Pac-12 Football Week 3 offers up a mixed-bag of results

Arizona State Michigan State 2019

Don’t look now but the Pac-12 has six — yes six! — teams in the latest AP Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll. Utah (10 AP, 11 Coaches), Oregon (16 AP, 17 Coaches), Washington State (19 AP, 19 Coaches), Washington (22 AP, 21 Coaches), Cal (23 AP, 23 Coaches) and Arizona State (24 AP, 24 Coaches) all find themselves in the college football polls after their Pac-12 football week 3 results.

With the addition of California and Arizona State into the week 4 AP Top 25 college football poll, the conference’s six teams are the most it has had in the poll since Week 13 of 2016. This bodes well for the Pac-12 Conference’s perception as it enters the bulk of conference play. What doesn’t bode well, however, are the mounting out-of-conference losses.

The Bad From Pac-12 Football Week 3

The Pac-12 went 8-4 in college football week 3. With no conference games played this week (there were two in week 2), the conference did benefit from eight non-conference wins to just four non-conference losses. And while a couple of the wins were nice, most came against inferior opponents in expected fashion. The losses, however, weren’t so great.

UCLA, Stanford, Colorado, and USC all dropped non-conference tilts in week 3. Of these losses, only one can really be considered acceptable.

Addressing this ‘acceptable’ loss, nobody expected the UCLA Bruins to put up a fight against Oklahoma. The Sooners be in the College Football Playoff picture throughout the year and are one of college football’s most imposing teams. The Bruins, meanwhile, are not.

After an offseason in which Chip Kelly cleaned house, the Bruins are now playing like it. Their offense is miserable, defense inept and all signs point to a massive rebuild in the years to come. Adding salt to the wound of an already embarrassing loss was the terrible attendance despite tickets being given away to the game.

The Rose Bowl deserves better. The Pac-12 deserves better.

Colorado, Stanford and USC don’t have excuses like the Bruins. They’re not going through complete rebuilds, even though the Buffaloes did bring in new head coach Mel Tucker during the offseason.

USC and true freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis looked brilliant at times but lost during most others. The talent is there to compete with the best, but consistency is becoming an issue with the Trojans. Losing to BYU was tough for the Trojans and the Pac-12.

Stanford’s loss to UCF wasn’t as bad. The return of quarterback K.J. Costello did not go well and UCF freshman quarterback Dillon Gabriel looked like a stud against Stanford’s porous secondary. Still, for what Stanford could have been — and still could be (a scary thought for the Pac-12) — in 2019, a blowout loss to UCF is difficult to swallow.

Then there was Colorado. After a big win against Nebraska at home, whispers began about the Buffaloes being back. The Air Force Falcons and their triple-option ignored those, disposing of an inconsistent Colorado team in OT. It was a result that once again sparked the debate of why the Pac-12 struggles so much with what should an inferior Mountain West.

The Good From Pac-12 Football Week 3

What did go well in Pac-12 football week 3 was the continued rebound of Arizona, the emergence of Arizona State, and the conference’s headliners holding ground.

Since a shocking week zero loss to Hawaii, Arizona has rattled off two wins. Quarterback Khalil Tate looked the Heisman candidate many want him to be and the defense actually held a decent offense in check. With a bye week followed by games against UCLA and Colorado, the Wildcats could regroup in fine fashion in the coming weeks.

The other team from The Grand Canyon State, the Arizona State Sun Devils, had a more impressive showing. Having held their first two opponents to seven points each, the Sun Devils continued that trend against the Michigan State Spartans in Pac-12 football week 3. While their offense may need work, that defense is good.

The remaining Pac-12 teams came away with expected wins. Utah managed a shutout against Idaho State, Oregon’s defense was equally impressive in their 35-3 win over Montana and Washington trounced Hawai’i. California, meanwhile, sneaked into the polls with a so-so performance against North Texas and Oregon State finally won a game.

All-in-all it wasn’t Pac-12 football week 3 wasn’t so bad for the conference. But it wasn’t so great either. Tough non-conference losses were softened by emerging contenders who now have a lot to prove in conference play. There’s a lot of football left to play and the results from Pac-12 week 3 are setting up a wild ride.

Two Ways to Improve College Football Playoffs and the Pac-12

Pac-12 College Football Playoff

Recently, Larry Scott said it was “painful” that the Pac-12 once again missed College Football Playoffs. It’s a regular lament because it seems like the Pac-12 is always left out. Every college football fan, athlete or staffer knows that the Pac-12 is the odd one out. Washington and Oregon are the only teams from the Pac-12 to make it. Just 2 out of 24. Not good for the Pac-12.

