If you're a college football fan and holiday cheer is what you're after this December, tuck away that BYU ball cap. Stash your Utes foam finger and Boston College tee. Bury your Sooner socks, Buckeyes bottle opener, and Cornhuskers hoodie.
A year after turning in the only undefeated bowl season in the subdivsion, the Pac-10 will duplicate the feat in 2009.
And it has its incredibly weak bowl alliances to thank for it.
To refresh, the conference's No. 2 plays the Big 12 No. 3 in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl. The Pac-10 No. 3 plays the Big 12 No. 5 in the Sun Bowl. The Pac-10 No. 4 plays the ACC No. 7 in the Emerald Bowl. And the conference No. 5 and No. 6 play the non-BCS Mountain West Conference's top two.
By comparison, the Big Ten No. 2 plays the SEC No. 2 in the Capital One Bowl, assuming the SEC doesn't fill one of the two BCS Championship slots. Meanwhile, both the Big 12 and ACC No. 2 play the SEC No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5 in the Cotton and Chick-fil-A Bowls.
Outside of the Rose Bowl, the Pac-10 draws just one No. 3 from a BCS conference and zero No. 2s. Nebraska isn't a bad Holiday Bowl draw considering its near-upset of second-ranked Texas, but the bowl alliances keep the likes of Oklahoma State, LSU, Penn State, and Virginia Tech away from the left coast.
They also create a public relations nightmare for the Pac-10—a perfect bowl season leaves the conference with an "over-rated" or "untested" label, while a couple losses hurt an already fragile reputation.
After the tightest conference race in decades—one that saw five teams finish at 8-4 overall, including a three-way log-jam for second place—the Pac-10's impressive balance along with the ridiculous bowl affiliations give them an inside track at a spotless 7-0 over the next two weeks.
Also in their favor: Jim Tressel has lost three straight BCS Bowl Games, Pete Carrol (USC), Jeff Tedford (Cal), Mike Riley (Oregon State), and Mike Stoops (Arizona) are a combined 19-3 in the postseason, Stanford boasts the Heisman runner-up, and UCLA is a touchdown favorite against Temple in D.C. (In fact, six of the seven Pac-10 teams are Vegas favorites ).
Problem is, even with seven more bowl wins the Pac-10 will have nothing to show for itself.
Grant Marek covered the Cal football team from 2003-2005 and has written for Sports Illustrated, the San Francisco Examiner and Daily Californian, among others. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .