Pac-12 Football: Grading How the Pac-12 Fared Against Other Conferences in 2012
With the regular season in the books, it's time to do a postmortem on the Pac-12's performances against non-conference teams.
This year at least one Pac-12 team played against one team from every conference in FBS, as well as teams playing as Independents. The Pac-12 finished with a combined 25-11 record against all non-conference opponents.
We will take a look at the Pac-12's performances against each conference and grade out the combined performances of the conference.
Pac-12 vs. Atlantic Coast Conference: 1-0
The Stanford Cardinal beat the Duke Blue Devils 50-13. Duke finished the season 6-6 and received a berth in the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati. Duke has gone bowling five times in 58 years with its last bowl taking place in 1994's Hall of Fame Bowl against Wisconsin.
Beating Duke isn't a huge win for the Pac-12 as the ACC's top teams (Clemson, Florida State and Miami) all beat Duke, as well—North Carolina (8-4) did not. Still, it is a victory over an ACC bowl team.
Pac-12 vs. Big 12: 1-0
Arizona beat Oklahoma State 59-38—this was an upset as Oklahoma State was ranked No. 18 at the time. The Cowboys finished their season 7-5 but that record is misleading because the Big 12 was one strongest conferences from top to bottom in FBS, sending 10 teams bowling.
For the Wildcats—under new head coach Rich Rodriguez-—to soundly beat Oklahoma State is impressive.
Pac-12 vs. Big Ten: 3-1
Granted, the Big Ten didn't perform very well as a whole this season, but at least the Pac-12 didn't lose to Big Ten teams that were not favored to win the games.
UCLA beat Legends champion Nebraska (10-3) 36-30 in a huge upset.
Arizona State beat Illinois (2-10) 45-14, Oregon State beat Leaders champion Wisconsin (7-5) 10-7 in another big upset, while Cal lost to Ohio State (12-0) 35-28.
Pac-12 teams beat both of the Big Ten's division champions and although the 3-9 Cal Golden Bears lost to Ohio State, a 17-5 point favorite, it was a close game—Ohio State scored the go-ahead touchdown with less than four minutes left in the game.
Pac-12 vs. Big East: 1-0
USC was the only Pac-12 team to play a Big East team this season and beat Syracuse (7-5) in East Rutherford, 42-29.
Syracuse was at one point contending for the Big East crown and was one of the Big East's more competitive teams—Syracuse beat both the Big East Champion Louisville Cardinals and the SEC's Missouri Tigers.
Pac-12 vs. Southeastern Conference: 0-2
The Washington Huskies ventured down to Baton Rouge to take on the LSU Tigers (10-2) and got pounded, losing 41-3.
Meanwhile, the Arizona State Sun Devils traveled to Columbia to take on the Missouri Tigers where they eventually lost, 24-20.
The loss at LSU was expected—albeit that rout wasn't—but losing to a 5-7 Missouri team that struggled with Tennessee and lost to both Vanderbilt and Syracuse doesn't make the Pac-12 look very strong, even though both losses were to SEC teams on the road.
Pac-12 vs. Mountain West Conference: 4-3
We're not going to go through all seven Mountain West Conference games in which the Pac-12 played, but we'll highlight the notable losses to justify a grade.
Colorado (1-11) was responsible for two of those three Pac-12 losses against Fresno State and Colorado State. Cal (3-9) also lost to Nevada.
Since two teams that were at the bottom of the Pac-12 lost to three MWC teams, I'm not going to down-grade the Pac-12 too much since Cal and Colorado only had a combined four wins for the season—they pretty much lost to everyone.
Pac-12 vs. Western Athletic Conference: 1-1
Stanford beat San Jose State (10-2) 20-17 and Utah lost to 2012 WAC champion Utah State (10-2) 27-20.
Frankly, Utah vs. Utah State is a rivalry game (110 meetings), so these games can always be a little dicey.
But an eventual Pac-12 champion only beating San Jose State by three points is a little embarrassing. Utah State, for what it's worth, scored 27 points on San Jose State.
More embarrassing is that Texas-San Antonio and Texas State, two schools in their first year in FBS, both scored 24 and 20 points respectively on San Jose State.
Pac-12 vs. Football Championship Subdivision Teams: 8-1
Colorado (1-11) was the only Pac-12 team to lose to an FCS school; the Buffaloes dropped a 30-28 heartbreaker to Sacramento State.
The Buffs were positively awful this year so losing to Sacramento State isn't that surprising, but any time a BCS conference's team loses to an FCS team, it's ripe for jokes.
Sacramento State beat Oregon State last year and its prize for beating Colorado this year was a $460,000 check.
Pac-12 vs. Sun Belt: 1-0
Oregon beat Arkansas State, the 2012 Sun Belt champs, 57-34. The Ducks led the Red Wolves 50-10 at half-time and inserted their reserves for the second half of the game.
These Sun Belt teams do tend to hang with the big boys in football. Troy barely lost to Tennessee 55-48, while Florida escaped an upset bid by Louisiana Lafayette winning 27-20. Auburn had to go into overtime before beating Louisiana Monroe 31-28.
Other SEC teams weren't as lucky. Western Kentucky beat Kentucky 32-31 and Louisiana Monroe beat Arkansas 34-31.
The Ducks get props for not allowing the Red Wolves to keep the game close.
Pac-12 vs. Mid-American Conference: 1-0
Arizona opened its season at home hosting the Toledo Rockets (9-3). The Wildcats had to go into overtime before finally beating Toledo, 24-17.
It's not exactly an overwhelming victory but then again, this was a team playing its first game under new head coach Rich Rodriguez and his playbook.
Pac-12 vs. Conference-USA: 2-0
UCLA gets major props for taking on two C-USA teams sandwiched around a date with Nebraska and beating them both.
The Bruins beat Rice (6-6) 49-24 on the road and two weeks later, beat Houston 37-6. The reason why they deserve a high mark is because they could have easily overlooked Rice due to their pending game with Nebraska the following week.
After beating Nebraska, the Bruins also didn't come out flat against Houston the following week.
Pac-12 vs. Independents: 2-3
Notre Dame is an annual opponent for USC and Stanford, and this year the Irish went 12-0 so two of the conference's three losses to the Independents were to Notre Dame.
BYU, another Independent, didn't fare as well as the Fighting Irish.
Utah beat BYU 24-21 in the Holy War rivalry game and Oregon State beat BYU 42-24.
Washington State was the lone Pac-12 team to lose to BYU, 30-6.
Pac-12 Overall Grade of 25-11
After assigning a numerical value for each grade (ex. 85 points for a B), the Pac-12 came out of the regular season with a strong B.
Game outcomes that could have given the Pac-12 an A: Colorado beating Sacramento State, USC beating Notre Dame and Arizona State beating Missouri.
We'll revisit the Pac-12's performance after the bowls are completed to give an overall grade for the 2012 season.