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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

January 1, 2014 at 6:47 PM

A sour ending to a, well, decent Pac-12 bowl season . . .

Stanford just completed its Rose Bowl defeat, 24-20, to Michigan State, which leaves the Pac-12 with a 6-3 record in its most-ever nine bowl games.

How does the whole thing stack up? Well, given that all nine Pac-12 teams were favored, it can’t be considered a resounding success. But the six victors all won by big spreads, so the post-season can be looked at as, say, a mild success.

Let’s review, in order:

Washington State: Fumbled away a 48-45 loss to Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl. The Cougars simply gave this one away.

USC: Throttled Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl, 45-20. The better athletes played with intensity. Enough said.

Oregon State: Redeemed what was once a 6-1 season with a convincing 38-23 win over Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl. The Broncos were without their head coach, Chris Petersen, but it was clear OSU brought a great focus to the game after losing five straight.

Washington: Beat Brigham Young, 31-16, in the Fight Hunger. The Huskies overcame a lot of distractions, including a coaching change, and showed well.

Oregon: Routed Texas, 30-7, in the Alamo Bowl. Marcus Mariota looked himself again and the Ducks helped erase the memory of a poor November. Frankly, I was surprised how inept Texas was offensively.

Arizona State: Turned in the crummiest performance of all Pac-12 teams, getting worked by Texas Tech, 37-23, in the Holiday Bowl. The absence of RB Marion Grice didn’t help, but neither did what looked like ASU’s general indifference.

Arizona: As much as any game, this 42-19 victory over Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl may have exemplified the strength of the Pac-12 against the rest of the nation. This was a matchup of 7-5 teams, and one pitting BC’s 2,000-yard rusher, Andre Williams, against ‘Zona’s Ka’Deem Carey. And yet, after some initial hiccups, Arizona took complete control, holding Williams to a 75-yard day.

UCLA: Ripped Virginia Tech, 42-12, in the Sun. In what was a very physical game, the Bruins got great performances from QB Brett Hundley and LB Jordan Zumwalt. It was obvious UCLA went to school on its bad game last year in the Holiday Bowl.

Stanford: Cardinal lost a 17-7 second-quarter lead in Pasadena and fell victim to a rugged Michigan State defense, 24-20. Stanford seemed willing to bang its head against the wall and run Tyler Gaffney repeatedly, mostly unsuccessfully, in the second half.

Before any Pac-12 celebrants get too revved up about going 6-3, remember that some of the success results simply from a relatively lackluster slate of bowl opponents (read: bowl agreements). Four of the Pac-12 foes are from non-BCS conferences (to be fair, both Brigham Young and Boise State are surely of BCS-league ilk).

Notwithstanding Texas Tech’s surprise showing over two-touchdown favorite Arizona State, the Holiday Bowl wasn’t excited about a Big 12 team with a five-game losing streak. Next year’s Pac-12 lineup begins a new cycle of agreements, with more games against Big Ten opponents.

This is the new lineup for 2014, in order:

– Four team playoff/Rose Bowl.

– Alamo.

– Holiday.

– Fight Hunger.

– Sun.

– Las Vegas.

– Buffalo Wild Wings.

What’s different? The Fight Hunger and Sun swap places in the picking order, and the Fight Hunger and Holiday will have Big Ten opponents. And the Buffalo Wild Wings in Tempe replaces the New Mexico Bowl as a Pac-12 destination.

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