More than one year after the news broke of an upgraded matchup for the Pac-12 in the Las Vegas Bowl, we have full clarity.
The conference will face opponents from the SEC or Big Ten each December, starting in 2020, in the Raiders’ new stadium.
“The experience of hosting some of our premier Pac-12 events in Las Vegas has been tremendous for our student-athletes, universities and fans,” commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday, “and to have the opportunity to play in such an incredible stadium against top quality competition on a national stage through ESPN will be welcomed by our student-athletes and fans.”
In addition, the Pac-12 will drop the Cheez-It Bowl from its lineup in the 2020-25 cycle of games, per Stadium’s Brett McMurphy, and add the Los Angeles and Independence bowls. (The former will be played at the Rams’ new facility.)
Based on the known developments — not all the partnerships are official — here’s the likely Pac-12 lineup starting in 2020:
- Rose Bowl vs. Big Ten
- Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12
- Las Vegas Bowl vs. SEC/Big Ten
- Holiday Bowl vs. ACC
- Redbox (at 49ers stadium) vs. Big Ten
- Sun vs. ACC
- Los Angeles Bowl vs. Mountain West
- Independence Bowl vs. ACC
Reaction to the news:
• The L.A. Bowl is essentially the current Las Vegas Bowl, but in a better stadium.
• Fans might cringe at the Independence Bowl’s return, but it’s better than the Cheez-It from a recruiting standpoint. The Pac-12 doesn’t need exposure in Phoenix, but a postseason toe in the fertile south-central portion of the country is important.
• In general, the new lineup will be an indisputable upgrade over the current arrangements, in large part because of the Las Vegas Bowl’s elevated role.
However, we should note the specifics of that pairing. The SEC and Big Ten will alternate as the Pac-12 opponent — SEC in even years, the Big Ten in odd — and neither will send a top-tier team.
The SEC’s participant, for example, will come from the pool of teams not playing in the CFP, the New Year’s Six or the Citrus Bowl.
Apply those parameters to the 2018 season, and the SEC teams available for the Las Vegas Bowl would have been Mississippi State (8-4), Texas A&M (8-4), Missouri (8-4), South Carolina (7-5) and Auburn (7-5).
(The Big Ten has a similar pool process after its premium games.)
Ideal? Nope, but ideal wasn’t an option — the Citrus wasn’t losing its place in the SEC pecking order.
An improvement? Unquestionably.