It’s been an exciting “final” year for the Pac-12 Conference
Fifth-ranked and undefeated Washington outlasted Oregon State, 22-20, at Reser Stadium on Saturday night.
The victory improved the Huskies to 11-0 on the season and clinched a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Washington went into the weekend ranked fifth in both the AP Top 25 and the BCS. Believe it or not, Oregon State, which headed into Saturday night’s clash ranked 11th in both the Top 25 and the BCS, was still alive for a shot at the Pac-12 title. Unfortunately for the Beavers, the loss eliminated them from that possibility, but it’s been a damn-fine year for one of the two schools that will still be a member of the Pac-12 in 2024 (the other is Washington State).
Yep, Washington, along with Oregon, UCLA and USC, are leaving the Pac-12 to join the Big Ten in 2024. Also, Cal and Stanford are defecting for the ACC (that’s right, the ATLANTIC Coast Conference) next season. And let’s not forget that Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah are leaving for the Big 12 in 2024.
Speaking of Arizona, 8-3 and ranked 19th in the Top 25 and 17th in the BCS, it’s still alive for a spot in the Pac-12 title game. If the Wildcats defeat Arizona State, and Oregon gets upset by the Beavers in the final week, Arizona would then get to face the Huskies for all the conference marbles.
Oh, yes, the Ducks. I suppose I should talk about them some more. They head into their final regular-season game with a 10-1 record and ranked sixth in both the AP and the BCS. If the Ducks defeat Oregon State, they will clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game and a rematch with a Washington team that gave them their only loss on October 14.
A Washington/Oregon rematch could have more on the line than just conference bragging rights. It certainly could for the Huskies. If Washington can survive its final regular-season game vs. rival Washington State (5-6), it will surely vault into the top four of the BCS rankings, thanks to someone having to lose the Ohio State/Michigan matchup.
But what if that happens, but the Huskies then go on the lose to Oregon in the conference title game? Would the Ducks, who would be 12-1, then get the nod for one of the four seeds in the college football playoffs?
What a year it’s been for the Pac-12 in college football, not only in terms of on-field competition but also in terms of Primetime. That’s right, I’m talking about Buffaloes head coach, Deion Sanders, who took the college football world by storm early on when he had his Colorado program, one that was 1-11 a year ago, undefeated through three weeks of the 2023 regular season. The Buffaloes have fallen back down to reality since then and are now 4-7–including 1-7 in the conference–but all eyes were on the rocky mountains for the first month of the season.
Heck, I can’t forget about a Utah team that went into the weekend ranked 22nd in the nation.
There is a lot to like about the Pac-12. I guess that’s why the majority of the teams were poached by other conferences, as the college sports landscape continues to change due to conference realignment at the behest of college football and the network revenue that it brings in.
The fate of the Pac-12 remains unclear. I don’t know how it could stay at the Power Five level even if it manages to poach 10 schools from other conferences, but its 2024 condition will have nothing to do with its 2023 on-field football product, that’s for darn sure.
The Pac-12 as we know it is going out with a bang, and it may even claim a college football national championship before it’s through.