The Cougars were the Pac-12’s brightest light for most of the regular season and filled that role in the postseason, as well. But it could hardly be considered a conference-wide success. And where was the offense?
Judgment day has arrived. Our verdict: Not good enough.
The Pac-12 avoided another epic fail, but the overall performance of the past two weeks can hardly be considered a success.
The conference was favored in five of the seven matchups and won three of the seven.
In the game that mattered most, its champion was outplayed decisively for three quarters by the Big Ten champion.
Total points scored: Opposing teams 145, Pac-12 teams 119
About that 119 …
It averages out to 17 points per game.
What is this, 1979?
If there was a connective tissue, in victory and defeat, it was bad offense:
- Cal scored one touchdown despite four turnovers by TCU.
- Oregon scored one touchdown against six-loss Michigan State.
- Stanford scored two touchdowns against seven-loss Pittsburgh.
- Washington had three points through three quarters against Ohio State.
- Arizona State had three points in the second half against Fresno State.
- Utah scored zero in the second half against Northwestern.
The Utes, who produced the Pac-12’s lone bowl victory in 2017, delivered the conference’s worst loss of the 2018 postseason. Up 20-3 on Northwestern in the Holiday, they were outscored 28-0 in the second half.
“We had complete control of the game at halftime and we came out in second half and proceeded to turn the ball over five times,” coach Kyle Whittingham said.
The best performance … the best offensive performance, the best overall performance, the best victory … came courtesy of Washington State, which edged Iowa State 28-26 in the Alamo.
The Cougars were the Pac-12’s brightest light for most of the regular season and filled that role in the postseason, as well.
But again, context is required: The conference’s best showing was a two-point win over five-loss Iowa State.
Yes, yes, yes: Two-point wins count the same as 20-point wins, and the record book will list the Pac-12 with three victories in the 2018 bowl season.
Three is much better than two and eons better than one.
But the sweep of the seven games leaves one lasting impression:
The Pac-12 was underwhelming, again. It was underwhelming in victory and underwhelming in defeat.
I think back to commissioner Larry Scott’s state-of-the-conference comments at a football media event in Los Angeles in July.
“Much was written and discussed about our bowl record last year,” he said. “From our perspective, a handful of season-ending games are not a key indicator of a conference’s overall strength and competitiveness.”
It’s not “a handful of season-ending games.”
It’s 16 of them over two years … plus the early-season losses in intersectional showdowns … plus the lack of a serious playoff contender for two consecutive years.
Trend (noun): ‘the general movement over time of a statistically detectable change’
The Pac-12 over time:
New Year’s Six (CFP games in italics)
2014 season: 1-2 (Boise St. 38, Arizona 30; Oregon 59, Florida St. 20; Ohio St. 42, Oregon 20)
2015 season: 1-0 (Stanford 45, Iowa 16)
2016 season: 1-1 (Alabama 24, Washington 7; USC 52, Penn State 49)
2017 season: 0-2 (Ohio State 24, USC 7; Penn State 35, Washington 28)
2018 season: 0-1 (Ohio State 28, Washington 23)
2013 season: 6-3
2014 season: 6-3
2015 season: 6-4
2016 season: 3-3
2017 season: 1-8
2018 season: 3-4
Before the conference can go about trying to fix football, it must admit the product isn’t up to standard.