The Pac-12 was the conference of cannibals and usually the most chaotic conference in the country. It was certainly one of the most interesting and entertaining to watch because, on any given week, anyone could beat anyone. Mr. FishDuck took some away from studying odds to win the Super Bowl, and enjoying Super Bowl Props to agree with my contention of a very successful year in the Pac-12.
But now the conference is dead, no matter what Beaver and Cougar fans say, and its teams are now a part of four different conferences. All those conferences may think they’re picking up some extra market shares and better television rights, but the truth of the matter is that none of them truly understand what they acquired in the conference reshuffling.
The B1G gets Oregon, Washington, USC and UCLA. Historically speaking, the most dangerous team in this lot should theoretically be USC. With Lincoln Riley they will be dangerous, but they are unlikely to contend for the B1G Championship in the first few years. Washington has a depleted roster and may surprise a few teams in the B1G, but they too aren’t a true threat to win the conference. As for UCLA, like the other two they will be a problem but not a threat to the top end of the B1G.
Oregon, however, will turn the conference upside-down. The B1G has been dominated by two programs, Ohio State and Michigan, with the occasional contenders of Wisconsin and Michigan State over the last decade. But with the entry of the Ducks it changes the top of the conference completely. Oregon is already projected to compete for a conference championship, which does not seem unreasonable because Oregon is a close second in terms of roster quality to Ohio State.
As of right now it is highly likely that the Ducks and Buckeyes meet a second time next season in the conference championship game. The other three west coast members will simply make other B1G members’ lives miserable with a game or two on the west coast every year against teams that are better than their Pac-12 records ever showed.
The Big 12
The Big 12 was desperate to add more power programs to its roster with the loss of Texas and Oklahoma. They aggressively added Colorado back to the Big 12 and then acquired Utah, Arizona and Arizona State when the Pac-12’s collapse was imminent. In doing so they added more content to their television deal, but in the process they may have just assured that their remaining members won’t be winning any conference championships or gaining any playoff berths in the near future.
Utah comes to the Big 12 with a loaded roster, and with Cam Rising back next season they will have a veteran quarterback on the roster. Under Kyle Whittingham the Utes have been title contenders in the Pac-12 for the better part of the last six or seven years, and actually won the conference twice — more than the rest of the Pac-12 South combined.
Then add Arizona to the mix, which has a strong roster that Jedd Fisch put together over his tenure (and it appears the main pieces are not leaving for Washington) and Arizona could potentially compete for the Big 12 this year.
As for Arizona State and Colorado, both have quite a bit of rebuilding to do, but in Year 2 for both Deion Sanders and Kenny Dillingham both programs should make significant strides. It is possible that in a year or two they too will be competing for the Big 12 crown, but this year both should find themselves bowl eligible as they are in a weaker conference than the one they left.
This means other Big 12 teams may find themselves on the losing end of conference realignment.
Perhaps one of the strangest parts of conference realignment was Cal and Stanford joining the Atlantic Coast Conference. They are the only two members on the west coast and they will be traveling a lot for all their away games. However, they will still play half their conference games at home, which means there is a significant chunk of the ACC that is going to travel to the west coast every year.
Travel is tough under normal circumstances, but traveling across the country for conference games is going to be absolutely brutal for all the teams involved.
Cal and Stanford are not expected to compete for a conference championship this year or even any time soon, but they will be an absolute nightmare for any team they match up against. These teams have been the definition of trap games for much of the Pac-12 where they are not so dominant that teams circle them on their calendar, but they are all too happy to take down opponents who take them lightly.
As Duck fans we are all too aware of the misery we have been forced to bear from our games against Stanford on “the Farm” and now the ACC gets to experience them — along with the heartache they entail.
The Mountain West
This might seem like the least consequential of all the conference changes but with OSU and WSU being football members in the Mountain West next year, they may have doomed the conference from making the playoff. There is one automatic bid in the playoff for the highest-ranked Group-of-Five program, but in order to be the highest ranked G5 school it will require that program to go undefeated.
With the addition of the Beavers and the Cougars, any team making it through the Mountain West unscathed is highly unlikely. Oregon State will probably have one loss to the Ducks, which could be fine if they run the table otherwise, but there is a good chance they will drop another game along the way which would disqualify them.
But Oregon State and Washington State are both good enough teams that they should beat the majority of their Mountain West competition. This type of cannibalism was the trademark of the Pac-12 for years. The likelihood of a Mountain West team making the playoff was low before, and now it feels almost impossible.
The Rest of the College Football World will Mourn the Pac-12’s Passing
With all this potential chaos throughout college football it is very possible that fans from other conferences will stop making fun of the defunct west coast conference and instead lament its passing. All that chaos was bottled up on the west coast and allowed for the top teams in each conference to have a relatively straightforward paths to success.
The old way of doing things was not perfect, but it did create regionally-dominant teams, and that has all been turned on its head. Some fanbases will struggle more than others in this new college football world order. Perhaps as former Pac-12 fans, we can laugh at their misery, and maybe we can get the respect our west coast teams deserve.
Top Photo By Craig Strobeck
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in technology in SLC, Utah.
David Marsh is a high school social studies teacher in Portland, Oregon. As a teacher he is known for telling puns to his students who sometimes laugh out of sympathy, and being both eccentric about history and the Ducks.
David graduated from the University of Oregon in 2012 with Majors in: Medieval Studies, Religious Studies, and Geography. David began following Ducks Football after being in a car accident in 2012; finding football something new and exciting to learn about during this difficult time in his life. Now, he cannot see life without Oregon football.
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