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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Pac-12 is rising in stature, but not in eyes of the BCS

The conference is rated the top league by Jeff Sagarin, but it won't have a team playing in the national title game. The Pac-12's top teams can't afford losses to unranked opponents.

November 24, 2013|Chris Dufresne
  • On a weekend when Ka'Deem Carey and Arizona ran over the BCS title hopes of Oregon, the Pac-12 Conference now rivals the mighty SEC for college football supremacy in the power rankings.
On a weekend when Ka'Deem Carey and Arizona ran over the BCS title hopes… (Mike Christy / Associated…)

This is the latest offering in an occasional series: "Things that should keep Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott up at night."

If you started a playoff next month using the top four division champions based on Jeff Sagarin's ratings Sunday in USA Today, Arizona State and Stanford would be in the semifinals.

The Sun Devils would play Missouri, or South Carolina, and the Cardinal would meet this week's Alabama/Auburn winner.

What a cruel twist it was that, on the Saturday that Oregon's second loss effectively eliminated the Pac-12 from this year's national title race, the league was overall No. 1.

The conference got to the summit just in time to be knocked back down BCS Mountain.

For what it's worth, which is nothing, Sagarin rates the Pac-12 South as the nation's top football division, followed by the Pac-12 North, Southeastern Conference West and SEC East.

Pac-12 players, coaches, officials and fans can serve this with appetizers at holiday cocktail parties in lieu of not having a school in the BCS title game.

The cold, hard, college truth remains: Being the best team from the top conference doesn't mean anything if you can't push one team through the gantlet.

The Pac-12 can take pride it has made huge strides in becoming an elite league, but now it has to find a way to turn that into something anyone cares about.

It can't continue to have its best teams lose games it should not: Stanford at Utah, Oregon at Arizona.

The league's breakout success does it no good if the champion ends up with two losses. That probably won't get a Pac-12 team in the four-team playoff starting next year.

The ongoing, real-world title chase has become a major league runoff between the SEC (strong), Big Ten (weaker) and Atlantic Coast Conference (weakest).

Baylor's wipeout loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday has severely tightened the focus.

The Bears' bow down left three undefeated contenders at the top: Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State.

Florida State's path is a stroll through Tallahassee Park. It makes the title game with wins over swamp-water Florida and then, like, Duke.

Alabama is cemented at No. 1 but still has to play at Auburn and then the SEC title game, and Ohio State must beat Michigan and Michigan State.

These last two BCS weeks promise to be exciting.

The Pac-12, as casual observers, will be interested to see how it turns out.

The league won't be a part of the big party, but maybe it could order up some cheesy T-shirts:

"We're No.1 … with Sagarin."

Weekend wrap

-- Big news on the BCS bid front: Northern Illinois is now No. 14, ahead of No. 16 Fresno State.

BCS pollsters clearly favor Fresno State, but Northern Illinois is winning, for now, the computer battle. The Harris Poll has Fresno State at No. 13, five spots ahead of Northern Illinois, and the USA Today coaches' poll has Fresno State at No. 13 and Northern Illinois at 20.

Northern Illinois is No. 7 in the computers, however, and Fresno is No. 17.

A non-automatic qualifier champion receives a bid if it finishes in the top 12 or top 16 ahead of an AQ champion.

-- Power shift? The Pac-12 North has been the better division since conference expansion, but that seems to be changing. South schools have scores big reversal wins this year: Utah over Stanford, USC over Stanford, Arizona over Oregon, Arizona State over Washington and Oregon State. Also, Arizona State needs to beat Arizona to be the first Pac-12 South team to host the title game.

--Remember when some USC fans were pining for Mike Riley to be named permanent coach? After a 6-1 start, Riley's Oregon State Beavers are 6-5 after a humiliating 69-27 home loss Saturday to Washington.

"We obviously failed in every way," Riley said of the game.

Oregon State's four straight Pac-12 defeats have come against schools — Stanford, USC, Arizona State, Washington — with a combined 34-11 record. But Riley's team is clearly reeling as it stares down Oregon in this week's Civil War.

-- The season couldn't end soon enough for California Coach Sonny Dykes, who finished his first year at 1-11. The only win came against Portland State.

The season can't end soon enough for Hawaii, which fell to 0-11 after a 59-56 overtime loss Saturday at Wyoming. Norm Chow's team has two overtime games and three other defeats by five, two and seven points. Lost in winless misery at Laramie were standout performances by Los Angeles-area products. Senior quarterback Sean Schroeder completed 37 of 50 passes for 499 yards and six touchdowns, and receiver Chris Gant had 174 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

Hawaii has a chance to get out of 2013 with a win next week when 3-7 Army visits the islands.

-- With a late night, 34-31 overtime victory, San Diego State became the first team to defeat Boise State in consecutive seasons since Washington State did it in 2000 and 2001. It was the Aztecs' fourth overtime game this season, most in FBS.

-- Was it worth it? Senior quarterback Aaron Murray came five yards short last year of leading Georgia to the national title game. He returned this year to finish the job, but his collegiate career sadly ended Saturday night with a torn anterior cruciate ligament during his team's 59-17 win over Kentucky.

"It's just a shame," Georgia tight end Arthur Lynch said.

Georgia is 7-4 this season. Murray leaves as the only SEC quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in four seasons.

"He's broken records that probably won't be broken for a long time," Georgia Coach Mark Richt said.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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