The Pac-10 Conference has been dubbed, “The Conference of Champions” due to the constant success, both athletically across all fields, and academically since its inception. Now, for the first time since the Bowl Championship Series began in 1998, another school other than the University of Southern California will compete in the national championship game.
The perception of college football fans east of the Rocky Mountains has long considered the conference a one-team league with USC as the flagship program. No longer is that the case in the Pac-12 moving forward.
Although this past bowl season, the Pac-10 only managed to fill three of their six bowl tie-ins. This modest development was just another notion that the conference was not at their performance peak. However, both Oregon and Stanford will be playing under the brightest lights in BCS bowls this coming week.
This year instead of the Pac-10 being a one-team conference, with nine other teams filling out the schedule, Larry Scott, the Pac-10 commissioner, can boast his chest about two premiere programs taking the stage in the Orange Bowl and the national championship in Glendale, Ariz.
Everyone will look up and down the conference slate and notice schools with apathetic records recently like Washington State, Arizona State and former football heavyweight, UCLA. Unfortunately, it certainly does not help when teams achieve bowl eligibility and accept invitations, and in turn lay an egg on national television. The end results tend to leave fans with plenty to be desired.
Take the University of Arizona for instance. Mike Stoops inherited a dwindling football program that could barely buy a victory back in 2004, and propelled the Wildcats into the top-25 heading into November with a 7-1 record.
Suddenly the calendar changed, and the production on the field went with the autumn breeze as well. The Wildcats ended their season with a 7-6 record and fans on their couch pondered how this team was competing and leading the Oregon Ducks at halftime just two months ago.
However, that is no shot at Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks. Oregon’s recipe all year long was “win the day," and with one game remaining, the Ducks’ record is still unblemished. Whether or not that will be the case come Jan. 10, is still up in the air.
The Pac-10 is not the Big Ten, or the Big 12 or even the Southeastern Conference. However, with USC taking a backseat to Oregon and Stanford this season, media pundits, have taken a liking to the offensive frenzy Oregon and Stanford have displayed. Albeit, for good measure too.
Stanford might be the most physical and hard-nosed team that the Pac-10 has put on display in recent memory, and Oregon still brings the high-flying up-tempo offense that excites fans across the country. Oh, and both defenses are pretty darn good too.
The traditionally powerful, defensive driven Big Ten took a back seat this past season to the SEC and Pac-10, but many considered both conferences to be far more competitive than the West Coast’s elite.
Although, after seeing what Michigan and Michigan State displayed on New Year's Day, perhaps the Pac-10 should have filled those bowl games with far more competitive teams like Oregon State, Arizona State or perhaps even California with losing records.
College football is not only about competitive entertainment value on the field, but also the dollar signs attached to the game as well.
The Big Ten and SEC have the perception of being the elite among the country in terms of revenue and success, but the Pac-10 has the opportunity to step outside of their rival conferences and USC’s shadow with two major games, with plenty of cash to boot.
The matchups are not ideal, with traditional powers like Alabama, LSU or Florida in lower-tier bowl games, but the game still features the Atlantic Coast’s Virginia Tech and SEC’s Auburn. Fans on the West Coast have been anticipating this week for nearly one month.
Finally, it will be the Pac-10’s stage to exude confidence, power, and championship success for the country to see, and the letters U.S.C. will not be involved. As a conference moving forward with expansion and soaring to new heights in the 2011 year, there is no better way to promote the “conference of champions” than winning the national title, in Pac-10 country, with the conference’s logo on your chest.