Submitted by Wayne Allyn Root on Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 4:25 PM
Wayne Root: The PAC 12's Bowl Outlook
Back at the beginning of the college football season, I promised to keep tabs for you on the Pac 12. Things were supposed to be GREAT this year in that supposedly resurgent conference. Nevada doesn't have a team in the Pac 12...but those games feel like they're played in my backyard...so I follow the league extremely closely.
I have to say...2015 was a HUGE disappointment unless you're a Stanford fan. (And...even then...what could have been!) It's easy to forget now that four Pac 12 teams were ranked in the Preseason Top 15...and six were ranked in the Preseason Top 22.
PAC 12 PRESEASON AP RANKINGS
Arizona State #15
Utah #30 (if you count additional teams receiving votes)
California #42 (same)
Remember that? Oregon and USC were in the national championship discussion. UCLA was the talk of the town with freshman quarterback Josh Rosen. Arizona had not one, but TWO teams that were supposedly on the doorstep. And, if you went further down the voting...Utah made it seven teams in the Top 30...while Cal had a chance to rise up to become a team that mattered.
This was supposed to be a year where the Pac 12 challenged the SEC for best conference...and the Pac 12 South challenged the SEC West for best division. Instead, a relative disaster.
PAC 12 CURRENT AP RANKINGS
Washington State #32 (!!)
Shut out of the Final Four. Only one team in the top 14...and only three in the Top 25. Both Arizona schools fell off the map...casting big clouds over the coaching "saviors" who were supposed to turn things around. And, UCLA barely sneaking into the top 40 is well off September expectations. This head coach was supposed to create a virtual pro team to play home games in Pasadena. The quarterback still has a chance to be great...but he sure disappointed in the late-season rivalry game against USC.
That sets up a very tricky handicapping scenario for this conference. We mostly have teams who are disappointed to be in their postseason locales. Even Pac 12 champion Stanford had a chance to rally from the season-opening NW loss and make the Final Four before choking against Oregon. So...there's talent on paper...but a lack of enthusiasm from teams who weren't clearing their toughest hurdles anyway.
That handicapping challenge begins this weekend...as Arizona and Utah appear in the first two bowls on the lengthy 2015-16 card. Let's run through the bowl schedule for the league...
Arizona vs. New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl Saturday
Utah vs. BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl Saturday
Washington State vs. Miami in the Sun Bowl December 26
Washington vs. Southern Miss in the Heart of Dallas Bowl December 26
UCLA vs. Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl December 26
California vs. Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl December 29
USC vs. Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl December 30
Stanford vs. Iowa in the Rose bowl January 1
Oregon vs. TCU in the Alamo Bowl January 2
Arizona State vs. West Virginia in the Cactus Bowl January 2
Hey...nothing wrong with getting 10 of your 12 teams into the postseason! Only Colorado from the Pac 12 South and Oregon State from the North failed to qualify. That being said...how many of those games represent season-ending highlights for the P12 entries?
Definitely NOT: Arizona, UCLA, California, and Arizona State
Probably not: Utah, who had been top five in the polls not too long ago, and was hoping for something bigger than the Las Vegas Bowl...Washington, who's happy to be going to a bowl, but probably not jazzed to face a non-entity like Southern Miss in such a minor attraction...USC, who only travels to San Diego to face the struggling Badgers...and, arguably Oregon, who doesn't see San Antonio as a showcase city to visit.
Probably YES: Washington State should be ecstatic to go to a Bowl...and Mike Leach will make sure his players make the most of El Paso given his time in Lubbock...and then Stanford can't ever be disappointed about the Rose Bowl.
Let's call Washington State a DEFINITE yes...but the only one out of the 10 qualifiers. Now, I'm not saying that it's going to be nothing but flat spots for these teams. Maybe Utah gets sky high for its state rival. Maybe California makes a statement against the Falcons. Some Pac 12 teams could get very good results. But, in terms of OBVIOUSLY having the juices flowing for their bowl...it's just not there this year. If anything, that list above features a lot of opponents who will be fired up for the appearance against their Pac 12 counterpart.
I'll obviously be watching developments very closely. And, what happens Saturday in the games involving Arizona and Utah could shape my thinking for the rest of the schedule. That's what's so great about bowl handicapping...every result teaches you something about what's likely to happen the rest of the way!
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