Among the BCS' bon voyage and the 34 superfluous and ridiculously named games that precede it, this bowl season's biggest subplot is the centennial Rose Bowl presented by Vizio. Battling ticket sales aside, it is a victory Stanford must secure in order to guide the Pac-12's sleigh through 2014.
Although no holiday arrangements are made with the SEC itself, if the Pac-12 aspires to be mentioned in the same breath, collective success in December is imperative. If it doesn't, then I'm sure Dez Bryant has a few minutes to spare for some motivational speaking.
From preseason until the middle of November, Stanford and Oregon were the class of the conference yearning to represent in Pasadena and dethrone Alabama or any SEC counterpart in the national championship. Upsets at the mercy of USC and Arizona, respectively, in consecutive weeks rapidly unravelled the unbiased West Coast's bid for a BCS at-large berth.
The silver-polluted lining, of course, is the parity that arose from the ashes. Nine of the conference's 12 schools reached the postseason, a percentage only outdone by the ACC (11 of 14).
Arizona State posted 10 wins. USC and UCLA hope to do the same for the rejuvenated city of Los Angeles. Oregon State features the runner-up in passing yards, while Arizona boasts the fifth-leading rusher. The collective state of Washington is wearing bowling shoes for the first time since 2002.
That's nice by Hallmark's standards, but if we're going to start caring about Mariah Carey being in every single Christmas special, she has to sing a new song. Upon adding Utah and Colorado two years ago, commissioner Larry Scott indirectly went 2-5 and 4-4 in bowl games. The SEC, meanwhile, achieved 6-3 marks in each of those seasons as it prolonged its manipulation of the country.
A notorious era is ending, and the negative winter ethos of the Pac-12 is invited to the Flush It Down the Toilet Bowl. Which programs are motivated to conclude 2013 on a sugar-cookie high, and who will be shoveling snow in the offseason?