This is an easy and fun exercise this week on Pac-12 Friday: What individuals seasons were the best in the history of the Conference of Champions? Well, that is why we are here … for your reading pleasure.
Here we go with the 10 best seasons of Pacific-12 Conference football (including all the earlier versions of the league, of course):
The UCLA Bruins won the conference and the Rose Bowl to finish No. 4 in the country, and the USC Trojans also ended up in the Top 10. The league only had one losing team—the 4-5-1 Oregon Ducks—and even that school lost three games by a combined 12 points.
The league-champion California Golden Bears had a perfect season ruined in the Rose Bowl by the Ohio State Buckeyes, while three other teams spent time ranked in the Associated Press poll—including USC, which finished No. 8 in the Simple Rating System (SRS). UCLA and the Stanford Indians also ended up ranked very well overall, sabermetrically.
USC capped off an unbeaten season (10-0-1) with a Rose Bowl win over Michigan, while UCLA and Stanford also finished ranked in the AP poll. The three teams ended up 5th, 7th, and 9th overall in the SRS. It’s a shame all three teams weren’t allowed to go bowling, of course.
The last regular season before the U.S. entered World War II saw the Oregon State Beavers win the conference—and then the Rose Bowl in Durham, North Carolina after Pearl Harbor happened. Cal, Idaho, and USC were bottom feeders that combined for a 10-16-1 record, so even the lower tier of teams was not that bad.
Six of the 10 teams were ranked at some point during the season, and four of them ended up in the AP Top 25 at the end of the season. The Arizona State Sun Devils beat Michigan (of course!) in the Rose Bowl, while the Arizona Wildcats finished No. 11 in the country—as the two newest teams at the time surprisingly paced the conference.
In this very special season, the Trojans (12-0) won the mythical national championship with a 42-17 thrashing of Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Meanwhile, UCLA and the Washington teams combined for a 23-10 record to back up USC for overall conference strength that was quite impressive.
Even though Stanford lost the Rose Bowl to Michigan State, the conference was very strong in the final year of the corrupt Bowl Championship Series. Five teams won at least 10 times, and six teams finished the season ranked in the Top 25. A seventh team spent time ranked in the polls, too.
This wouldn’t seem like a memorable season in our minds, but UCLA finished No. 5, Arizona State finished No. 6, and Washington finished No. 7 overall. All three teams won their bowl games to finish with 10 victories each: The Bruins won the Rose over Michigan; the Sun Devils won the Fiesta over Oklahoma; and the Huskies won the Aloha over Maryland.
Another season that doesn’t stand out in our memories, yet the conference posted a 3-0-1 bowl record as more teams finally were let into the postseason fray. USC finished No. 2 in the AP poll, while UCLA and Stanford also made the Top 20. The Bruins’ “upset” tie against No. 8 Arkansas in the Fiesta Bowl was the only “blemish” during bowl season.
Stanford knocked off No. 2 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl to prove how strong the conference was, in a year where 7 of the 8 teams finished with winning records. Five of those teams were ranked during the regular season, and the 7 winning teams combined for an overall 45-30-2 record—which would have been a lot better if they didn’t have to play each other, of course!