AUSTIN, Texas -- Mack Brown united and revived a divided and dormant Texas football program and coached the Longhorns to their first undisputed national title in 36 years.
Now, after four seasons with at least four losses, Brown is stepping down to make way for the next coach to try to push the Longhorns back into the nation's elite.
Texas announced Saturday night that Brown, who won the 2005 national championship, is retiring after 16 seasons, with his final game to be the Dec. 30 Valero Alamo Bowl against Oregon.
In a statement released by the school Saturday night, Brown acknowledged it was time for a change after a 30-20 record and 18-17 mark in the Big 12 over the last four seasons. Texas is 8-4 this season and lost the Big 12 title to Baylor in the final game of the regular season.
Brown made the decision to resign Saturday at about 4 p.m. ET, a university source told ESPN's Shelley Smith, and told everyone closely associated with the program personally.
New athletic director Steve Patterson was seen about that time walking around Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, gazing at walls and statues.
Brown then went to the team's first practice for the Alamo Bowl. After it ended, he gathered players and recruits and told them he was stepping down, a moment that was met with stunned silence, the source said. On Saturday night, Brown and his wife, Sally, attended a dinner for recruits and their families as usual and worked the room for more than two hours.
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To the notes!
William from Santa Barbara writes: Lets pretend that Oregon got an invite to the BCS, so all of the PAC-12 schools, except Stanford, moved up in the bowl pecking order. Would the PAC still be favored in all of their games? What does this say about the strength of our bowl lineup?
Ted Miller: Oregon would not be favored against Alabama in the All-State Sugar Bowl. More on that in a bit.
But your point is solid. The lineup, after the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio between Stanford and Michigan State, probably would look like this:
- Arizona State vs. Oklahoma State, Valero Alamo Bowl.
- UCLA vs. Kansas State, National University Holiday Bowl
- USC vs. Virginia Tech, Hyundai Sun Bowl
- Washington vs. Fresno State, Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl
- Arizona vs. BYU, Fight Hunger Bowl
- Washington State vs. Colorado State, Gildan New Mexico Bowl
- Oregon State vs. Boston College, AdvoCare V100 Bowl
[Edit note: As some readers pointed out -- do'h! on my part -- if Oregon played in the Sugar Bowl, then Oklahoma would play in the Cotton Bowl, knocking the other Big 12 teams down a notch. Ergo, this has been changed.]
That is a favorable slate for the Pac-12, though the Sun Devils would be an underdog to the Cowboys. Other than that, you could make an argument that the Pac-12 still might be favored in every game, as it presently is with its "real" bowl lineup, though BYU might get the edge over Arizona.
That only would be more confirmation of the depth of the Pac-12 in 2013, at least pending the results of the games.
However, it's also fair to point out that two things happened to water down the Pac-12 bowl game opponents: No. 1, the Big 12 and ACC both got two BCS bowl teams. No. 2, the Big 12 and ACC got two BCS bowl teams during a season in which neither conference was terribly deep.
Marc from Albuquerque writes: Am I the only ducks fan out there who is thankful we did not get invited to play Bama in the Sugar Bowl? The way the ducks have played in the past month we would have zero chance to beat Bama. Texas is a much more winnable game and duck fans should be more excited to finish the season with a win than a beat down from the SEC.
But, as previously noted, I don't think Oregon would beat Alabama, and I base that in large part on the final four games.
That said: At midseason, I would have rated the Ducks' chances against the Crimson Tide at close to 50-50. That was when Oregon was trucking along in dominant fashion. And QB Marcus Mariota was 100 percent healthy.
In fact, that is one of the big questions for the bowl season, and would be a huge issue for a hypothetical matchup with Alabama. With just more than a month to rest, would Mariota be back to his midseason form as the nation's best dual threat quarterback?
Mariota at 100 percent probably means Oregon rolls Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl. And it likely would make a matchup with Alabama, at the very least, interesting well into the fourth quarter.
Benvolio from Ashland, Ore., writes: I have a nagging thought on which I'd like your input. My main concern with hiring Sark at 'SC is the development of Keith Price over the past 3 seasons. While he threw less INTs this season than he had in previous ones, I haven't seen much clear improvement in his playing ability. Cody Kessler, on the other hand, got better in nearly every game all season long. Clearly there are too many factors at play to boil everything down to coaching, but regardless it's leaving me a little nervous about the future of our quarterback.
I think Steve Sarkisian's recovery job with Price this year was outstanding. Price looked shellshocked in 2012 after a brilliant debut campaign the year before. While he fells short of his 2011 numbers, he definitely bounced back and redeemed himself. I think Price's development is far more a positive than a negative on Sark's resume.
That said, I think Huskies QB coach Marques Tuiasosopo deserves a lot of credit for Price getting his footing again, and he is expected to follow Sarkisian to USC.
There are plenty of things to worry about with USC. But a Sark-Tuiasosopo combination working with Kessler and the Trojans QBs is not high on the list.
