Since it was a competitive year for Pac-12 football, it makes sense that the league would be involved in some good matchups in the bowl season, and that’s what generally emerged Sunday as the BCS standings and selections set dominoes to falling.
The league is matched up against the Big 12 in three of the eight post-season games, which will be one significant measuring stick in deciding which of the two leagues is No. 2 behind the SEC in 2012.
My early ratings of the eight games, based as much on viewer appeal as implications nationally:
Fiesta — Oregon (11-1) vs. Kansas State (11-1). Bill Snyder against Nike and Oregon’s 14 gazillion uniform combinations; now here are two philosophically identical programs, right? This was a potential national-championship collision until a fateful few hours on Nov. 17, when both teams lost. K-State is 16th in the country in run defense, and in the offense-mad Big 12, that’s probably undervaluing the Wildcats. Grade: A.
Rose — Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5) . As noted in this space already, the Rose didn’t get a lot of favors with Wisconsin’s trouncing of Nebraska, placing a five-loss team in Pasadena. But at least the Badgers are coming in off a big high, and they’ll likely be primed to play after losing the past two years in the game. If you like knuckle sandwiches, this will be one; in scoring 70 against against Nebraska, Wisconsin ran a mere 60 plays, and 50 of them were runs. Stanford, in a BCS game for the third straight year, will also play hard. It probably depends on which quarterback, Wisconsin fifth-year senior Curt Phillips or Stanford’s redshirt freshman, Kevin Hogan, plays best. Grade: B-plus.
Alamo — Oregon State (9-3) vs. Texas (8-4). OSU’s Mike Riley has a summer home on the Guadalupe River not far from Luckenbach, Texas (a little Waylon Jennings here, please). So he probably knows his way around San Antonio. This is a good landing spot for the Beavers, who could catch Texas unaware of how solid OSU is. Besides, the Longhorns are No. 75 in total defense and Mack Brown is 1-10 lately against the Top 25. The ‘Horns fell here partly because of the BCS mess that kept Oklahoma out. Grade: B.
Holiday — UCLA (9-4) vs. Baylor (7-5). Nick Holt, please pick up a white courtesy phone . . . reminiscent of their 2011 team, and the forgettable/unforgettable Alamo Bowl between Washington and the Bears, Baylor is tops in the nation in total offense but 119th in defense. If I’m Jim Mora, I find a way to give the ball to Johnathan Franklin about 50 times and keep the Baylor offense off the field. Baylor finished with a flourish, scoring 145 points and upsetting Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Grade: B-plus, just on the basis of offensive histrionics.
Sun — Georgia Tech (6-7) vs. USC (7-5). This doesn’t do much for me, because it’s an option team with a losing record against an underachiever whose motivation will be highly suspect in the lead-in to the bowl. Between them, these two will have played 90 bowl games all-time, and Tech has lost its last seven, so it will come focused. The Ramblin’ Wreck has allowed 40 points-plus six times, and is only 82nd nationally in pass defense efficiency. Marqise Lee should like that. Grade: C.
Las Vegas — Washington (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2). With Kellen Moore gone, this is a slightly scaled-back version of the Broncos, but they’re still a force, sixth in the nation in scoring defense at 14.9. And they’ve intercepted 16 passes, so Keith Price is going to have to be alert. The fact BSU has allowed 141 rushing yards a game is something Washington will no doubt want to probe. Grade: C-plus.
Kraft Fight Hunger — Navy (7-4) vs. Arizona State (7-5). A year ago, this bowl had the oddity of hosting two teams (Illinois, UCLA) with fired coaches, and a combined 12-13 record. The portfolio is better this year, but Navy’s record is a bit of a mirage; the Middies (still with Army ahead) have only one victory over an FBS team [Editor’s Note: Sorry, meant to say only one victory over an FBS team with a winning record], and that was East Carolina. Ditto the Sun Devils, who didn’t get theirs until nine days ago against Arizona. I don’t envy ASU defenders spending 15 bowl practices staying upright against option cut blocks. Grade: C-minus.
New Mexico — Arizona (7-5) vs. Nevada (7-5). Pac-12 teams were jockeying, in part to stay out of the first bowl game on the calendar, and given that backdrop, this could be a lot worse matchup. It pairs the top two rushers in the country, Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey and Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson, and the over/under will probably be upwards of 80. The timing isn’t great for Arizona athletics, which has an anticipated home basketball matchup against Florida that night (Dec. 15). Grade: C.