And thus football season ended on the West Coast, with the Pac-12 earning a record of 2-5 in bowl games. Considering that USC's ineligibility cost the conference an elite bowl representative AND kicked every team up a rung in the pecking order, that dismal record can hardly be considered a surprise. If you're into caring about conference reputation, all that really matters is that the elite teams acquitted themselves well, winning one BCS bowl and losing another by the narrowest of margins. Hell, only Arizona St. got blown out - the four other losers all fell by 11 points or less.
Me? I'm done caring about conference affiliation. Thanks to the expansion of the BCS there is only one situation when conference reputation matters: when a team is competing for a spot in the national title game. After that, it's all about whatever it is that makes BCS bowls pick an at-large team, and as we've seen over the years football reputation is pretty low on the list of criteria.
Let's move on to Pac-12 events that might actually impact Cal. It didn't get a ton of coverage around these parts because the news was announced on the same day as a certain bowl game in San Diego, but the Pac-12 announced a pretty big development: Larry Scott has made an agreement with Jim Delany and the Big-10 on a "collaborative effort'' that means annual non-conference games between the two conferences across basketball and many Olympic sports, with a full 12 football games starting in 2017.
With the Bears playing Texas in 2015 and 2016, I would guess that the Bears are one of the primary reasons that the full, 12 game Pac-12/Big-10 schedule isn't starting until 2017. I wouldn't mind if Cal added a lower tier Big 10 program to the schedule (your Indianas, your Minnesotas) but Texas and, say, Nebraska would be a little much for one year.
So, what do people think about the deal? Well, a quick survey of the blogosphere seems to indicate that most are in favor of the deal. Just one year removed from the Mountain West, Utah fans are thrilled that Big-10 schools will visit Salt Lake City. 69% of Washington fans like the move. Even the curmudgeonly Bruins are behind Larry Scott! Out on the other side of the country, Off Tackle Empire is firmly in favor, and Iowa fans are looking forward to better non-con opponents. In fact, MGoBlog is the only blog I've seen voicing reservations, mostly because of specific Michigan issues involving Big-10 scheduling quirks. Is this actually a thing that happened in college football that is basically universally praised? Does that still happen?
My take? A great move. A major problem in college football is that there's no incentive to schedule tough out-of-conference opponents . . . but with this move, every team in two of the four best conferences will play at least one meaningful game. It will boost both conference's strength of schedule numbers, and it will guarantee great resume wins for a few teams, and schools that have generally ducked tough non-conference teams will have to play real games. Hey, it might even force the SEC to schedule real games . . . OK, no it won't. But most importantly, it means good, entertaining football games that we'll all look forward to watching. That's why we're fans, right?
Basketball-wise . . . there is no guarantee that the Big-10 will continue to be the best basketball conference in the nation, but they are right now and will continue to be excellent in the foreseeable future. Perhaps we won't have to agonize about how poor a job conference teams have done setting up their schedule when these games roll around.
This Week In The Pac-12: Basketball
It was mostly chalk this week, as Cal, Stanford, Washington, Arizona and Colorado all protected their home court in games they were favored to win. Even Washington State managed to split at home against Oregon and Oregon St. As a result, there isn't a ton of interesting things to say about what could have been a more intriguing weekend, but we'll try as always!
Team of the Week: Washington
Cal and Stanford would also be deserving choices, but Oregon and Oregon St. are collectively better teams than UCLA and USC (WHAT ALTERNATE UNIVERSE ARE WE LIVING IN?) and so the nod goes to the Huskies. Washington closed out Oregon St. with a 12-0 run in the last three minutes of the game before controlling the Ducks for the majority of a game that was inexplicably chosen for prime time exposure on ESPN2.
Disappointment of the Week: Oregon State
The northwest road trip is a tough one, but it's still disappointing that Oregon State couldn't earn at least a split. After some promising results in the non-conference schedule, the Beavers had some dark horse championship buzz and even sported a conference player of the year candidate in Jared Cunningham. Losing twice doesn't kill those chances, but Beavers fans probably expected more from Cunningham than 13 points against Washington and seven total turnovers on the weekend.
Player of the Week: Tony Wroten
I didn't want to give both positive awards to one team, but Wroten impressed me. I've wondered in the past why he's been taking so many shots when you've got C.J. Wilcox and Terrance Ross on the floor, but Wroten did something he hasn't done a ton of: play efficient basketball. He shot well over 50% on the weekend and had a better than 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. If he plays like that more often, with the type of talent UW has elsewhere on the roster, the Huskies become much, much scarier in conference.
Back in the good ole days of the Pac-10, there were always nine games every week, with two matchups of 'travel partners' (Bay Area vs. Washington schools, Arizona schools vs. Oregon schools, etc.) and one rivalry game. But with six travel partners, that's no longer possible. So this week we get a smorgasbord of 12 games to enjoy*
Thursday (All times Pacific Standard)
Washington at Colorado, 6:00
Washington St. at Utah, 6:00
Stanford at Oregon, 6:00
California at Oregon St., 7:00
Arizona St. at USC, 7:30
Arizona at UCLA, 8:00
Washington at Utah, 11:00
Washington St. at Colorado, 1:00
Stanford at Oregon St., 7:00
Arizona St. at UCLA, 7:30
Arizona at USC, 2:30
Cal at Oregon, 4:30
The most intriguing foursome are the games involving Oregon, Oregon St., Cal and Stanford. The Beavers are good enough to give any team a run for their money at home, and the Ducks are likely to always be a tough out at Matt Court. Kenpom favors Cal and Stanford to win all four games on the road this weekend, but all four have low to very low confidence ratings. I'd be shocked if both Northern California schools survive the week unscathed, but watching to see who falls will be the fun.
None of the other match-ups look exciting, but I'd enjoy watching UCLA and Arizona battle, in part because it's a better test for the Wildcats than a sorry Arizona St. team, but also because UCLA is in real danger of falling to 0-3. If that happens their Saturday game against Arizona St. is worth watching. How long can the flagship of west coast basketball remain miserable until something happens?
*Your enjoyment of games involving Utah and USC may vary