Here's a shocker for the East coast media: the SEC is not the only college football conference in the country.
There is this little-train-that-could conference out West that you are going to hear a whole heck of a lot about in 2012. Particularly on Jan. 7, 2013, when either USC or Oregon beats LSU in the national championship game in Miami (no charge for that prediction).
But I digress.
While we play exciting, fun-to-watch football out here, how good is the Pac-12 about placing players in the NFL? Uh, not so great, it turns out.
Here's a wrap-up of Pac-12 players selected in the draft, with some comparisons to other conferences.
What Pac-12 school do you think placed the most players in the 2012 NFL Draft? Oregon? Unh-unh. USC? Nope.
It was California with six players. Oregon and Stanford were next with four players each, followed by USC and Arizona with three each. Arizona State had two, as did Colorado and Washington. Oregon State and Utah each had one player selected.
UCLA and Washington State got skunked. Way to hold up Pac-12 pride, guys.
Stanford's David DeCastro
If you combine rounds one and two, Stanford wins. Plus, Stanford should get a bonus—free banana splits for all!—for having the overall No. 1 pick in Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) and upholding Pac-12 pride.
Other round one selections were LB Nick Perry of USC (Green Bay), OT Matt Kalil of USC (Minnesota) and Guard David DeCastro of Stanford (Pittsburgh).
Round two selections from the Pac-12 were Oregon's RB LaMichael James (San Francisco), LB Mychal Kendricks of California (Philadelphia), OT Jonathan Martin of Stanford (Miami), TE Coby Fleener of Stanford who will join his QB in Indianapolis, QB Brock Osweiler of Arizona State (Denver) and OT Mitchell Schwartz of California (Cleveland).
Congratulations, gentlemen. Being selected in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft is a major life accomplishment.
Oregon's LaMichael James
Thursday night when the draft started, I was poised in front of my big-screen, excited because I thought this might be the year that the Pac-12 strutted its stuff in the NFL selection process.
Alas, it was not to be. In rounds two through seven, the Pac-12 placed a total of 28 players (several more signed as free agents today), when a few weeks ago it looked like we could hit 40.
So where does that place the Pac-12 conference compared to others? You don't want to know. But it's my job to tell you, so here goes:
SEC — 42
Big 10 — 41
ACC (are you kidding me?!?) — 31
Pac-12 — 28
Big 12 — 25
Thanks for nothing Vontaze Burfict, Chris Polk, Cliff Harris, etc. etc. etc.
Andrew Luck was the first Pac-12 player chosen No. 1 in the draft since USC QB Carson Palmer in 2003. Utah QB Alex Smith, taken first in 2005, cannot be counted because Utah was not a member of the Pac-12 then.
Luck was Stanford's first overall pick in the NFL Draft since another decent QB, John Elway, was picked in 1983. I find it ironic that the legend Luck is replacing in Indianapolis—Peyton Manning—was recently hired by John Elway.
Maybe it's some kind of weird, Stanford cult thing.
If the Pac-12 ever hopes to overcome the SEC, Big 10, Big 12 and other conferences across the country, it will take a multi-pronged approach.
Commissioner Larry Scott has done a great deal since taking over towards moving the Pac-12 more into the limelight on the national college football scene. Now it's up to the coaches and players at each individual school to do their part.
The four new head coaches in the Pac-12 will attract attention in the fall; it's important that they capitalize on that media scrutiny in a positive fashion.
The Pac-12 really needs to win every high-profile non-conference game against the country's leading conferences. For example, the Sept. 8 schedule in the Pac-12 brings four excellent opportunities to make a major statement: Oklahoma St. at Arizona; Nebraska at UCLA; Wisconsin at Oregon St; Washington at LSU.
In an ideal world, the Pac-12 would win all four of those high-profile games and really make a statement at the beginning of the season. But if the Pac-12 loses all four of those games, it will, unfortunately, also make a statement.
We all know we have tremendous talent on the field at each and every school in the Pac-12. Let's make 2012 the year that all that talent lives up to its potential. Student-athletes need to show up in shape for fall camp, and they need to keep their noses clean throughout the summer and the season.
Let's work on character and values along with our football preparation. And, let's not see anymore Vontaze Burfict and Cliff Harris issues in the 2013 NFL Draft.