Elk from Los Angeles writes: Does UCLA QB Brett Hundleystay another year? This year, biggest dual threat QB is Manziel, next year would have to deal with Winston and Mariota.
Ted Miller: I think Hundley, who has tremendous upside, should return for his redshirt junior season, but that has to be a decision he's fully invested in. The worst thing to do is come back and then spend the next year fretting over whether you made the right call.
Hundley likely would be an early-round draft pick this spring just based on his natural ability. He'd be a project but one with a substantial potential payoff.
I do think he would take a step forward in terms of pocket awareness, mechanics and game management if he came back to UCLA, a team that would be favored to win the South Division with him on board.
He'd also land on more than a few preseason Heisman Trophy watch lists.
Chris from Salt Lake City writes: There are a bunch of Utah fans out of their minds right now, calling for [coach Kyle] Whittingham's head. Do me a favor and explain what happens to Utah football if Dr. Hill gives Whittingham the boot. Utah would have to be the toughest job to hire for in the PAC 12 right?
Ted Miller: Chris, many of your fellow Utah fans don't like Kevin and my oft-repeated calls for patience among Utes fans, though we both understand the impatience.
As I've noted before, I don't think we'd be having this debate if the Utes had somehow had better luck at quarterback. What if Jordan Wynn had stayed healthy in 2011 and 2012? What if Travis Wilson had this fall?
I know many would retort that there should have been a quality back-up plan. And maybe there should have been. But how many teams in the country wouldn't have slipped substantially if for three consecutive seasons their expected starting QB wasn't able to finish the season?
Further, Utah moved into a Pac-12 that is much better than the Pac-10 the Utes used to be competitive with as a MWC team.
Let me make a point that many Utah fans won't like. Those special Utah teams under Urban Meyer and Kyle Whittingham? They weren't as great as you think.
Before you get angry as your 2008 self, ask yourself what you thought of Fresno State this year. Your Pac-12 brain dismissed the Bulldogs, didn't it?
Go back to the stunning 31-28 comeback win over Oregon State in 2008 in Rice-Eccles Stadium. That Beavers team, which went 7-2 in Pac-12 play, including a victory over then-No. 1 USC, was good but far from great.
Imagine if the Utes had to play a nine-game schedule of Oregon State-like teams in 2008. Those Beavers lost to Stanford and got pounded by Oregon. They beat Arizona and Arizona State both by two points. No way the 2008 Utes would go unbeaten with a nine-game Pac-10 schedule.
You hated hearing that in 2008, I know. But can you see, from your new Pac-12 perspective, that 2008 tweak's logic now?
I'd wager that the 2013 Utah team with the Travis Wilson who beat BYU and Stanford behind center would be highly competitive with the 2008 Utes.
Utah is not regressing. The competition has progressed. Substantially. TCU is going through the same thing in the Big 12. Do you think Gary Patterson is a bad coach?
Of course, if things don't get better in 2014, Whittingham's seat will heat up. That's the nature of the business.
But catching up in the Pac-12 is not something that happens in one, three or probably even five seasons. It's a process, and obviously not one that is enjoyable to go through.
Ted Miller: While you could make a strong case that Oregon State needs to win it's bowl game in order to take some heat off of Mike Riley, just down the road at Oregon there's already significant pressure on Mark Helfrich to guide the Ducks into the offseason on an up note.
If Oregon beats Texas, it can trace its late-season swoon to QB Marcus Mariota's sprained knee. An excuse? Absolutely. But a legitimate one when assessing what went wrong during the season. The Ducks can look at 2013 and say, "Hey, we lost to a very good Stanford team on the road with our QB hurt, and we had one weekend at Arizona when we didn't show up. Could be worse. Stanford lost two games, too, by the way."
If Oregon beats Texas, it sets Mariota up as the leading 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate and it likely ensures a preseason ranking near the top 5 or at the very least the top 10. That means it starts 2014 squarely in position to play its way into the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff.
If Oregon beats Texas, it will still seem all Win the Day-y.
But what if Oregon doesn't beat Texas?
If the Ducks go down, some of the more demanding Ducks fans will see Helfrich's seat as warming in only Year 2. If the Ducks go down, there will be quite a few smirks in the Pac-12 and across the nation. Folks in SEC country will talk about a "gimmick team" whose run is over. Washington fans will look at their coach -- Chris Petersen -- and then Helfrich and start to make plans for a breakthrough after 10 years of woe. Oregon State fans will start to see a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
If the Ducks go down, that might give more than a few recruits pause. They might wonder if signing with Oregon means signing with a program that has plateaued and might be headed in the wrong direction. A disappointing recruiting class would give frustrated Ducks fans more to fret about during the long offseason.
If the Ducks go down, it will seem like a lost season.
Stanford is going to the Rose Bowl for a second consecutive year, and Washington just got a Big Fish coach. UCLA and Arizona State are rising in the South, and USC will emerge from scholarship reductions a year from now. The Ducks position in the North Division and the Pac-12 as a whole is being challenged.
