1. Stanford (11-2)
Cardinals handle UCLA on the Farm to win the PAC-12 championship. If not for that loss to Washington and a questionable call at Notre Dame, the Cardinal could be playing for the national championship. David Shaw deserves coach of the year honors in the PAC-12. Next up: Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
2. Oregon (11-1)
Idle this week. Ducks await BCS bowl berth while chatter of Chip Kelly leaving is heard in the background. Is he a legit NFL coaching candidate? I’m not sold on it yet, I think it’s a recipe for failure, but perhaps Auburn or Arkansas should come-a-knocking. Could Kelly handle the SEC? Hard to imagine not being able to turn Oregon’s national championship run into recruiting success, but the Ducks sit at #34, according to scout.com – fifth best in the conference behind USC, Washington, UCLA, and Arizona. Next up: Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl; could be the most exciting match up of the bowl season.
3. UCLA (9-3)
Lost to Stanford in the PAC-12 championship game in a classic battle that just came up short. A 12th ranked recruiting class awaits Mora after his first season in Westwood, which when you add in the defeat of hated USC, marks a wildly successful season. Next up: Baylor in the Holiday Bowl. Should be a fun game all around – Baylor is on a roll, Bruins took two hits from Stanford – expect both teams to be very motivated and an exciting game to unfold. Last one with the ball wins this game.
4. Oregon State (9-3)
Another successful season in Corvallis for Mike Riley. I keep saying this; when are programs of higher prestige going to call Riley? Wake up. I’d hate to see him leave the PAC-12 but at some point someone needs to look at his success at OSU – doing more with less – and try and lure him away. Would USC make a run at him next season if Kiffin falters? Should I say if or when? Next up; Texas in the Alamo Bowl. Riley will have his crew ready to play, will Mack Brown?
5. Arizona State (7-5)
Started strong, finished on the ropes against the top teams in the conference, but beat in state rival UA for bragging rights. Solid year for Todd Graham. Next up; Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl vs. Navy. Another uninspiring bowl game match-up between two teams with no history. Best part of this game is at least we’re fighting hunger.
6. Arizona (7-5)
Idle this week. A great first season for Rich Rod. In one season he gives folks in Tucson something to talk about besides college basketball. ‘Cats have a strong recruiting class lined up (#22 per scouts.com) and a bowl game. Big upside for this program. Bear Down – football is relevant again at UA. Next up: Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl. Two things that just don’t go together; Nevada and quality football. A disappointing match-up.
7. USC (7-5)
Idle this week. Next up: Georgia Tech (6-7) in the Sun Bowl. This is an awful match-up that should revolt even the most hard-core college football fan. A preseason #1 plays a 6-7 team? Ugh. Yawn. Boo. Kiffin wisely resigns before being forced out. Will we be saying the same thing about Lane next season? With UCLA the hot team in LA and with another monster USC recruiting class awaits; anything less than a national championship run next year and he’ll be gone. The standards are too high…and rightfully so.
8. Washington (7-5)
Idle this week. The stink of the Apple Cup loss will linger for a while in Seattle. A slow start to the season, followed by a four game winning streak to set the table for 8 wins – falls short in Pullman. This is Sark’s most important off-season of his career; questions about Keith Price’s ability to lead must be addressed, along with the penalties, lack of consistency and sometimes uninspired efforts. Next up: Boise State in the Maaco Bowl. An uninspired match-up that no one outside of the Pacific Northwest will watch. After last year’s epic game, a rematch against Baylor would’ve been a great game – both for the schools and for the promoters. There are some that toil under the mistaken illusion that UW and BSU have a rivalry.
9. Utah (5-7)
Idle this week. Next up: long off season of everyone questioning if Utah really belongs in the PAC-12. I can answer that for you now; no.
10. Washington State (3-9)
Idle this week. Next up: a very interesting off-season begins – recruiting, program purging, results of the Wilson-allegations-of-abuse investigation and the next phase of Leach’s process. Ending the season on a high note is important for programs like this. They’ll spend the next few months knowing they can win, and that mentality is paramount in turning this team into winners. It’ll happen.
11. Cal (3-9)
Idle this week. The search for Tedford’s replacement begins. It’s a shame a quality coach like him is out of a job, but he’ll land on his feet. It was time for a change for both Cal and Tedford, so let’s see how this all plays out. Cal needs to make a statement hire to stay relevant in the PAC-12.
12. Colorado (1-11)
Idle this week. Finally, mercifully, the season ends for CU and Embree, as expected, walks the green mile into coaching unemployment. Can’t imagine his staff survives at CU either – it’ll be a house cleaning and it needs to be. The stink of this season needs to be completely wiped away. Will McCartney make a big splash and go after a Petrino-type coach, will they raid a coordinator from a Stanford and elevate them, or will they bumble this again?