With just one game this week to preview, it is time to review the Pacific-12 Conference regular season. The league finished with three ranked teams and seven bowl-eligible teams. Not everything went as expected, although, the Pac-12 acquitted itself well in 2019.
No. 5 Utah, No. 13 Utah, and No. 24 USC posted a combined 29-7 record, including an impressive 23-4 mark in conference play, to assert themselves as the power teams in the league. Arizona State, California, Washington, and Washington State joined this trio for postseason play, in bowl games to be determined after this weekend of play.
However, the Pac-12 also saw one of its flagship schools, Stanford, fall to 4-8 and miss a bowl game for the first time since 2008. It was the worst season for the Cardinal since Jim Harbaugh took over the program in 2007, and for a team that started the year ranked 23rd in the country, this had to be a major disappointment.
Also, with the news this week that Chris Petersen is stepping down at Washington, the conference loses the best coach in the country, really. His .793 winning percentage, overall, includes three Top-5 finishes and two undefeated seasons (albeit both at Boise State). It a big loss for the Pac-12 as a whole.
Now, onto the Pacific-12 Conference Championship Game tomorrow night at Levi’s Stadium. We’re putting our 62-27 record on the line (sort of) …
No. 5 Utah vs. No. 13 Oregon (5 pm Friday night): This is it, for all the marbles. If the Utes win, they have a great shot at the College Football Playoff (and the consolation prize of their first Rose Bowl ever if they don’t make the cut). If the Ducks win, they’re off to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2014 when they won a CFP semifinal there to advance to the national championship. Oregon has played a tougher schedule, but Utah has a greater margin-of-victory factor, on average. The two teams are somewhat evenly matched, but the Utes have two distinct advantages. The first is coaching, for Kyle Whittingham is one of the best coaches in the country. He is an Urban Meyer disciple, and since taking over for Meyer at Utah starting with the Sugar Bowl in January 2005, Whittingham has led Utah to his own undefeated season (2008, with a bowl win over Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, no less) and consistently gotten most out of his rosters. This is no knock against Mario Cristobal, but he just doesn’t have the pedigree (yet). Second, the Utes have serious momentum right now, having won eight in a row by an average score of 39-10. Can the Ducks stop that? Recent evidence says no, and while both teams have motivation, we’re going to suggest that Utah has more of it, mostly because the Oregon roster must have been crushed by its loss to Arizona State a few weeks ago. Look for a close game, where the Utes escape by less than touchdown. Utah 31, Oregon 27.
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