Beating a middling Texas team that still has a marquee name will answer that challenge and slow the offseason handwringing to a manageable level.
Losing to a middling Texas team will put the program on red alert.
Kevin Gemmell: The Pac-12 is at a critical juncture, and nationally speaking, it can ill afford to drop its BCS game. That’s why the Pac-12’s must-win game has to be Stanford vs. Michigan State in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio.
Right now the rest of the country is looking at the Pac-12, top to bottom, and thinking, "Gosh, that is a tough league. Hard to believe they only have one BCS game." Which is exactly why Stanford has to win. Because if they don't, the "overrated" chants will rain down heavy and hard for the next nine months.
The Pac-12 is better off when Oregon is ranked in the top five and going to BCS bowl games every year. And the Pac-12 needs the Ducks -- or UCLA -- or ASU -- or USC -- or Washington -- or Arizona -- or someone else to pick up the slack next year as we head into the playoff era. Easier said than done, of course, given the way the league’s nine-game conference schedule plays out.
That’s all well and good for the end of September. But no one cares about that if you don’t do well in the bowl season.
If the Pac-12 goes 8-1 in the bowl season, but loses its BCS game, the league takes a massive PR hit; because, let’s be honest, outside of Pullman Wash., or Fort Collins, Colo., there won't be a ton of buzz if Washington State beats up on Colorado State -- which it should. Opinions won’t be swayed too much if UCLA beats Virginia Tech or Arizona beats Boston College. And even if Oregon wins, it won’t make a huge dent.
Right now, Stanford carries the flag for the rest of the conference. The Pac-12 needs all of the national credibility it can get its hands on because the last Top 25 poll is usually a starting point for the first poll of the 2014 season. Oregon getting inside the top 10 is important. UCLA and ASU getting in the top 15 is important. USC getting into the top 20 is important. But Stanford getting in the top two or three is more important right now. And from a league perspective, beating a Big Ten team in the 100th Rose Bowl Game is the most important.
- Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey didn't win the Doak Walker Award, as he should have, but he's a two-time All-American.
- More on Arizona State landing a recruit on its D-line.
- The good news is California's football team is getting better in the classroom.
- Colorado lands a tight end, its 18th commitment.
- Checking in with former Oregon QB Darron Thomas.
- Oregon State's Brandin Cooks won the Biletnikoff Award.
- A Stanford troika earns first-team All-American honors.
- A UCLA OLB is a first-team All-American.
- At least one USC coach has strong ties to Fresno State, the Trojans' Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl opponent.
- Utah coach Kyle Whittingham says goodbye to an assistant coach.
- This is a couple days old, but it's a good Q&A with new Washington coach Chris Petersen.
- Washington State's first bowl practices since 2003 mean young players get more attention.
But remember, if you kill him, then you'll be unemployed;
Oh, my Yoda, yo-yo-yo-yo Yoda.
- Ka'Deem Carey picks up an All-America honor.
- The Sun Devils picked up a four-star recruit.
- Cal is targeting some help from the juco ranks.
- Derrick Webb's final season as a Buff told in pictures.
- Tight end is an issue for both Oregon and Texas.
- Remembering the last time Oregon State played Boise State.
- David Shaw to the Texans? Nah.
- Some Hyundai Sun Bowl storylines.
- USC defensive stars are weighing their options.
- A Utah assistant is leaving to coach Weber State.
- Kellen Moore gives his blessing for Chris Petersen's move to Washington.
- A return to bowling is a step in the right direction for WSU.
- Athlon has announced its Pac-12 all-conference team and postseason awards as well as its All-America team.
Click here to participate in the riotous fun.
We can talk regular season, bowl season or we can share holiday cheer. Or jeers.
We also have good news. The last few chats have suffered through technical difficulties. Those have been solved!
And there was much rejoicing.
Everyone can’t wait to thump their chests at how fantastic their conference is. The Pac-12 and its fanbase are no exception. Already people are touting that the league should go 9-0, or at least 8-1, in its bowl season.
And that confidence is justified. The league was outstanding in its nonconference slate this year. So there is reason to be hopeful. Then again, we recall what happened last year when the league was favored in seven of eight games and ended up going 4-4. Things happen. Quarterbacks get sacked. Offensive linemen get hurt. First downs appear out of nowhere.
Then again, miracles can also happen. Right, Wildcats?
So what’s the 2013 bowl season look like for the Pac-12? What would be an acceptable number of losses for the league to still keep its national credibility?
Once again, here's the bowl lineup:
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Texas
National University Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
Hyundai Sun Bowl: UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: USC vs. Fresno State
Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington vs. BYU
Gildan New Mexico: Washington State vs. Colorado State
Sheraton Hawaii: Oregon State vs. Boise State
AdvoCare V100: Arizona vs. Boston College
How many bowl games will the Pac-12 win this year?
