Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Pac-12 bowls were good, bad and so-so
By Kevin Gemmell
.500 -- It's not great. It's not bad. It's just sort of there.
1.000 -- Perfect. As good as it gets.
0.00 --- Doesn't get worse than a Blutarsky.
.667 --- Above average.
A 4-4 final record was lower than expected for the Pac-12 this postseason. A perfect record in the two BCS bowl games was outstanding, yet going 0-3 against other BCS conferences (outside of the BCS games) is disappointing. And the 2-1 mark against non-BCS conference teams is just so-so.
Any way you choose to crunch the numbers and winning percentages (or losing percentages, for that matter) from the Pac-12 bowl season, you're bound to reach the same conclusion. Some good, some bad.
Hopes were high when the bowl matchups were announced -- and there was even some talk of the Pac-12 running the table with a perfect 8-0 mark. After all, Pac-12 teams were favorites in seven of the eight games. But Arizona's New Mexico Miracle should have been a harbinger of things to come. We rejoiced at the final-minute heroics. But in that jubilation, one simple fact got lost: It ain't going to be easy.
From Washington's comeback-turned-fourth-quarter-cough-up to the inadequacies of UCLA, Oregon State and USC (of which there are many that can be debated), the Pac-12 didn't always put its best foot forward.
We saw some of Pac-12 teams out-played, out-coached and out-classed.
Oregon's Fiesta victory was the Pac-12's high point, lifting the conference to a 4-4 bowl mark.
And yet we also saw the conference at its best. We saw an explosive Arizona State team cruise to victory over Navy; a punishing Stanford defense doing exactly what it does best in the Rose Bowl; and Oregon's speed in the Fiesta Bowl -- so fast that it proceeds itself when it proceeds itself.
December 2012 through January 2013 saw the Pac-12 at its worst. And its best.
Historically speaking, this actually wasn't a bad bowl season for the Pac-12. Sure, it's not the perfect 5-0 mark of the '08 season. But it's better than the 2-5, 2-2 and 2-5 ledgers of '09, '10 and '11, respectively. Worth noting also that an eligible USC probably would have won a bowl game last season because it was the hottest team in football down the stretch. Even still, 3-5 wouldn't have been a whole lot better.
Since the 1999 bowl season, the Pac-12 is 40-41, including this season, so a .500 record seems to fit the turn-of-the-century trend.
The what-ifs are plentiful. What if play had actually stopped and Boise State had received a measurement? What if Oregon State had made adjustments to account for Alex Okafor -- a few plays in max protect, a tight end helping or a running back chipping? What if UCLA and USC hadn't left their abundance of talent back in the City of Angels instead of taking it to San Diego and El Paso, Texas, respectively?
But what-ifs are pointless. All that matters are the final records.
With that said, it's tough to really declare a "winner" from the bowl season. For all the talk about the Pac-12 and Big 12 rivalry for "Who's No. 2," we're still left with inconclusive data. The Big 12 went 4-5, which included a loss to Conference USA's Tulsa. It went 2-1 against the Pac-12 with a blowout victory by Baylor and a late Christmas present from Oregon State to Texas. But the best it had to offer, Kansas State, was smoked by Oregon. We can call this one a wash.
The almighty SEC saw two of its top-10 teams go down -- LSU and Florida -- and South Carolina needed a miracle against a Michigan team perceived to be wildly overrated.
But the SEC has the crystal ball -- again.
Maybe the ACC is the big winner -- scoring victories over LSU and USC, plus a BCS bowl win. Or is it the Big East after Louisville's stomping of Florida?
You can look for meanings in the numbers and rationalize what was and wasn't good for the conference in the 2012 bowl season. But in end, the result is the same.
Some good. Some bad. Trying to make any more -- or less -- is a wasted exercise.