The Pacific-12 Conference, generally referred to as the Pac-12, has been the Fredo to the Corleone family of the College football Power Five conferences in the past decade. These conferences include the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big-10, Big-12, Pac-12, and the Southeastern Conference (SEC). In the past three seasons, the Pac-12 has posted a measly 7-15 record in bowl games, matching up unfavorably to other schools in Power Five conferences. Only twice has a Pac-12 school reached the College Football Playoff in its five-year existence. For both the Washington Huskies and Oregon Ducks, their trips to the playoffs ended in elimination at the hands of SEC’s Alabama Crimson Tide and Big-10’s Ohio State Buckeyes.
So what happened to the Pac-12?
In the early 2000s, Pete Carroll and the University of Southern California Trojans terrorized the college football hemisphere claiming two National Championship Titles and four Rose Bowl victories in Carroll’s nine years as coach. Teams led by Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, and Reggie Bush brought life to the Pac-12 conference with their exciting plays and winning culture. A series of events beginning with Reggie Bush’s NCAA violations led to Carroll’s departure from the head coach position, and ultimately led to a power shift in the NCAA.
Aside from the Trojans, the only other Pac-12 school that sparked genuine fear in the hearts of their opponents was Marcus Mariota’s Oregon Ducks. From 2012-2014, the Ducks finished 2nd in the Final AP Poll twice and, as previously mentioned, competed for a National Championship title in 2014. The Mariota led offense was a force not only in the Pac-12, but among the top teams in the nation as well. After Mariota declared for the draft in 2015, the team never had the same juice and eventually fell back to being just another average team in the Pac-12.
The current state of the Pac-12 gives way for one of its members to rise up and take control of the conference. As of late, there has been a handful of relatively evenly matched schools competing for a place in the Rose Bowl every year. So, strong recruiting classes coupled with good coaching and high team energy could, in theory, lift one school from a losing record to a 12-1 force in the Pac-12 and the ability for national spotlight in the Rose Bowl. The Pac-12 is as open for a powerhouse as ever, who will fill those shoes?