The Pac-10 was one of the last major conferences to hold out on having a conference championship game in football and it made sense with the league simply not having enough teams to justify it. But with the addition of two more schools and a fat TV contract, the conference was able to put together their first conference championship game in 2011.
While the game might have been a snoozer due to USC's ineligibility for post-season play, it could have easily been an instant classic with the Trojans returning to Autzen just weeks after a monumental upset in Eugene. Since it is fun to think about what might have happened in the 2011 Pac-12 Championship Game that just wasn't to be, let's take a look at what prior conference championship games would have looked like if the Pac-8 had expanded to the Pac-12 in 1978 and added Colorado and Utah.
*Yes, I understand that you can't factor in how the schedules would have changed with the additional two teams and how that would have factored in, but I did consider it when predicting where Colorado and Utah would have finished in the South each year and if they would have qualified.
1978: Washington (7-4) at USC (11-1, #3)
The Trojans had cruised all season other than a tough loss to Arizona State and the Huskies recovered from a slow start where they lost tough games against UCLA, Indiana and Alabama. The game would be a bit of a snoozer though as the Trojans had beaten the Huskies 28-10 in The Coliseum just two weeks before.
Fake prediction - USC 27-13 - The Huskies would get some motivation as rematches always favor who lost the first game, but the Trojans were stronger and would control the game on the ground with Charles White, Marcus Allen and Anthony Munoz.
1979: Washington (8-3, #13) at USC (10-0-1, #3)
The Trojans finished the regular season with only a semi-blemish in a tie to Stanford and the Huskies had been ranked all season and were clearly the class of the North. Once again, it would be a rematch of a game that the Trojans had won two weeks ago, but this one would have more intrigue with the Huskies ranked in the Top 15 and having given them a tough game in Husky Stadium in the regular season.
Fake prediction - USC 27-14 - The Huskies would be a little tougher for the Trojans to tame, but once again, Charles White, Marcus Allen and Anthony Munoz.
1980: UCLA (9-2, #13) at Washington (9-2, #16)
This would be the first truly intriguing conference championship game as the two teams hadn't met in the regular season and both teams were ranked with identical records. UCLA was ultra-talented with two Top 5 draft picks in Freeman McNeil and Kenny Easley and the Huskies starting to really roll under Don James. Both teams had late season winning streaks highlighted by huge wins over USC and Washington would get home field with only one conference loss to UCLA's two.
Fake prediction - Washington 24-21 - I think UCLA was a little more talented, but a Husky Stadium in December wouldn't bode well for the Bruins.
1981: Arizona State (9-2, #16) at Washington (9-2, #12)
A rematch of Arizona State's 26-7 early-season upset of Washington in Husky Stadium would be a great matchup between teams ranked in the Top 20 with equal records.
Fake prediction - Washington 21-20 - Fueled by revenge and the rainy Pacific Northwest cold, the Huskies are able to win a gritty, defensive game against the Sun Devils.
1982: Washington (9-2, #9) at UCLA (9-1-1, #5)
The first game to feature the ideal match-up of two Top 10 ranked teams, the Huskies and Bruins would be just three weeks removed from a 10-7 thriller in Seattle that the Huskies pulled out.
Fake prediction - UCLA 13-10 - Looking for revenge from their only loss of the season, and playing at home, the Bruins pull out the close, low-scoring game this time.
1983: Washington (7-4) at UCLA (6-4-1)
The second-straight Washington at UCLA match-up, this would have been the least hyped of the games until this point with both teams having four losses and having already played a game in the Rose Bowl in October which UCLA won 27-24.
Fake prediction - UCLA 28-21 - The Bruins went onto blow out Illinois in the Rose Bowl, so they would likely win at home against the Huskies, though not comfortably.
1984: Washington (10-1, #4) at USC (8-3, #18)
The Huskies had just been upset by the Trojans two weeks earlier when they were the top-ranked team in the country and the Trojans were reeling, having just lost back-to-back games against UCLA and Notre Dame since then. The Huskies would end up being named national champions in a couple of minor polls, and would be looking to get revenge on the Trojans in the Coliseum.
