USC v Fresno State football

Struggling to Beat a Non-Power 5 Conference

Remember, the Pac-12 is a Power 5 conference. Teams in a Power 5 conference should be able to routinely handle non-Power 5 conferences. However, time and time again, in Pac-12 vs Mountain West Conference football games, the Pac-12 is struggling. MWC teams routinely give Pac-12 programs significant trouble. How can that be the case?

Recent History of The Pac-12 vs Mountain West Conference

No, this isn’t just a recent problem because of Arizona and Hawaii. It goes beyond that. Since 2010 Pac-12 teams only have a 71.1% win-percentage against Mountain West Conference programs. Of the 64 wins and 26 losses against the Mountain West, the Pac-12 has won 11 bowl games. How many have they lost? 12. A sub-.500 record in bowl games against the MWC is inexcusable.

Against other Power 5 programs, the Mountain West has records of:

  • 5-7 against ACC 
  • 2-34 against Big-10 
  • 2-14 against Big-12 
  • 3-14 against SEC 

Overall, the ACC is the only conference with a worse record win percentage against Mountain West Conference teams. However, that is only out of 12 games. That sample size is much smaller and includes one bowl. Against all the other Power 5 conferences, the Mountain West is a small problem. So why does the Pac-12 struggle?

Money Matters

Should Larry Scott be blamed for Pac-12 vs Mountain West Conference struggles? Yes. When Larry Scott took over as the Pac-12’s commissioner, he made a very bold decision: to remove Pac-12 partnerships with major networks. Taking a bet on the Pac-12’s future success, it retained 100-percent ownership of media rights. But, much different than Larry Scott predicted, this didn’t cause the success promised.

Though the Pac-12 did grow its revenue from $100 million to $500 million since 2009, conference revenue lags behind other Power 5 conferences. In per-school revenue, the conference is $20 million behind other power leagues. Turning away from cable and other media networks is a big issue. Pac-12 games aren’t readily available around the country. Other Power 5 games are. While other conferences are reaping the rewards of growing revenue, Larry Scott’s Pac-12 is hitting a wall. 

Money isn’t everything, but it sure helps. Revenue is used for hiring coaches and staff, building and maintaining facilities, and most importantly: recruiting talent. Because of the lack of financial support, the Pac-12 has performed dreadfully in football. And not just in Pac-12 vs Mountain West Conference football games. The conference was only 3.53 points better than the average FBS team in 2018-2019, which was the lowest for any Power 5 conference in six years. Additionally, the Pac-12 holds three of the worst seven seasons in points better than the average FBS team. Moreover, only 2 of the 20 College Football Playoff teams came from the Pac-12. Also, the Pac-12 hasn’t had a national champion since the incredible 2003 and 2004 USC programs. 

It’s no wonder the biggest taunt against the Pac-12 is “The Pac-12 sucks.”

The Mountain West Conference is Rising

In recent years, Mountain West Conference football is on the rise. Even though the conference lost some of their better programs like TCU, BYU and Utah, they’ve regained prominence. With their upsurge in production, 2017 and 2018 were the MWC’s two best years in S&P+ ratings. 

Also, it is important to note the hot start the Mountain West Conference got off to in 2019. UNR beat Purdue, Boise State beat Florida State, Hawaii beat Arizona and Wyoming beat Missouri. Four upsets. Brilliant. Because of their growing success in football, the Mountain West Conference is capitalizing with new network deals. More money will likely make them more competitive.

No, the Mountain West Conference Isn’t Better than the Pac-12

While it is important to understand the growing success of the Mountain West Conference and the plateau the Pac-12 reached, the Pac-12 is still better than the Mountain West Conference. Most are not calling for the Pac-12 and Mountain West Conferences to switch places. Remember that even with their struggles, the Pac-12 still wins most of the time. In Pac-12 vs Mountain West Conference games, the Pac-12 programs wins 71.1-percent of games. 

Instead, many argue that the Mountain West Conference should become part of a Power 6. If the Mountain West Conference continues to stay competitive against Power 5 teams, this should be considered. However, Larry Scott continues to hold the Pac-12 back from financial success, the Pac-12 will slip. It is completely possible for the Mountain West Conference football becoming an equal to the Pac-12 in 10 years. 

Bottom line, we need Larry Scott and the Pac-12 to change things.

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