I am a big fan of drama. I was a devoted follower of “Degrassi” when it aired on the original TeenNick ages ago, and remember the time when Aubrey Graham, now known as the rapper Drake, was on the show. Now, I’m a big fan of the “The Bachelorette” and all the various spinoffs in that series.
If you’re a fan of drama and college football, the last two weeks have given you some quality content. Top-10 teams are getting upset in glorious fashion, and the road to Santa Clara for the National Championship Game has become even more hazardous. But, the real drama has been resting in the Pac-12 Conference— and it’s been happening since Week 1.
The weekly slate of games put on by the Pac-12 has supplied drama, craziness, and sleep deprivation to East Coast viewers in massive quantities. Arizona State toppled Michigan State in the Week 2 edition of #Pac12AfterDark, proving that the kryptonite to Mark Dantonio’s dark magic is night games out west. Utah, USC, Colorado and Washington State have all had their fair share of close calls this season when playing late-night (at least to the East Coast audience) editions of football.
For a college football junky, football that kicks off deep into the night— and supplies some quality upsets— is pure bliss. However, for a Pac-12 program that has dreams of making the College Football Playoff, #Pac12AfterDark has caused some havoc. Combine that with playing tough games in and out of conference play, and you have a disaster stew a-brewing.
Already, the Pac-12 has no viable candidate to be in the CFP. Stanford has two losses. Washington has two losses. And either Oregon or Washington State will have two losses after next week. Colorado, who was unbeaten entering this weekend, took an 11-point loss on the road at USC, and have dropped out of the AP Top 25 entirely.
The highest ranked Pac-12 team is Oregon at No. 12, and even if they win this week against the Cougars, may only get a marginal move upwards, as Wazzu is No. 25. If they lose, they’ll slide, most likely, out of the top-15, leaving either Washington or Washington State as the top-ranked team in the conference. UW and WSU, a rivalry, will play each other in November for the historic Apple Cup. So, it’s guaranteed that either the Huskies or Cougars will take another “L” on the season.
With only the top-four teams getting passage into the College Football Playoff, the odds are already stacked against the Pac-12. Last season, they were left out of the playoffs, and have only made it twice in the system’s four-year history. This year, the conference’s crowning achievement may be a Rose Bowl win against whomever the Big Ten brings to Pasadena. While winning in the “Granddaddy of Them All” is a great accolade, the point for programs in the major conferences is to win the national title. When the Rose Bowl becomes the ceiling for a conference, instead of making the national semifinals, things aren’t going too well.
And, honestly, things haven’t been going well for the Pac-12. In previous years, the refereeing has been the butt of jokes; but recently, as in just a-week-ago recently, the booth review system was called into question as someone who didn’t have refereeing experience dictated a targeting/no-targeting call.
Do I think the Pac-12 will get into the CFP this season? No. The last line of defense for the conference is to have Oregon run the table from here on out. I don’t see that happening, as Utah and Arizona State may trip them up, and that’s not even considering a potential Pac-12 Championship Game.
The Pac-12 is one of the most entertaining conferences in all of CFB. The evening matchups on Thursday and Friday are always worthwhile TV viewing, and the 10:30 p.m. ET kicks on Saturday provide a day’s worth of football in one late-night window.
This is all incredibly fun for the people watching the game, but not so much for the people actually involved with the craziness; #Pac-12AfterDark may have a net negative effect on the conference.
Playing games during the week may throw the student-athletes off their game, and combined with parity, you have a mixture destined for weekly upsets. Great for drama, not so much if you’re a team (or conference) wanting to make the CFP.