Fake prediction - Washington 17-14 - The Huskies team would go onto blast Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and the Trojans win the Rose Bowl over Ohio State. I think the motivated Huskies would be able to pull this one out over the Trojans who were struggling at the end of the regular season.
1985: Washington (6-5) at UCLA (8-2-1, #13)
One of the most unimpressive games in the nearly 30 year time frame, this would be one of those match-ups that happen in conference championship games a lot when one division is much weaker than the other. However, Washington had upset the Bruins earlier in the year by seven points in Husky Stadium.
Fake prediction - UCLA 28-14 - The Huskies had finished the season poorly and the Bruins well and the Bruins would go onto blow out Iowa in the Rose Bowl, so it's likely they would have easily beaten the Huskies at home.
1986: Washington (8-2-1, #12) at Arizona State (9-1-1, #6)
A highly anticipated game after some duds. The Huskies had lost in Tempe less than a month earlier and the Sun Devils were having their best season in school history. Both teams were led by great defenses and coaches.
Fake prediction - Arizona State 35-21- This was the Sun Devils destiny season and they had to be absolutely furious after blowing an undefeated season to Arizona just the week before.
1987: Washington (6-4-1) at USC (8-3, #16)
A weaker year in the Pac-12, the Trojans had already easily beaten the Huskies in Husky Stadium, so there wouldn't be much anticipation for this one in The Coliseum.
Fake prediction - USC 38-21 - A dull game that USC would probably control most of the way.
1988: Washington State (8-3, #18) at USC (10-1, #5)
This is the first appearance of a team other than Washington in the North, a testament to how weak those other teams were during this era. There would be intrigue in this game as the two teams didn't meet in the regular season and the Trojans had just lost a #1 vs. #2 showdown the week before against Notre Dame.
Fake prediction - USC 34-24 - The Cougars were very tough under Dennis Erickson, but wouldn't be able to go down to LA and upset a very talented Trojan team.
1989: Washington (7-4) at Colorado (11-0, #1)
And... the Huskies are right back. The Huskies and Buffaloes actually met early in the season in Husky Stadium and an easy victory helped spark Colorado's undefeated season. The first championship game to feature a top-ranked team, this would be viewed as an easy win for Colorado.
Fake prediction - Colorado 48-27 - Eyeing a national championship, the Buffaloes would roll.
1990: Washington (9-2, #8) at Colorado (10-1-1, #1)
This would actually be a rematch of a game that ended with a dropped Husky touchdown pass in the end zone in a 20-14 loss in Boulder. The Huskies were a heartbreaking upset at the hands of UCLA late in the season from being set up to win the national championship and the Buffaloes replaced basically took their spot after the loss. The Buffaloes started out the season slowly with a tie against Tennessee and a loss to Illinois along with the infamous "Fifth Down" game but were on a roll at the end of the season.
Fake prediction - Washington 21-20 - Rematches always favor the team who lost the first game and the Huskies actually almost won the first one anyways. Their defense would be able to slow the Buffaloes and allow their offense to make the plays at the end of the game this time.
1991: UCLA (8-3, #22) at Washington (11-0, #1)
For the third-straight year, the top ranked team in the nation would be hosting the game and the Huskies would be getting the game in Husky Stadium for the first time in an astounding nine trips to the conference championship. Interestingly enough, these two teams didn't play in 1991 and the Bruins ruined the Huskies national title chances late in 1990, so it's likely that the Huskies would be out for blood.
Fake prediction - Washington 31-0 - Motivated by last year's gut wrenching loss to the Bruins and aided by a cold Husky Stadium and a historically good defense, the Huskies destroy the Bruins.
1992: Colorado (9-1-1, #10) at Washington (9-2, #9)
The Huskies looked poised for a potential second-straight national championships when the Billy Joe Hobert (non) scandal broke and their season started to unravel. The Buffaloes had a good season and the two teams that seemed to dominate the late 80's and early 90's set up another great championship game with a matchup of two Top 10 teams.
Fake prediction - Washington 24-21 - Both teams ended up losing their bowl games, but the Huskies looked better throughout the season and in their loss in the Rose Bowl to Michigan than Colorado in their loss in the Fiesta Bowl to Syracuse.