Your voting options:
9: Nothing sweeter than perfection. That’ll stick it to the BCS man for only having one Pac-12 team in a BCS bowl game.
8: Still a solid showing, assuming the one loss isn’t Stanford falling to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl Game. I think we can all agree that no matter what, the league has to win its BCS bowl game.
7: Still very respectable (again, assuming Stanford takes care of business). There are a couple of scary games on the docket -- like Oregon State against Boise State or USC against Fresno State. This wouldn’t be a panic scenario, but it wouldn’t feel as good as eight or nine wins.
6: Now it starts to get dicey. Because that means there were at least three upsets along the way. Five of the eight games are against teams from BCS conferences, so either the Pac-12 is losing some credibility against the AQ leagues or non-AQ teams are pulling off upsets.
5 or fewer: With the talent in the league this year and the way the games shakeout, this would be considered a disaster of a bowl season. Again, Stanford winning can salvage that a little bit, but five wins or fewer opens up the door for “overrated” fodder that would marinate for months.
From former tight end Colt Lyerla leaving the team and his subsequent drug-related arrest to high-profile players making verbal miscues -- and of course the world’s most watched snowball fight -- the Ducks had more drama than their first-year coach probably would have preferred. A bad November on the field didn’t help, either.
In the first five minutes of chatting with the media following Sunday’s bowl selection, quarterback Marcus Mariota and center Hroniss Grasu -- both who have decided to pass up the NFL for one more season -- couldn’t work in the words “honor” and “blessed” enough when talking about their spot in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Texas.
Maybe that’s how they really feel. Maybe it’s not. But from here on out, as the Ducks look to rehab their image, the message has to be one of sheer elation and excitement to be playing in a bowl game. Any bowl game.
“This season has been a blessing and an honor to be able to play for such a great team,” Grasu said. “It’s been a lot of fun. A couple of things didn’t go our way but there is no one to blame for that but ourselves. We wouldn’t be in this position if we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot. But it happened. You have to move on. Now we have to worry about what we can control and that’s getting better. Going through finals and then preparing to play Texas in the Alamo Bowl, which is a big honor to play in. That’s all we can control right now.”
Another word they both used a lot was “opportunity.” That’s the key.
This is a big opportunity for Oregon. It’s an opportunity to get coach Mark Helfrich his first bowl victory and reach the 11-win mark, something Chip Kelly didn’t do in his first year. It’s an opportunity to show the recruits that the month of November was simply a hiccup and Oregon football isn’t going anywhere. It’s an opportunity to show the rest of college football that Oregon has neither been exposed nor is on a downward trend.
“It was tough and it is unfortunate,” Mariota said. “But we put ourselves in this predicament. We didn’t give ourselves a lot of room. We had the opportunity. But we’re blessed and it’s a great opportunity and we’re looking forward to it … I think for the most part guys are going to be exited. We have a lot of guys from Texas. A lot of guys that haven’t been to Texas. It’s going to be an awesome, awesome venue. We’re playing one of the most traditional programs in the country.”
Almost every college football fan in the country -- yes, even a few in Oklahoma -- wanted to see Alabama-Oregon in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. Even if it weren’t for a national championship, it’s still a dream matchup that has been speculated on for years. But geography, travel and the fact that the SEC and Big 12 have a schedule alliance coming were all contributing factors to the Ducks being on the outside -- despite only losing to Pac-12 champion Stanford and the nation’s best running back in Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey. That those losses came in November magnifies their impact.
If there is disappointment in the ranks, and there has to be, now isn’t the time to let it show. Now is the time to exude confidence and humility at the opportunity placed before them. Now is the time for Mariota, who said he hopes to be 100 percent for the bowl game, to go out and show why he deserved to be in New York as a Heisman finalist. He could also start off his 2014 campaign with a bang.
“I don’t think anyone is disappointed,” Grasu said. “It’s an honor to play in this bowl game against Texas. Getting a bowl win in the Alamo Bowl against Texas would a big momentum boost in the offseason and getting ready for next season. It’s really exciting. We have a lot of guys coming back, but we can’t look to next season because we’re preparing to play Texas.”
Oregon’s reputation as an elite program, combined with a bowl win, likely gets them into single digits in the final rankings. Mariota’s return makes them a preseason top-10 team in 2014. There will be many, many more days to win. And it has to start on Dec. 30.
- Rich Rodriguez is confident in Arizona's development.
- Taking a closer look at the Arizona State offense.
- California has set a date for its spring football game.
- Checking in with former Colorado coach Bill McCartney, whose headed to the College Football Hall of Fame.
- The Alamo Bowl with Oregon and Texas is an interesting matchup for a variety of reasons.
- Oregon State needs to win -- really needs to win -- its bowl game.
- Are Michigan State fans poaching Stanford Rose Bowl tickets?
- UCLA gets a commitment from a defensive back.
- Some updates and speculation on the USC coaching staff.
