SALT LAKE CITY — The Pac-12 — the so-called “Conference of Champions” — completed its bowl season and, well, that was embarrassing. The league lost eight of nine bowl games, four of them in routs.
The lone win was produced by Utah, which has made a habit of winning bowl games. If Utah’s Pac-12 rivals were smart, they’d strike a deal with the Utes: A five-star California quarterback recruit in exchange for Utah’s bowl formula.
The Utes, who have won 17 of 21 bowl games, are doing something right.
And the Pac-12 is not. This year’s results were brutal:
- No. 8 USC lost to No. 5 Ohio State, 24-7.
- No. 11 Washington lost to No. 9 Penn State, 35-28.
- No. 13 Stanford lost to No. 15 TCU, 39-37.
- No. 18 Washington State lost to No. 16 Michigan State, 42-17.
- Arizona State lost to No. 24 North Carolina State, 52-31.
- Arizona lost to Purdue, 38-35.
- UCLA lost to Kansas State, 35-17.
- Oregon lost to No. 25 Boise State, 38-28.
Then again, you might reasonably ask why the Utes were only 3-6 in conference play this year — the same kind of reasoning that might have occurred to you when the Utes boasted a record eight NFL draft picks last spring following a third-place finish in the league's south division.
But back to the Pac-12: For the record, during the last 10 years the Pac-12 is 37-37 in bowl play, which is the second-best winning percentage among the Power 5 leagues — SEC (62-38), Big Ten (38-43), Big 12 (37-41), ACC (44-47).
Notwithstanding, the league isn’t relevant when it comes to national championship contention. So far, out of the 16 possible berths in the four-year history of the national playoff, the Pac-12 has filled only two of them. At this rate, it is going to lose its Power 5 designation.
The Pac-12 is not a conference of champions, as it likes to bill itself — not if you’re talking about football. During the past nine decades of college football, USC is the only Pac-12 school that has won a consensus (No. 1 in both polls) national championship, the last one coming in 1972.
(The Pac-12 has been nearly as irrelevant in basketball. UCLA carried the banner for the league with a string of championships during the Wooden years, but that ended in 1975. Since then, the Pac-12 has won two NCAA basketball championships — UCLA in 1995 and Arizona in 1997. That’s two championships in 42 years.)
The league can boast champions in track and field, tennis and swimming, but not in the major sports.
It’s not just the Pac-12 that comes up short on the national football scene; it’s the West. The last western school to win a consensus national football championship was BYU in 1984 (USC was stripped of its 2004 consensus championship for violating NCAA rules, and Washington and Colorado had to share their championships with other teams). Before that, it was USC in 1972.
As noted here a couple of years ago, the media began implementing a poll in 1936 to determine a champion. Only five western schools — USC, UCLA and Washington of the Pac-12, BYU of the Western Athletic Conference, and Colorado of the Big 8 — have won or shared a national championship since then, yet western schools comprise about one-fifth of the total FBS division. Only two western teams have ever won a consensus national championship — BYU (once) and USC (six).
Whether it’s an East Coast bias or the late finish of televised games on the West Coast, or simply inferior teams, the Pac-12 and the West aren’t much of a threat in college football.