1993: Cal* (7-4) at Colorado (7-3-1) *Cal would fill in for an ineligible Washington team
The conference game would finally be a non-event again after four years of great matchups with two unranked teams including a fill in Cal team and a Colorado program that was on a down year. It would be a landmark game though as it would be the first time a team that wasn't from the state of Washington represented the North Division and only the second time the representative wasn't the Huskies.
Fake prediction - Colorado 42-21 - The Buffaloes weren't that good, but the Bears shouldn't have even been there in the first place.
1994: Oregon (9-3, #12) at Colorado (10-1, #4)
The first Oregon team to break through would be rewarded with a very good Colorado team that had been in the championship game five out of the last six years and was still in the national title picture. The game would have some upset intrigue and an interesting change of pace with the Ducks.
Fake prediction - Colorado 42-34 - The Ducks offense would be able to score, but their defense not good enough to stop the Buffaloes in the last year of their elite run in the 90's.
1995: Washington (7-3-1, #20) at USC (8-2-1, #11)
This would be an epic rematch of teams that played to a tie in Husky Stadium earlier in the year and a matchup of the two most prestigious programs in the conference at the time. The Huskies would be returning after a two-year bowl ban hiatus and the Trojans after six years of underachievement.
Fake prediction - USC 24-21 - These teams were very even, but the Trojans would get the little boost they need to get over top with the home field advantage.
1996: Washington (9-2, #13) at Arizona State (11-0, #4)
This would be a rematch of an epic opening game battle between the two teams in Tempe that the Sun Devils won 45-42. The Sun Devils would be returning to the championship game for the first time in 10 years and with their eyes on a first ever national championship, but the talented Huskies would revenged on their minds and hadn't lost a game since early-October.
Fake prediction - Arizona State 42-35 - Corey Dillon would gash the Sun Devil defense, but Jake Plummer would keep the Sun Devils offense churning and get them the win in another high-scoring affair.
1997: UCLA (9-2, #5) at Washington State (10-1, #8)
This would be an interesting game as the Cougars would be ranked behind the Bruins but would host the game. The Cougars had won a shootout in the opening game of the season in Martin Stadium, but the Bruins were one of the hottest teams in the nation at the end of the season with their devastating offense.
Fake prediction: UCLA 49-45 - It's hard to predict against a good Cougar team in Pullman in December, but the Bruins might have been the best team in the country at this point and almost won at the beginning of the year already.
1998: Oregon (8-3, #21) at UCLA (10-0, #3)
The Bruins would play this game before their ill fated, hurricane-delayed loss at Miami, so they would be undefeated with national championship dreams as they hosted the Ducks. The Ducks has given the Bruins their toughest game of the season thus far in a 41-38 overtime win for the Bruins.
Fake prediction: UCLA 49-35 - The Bruins offense would still be unstoppable but their defense was starting to get exposed and the Ducks would put up plenty of points against them, though not enough to win.
1999: Colorado (6-5) at Stanford (8-3, #22)
One of the weakest years in Pac-10 history where it seemed like no one wanted to win the conference. A Tyrone Willingham coached team ends up winning the North and hosting the championship game. Need I say more?
Fake prediction - Stanford 28-21 - A close, but slow game where two not that great teams go at it and the above average team wins.
2000: Arizona State (6-5) at Washington (10-1, #4)
The Sun Devils represent the South in a brief span when the division was incredibly weak which sets up a rematch of a game that was surprisingly close between Washington and Arizona State earlier in the year. The Huskies are still in the national title hunt and have a knack for pulling out close games.
Fake prediction - Washington 35-14 - The Huskies don't play around and pound Arizona State in Seattle with a game controlling rushing attack.
2001: Colorado (10-2, #3) at Oregon (10-1, #2)
This actually ended up being the Fiesta Bowl and the Buffaloes came in as one of the hottest teams in the country having just upset two-straight Top 3 teams in Nebraska and Texas with a fierce rushing attack. The Ducks were led by Joey Harrington and had only one close loss to Stanford and were hoping to win their first Pac-12 Championship game as they hosted the game in Autzen for the first time ever.