- Some best and worst from the Utah football -- Utes and state of -- this past fall.
- Chris Petersen is taking the next step at Washington.
- Washington State safety Deone Bucannon, who has been selected for the Senior Bowl, and the Cougars seniors have persisted.
Trending up: UCLA landed its second ESPN 300 prospect of the week on Tuesday, as athlete Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco) joined defensive tackle Ainuu Taua (Lompoc, Calif./Lompoc) in committing to the Bruins. In doing so, UCLA moved into the top 40 rankings. UCLA has plenty of momentum right now, especially after keeping coach Jim Mora and ace recruiters Demetrice Martin and Adrian Klemm. Adding running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu will only make UCLA stronger down the recruiting stretch, as ESPN 300 prospects Bryce Dixon (Ventura, Calif./Saint Bonaventure), Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freedom), Bishard "Budda" Baker (Bellevue, Wash./Bellevue) and Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./Saint John Bosco) are very much in play.
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Here’s bowl lineup followed by the the gut reactions from your Pac-12 bloggers.
Rose Bowl game presented by VIZIO: Stanford vs. Michigan State
Valero Alamo Bowl: Oregon vs. Texas
National University Holiday Bowl: Arizona State vs. Texas Tech
Hyundai Sun Bowl: UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: USC vs. Fresno State
Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington vs. BYU
Gildan New Mexico: Washington State vs. Colorado State
Sheraton Hawaii: Oregon State vs. Boise State
AdvoCare V100: Arizona vs. Boston College
Ted Miller’s first impressions
Worst game: It's great that Washington State is playing in its first bowl game since 2003, but Colorado State is a lackluster foe. The Rams, who lost to Colorado by two touchdowns, have no quality wins. Washington State beat USC, Utah and Arizona. Mike Leach and the Cougars should roll, and it will be pretty embarrassing for the Cougs and Pac-12 if they don't.
Sneaky good game: It will be interesting to see how USC reacts in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl against Fresno State and QB Derek Carr. It's obvious the players were unhappy interim coach Ed Orgeron didn't get the full-time job. Will the Trojans turn in an uninterested performance, as they did in last year's Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech? Or will they play inspired football? The Bulldogs are a good football team, particularly on offense. If the Trojans don't show up, they could get embarrassed. If they do, this could be a good game.
The bowl season will be a success if: The Pac-12 is now favored in all nine games -- Oregon State started out as an underdog to Boise State but is now favored. That means 9-0 is a reasonable expectation. The only ranked foes are Michigan State and Fresno State. Anything less than 6-3 would be embarrassing for the conference. Gloating would only start at 7-2, and only then if Stanford wins the Rose Bowl.
Kevin Gemmell’s first impressions
Best game: Everything Ted says is spot-on. Outside of the national championship game -- which is the must-watch game simply by default -- I think the Rose Bowl offers some of the best storylines of the bowl season. This is the sort of matchup the Rose Bowl committee wanted for its 100th game. It’s going to be smash-mouth through and through -- may the toughest line win. Rumor has it extra ice packs are already being shipped into Pasadena.
Worst game: Like Ted, I agree Washington State should roll in that game. But I’m also intrigued by the WSU defense front against Kapri Bibbs and his 28 rushing touchdowns. But in terms of actual quality of opponent, I’d be shocked if this year’s Gildan New Mexico Bowl is anything like last year’s (yes, Arizona fans, that was still my favorite bowl game).
Sneaky good game: I see a lot of intrigue in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and Oregon State’s showdown with the now Chris Petersen-less Boise State Broncos. The Pac-12 has owned the Mountain West this year. The Beavers have the capability to be an extremely explosive offense. But in the middle of a five-game losing streak, you never know what to expect. By the way, the Pac-12 blog isn’t always right, but at least one of us saw this coming back in May. Motivation is always a huge factor in bowl games. What is Boise State’s? What can they do with a skeleton coaching staff? If both teams come to play, this could be one of the most thrilling games of the postseason.
The bowl season will be a success if: I think 6-3 is the tipping point also. One must recall the Pac-12 was favored in seven of eight games last year. Then Alex Okafor met Cody Vaz 4.5 times, UCLA’s offensive line succumbed to injury, Boise State got a phantom first down and Georgia Tech provided the final scoop on USC’s manure sundae of a season. Despite having just one team in a BCS bowl game, the Pac-12 has a ton of momentum right now after posting impressive nonconference numbers in 2013. That has to continue to keep the national perception of the league lofty. Stanford also has to win, plain and simple. If Oregon State loses to Boise State, it won’t be viewed as a national coup. But, without question, you have to win your BCS bowl game.
Getty ImagesWhat teams would join Florida State and Auburn if there were a playoff this year?
Stanford is the highest-rated team in the current version of the Championship Drive Ratings on account of putting together a great performance against a top-five schedule. In the 10 years for which we have play-by-play data, no team with a schedule rated in the top five has done as well -- taking into account wins and average win probability -- as Stanford this year. An average FBS team would have won less than four games against Stanford’s schedule and would have had an average in-game win probability well below the Cardinal’s 72 percent.
