The Pac-12 is too good for its own good

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Nobody else is saying it, so I will: The Pac-12 is the best, most-dominant, rife with talent, toughest to win in consistently, not-ugh-this-game-fucking-sucks-and-glad-I-watched-all-sixty-minutes-for-it-to-be-10-3, disturbingly proficient at producing NFL-ready players conference in college football. And yet, after last weekend they’ve virtually been eliminated from post-season ‘tournament’ play. Why taking the Pac-12 out of the equation is like taking the ACC out of post-season college basketball consideration. In other words, it’s the mark of a disastrous faux-team playoff® system.

By Andrew Pridgen

The four-team College Football Playoff system is a fucking joke.

For starters, the CFP leaves out at least one of the Power Five conferences. Can you imagine having to choose a pair of Harry Potter books to not make into films (OK, we could’ve all done without Goblet of Fire or Half-Blood Prince) or the Huxtables without Rudy or The Jackson 5 without Michael Tito? Or how stupid and not-tasty Four Guys Burgers sounds? Six-dollar footlongs? That sucks. How ‘bout giving your co-worker a high-three? Yes, the CFP is ostensibly leaving the opposing thumb off its roster—failing, in other words, to evolve into a real tournament.

Better yet, imagine in college hoops saying an ACC team can’t compete in March Madness because they had a handful of losses/didn’t win the conference championship: Sorry Coach K., but we’ve got to go with our gut and give your tourney bid to Buffalo and Albany (…more on the football/basketball analogy in the bullets below, because, yeah it’s just that good). Just picture the complete meltdown along the Eastern seaboard if the ACC were to get jobbed in hoops like the Pac-12 does in football. It’d be akin to the tuck call not being reversed and Our Lord and Savior Tom Brady as we know him having never been born.

The CFP’s philosophy is that a one-, or possibly two- or three-loss team doesn’t belong in a playoff regardless of regular season competition. This creates a very disinterested conglomerate of about 20 big square states that make up the majority of the country’s electorate. I can’t totally blame them though. Beyond Manhattan, everything East of where Hardee’s becomes Carl’s Jr. shuts down about the same time as Jiffy Lube and therefore, a Pac-12 tilt with a 7:30 PST kickoff has about as much chance of standing out as a gay bestie at a Katy Perry concert.

The East Coast-heavy demographic of the CFP voters also do a splendid job consistently alienating that really key electoral state on the left side of the map which is also the country’s most populous/richest. Yeah, that’s smart. Totally ignore your nation’s biggest, wealthiest, most influential base in favor of, I dunno Podunk religious school in the place where it floods because Jesus actually hates white people.

The CFP’s short-comings and growing pains cut especially deep this year as the prep school bully score-spitters seemed to be Bopping and Stanky Legging all over Bristol Saturday night singing ding dong the Pac-12’s gone after Oregon took down Stanford on The Farm and Arizona stole one at home from Utah.

ESPN.com senior editor Mark Schlabach couldn’t fucking wait to eulogize the West with his ‘Eliminator’ recap this week as his lede: Say goodbye to the Pac-12 was written in a fugue state while he was mainlining Arby’s Horsey Sauce and praying that his company’s 20 percent stake in DraftKings will spare the dying media juggernaut from cable ratings oblivion and save his job.

There are two ways to look at the parity of the Pac-12 this year: 1) They’re not that good. That every team’s just kind of pretty average, especially on defense, and can drop one to another pretty-average team any given Saturday. 2) They’re really really good and basically each team features a bunch of NFL-ready offensive set pieces who run more plays, more schema and execute more efficiently than the rest of the country. The shit is real. Usually this kind of play is rewarded with all the riches and adulation all the post-season schwag bag junk you can stuff into a carry-on. In CFP world top-to-bottom conference quality of play = self-destructive. CFP is the result of vetting based on convenience of time zones, favorable scheduling and who’s got the most Jimmy John’s within a three-mile radius of campus

For argument’s sake, I’ll take the latter, you know, argument that the Pac-12 is in fact really good—bolstered by the following:

