A Failed Fan Experience: the Pac-12 Championship Anticlimax

David Marsh Editorials 32 Comments

The expansion of the Pac-12 conference has not been to the benefit of fans. In my previous article I argued that the conference expansion has led to the loss of some key yearly rivalries, and that all we get in exchange is the promise of a glorious championship game.

The championship game is supposed to be a clash of titans, where the northern champion and the southern champion collide to provide a true champion of the Pac-12. At its best, it would be an inevitable collision between the two best teams in the conference.

The reality is something of an anticlimax.


Kenyon Barner breaks free against UCLA in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game.

Disappointing Matchups

The Pac-12 Championship game has only revealed where the power in the conference lies — of the nine Pac-12 Championship games, the North has won eight! What’s more, in those nine championship games, only three have been determined by less than 10 points — and one of those was USC’s lone win for the South Division in 2017. The rest have been one-sided victories for the North.

The current system hasn’t done a good job determining the best team in the Pac-12. In 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2018 the two best teams, based purely off their respective in-conference records, were both in the North.

This directly impacted Oregon in 2012 and 2015. In 2012, Oregon’s lone loss came from Stanford, when Oregon missed a field goal in the last minute of the game. Instead of having to play a rematch with 8-1 Oregon, Stanford went on to beat 6-3 UCLA to win the championship.

In 2015, Oregon went to “the Farm” and delivered Stanford their lone conference loss of the season. Instead of a rematch with 7-2 Oregon, Stanford beat a 6-3 USC team for the championship.

John Sperry

Oregon and Stanford were the top two teams in the Pac-12 for much of the last decade.

Oregon and Stanford are often the best two teams in the conference, and because they are in the same division they are unable to compete for the championship. Pairing the two top teams, regardless of division, would give a better chance for a truly special conference championship game.

The Dream Scenario

There is really only one dream scenario of how a conference championship game should play out, and that is that the two best teams in the conference play for all the marbles. Oregon has been in two of these games.

In 2014, Arizona defeated Oregon in Autzen. This sent all Oregon fans into a tailspin of despair over a potentially lost season. Oregon and Arizona met again in the championship game, and Oregon let the country know who really ruled the Pac-12, winning 51-13.

Last season, Utah and Oregon avoided each other during the regular season, only to collide in what was billed as the ultimate showdown for the conference crown. Most pundits didn’t give Oregon much of a chance, but Oregon put on a one-sided 37-15 demolition, squishing Utah’s dreams of a College Football Playoff appearance.

Eugene Johnson

CJ Verdell ran over Utah’s highly ranked rush defense.

What to do?

The best way to avoid boring championship games is to pit the two teams with the best conference records against each other. Ideally this would come with every team playing every other team. However, that would be a pretty brutal schedule for everyone, and would probably make it more difficult to get into the playoff.

What do you, the fans, want to see? The division champions continue to play it out and hope the southern half of the conference starts putting up a fight? Or would it be better to watch the two teams with the best conference records, regardless of division, duke it out in a climatic conclusion to conference play?

David Marsh
Portland, OR
Top Photo By: AmazingMomentsPhotography

Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.


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Jon Joseph

Thank you David and SPOT ON!

In light of P5/G5 teams looking at serious financial hits in 2020, I believe it is inevitable that the Playoff field goes to 8 teams in 2026; all P5 champs in. As a matter of fact, this virus could lead to the expansion of the field prior to the 2025 season.

When the field goes to 8, I would like to see divisions done with. 2 OOC games. And I would like to see the opening game every season vs Portland State. A good warm-up game, and an in-state institution gets a much needed check.

Then, an OOC game versus a P5 opponent. H+H series, no one off games. Tell SC to get lost and go with the once planned B1G/Pac-12 OOC games. If SC wants to continue to play Notre Dame bully for SC, but the rest of the concern should not be affected by the Trojans decision to do so. Ditto Stanford.

Frankly, SC and Stanford are doing nothing but helping ND recruit in CA. And in 2019, the Stanford stadium was only half full for the ND game. And it’s more than time for ND to be a full time football member of the ACC and have to play 13 games like every other team playing for a conference championship.

Play 10 conference games. 5 home and 5 away means there is no every other year home and away disadvantage as is the case today. Top 2 play a champ game at the home of the top seed, thereby rewarding the top team and its fans.

The only downside? If the ACC and the SEC continue to play but 8 conference games with 3 or even 4 cupcakes on the menu, the Pac-12 champ might not be able to get a top 4 seed?

But to heck with it. Conference foes should play one another. I think it is ridiculous that ACC and SEC teams go 6 years without playing one another.

Thanks for the great take.

Jon Joseph

NO DOUBT. With the 1st round likely and hopefully, played at the home of the top 4 seeds, seeding will be very important.

But I am down with conference competition and not gaming the system.

Using the Committee’s final rankings in 2019, the Ducks would have been playing at Clemson. Win? Looking at a semi-final game most likely against LSU.

Only the #1 seed is likely to get an ‘easy’ game; at home vs the G5 representative.

Go to 8, and in order to win it all you are going to play 3 tough, tough opponents.


I do not like conference championship games, and I do not like conference basketball tournaments because they ruin the major reason for playing a season of conference opponents. Peak at the right time and forget the prior months of play?