So, the idea of expanding the college playoffs or bringing more parity to the selection process sounds perfect. First off, College Football Playoffs are a huge success. It was a long time coming and fans of all programs and divisions love it. With a four-team playoff, rather than selecting just two teams, college football moved to greater competition. From that, it was easier to conclude with the rightful champion.

Now, in its sixth year of success playoffs, the FBS needs to evolve further. For the sake of fans, collegiate programs and football itself.

Expand College Football Playoffs to Eight Teams

First off, the easiest way to increase the likelihood of crowning the just champion is to increase the sample size. Honestly, the NFL has 32 teams and still lets 12 into the playoffs. On the other hand, the FBS has 130 football programs (64 from Power-Five conferences) and only selects four. From such an abundant source of talent and diversity, the current four-team playoffs is restrictive.

Considering how slow and/or unwilling college football is to change, it’s best to keep an expansion small. Adjusting College Football Playoffs from four teams to six or eight is ideal. With six teams, the first and second-ranked teams are afforded a bye. Essentially, With eight teams, playoffs would be similar to the NCAA basketball tournament seeding. But, drastically smaller.

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With each set up, there would be three rounds of College Football Playoffs. This would work best for multiple reasons. First, as said above, expanding to more teams gives college football a clearer, less controversial champion. Additionally, it would add to revenue. As everyone knows, the NCAA loves money (even though it only pays college athletes more than a 550 dollar gift for bowl participation). So, instead of just three playoff games, there would be five to seven. Fundamentally doubling the amount of big-time matches and viewers.

Does Larry Scott support expansion?

Yes. But also no.

“I completely get that it would really release the pressure of being the one that’s been on the outside looking in the most in the first six years to say that automatically we’ve got our champion [in],” Scott said Thursday. “But we also have agreements through 2026 [the championship game] that I think will be very challenging for us to all agree how we’re going to amend and change.”

Larry Scott

Even though expanding playoffs to six or eight teams increases the odds the Pac-12 makes it in, Larry Scott needs a guarantee. He supports an eight team expansion only if each Power-Five conference champion gets a spot in the tournament. This makes sense for Scott because he wants to end the Pac-12’s embarrassing record of playoff participation.

However, he’s wrong in his idea. For two major reasons. First and foremost, expanding the playoffs automatically helps the Pac-12. It lowers the risk of a Pac-12 snub. Because the Pac-12 has little leverage in the situation, he can’t ask for more. Additionally, he’s misguided because mandating that each Power-Five conference champion gets in lowers college football parity. What if the overall competition of the ACC or Big Ten was significantly lower than Pac-12, SEC or Big 12? That hurts the playoff picture.

Granted, an eight-team playoff model like Ross Dellenger depicted would be extremely exciting. Five auto-bids, two at-large and one group of five sounds excellent. Nonetheless, greater freedom in selection creates a chance for greater competition.

Larry Scott refuses to give up the Rose Bowl

Also, of note, Larry Scott and the Pac-12 would be protective of the Rose Bowl. Yes, history is on his side. The Rose Bowl and the Pac-12 have over a century of history together. Nonetheless, Scott needs to be willing to change, to adapt and to give in order to gain. Yes, the Rose Bowl means a great deal for Pac-12 fans. It’s a monumental bowl game. With that being said, the audience would grow substantially if the Rose Bowl had greater competition. If the FBS combined the Rose Bowl, college football’s oldest bowl game, with playoffs each year, ratings and excitement would follow.

Yes, Scott and the Pac-12 have every right to be protective of the Rose Bowl. It’s ours. However, in order to increase the chance of a Pac-12 champion, the Pac-12 must be willing to sacrifice it’s most historic safety blanket. Keep in mind, there could also be a happy medium. If a Pac-12 team gets into the playoffs, they could get automatic entry into the Rose Bowl game. And if they missed the six or eight team playoff selection, they would sacrifice the Rose Bowl. It’s a risk, but one the Pac-12 needs to take.

Play at Least 10 Power-Five Opponents

In addition to Scott, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby also added his own idea. Bowlsby suggested a new requirement for College Football Playoff selection.

  • Each Power-Five team has to play at least ten Power-Five opponents

Excluding conference championship games, only Clemson and Oklahoma played nine, regular season, Power-Five opponents. Ohio State chose to play Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, and the Miami Redhawks. Likewise, LSU scheduled Georgia Southern, Northwestern State, and Utah State. If they played one more Power-Five team, it’s completely possible they would have an additional loss.

In order to make College Football Playoffs, each team selected needs to have at least ten (excluding conference championships) games against Power-Five opponents. If 2018 Notre Dame can do it, any program should be able to.