If we are specifically interested in rating top teams’ résumés (and we generally are), one potential modification to this method would be to look at things from a top-team perspective rather than an average-team viewpoint. So instead of looking at how an average team would do against these teams’ schedules, how would a team at the 90th percentile -- such as Clemson this season -- do? The below chart helps answer this question.
The expectations rise against each of these team’s schedules, obviously, but now Auburn’s and Florida State’s results look more impressive relative to schedule than Stanford’s résumé. At the same time, going 11-2 against Stanford’s schedule would have been harder even for a top team than going 12-1 against Michigan State's schedule or 11-1 against Alabama's slate.
If you want to go beyond pure résumé and look at how strong the teams actually are, take a look at the Football Power Index top five: Florida State, Oregon, Alabama, Stanford and Baylor. Auburn is eighth, and Michigan State is quite a bit lower.
There is no exact answer here, but if you combine the numbers above with the stated goals of the College Football Playoff committee to value strength of schedule and conference champions, it’s pretty clear that Florida State, Auburn and Stanford -- yes, even with two losses -- should each earn a spot in the playoff. Each of those teams has a very solid résumé from either a top team or an average team perspective, and all three are rated strongly by FPI.
The fourth spot gets a bit trickier. From either the average team or top team perspective, Michigan State’s résumé of wins and losses alone is about as impressive as Alabama’s, and the Spartans have a conference championship that the Tide don’t. On the other hand, FPI shows that Alabama is quite clearly the stronger team, so if you put the résumé criteria aside at that point and just pick the better team, Alabama would be the choice.
Click here for last week's Power Rankings.
1. Stanford: With a second-consecutive Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl appearance, as well as a good chance for another top-five final ranking, life's pretty good on The Farm.
2. Oregon: The Ducks nip the Sun Devils, whom they didn't play this year, because they are headed to the better bowl and are ranked higher.
3. Arizona State: The decisive loss at home to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game shows the Sun Devils haven't yet arrived, but they have traveled far in Year 2 under coach Todd Graham.
4. UCLA: The biggest win for UCLA this past week was keeping coach Jim Mora and his staff. A bowl win would provide positive momentum heading into the offseason for the 2014 South Division favorites -- pending QB Brett Hundley's announcement whether he is returning or entering the NFL draft.
5. USC: A guy who knows USC well this weekend explained why Steve Sarkisian was a good hire for the Trojans. He made a pretty convincing case. We shall see, though, won't we?
6. Washington: The Huskies generated significant positive national publicity by luring Chris Petersen away from Boise State, a task some pundits didn't think would ever happen. It will be interesting to see how the team itself responds in the Fight Hunger Bowl against a good BYU team.
7. Washington State: The Cougars are going bowling for the first time since 2003, which is a big deal. Now can they close the season with a win?
8. Arizona: The Wildcats need a bowl win to make their season feel successful.
9. Oregon State: The Beavers need a bowl win to make their season feel successful.
10. Utah: The Utes' focus, as it is for the two teams below them, is entirely on recruiting. There will be pressure on coach Kyle Whittingham to take a step forward in the conference next fall.
11. Colorado: It was a solid debut season for Mike MacIntyre. Now the question becomes: Can the Buffaloes move up in the conference and South Division pecking order in 2014? The climb won't be easy.
12. California: There's nowhere to go but up, right? A bit surprising that Sonny Dykes hasn't made some staff changes.
Go here and find the geniuses and the miscreants.
The truth is, after reviewing the coaches votes, there's really not too much cause for outrage. Some. But not too much.
The most notable snub is UCLA not appearing on the ballot of Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey, whose vote was otherwise pretty typical for where it place Pac-12 teams (Stanford seventh, Oregon 12th, Arizona State 15th).
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney ranked Stanford 10th, which is ridiculous. Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer ranked Oregon 17th, which should enrage Ducks fans until they realize Arizona State coach Todd Graham had the Ducks at 15th.
It's notable that Arizona State and Oregon didn't play this year, and Graham's team was seemingly competing with the Ducks in the bowl pecking order.
Yet Oregon coach Mark Helfrich, who voted his team seventh, ranked the Sun Devils 10th, their second-highest placing.
Who, you immediately asked, had Arizona State higher than 10th? That would be Rutgers coach Kyle Flood, who ranked the Sun Devils ninth. I've got no explanation for that.
As far as not getting too outraged at Swinney, that starts with seven other coaches ranking the Cardinal ninth. While that sounds like stupidity loves company, it also shows that Swinney's ballot wasn't unique in its, er, "thinking."
USC appeared on 11 ballots, including Alabama coach Nick Saban and four Pac-12 coaches but not with Oregon State's Mike Riley and Utah's Kyle Whittingham. The Trojans ended up 25th in the BCS standings though not in the coaches top-25. The Trojans highest ranking was 19th from Washington State coach Mike Leach.