  • Fact: Top-to-bottom there is no better, faster, stronger, more rigorous league in college football than the Pac 12. Oregon State and Colorado are as close to breathers opponents get and even they’ve won the majority of their out-of-conference match-ups (the Buffaloes were three for four and the Beavs were two for three, dropping one to Michigan). Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars can play with anyone, and faster than anyone in the country. Oregon and USC are NFL farm teams (see: below), UCLA and Cal feature lottery-pick QBs/the NFL’s future. Stanford and Utah are perhaps the most well-rounded teams in all of college football and the Arizona schools can and do beat anyone—especially when it’s not convenient. And yet NONE of these teams are going to make it past the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 30.
  • Fact: The conference is plagued by a trio of high-profile week-one losses (Arizona State lost to Texas A&M, Stanford dropped one to Northwestern and Washington got outplayed by Boise State…) not to mention Washington State hiccuping in its opener to Portland State. But it’s competitive out-of-conference play scheduling (I’m looking at you Big 12, SEC and ACC) that makes the Pac-12 noteworthy. Besides the B1G, who generally is down to party, the Pac-12 is the only Power Conference putting anything beyond Patsy State, Southern Racist Tech and Blue Laws U on the September schedule. Ohio State got walloped by Virginia Tech week one last year and we know how that turned out. Plenty of programs, good ones especially, don’t get it right until right about now (week 10-11). And many of the hottest West Coast teams (see: Oregon) are ostensibly eliminated while the offense is still getting the plugs switched out and a new air filter. What was that axiom in sports about the importance of getting hot at the right time? Doesn’t apply here.
  • Fact: What do Wofford, Appalachian State, Louisville, Georgia Tech, Boston College, Miami, NC State and Syracuse have in common? Besides the fact that they’re all unranked, they’ve made up all but two games in Clemson’s schedule. To its credit, Clemson handed Notre Dame its only loss to date and took down 8-2 Florida State (both at home) but week-over-week the competition is probably just a hair shy of a fifth grade talent show. Sure, maybe one kid will be able to show up and nail Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Doubt monologue but for the most part it’s two-seconds-off lip-syncing to One Direction and magic tricks that turn into soggy newspaper. The only Pac-12 programs Clemson would stand a chance against on the road are OSU, Washington, Cal and Colorado. The other eight would likely beat them at home or away. Can you imagine Clemson’s record with Washington State’s schedule? I can. It’d go something like this:

Portland State – W

@Rutgers – W

Wyoming – W

@ Cal – L

@ Oregon – L

Oregon State – W

@ Arizona – L

Stanford  – L

Arizona State – W

That’s right, to this point in the season Clemson with a Pac-12 schedule would likely be 5-4.

  • Fact: To extend the basketball analogy from above, the Pac-12 in football is similar to the ACC in hoops. Think of Stanford, Oregon, SC and LA as the Virgina, NC, Duke and Notre Dame. All fun to watch, right? That’s why I don’t begrudge all four of the aforementioned and then some from that conference competing in the field of 64. That’s why I do not bat an eye when a four-loss Duke team grabs a no. 1 seed in the big dance after losing its conference tournament—and then going on to win the whole thing. Why? Because they’re that good. They’re that fast and that smart and that well-coached and have to endure that much of a gauntlet during the regular season. Using the current CFP system, Duke’s 2015 championship season would have been done in mid-January.
  • Fact: The Pac-12 had 39 draftees into the NFL 2015. Sure, it wasn’t the SEC’s 54 but once there, Pac-12 players seem to have the most staying power. USC leads all schools with 38 players who are active on NFL rosters in 2015, just narrowly beating out the Oregon Ducks, which is tied with Alabama with 36. And this year should be no different with 49 Pac-12 players predicted to be drafted next April.
  • Fact: Arizona (7), Oregon (9), Cal (15) and UCLA (17) all have more total yards than Clemson (19). Of the Power Five conference schools, only Texas Tech and Baylor rank higher than a Pac-12 school. While keeping scoring low is a bit of a problem in the conference (Stanford, ranked 35 is tops in yards surrendered) maybe that says a little more about the pace of play and the athleticism on the field than the lack of quality defense.

-and-

Fact: Notre Dame is going to be beaten, handily, by Stanford on Nov. 28. Even if they lose to Cal, which they could, this weekend, Stanford should throw the Irish a beat-down on The Farm by double digits. To the domers’ credit, they’ll have mostly a House of Pain-sized hangover from the Shamrock Series football game Saturday night against Boston College at Fenway but more than that, the Irish haven’t faced a front seven like the Cardinal. Look for DeShone Kizer to be more lost and confused than as if he had just stumbled into a Math 51 lab on the Palo Alto campus.

So ESPN’s Ryan McGee, bend over to hide your boner because NOBODY this side of wherever there’s still a Krispy Kreme is looking forward to that Clemson, Iowa/Ohio State, Oklahoma State/Oklahoma and, I dunno, probably fucking Florida playoff.

To bide my time between now and January 12, I’ll look forward to the Pac-12 going undefeated again (OK, so Arizona dropped one to Boise State) in second- and third-tier bowl season action—El Paso is calling my name—and then in April watching the NFL take a flier on 50 of the conference’s finest as the prognosticators pretend the dozen schools with the most football talent in the land didn’t deserve a place on the national stage.

 

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  1. Very interesting! REALLY THIS is so frustrating. Call Phil Knight maybe he has the power. It’s all about everyone waiting for someone else to do it. Remember the 84 Olympic’s. A few guys headed by Peter Uberoff got together and planned it with volunteers (I’m one). They actually had a well run successful games with proud volunteers and a lot of money given to underprivileged kids who were given free train classes in many sports. Men and women could fix this but NOT NCAA. Put out a challenge it may work.