Last week's NFL draft, once and maybe for all, dismissed the notion that the Pac 12 was a third-rate football conference.
Close, though, missed it by only one letter.
What the draft proved was that the Pac was third-rated or, if you prefer, rated third.
That's third in the world, out of 10 major conferences dabbling in major college football.
That's third behind the SEC and the Big Ten with the Pac's champion defeating the Big Ten's representative in the Rose Bowl. That is not fifth or sixth doing talking-head battle with the American Conference.
The draft, not surprisingly, is the ultimate truth-teller and the ultimate first-down yard marker.
It sure does go to figure that the more great players you have the better you, generally, are, duh.
The final NFL player tally, by conference, pretty much mirrors how I would have ranked the five power conferences coming out of the 2019 season.
--Big Ten (48)
--Pac 12 (32)
--Big 12 (21)
--Conference USA (10)
--Mountain West (10)
I would have only ranked the Big 12 ahead the ACC for the reason we were screaming all season: Except for Clemson, the ACC was woefully weak and by far the worst of the power leagues.
The NFL draft only accentuated that point: If you take away Clemson's seven NFL picks, the Big 12 moves ahead of the ACC. Also remember the ACC has four more schools than the 10-team Big 12.
The entirety of the NFL draft conference list merely states the obvious.
The SEC was, by far, the best college football conference in America.
No one with a brain would ever dispute that. Twice as good as everyone else?
The only caveat any of us Left-Heads ever made in the form of a counterpoint was that the SEC was very top-heavy, 14-team league with a lot of its lower-tiered schools gravy-training off the reputation of its elite squads. We're ALWAYS looking at you, Mississippi State.
This, too, was borne out in the final NFL draft list.
LSU and Alabama claimed a whopping 23 of the SEC's 63 picks.
If you removed LSU and its ridiculous 14 draft picks, a 13-team SEC would stand one pick ahead of the 14-team Big Ten, 49-48.
Four SEC schools-- LSU Alabama, Florida, Georgia, accounted for 37 NFL picks--almost half the conference's total.
So how should the Pac 12 feel about its imaged-scorned self?
Not terribly, horrifically bad, considering, with this important point. This is about football and only football.
It is not a third-ranking for commissioner, financial stability, revenue distribution, officiating, vision, cable network or long-term relations with China.
When you count only football, however, a third-ranked finish was pretty decent considering USC, the league's flagship program, had only TWO players drafted.
Lost in the post-draft bombardment by Trojan fans on their Trojans was the fact USC only sent forward five draft-eligible players with starting experience. And don't look now but USC is doing some of its best comeback recruiting work during a pandemic.
USC, an undeniably young team in 2019, is putting all it has into the 2020 season (if there is one).
Now, if USC plays this year and has only two NFL players drafted in 2021, you'll know Clay Helton was fired anywhere between late October and early December.
One big takeaway from this year's NFL draft was Utah, with a Pac 12 high seven draft picks, so under-performing in two huge losses to USC (two picks) and Oregon (four picks).
Utah's Kyle Whittingham, hours after losing to Oregon in the Pac 12 title game, was never-the-less named Pac 12 Coach Of the Year.