Washington's lone vote? Michigan's Brady Hoke.
In conclusion, there really aren't any votes like Arkansas coach Bret Bielema's for Ohio State that merit taking a blood oath swearing lifelong and bitter enmity.
Here are the highs and lows for the ranked Pac-12 teams.
Stanford: (3) Mike Leach, Washington State; (10) Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Oregon: (6) Leach; (17) Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
Arizona State: (9) Kyle Flood, Rutgers; (21) Dan Holgorsen, West Virginia & Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
UCLA: (13) Helfrich; (unranked) Rod Carey, Northern Illinois
Some other interesting notes.
- New Washington coach Chris Petersen ranked Oregon eighth. Not sure if that's of note, but I'm guessing some Oregon fans will find something sinister and Husky-ish there.
- Leach loves his conference: No. 3 Stanford, No. 6 Oregon, No. 11 Arizona State, No. 16 UCLA and No. 19 USC. But, of course, no Washington.
- Baylor's Art Briles is a closet Pac-12 North Division fan. He had Stanford fifth and Oregon ninth.
- Who also loves Stanford? LSU's Les Miles, who sometimes requires a Stanford linguist for translations, voted the Cardinal fourth, as did South Alabama coach Joey Jones, Arizona's Rich Rodriguez and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury.
- Kingsbury, however, isn't a big Oregon fan. He had the Ducks 15th.
To the notes!
Jon in Seattle writes: Kevin, in response to your article regarding Chris Petersen's first news conference, your conclusion accurately sums up our impression. As a die-hard Washington fan and having spoken to many others, we weren't bothered by the way he answered the question about beating Oregon. It was a fun but silly question and any answer would have ultimately been meaningless, so it was refreshing to see him refuse to bite the bait and stick to the heart of his message. This is especially true in contrast to Sarkisian, who made many promises upon arriving here. As you said, Petersen has a process, he has a plan, and beating Oregon is an extension of its execution. We like what we're hearing. And hey, the guy is 2-0 against Oregon already. Of course, you won't hear him bragging.
There’s nothing really to say in that situation that is going to be productive. I found him to be extremely charismatic during his first news conference. He was fiery but controlled. He said all of the right things without overstepping.
I think back to when I was covering Brady Hoke and his move from San Diego State to Michigan. He, too, was fiery, and he made some promises regarding his new team and the team that wears scarlet and gray. Things aren’t going so hot right now in Ann Arbor. It’s one thing to fire up your fan base with promises. But when you don’t follow through with them, they are just empty words.
Petersen portrayed confidence and there was not a moment when I thought to myself, “OK, buddy, we’ll see.”
I really liked what he had to say about not being too hands-on with this team during the bowl season. I think that’s the right call. This is the 2013 Huskies. He’s not a part of that legacy.
I don’t know Petersen yet. I’ve talked with him once or twice on teleconferences and in news conferences, but I don’t have any sort of relationship with him. But I’m looking forward to getting to know him. And if he’s anything like the man he projected himself to be on Monday, I’m pretty sure three years from now we’ll look back at that day and realize that nothing he said was empty.
Eddie in Los Angeles writes: I grew up in Boise, attended Washington and live in Los Angeles. I’m a fan of all three teams. How should I feel?
Kevin Gemmell: Grateful that it’s neither raining nor snowing where you live?
If you truly are a fan of all three teams (and let’s be honest, you have to lean a little toward one or the other or the other when they play head-to-head) then you should feel pretty freaking blessed.
Divorces are ugly -- especially when a coach leaves a program voluntarily for another one. But this series of separations couldn’t have gone any smoother. You can’t be bitter at Petersen for leaving Boise State, especially after he delivered you a 92-12 record. You can’t be bitter at Sarkisian leaving after taking an 0-12 program and making it a postseason regular. And you can’t be disappointed with the hire of Sarkisian at USC.
If you are really a fan of all three programs then you should probably be feeling pretty good right about now.
Henry in San Juan Capistrano writes: Think about it. Had ASU not earned the right to play in the Pac-12 championship game and just sat home, they would be in the top 10 in the BCS and maybe the top 10 in the AP. They should make some rule that says the teams in the championship games can't move down from their previous position if they lose. Mizzou got hosed in this way as well.
Kevin Gemmell: Pretty specious reasoning. Because if ASU hadn’t earned the right to play in the Pac-12 championship game that means they would have lost another conference game somewhere along the way -- more than likely at UCLA or home to Arizona -- and they would have dropped in the rankings. I think they actually would have slipped further in the rankings had they lost a regular season game rather than a conference championship. Voters tend to respect teams a little more for making their league’s title game.
As for rules changes, I’m not a huge fan of that. You play the game. If you win, you move up. If you lose, you move down. C’est la vie. You don’t like it, don’t lose. You’ve earned the right for an extra game. And no one is saying that if you win, you shouldn't move up in the rankings. ASU would be in the top six or seven had they beaten Stanford. And you probably wouldn’t have complained. It’s got to be able to work both ways.