Fake prediction - Oregon 41-14 - The Ducks ended up blowing out Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, so they would blow them out even a little more in Autzen.
2002: USC (10-2, #5) at Washington State (10-2, #7)
The beginning of the Pete Carroll era of dominance at USC, the Trojans actually lost their Pac-10 opener in Pullman, but would get a very hyped rematch in the championship game, pitting two Top 10 teams against each other.
Fake prediction - USC 42-24 - The Trojans were far and away the best team in the nation at the end of the season and the Cougars were starting to fade as they lost the Apple Cup at home to Washington and got blown out by Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl.
2003: Washington State (9-3, #14) at USC (11-1, #1)
The Trojans were fully rolling at this time and this game had already been played in the Coliseum just a few weeks before with the Trojans winning easily. The Trojans were starting to look invincible, so most wouldn't expect Washington State to hang around for long.
Fake prediction - USC 49-14 - This was right in the heart of Carroll's best teams at USC and they loved nothing more than showing up in big games.
2004: Cal (10-1, #4) at USC (12-0, #1)
This would be an epic rematch of the best game of the year during the regular season where the Bears came just 10 yards short of upsetting the Trojans in the Coliseum. The Bears would be motivated for the revenge and the game a showdown between Aaron Rodgers and Matt Leinart with major national championship implications. This might be the best game on the list.
Fake prediction - USC 38-20 - The Trojans would be ready for the Bears this time and would be motivated to prove that they are the dominant team in the conference.
2005: Oregon (10-1, #5) at USC (12-0, #1)
The Trojans may have had their best team under Pete Carroll in 2005 and would be heavy favorites going into the game having already blown out Oregon in Autzen. However, that early-season loss was the Ducks only loss going into the game and they were a Top 5 team so there would be some serious intrigue.
Fake prediction - USC 49-14 - As I mentioned earlier, the Trojans always showed up in big games under Pete Carroll and this was the start of an era where USC was head and shoulders above anyone else in the conference.
2006: Cal (9-3, #19) at USC (10-2, #7)
Delving deep into the USC and everyone else Pac-12, Cal was a decent team this year, but no one would be that excited to see a rematch from just a few weeks ago when the Trojans controlled the Bears.
Fake prediction - USC 49-13 - The Trojans show their dominance by winning their fifth-consecutive conference championship game in convincing fashion.
2007: Oregon State (8-4) at USC (10-2, #6)
Oregon was actually the class of the conference until Dennis Dixon went down with an injury which opened up the door for a pretty good Beaver team to make their first appearance in the conference championship game. Not much excitement around this one as the Trojans had already handled the Beavers in The Coliseum just a few weeks before.
Fake prediction - USC 45-20 - The Trojans were starting to lose a little steam in 2007, but would easily get by the 8-4 Beavers.
2008: Oregon (9-3, #15) at USC (11-1, #4)
This is the beginning of the transition from a USC dominated Pac-12 to an Oregon dominated Pac-12, but the Trojans were still the top dog for the moment and had already blown out the Ducks earlier in the year. The game would have interest though as the Ducks offense got better as the season went on and the Trojans were still in the running for the BCS Championship Game. Also, the Trojans get in over Utah because I think the Trojans would have won in a head-to-head matchup of the two.
Fake prediction - USC 49-35 - The Trojans were simply still too talented for the Ducks, but the Ducks offense would put up a lot of years and grab the attention of everyone in the conference.
2009: Arizona (8-4, #22) at Oregon (10-2, #7)
The first game without USC in seven years and Arizona's first trip to the conference championship would be a rematch of a tough overtime win for the Ducks in Tucson just two weeks before. The game wouldn't be marquee, but exciting with a lot of offense anticipated.
Fake prediction - Oregon 52-38 - The Ducks offense would continue to build momentum and show what they can do on a national level as they pull away from the Wildcats and win comfortably.
2010: Arizona (7-5) at Oregon (12-0, #2)
The beginning of Oregon's true dominance in the conference, the Ducks had already handled Arizona and just need a win to seal the deal for the BCS Championship game.
Fake prediction - Oregon 59-21 - No question, the Ducks roll here.