It may seem like everyone in the country is bent on dumping on the Pac-12, but recent results make it difficult to change opinions..
Oregon's 34-17 loss to Iowa State in Saturday's Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., officially ended the Pac-12's football season, and the only blessing is that it's over before it gets even worse.
The Pac-12 went 0-2 in postseason games, and the margin of defeat in both was more than two touchdowns.
Clarence Darrow would have trouble defending that record.
Colorado, the only other Pac-12 team to play in a bowl game this season, lost to Texas 55-23 in the Alamo Bowl. That lopsided result apparently did not impress the Texas administration, though, because Longhorns coach Tom Herman was fired on Saturday. And Texas had to pay $24 million to buy out Herman and his coaching staff to get rid of him.
Former Washington and USC head coach Steve Sarkisian, who currently is Alabama's offensive coordinator, will be Texas' next head coach. That is an interesting choice considering the way his time at USC ended, but that's another story.
The Pac-12 could point to the poor postseason results of the ACC, which was 0-6 in bowls, but beyond that only Conference-USA, which also was 0-6, went without a postseason win.
The Big 12, which handed the Pac-12 both of its postseason losses, went 5-0 in bowls.
The SEC is 6-2, with three SEC teams that finished with losing regular-season records winning bowl games against ranked teams. And Alabama is favored to win another national crown.
The Big Ten has a 3-1 bowl record, with Ohio State still alive for a national title.
American Athletic Conference: 1-5 (with two of the losses by fewer than four points)
Mountain West: 2-1.
Sun Belt: 3-1.
Of course, you can claim that the Pac-12's bowl foes were better than anything the Sun Belt or MAC went up against.
You could also insist that the constant interruptions caused by the Pac-12's tighter restrictions during the pandemic made it difficult for Pac-12 teams to gain any offensive or defensive rhythm.
Finally, you could argue that Colorado, which played only five regular-season games, and Oregon, which played just six games, had a distinct disadvantage against Big 12 foes Iowa State, which had played 11 games, and Texas, which played nine games.
That last argument took a beating Friday night, though, when an Ohio State team that had played just six games sliced and diced powerhouse Clemson, which had played 11 games.
Oregon was the Pac-12 champion, even though it barely finished with a winning record, at 4-3. And the Ducks did not play like the champion of a power five conference on Saturday, when they committed four turnovers. And it would be five if you count that odd onside kick that Oregon bungled into an Iowa State possession.
Oregon presumably will carry the Pac-12's banner into next season, but the Ducks could begin the 2021 season with a quarterback controversy.
Tyler Shough ended up leading the Pac-12 in passer rating by a sizable margin, but he shared time in the Fiesta Bowl with Anthony Brown, a Boston College grad transfer, who helped the Ducks win the Pac-12 championship game and did a decent job in the Fiesta Bowl as well.
Shough, a redshirt sophomore, went 7-for-9 for 79 yards, no touchdowns and an interception against Iowa State (9-3), while Brown was 12-for-19 for 147 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions, but also had touchdown runs of 6 and 16 yards.
Because the 2020 season does not count against any player's eligibility, Brown could opt to return to Oregon for the 2021 season and compete with Shough for the starting job.
Beyond the quarterback question, there is the concern about the Ducks' rushing defense. They ranked 57th in the country in rushing defense, and that was before allowing Iowa State to run for 228 yards, including 136 by the Cyclones' Breece Hall. That doesn't sound like a power five champion.
The goal for the Pac-12 during a 12-game 2021 season will be to prove that everything that happened in the weird 2020 season should be dismissed as irrelevant.
The pursuit of that goal will begin when Oregon plays a road game against Ohio State in the second game of the 2021 season.
Cover photo by Joe Camporeale, USA TODAY Sports
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