I know what you’re getting at. But I don’t think it’s feasible.
Trev with a Left Coast bias wrote: I understand it might be geography for why the Allstate Sugar Bowl would pick Oklahoma, but wouldn't you rather have a possible setting of what was originally thought to be the BCS title game matchup? My opinion is the SEC told the Sugar Bowl that they don’t want to have Oregon for two reasons: 1) Don't want to give extra money to the biggest threat (Pac-12) and 2) What if we lose? Your thoughts?
Kevin Gemmell: I think geography played a significant role. I think the fact the SEC and Big 12 are starting a scheduling alliance next year played a role. I think the attitude of some of Oregon’s players toward the Rose Bowl played a role. And I think the fact Oregon didn’t look particularly good in November played a role.
Like the rest of the world, I would love to have seen Alabama-Oregon happen -- even if it wasn’t for the national championship. It would have been a TV ratings home run -- somewhere between the finale of M*A*S*H and the 2009 Super Bowl.
There is no greater conspiracy theory here. And truth be told, I’m not sure the Oregon team as it stands today is the best product the Ducks could put on the field.
I’m sure there was some politicking going on behind the scenes. And by the way, for everyone who says ESPN controls college football, don’t think this would have been a ratings boom for my bosses. It goes to show that it’s ultimately the committees that make the decisions based on what’s best for their bowl and their respective tourism bureaus.
Erik in Bangkok writes: Kevin, simple question: Why do you rank Michigan State higher than Stanford? Taking into account strength of schedule and also your expectations of their head-to-head outcome.
Obviously, strength of schedule is important. That's why I have a team that lost to two unranked teams in my top five. I recognize and have written countless times how difficult the Pac-12 schedule is.
I was very impressed with both teams in the conference title games. And the difference between No. 4 and No. 5 in my book is pretty insignificant. In fact, I think Stanford has an edge having been to the Rose Bowl before and my first impression is that the Cardinal win that game.
I honestly didn’t sweat over it that much, and you shouldn't either. I thought Michigan State finished the season stronger with nine straight wins and so I ranked accordingly. My gut tells me Stanford is the better team. But from a rankings standpoint, I thought Michigan State closed stronger. It will work itself out in the final ballots.
RedditCFB in Minneapolis writes: Well, it's official: With the BCS Era coming to a close ('98?-13) there have been 878 bowl games in the BCS Era and the SEC & Pac-12 only met ONCE! How do we fix this? Is there a way to get a new bowl in Wally World so the SEC won't be as afraid of travel? The terrible bowl tie-ins have not significantly improved under Larry Scott (one of his few flaws).
Kevin Gemmell: Bowl games aren’t designed to provide the best possible matchup. They are designed to be the best possible matchup while also bringing in money to the city that hosts them. You’ll notice all of the Pac-12’s contracts are regionally based -- with the Valero Alamo and Hyundai Sun bowls being the longest trek. And even that isn’t too far of a hike.
It’s dollars. They want as many people to come to their city for as long as possible, stay in hotels, eat at restaurants, go to amusement parks and spend money. While you’re in town, maybe take in a football game.
The National University Holiday Bowl probably doesn’t like having to take teams from Los Angeles because fans drive down to San Diego, watch the game and then drive home that night. They want people in hotel rooms for five days with trips to Sea World and the zoo and LegoLand.
How many Washington fans would go to Jacksonville for the Gator Bowl? The first year? It might be filled. But what about the third and fourth years? These Pac-12 SEC matchups would look great on TV. And from my leather chair, I’d love to drink it all in. But the travel (see previous question), specifically the fan support and filling the stadium, simply wouldn’t be there on an annual basis.
Damon in Seattle writes: Who won? USC or Washington?
Kevin Gemmell: Honestly, Damon, I hate these questions. But I understand why people ask them. Because they want to feel better about the decisions their team made. You're looking for some closure from the previous administration and a reason to feel good about the new one.
Washington won because it snagged the big fish that many others couldn’t hook. USC won because it got someone from the USC family. Washington won because there is little to no chance the program takes a step back with Petersen as the head coach. USC won because the program will probably take a step forward under Sarkisian.
Is that sufficient? Because there's no right or wrong answer for at least a few years.
Until all the coaching staffs are in place, until there are three or four recruiting cycles under these guys, questions like “who won?” are fairly irrelevant. Ask me again in four years. I’m sure I’ll have a better answer.
Rudy in Houston writes: I said once "don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion!" Kevin, you didn't and ran the table! Congratulations!
Kevin Gemmell: I'd like to thank Ted Miller for not believing in me, my wife who doesn't care, and the good people at the Scripps Ranch Starbucks who still charge me full price for a cup of coffee despite a perfect media ballot.
Best Pac-12 Position Group in 2014 Class
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35