If we are to play a conference championship game, then add four teams to the Arizonas, Utah and Colorado and have Oregon play in the old “Pac-8” again and that “Surf” division champion plays the “Turf” division champion. (Kudos to Jon Joseph for the idea)

Or reduce the league back to the Pac-10, play nine conference games (and three non-conference games) and determine the winner based on record as we did before all this nonsense.

What has Utah and Colorado brought us anyway?

Good skiing?

Kim Hastings

Colorado brought us weed, years before it was legal in Oregon. As for Utah, I don’t know, I have always had a soft spot for them. A big love even.


The Pac-10 had it the best, with its round robin schedule determining the champion, then it messed it up, going to 12 teams, 2 divisions and the championship game. In basketball, the tournament winner is deemed “Champion”. Sometimes that team didn’t have the best record, but at least it had to win, 3, maybe 4 games, to get the trophy. In football, it could have taken only one game, for one of those teams from the South, to render an entire season meaningless by winning the championship.


The neutral location of the PAC 12 championship game has also been anticlimactic, usually with tv cameras needing to avoid large swaths of empty seats in the stands. The eventual move of this game to Las Vegas may solve this issue – we will see – but the best championship game for the fans was still the ‘best record earns home field’ raucous sellout game at Autzen!

Jon Joseph

The game should be played on the home field of the #1 seed. There is no reason for the Pac-12 to follow the B1G/SEC neutral site model.


And I would think it would save some money. A few million I would think. Could be used for something else.

Jon Sousa

Reading the article, I couldn’t help but think of the 2012 BCS Championship game between LSU and Alabama. If the SEC played with your suggestion, LSU and Alabama would have played in the SEC championship game. Assuming Alabama would have won the rematch, then Alabama and LSU would have played a third time in the BCS Championship game (after all, they were the best two teams in the country ***cough, choke, gag***).


What you’re saying is just what Alabama thinks of the National Championship game. “If two SEC teams make up the best two teams in the nation, then those two teams should play for the National Championship”. This of course makes the title of Conference Champion meaningless. And of course if Alabama can control who decides on the best two teams in the nation – all is good, right ??

College football will change this if it goes to an 8 game play off with P5 conference champions getting an automatic placement in the National playoffs. Bringing meaning back into the title of Conference Champion, at least for the P5 conferences.


That creates a monopoly. Which is of course what we have now. Year after year we see the same teams playing for the National Championship, and none of them from the Pac-12. Yep, lots of fun in that. (yawn, yawn)

National champion
2019 LSU
2018 Clemson
2017 Alabama
2016 Clemson
2015 Alabama
2014 Ohio State
2013 Florida State
2012 Alabama
2011 Alabama
2010 Auburn

The last Pac champion was 16 years ago. Yep, lots of fun in that.

Parity cannot be achieved when you have a monopoly system. Now if you like a monopoly system then be happy cause that is what we have now.


Agreed with you on the National championship selection. Still pondering the Pac-12 changed you suggest.

Jon Joseph

The current $ crunch is likely to give us an 8 team field prior to 2026?


Adversity often creates change, this might be spot on.


Just saw a report on ESPN that Power 5 Commissioners have been conferencing and it doesn’t look good for a season this fall.


Your last sentence is right, David. The first rule of any championship game is that the teams participating in it are the two best teams, that is sacrificed with it having to be the two division winners. The fact that it is a Playoff “selection” is why that is such a mess from the start and that FCS has it right.

Mike West

So far I’m the lone dissenter. USC is usually the main power, and a reprieve from hearing that damn Trojan band has been nice, but when they re-emerge the Conference will shine once again. Then the balance of power the North holds will bring credibility back West.

We need USC and UCLA to come back.

Jon Joseph

I’m not sure what UCLA has to return to? Gary Beban left the building a long time ago.

I am sure that Helton is NOT the man to bring SC back. Brilliant move going with Cutty Sark instead of Coach O.

But what can you expect from a Rhodes Scholar?


If it would mean beating the fuskies TWICE in one season , I’m ALL IN !!!!


I’m with you, David. In fact I’d say that “anticlimax” is too positive of a descriptor of the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game. Farce is more like it. The championship is supposed to pit the two best teams against each other.

. The idea that to determine the best team means one from the North & the South have to match-up is flawed; putting structure over substance. Once in a while like last season it does work out, and the two best teams did meet for the championship; and the North won easily. But overall, the Big 12 has it right, when the season is done the two best records play for the title.

Jon Joseph

Is this Helton’s 10th year of being back? Sure seems like it. SC under Helton will not be back. SC’s showing in its bowl game last season versus the #3 team in the B1G W was a pathetic showing.

With Daniels having abandoned Troy for Athens, SC best keep Slovis upright.

SC under Urban Meyer? DUCK!


Fortunately, for now at least the new AD @ USC has put the kibosh on Urban Meyer. The story at USC though is how far the program has dropped since Carroll left. Helton wasn’t picked out of a glamorous collection of applicants, he was basically the only guy that wanted the gig…except for Big Ed.


I agree a thousand percent. And every conference should be doing what the Big 12 does. Play a full 10 games, even 11, and then put the 2 top teams in the top game at the end. Done.



You always write about relevant topics worthy of pondering, David. In the spirit of “next man (game) up” splitting hairs as “anti climatic” is not my style. An important game for the Ducks is fun any way you slice it. If the second best conference team is left out due to alignments it is a shame. Thanks, but there are bigger fish to fry. On the far side the end is near.