The Trojans never had a chance to make the College Football Playoff, but the Huskies made an unprecedented rise to give the Pac-12 a second New Year's Six participant.
Today was a victory for the Pac-12. There haven’t been many this season. But Dec. 3 is one — it’s the No. 1.
No, USC didn’t make the playoff, but USC never had a chance to make the playoff (more on that in a moment) and we’re judging the day by what was realistic.
Meanwhile, Washington jumped into the New Year’s Six in an unprecedented upward move, joining the Trojans to give the conference two NY6 participants.
That’s $8 million to be split among the 12 schools, or $667,000 per campus. (Expenses come from a separate pot.)
In a slight twist, the Trojans are headed to the Cotton Bowl to face Ohio State, a smart move by the selection committee to ensure the Buckeyes don’t play in the Fiesta for a third consecutive season.
That switch prompted Washington and Penn State to slide into the Fiesta.
(Why not place USC in the Fiesta against PSU? To avoid a rematch of last year’s epic Rose Bowl.)
So here’s the tally: USC doesn’t get a playoff berth it was never going to receive, and Washington collects a NY6 bid that was iffy.
Given those parameters, today was a victory for the Pac-12, because the only reasonable alternative was no playoff for USC and no NY6 for Washington.
Why weren’t the Trojans a factor in the playoff discussion?
They entered the week ranked 10th by the committee, beat the No. 12 team and did not look playoff-worthy in doing so — there was no chance they would climb more than two or three spots.
Should they have been higher to start the week? That’s a different discussion.
Yes, they played a rugged schedule, but there was a paucity of quality wins: Only two against top-25 teams, and both of those were Stanford.
Moreover, the Trojans clearly failed the eye test with the committee, not only in the title game but generally.
Had the committee been more impressed, USC would have been higher than No. 10 before this weekend.
Would things have changed had they beaten Washington State in that brutal Friday night road assignment?
In that scenario, they would be a one-loss Power Five champ with an additional top-25 win.
At that point, they’re in the discussion for the semifinals — no doubt about that.
Washington’s status was far more uncertain as championship weekend unfolded.
The Huskies got the result they needed in the Big 12, with TCU losing decisively.
The committee made the unprecedented move of yanking a NY6 berth away from a conference based on the result of its title game: TCU was in (No. 11) before the loss to Oklahoma, and out after the game.
The Pac-12 was the beneficiary.