Pac-12 Overview

The Pac-12 race was expected to be top-heavy to the North in the first year of the expanded superconference and the season has played out according to expectations. Stanford and Oregon have separated themselves from the rest of the conference and point to their November 12 showdown that will settle both the division title and who the favorite is for the league championship game. The Ducks or Cardinals will presumably hold the top record in the conference overall, something that gives them the right to host the title game, the only conference that confers this advantage on its best team. The South is equally clear, with Arizona State holding the lead, but UCLA one game back and playing the Sun Devils this week. USC is on probation and ineligible for any postseason action, including their own conference championship game.

Last year the Pac-12 grabbed an additional bid to the BCS and Stanford didn't disappoint when they trashed Virginia Tech 40-12 in the Orange Bowl. The loser of Oregon-Stanford is again going to hold the inside track to a marquee game, though if the loser of that game also loses a second one, it's possible–though not likely–they could be angled out by a Big Ten team. A BCS bid then pulls everyone else one notch up the conference's ladder of bids and would send the South champ (presumably Arizona State) or the third-place team in the North (presumably Washington) to the Alamo and Holiday Bowls, where they would draw quality Big 12 opposition. The Sun Bowl is another prime location for a middle-class team like Cal or UCLA if they can finish strong. The bottom line? Between the possiblity of an extra team in the BCS, and the loss of USC, there's going to be a lot of Pac-12 teams playing in better bowls than they earn on the field. Bad for fans, but a great opportunity for these programs to make a statement win come bowl season.

Andrew Luck is going to win Player of the Year and almost certainly the Heisman Trophy, but as good as he is, and as legitimate a pro prospect as I think he is, we should be a little more cautious before crowning him with college football's top honors. He plays within an oustanding offensive system and an underrated running game that ran over Washington and got the job done against USC. Luck doesn't have to carry the load in this offense. Within the Pac-12, LaMichael James' injury problems at Oregon certainly hurt the cause of the primary challenger, but let's not overlook someone like USC receiver Robert Woods, who has been the single-minded focus of a productive Trojan passing game.