If you build it … Well, bowl me over!
At long last, we have some good news on the Pac-12 college football front. It has been a tumultuous offseason for the conference, which has been ridiculed and picked apart by publications across the land.
Luckily, every now and then even a blind squirrel finds a nut!
The New and Improved Las Vegas Bowl
The Conference of Champions has reportedly reached an agreement with the Las Vegas Bowl to play the game in the brand new Las Vegas Raiders Stadium, starting in 2020. That’s a major venue upgrade from the remotely-located, dilapidated, restroom-and-concession-challenged, Sam Boyd Stadium. Best of all, also starting in 2020, the Pac-12 will alternate annual match-ups with a B1G team and, hold on to your Duck lids, a representative from the vaunted SEC.
Imagine that — a game versus the Superior Everywhere Conference north of the Mason-Dixon line.
The SEC is currently the only Power 5 conference not on the Pac-12’s bowl schedule. Excluding the one BCS matchup between Auburn and Oregon — a game that a few of you may recall — the two conferences have played one another in just nine bowl games over the years.
The last SEC-Pac-12 contest was the Freedom Bowl between the University of Washington and the University of Florida on December 30, 1989.
With Mark Brunell at quarterback, Washington blew out Florida 34-7 and finished number 23 in the final AP Poll. The Huskies played in the next three Rose Bowls and won its second national title (shared with Miami) after the second contest. Meanwhile, the embarrassed Gators fired their head coach and hired some guy named Steve Spurrier, who coached in Gainesville for twelve seasons and elevated Florida to a national championship of its own.
There has been no formula declared for choosing the Pac-12 representative for the Las Vegas Bowl, but at least early on it looks like it will be the conference’s third-place finisher, with the top two getting spots in the Rose and Alamo Bowls. As for the BIG and SEC, they will alternate between sending teams to the Las Vegas Bowl and the Belk Bowl.
How long will it be before the Pac-12 football championship game follows the Pac-12 basketball tournament to Las Vegas? And how long before we see the Pac-12 opening on Labor Day weekend against an SEC squad at the Raiders’ stadium?
But Wait, There’s More!
This is not the only positive left coast bowl news.
Fret not Mountain West fans, your conference will still have a chance to embarrass its “big brother” in the postseason. The game will be called the Los Angeles Bowl and will be played in the new Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park.
“The Park,” also the home stadium for both the Los Angeles Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams, will host the College Football Playoff Championship game in 2023.
In another change, the Holiday Bowl will now feature a team from the ACC and not the B1G. This is one of the reasons I expect the Las Vegas Bowl to move up to third in the bowl game pecking order, with the Holiday Bowl dropping to fourth. The Los Angeles Bowl could also move up due to its prime market location.
With the addition of the Los Angeles Bowl, beginning in 2020 the Pac-12 will have eight guaranteed bowl spots, assuming, that is, that the conference can get eight teams to qualify.
Early Conference Outlook for 2019
While I have you, Athlon Sports, which I have found to be very accurate in its preseason prognostications over the years, has released its preseason rankings of every team in the country. (130 teams are in the hunt for the final four, right? Riiiight.)
Below are the rankings for the Pac-12 teams and the rankings of the teams that pose big and critical tests for the conference’s credibility in 2019.
12. Oregon — vs. No. 23 Auburn (TX), home against No. 96 Nevada
16. Utah — at No. 53 BYU
25. Washington State
34. Stanford — home against No. 24 Northwestern and No. 11 Notre Dame, at No. 15 UCF (Brutal out-of-conference schedule!)
48. USC — home against No. 46 Fresno St (watch out!), at No. 11 Notre Dame
49. Cal — at No. 68 Ole Miss
52. UCLA — at No. 30 Cincinnati, home against No. 4 Oklahoma (Good luck, Chip.)
56. Arizona State
97. Oregon State
(Our old pal Willie Taggart’s Florida State squad comes in at a historically low No. 50.)
Athlon has a final four of Alabama, Clemson, UGA and Oklahoma — in that order.
If these rankings are accurate, and the Ducks win the conference title, Clemson will play Georgia in the Rose Bowl and Oregon will face the B1G champ in the Fiesta or Peach Bowl.
So long Ducksters, and keep on keepin’ on until August 31, 2019.
Georgetown, Texas Top Photo by Bryan Kaisk
Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.
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