scared Oregon for a few minutes up in Seattle and Arizona State actually looks like a well-coached team this year.
The overplayed mantra that the Pac-12 is a new conference given the new television deals and a 12-team format is tiresome, but there’s a lot of truth to that, and plenty of it comes with the product on the field being that much better.
With the exception of a couple of Week 2 slip-ups by Utah and Colorado, the conference has been refreshingly exciting on the whole. Three of the four new coaches are off to roaring starts and at the same time, it’s a Pac-12 team that is ranked second in the nation.
Somewhere Larry Scott is smiling, even if you can’t see it because you’re a DirecTV subscriber.