Our president recently delivered our nation's state of the union address, so I thought why not have one for something even more important than the United State of America, the Pac-12. Here is how the conference looks now that the dust has settled on 2015 and we still have some time before spring ball.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T - 2015 to me was the year the Pac-12 was finally officially treated and referred to as an equal with the SEC. There was no more talk about if the Pac-12 "had arrived," the Pac-12 simply was known as one of the best conferences in the country, if not the, and it wasn't really even a story.
Christian McCaffrey - I keep forgetting this guy didn't win the Heisman, but who really cares anyway. McCaffrey's situation kind of reminds of going into Marcus Mariota's junior year when it seemed crazy that a player was going to come back for another given how much they had already proven and how heads and shoulders they were above the competition they were going to go against.
Stanford & David Shaw - This was officially the year Shaw made a believer out of me. I expected Stanford to slip at least into just being a very good program as opposed to an elite one after their disappointing 2014 campaign, but that is the exact opposite of what happened. Stanford and Shaw face a lot of challenges in 2016, but I have a lot of confidence they will be able to adapt and succeed.
The end of dominance - For more than a decade the conference seemed like it was just USC and then Oregon and Stanford dominating everyone every week and the rest of the teams kind of just fought for a trip to the Holiday Bowl. Those days are over and I don't miss watching Stanford pummel everyone and Oregon beat everyone 65-17.
Mid-Parity - The middle and bottom of the conference has never been stronger. 10 Pac-12 teams made bowl games and some of the teams that barely made bowl games were actually pretty strong teams.The strength of the middle of the conference wasn't great for getting Playoff team, but it was wonderful for producing great games week after week and having interesting division races.
Great games - That parity created the best season of games I can ever remember and I don't see that changing anytime soon.
Washington State lives - Seeing the Cougars come alive and be a contender was beautiful. The Cougars have a passionate fanbase that had been tortured for far too long and it was nice to see a true Pac-12 underdog compete for the conference championship.
Improvement - Watching players like Kevin Hogan and Joshua Garnett and countless other Pac-12 players finally start to live up to their potential was a treat and greatly played a role in how the conference shook out.
Transfers - I like that players have more freedom now, but holy hell all the transfers are overwhelming and kind of suck for fans and it only appears to be getting worse. It seems like 10 players are shuffling to and from a team every year and it is almost getting impossible to track.
Lack of championship parity - It has been more than 10 years since anyone other than Oregon, Stanford or USC has won the conference and almost 10 years since anyone other than Oregon or Stanford has. For all of the mid-level parity, the conference has been a celebration of just a few when it comes to taking home the title.
Southern discomfort - The South has yet to win the Pac-12 since the conference expanded. Despite coming into 2015 with the hype being that the South was finally going to overtake the North, the North was much stronger than the South and things don't appear to be changing anytime soon.
Pac-12 officiating - Pac-12 refs have become a national joke. The Pac-12 tradition of having a sickening call derail your team every week has to stop. My solution, start by just throwing fewer flags, people will complain more about bad calls than no calls.
No Playoff - Not having Pac-12 team in this year's Playoff sure was anticlimactic. The further bad news is I don't see a Pac-12 team going into 2016 that I would expect to lose fewer than two games. Maybe Stanford, but other than that, I don't know if the Pac-12 has a single legit Playoff contender for next year.
Oregon's quarterback situation - How in the hell did things get so bad for the Ducks at quarterback so quickly? Replacing a veteran legend QB is always tough, but if the Ducks had beyond scrambled to get Vernon Adams into their program, they would have been so bad at quarterback they might not have made a bowl game. Now it looks like they may have to be resorting to raiding the Big Sky to keep things working at quarterback.
The Jim Mora circus - I've held back on criticizing Mora and his operation for a long time because it became too cliche to do so, but I'm starting to grow a little weary of it all. All the talk, the controversy and most annoyingly the chatter of interest in seemingly every decent college and every NFL job is too much. In an era when we are finally becoming conscious of the downside of being a college athlete, its time to call out a coach for basically threatening to leave each year.
USC? The Trojans are simply an effin enigma. They made another questionable hire that has produced two high-profile losses and have talent all over their depth chart, but no excitement at quarterback. I really don't know what the hell is going to happen with this program.
Stanford and who? Stanford returns enough to be the clear favorite to win the Pac-12 in 2016, but who joins them as the contenders? One of the LA schools puts it together? Oregon rebounds? Washington accelerates?
Oregon train keeps a rollin? The Duck train that has been flattening the Pac-12 for nearly a decade now damn near came off the rails in 2015. Did 2015 show that the Duck train is finally starting to slow or was it just a rebuilding year that was actually made better with a key grad transfer?
Washington ready? The Huskies return more experience than anyone in the conference and won seven games in 2015. It seems the Huskies might be ready to put it all together under Chris Petersen in 2016, but the Husky program is one that has seemed to be on the verge for more than 10 years now that just never seems to be able to get back to that next level. Can 2016 be the year they finally do it?
The Arizona schools? The Arizona schools both took steps back in 2015 and now their coaches seem like they could be on the move very soon. What is going to happen down in the desert?