We have reached the end of this miniseries of features on Pac-12 Friday with the Top 10 teams (and them some) of the last decade in college football. The Conference of Champions acquitted itself very well, of course, despite the continued corruption of the Bowl Championship Series and the College Football Playoff.
There won’t be any action to cover this fall, but we will continue with a variety of fun things to discuss every Friday nonetheless! In the meantime, enjoy the list …
Both these squads won Rose Bowls, yet this is the highest they could get in this decade of pretty stellar conference squads. These Ducks lost two games on the road by a total of nine points, and that kept them out of the CFP fray. Oregon beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, however, to salvage the season. Meanwhile, these Trojans started out 1-3, losing to three ranked teams all on the road, before running off 9 straight victories, culminating in a Pasadena victory over Penn State. This is the only USC team of the decade on our list.
10. 2011 Stanford Cardinal (11-2)
After a 9-0 start, the team fizzled in a 23-point loss at home to the Ducks (see below). But a home win over a ranked Notre Dame team by double digits netted the Cardinal a berth in the Fiesta Bowl against a BCS-snubbed Oklahoma State squad. Stanford came up a field goal short in that game, but it was still a stellar season.
9. 2011 Oregon Ducks (12-2)
If the Ducks had not dropped a home game to USC by 3 points the week before Thanksgiving, they would have been playing in their second-straight BCS title game. Alas, Oregon did suffer that loss, so it settled for the conference title and the berth in the Rose Bowl. A 7-point victory over Wisconsin healed a lot of wounds for the Ducks fan base.
8. 2015 Stanford Cardinal (12-2)
After dropping a random road game to open the season at Northwestern, the Cardinal recovered to win 8 straight before losing by 2 points at home to Oregon. Nonetheless, Stanford won the Pac-12 North and the league title game to earn a Rose Bowl bid. After beating Iowa in Pasadena, the Cardinal finished with four victories over ranked teams.
7. 2013 Stanford Cardinal (11-3)
This Stanford team lost the Rose Bowl to Michigan State, a team that should have been in the BCS title game that year. But prior to that, the Cardinal steamrolled a lot of squads. Stanford beat six ranked teams by an average of 11-plus points each. Only two random road losses by a combined 9 points kept the Cardinal themselves out of the BCS.
6. 2016 Washington Huskies (12-2)
The last conference team to reach the CFP, these Huskies finished 8th in the country for both scoring offense and scoring defense. They beat four ranked teams by a combined 161-57 margin (!) before losing a road playoff semifinal matchup to Alabama in Atlanta. Even when UW was 9-0, it could only get as high as No. 4 in the polls. Corruption? Nah.
5. 2013 Oregon Ducks (12-2)
A November meltdown—literally—in the Tucson desert kept these Ducks from winning the conference, and the Alamo Bowl invite was an insult to the No. 10 team in the country. However, that didn’t stop Oregon from finishing No. 2 in the SRS for the season. Yeah, those pollsters and BCS folks really knew what they were doing, right? Wink, wink.
4. 2010 Oregon Ducks (12-1)
Ranked No. 1 all season until the final week when Auburn—with should-have-been-ineligible Cam Newton—was elevated for no good reason (other than to make more money from the SEC) to the top spot, the Ducks lost the BCS Championship Game to that same Tigers squad on a last-second field goal. During the year, Oregon beat three ranked teams by an average of 20 points per game.
3. 2010 Stanford Cardinal (12-1)
Yes, this decade really belonged to Oregon and Stanford, didn’t it? Despite losing to the Ducks by 21 points, this Cardinal team actually finished the season No. 1 in the SRS. This was the final year for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, and a 28-point blowout of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl was the crowning achievement of his tenure on The Farm.
2. 2014 Oregon Ducks (13-2)
After a random home loss by 7 points to Arizona, the Ducks went on a roll, winning the Pac-12 handily and defeating the defending national champs from Florida State in the semifinals of the first CFP season. They beat five ranked teams by an average of 26 points each. But the Oregon defense ran out of gas in the title game against Ohio State, giving up 21 points in the final 15-plus minutes of play.
1. 2012 Oregon Ducks (12-1)
Why this team was not picked for the BCS Championship remains another tragicomedy of the most corruptive era in the sport. Finishing No. 2 in the SRS, the Ducks suffered one three-point loss to a ranked Stanford team, before having to settle for a Fiesta Bowl bid—where Oregon torched No. 7 Kansas State by 18 points in a game where the Ducks went on cruise control after dominating the first three quarters.