2. Q: Will there ever be a good non-conference win?
Arizona State beat Michigan State. That was about it.
Okay, so Colorado beat Nebraska and Cal took care of North Carolina, but neither game moved any needle.
Oregon beat the poor old Spartans, too, in the Redbox Bowl, and Washington State got by Iowa State in the Alamo, but …
Oregon State gave up 77 to Ohio State. Stanford got whacked by Notre Dame. Arizona wet itself against BYU and Houston. USC got thumped by Texas and couldn’t get past Notre Dame. UCLA lost to freakin’ Cincinnati and got thumped by Oklahoma. Worst of all, Washington the league’s standard-bearer, lost the opener to Auburn.
The problem wasn’t just that the Pac-12 lost all of those games against the good non-conference teams on the schedule; the problem was that it wasn’t a shock.
Expectations and national perceptions are so low, it’s just assumed that the Pac-12 is locked in at No. 5 on the list of Power Five conferences. But it’s not like the league is that bad, and it’s about to be a whole lot stronger this season.
Everyone will beat everyone else up in conference play. The South will be a weekly bag of wacky with all six teams possessing the potential – yes, include Colorado if the offensive stars stay healthy – to beat anyone else.
Washington-Stanford-Oregon-Wsahington State, and to a lesser extent if there’s an offense, Cal. No one’s coming out of the North without taking several body blows.
Parity makes for a fun and exciting Pac-12 season, but throw in some spicy non-conference wins to get America interested before or after dark, and the league can go from a relative afterthought to a high-rising star in a hurry.
It might just take one.
If Oregon beats Auburn in the season-opener in Arlington, TX – game on.
That would be huge, but if the Pac-12 really wants to make a statement to get people buzzing, imagine the hype if UCLA has a coming out party with a gigantic upset over the visiting Oklahoma Sooners.
Arizona gets a shot at Texas Tech. Arizona State goes to Michigan State. Cal goes to Ole Miss. Colorado hosts Nebraska. Oregon State gets Oklahoma State up in Corvallis. Stanford and USC get Notre Dame.
Pac-12, just win a few of those. Become a speedbump, and there’s a big problem considering the league has way too many can’t-help-could-REALLY-hurt games.
If Washington State beats Houston in Houston … fine. But the Pac-12’s Cougars could absolutely lose that.
Stanford could absolutely lose at UCF. USC could absolutely lose to Fresno State. Utah could absolutely get stunned by Northern Illinois. UCLA could absolutely lose (again) to Cincinnati on the road or at home against San Diego State.
And heaven help the conference if Hawaii somehow wins both home games against Arizona and Oregon State to open things up.
Lose the big ones, and once again …
NEXT: Where’s the College Football Playoff contender?