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The good, the bad & the unknown: 2015-16 Pac-12 bowl season

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Stanford and the lower-middle of the conference delivers, upper-middle falters.

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Good

Stanford... oh Stanford - Was that ever a statement to the Playoff committee. The Cardinal all but ended the Rose Bowl in the opening minutes and arguably showed they were in a different class with the team that almost won the Big Ten on the first play from scrimmage. That was maybe the best overall whistle to whistle performance by the Cardinal in the past few years.

Christian McCaffrey - This guy didn't win the Heisman? This guy didn't win the Heisman? I repeat... this guy didn't win the Heisman.

Cougs - It wasn't pretty, but the Cougars got their first bowl win since the early-2000s and scored the conference's second-best bowl win of the season. Proving the cliche wrong, the Cougars found a way to hang on and win late opposed to the opposite.

Utah's defense - The Utah defense continued to carry the team and their two touchdowns and five turnovers caused gave them one of the best early-bowl season wins over hated Utah.

Jared Goff - It wasn't a perfect season for Goff, but that was a hell of a way to go out. 467 yards and six touchdowns without a pick. He was one of the biggest stars of "lesser bowl season."

Myles Gaskin - The Husky running back may have actually been the conference's best freshman this year and he showed it in the Heart of Dallas Bowl by rushing for nearly 200 yards and scoring four touchdowns.

Anu Solomon - I hope the steadier Solomon we saw in the New Mexico returns to the conference in 2016.

Officiating - Wow, wasn't it nice to watch games that were properly officiated as they were handled by other conference's crews? Did anyone else notice that they watched a couple of games, noticed a lot of poor officiating and then realized it was Pac-12 crews doing the officiating?

The Bad

The conference's best, after Stanford - It was an ugly bowl season for the conference's top-slotted teams after Stanford. The Ducks had maybe the worst collapse in bowl history, USC sputtered just down the 405 despite numerous chances to win and UCLA lost to 5-7 Nebraska.

Oregon's epic collapse - The Ducks lost their grad transfers and all hell broke loose in San Antonio. The Ducks' epic collapse isn't even that excusable because TCU was facing even more-serious outages of their own on offense, yet kept it together and got the win and the Ducks got a major break with a miraculous blocked punt at the goal line that turned into a first down.

Oregon's development - Hard to knock a coach and staff that has the record that Helfrich & Co. do, but man they need to start developing players. The Alamo Bowl confirmed the Ducks were realistically maybe a three or four win team if they couldn't have used a farcical transfer rule and laughably exploited it in the case of Vernon Adams. I would also say the same on the defensive side of the ball where they heavily relied on getting DeForest Buckner to turn down being a first round draft pick last year to come back. How bad would their defense been had they not gotten him to come back?

In a bigger picture, I really, really, really, really, really, really do not want to see Oregon football turn into Oregon football where they are bringing in loads of transfers ever year to become the face of the conference. Please, Helfrich and Co. develop their players.

USC's lethargy - All the credit in the world to a Wisconsin team that everyone was grossly underestimating, but it wasn't encouraging for Helton & Co. to see the Trojans kind of look disinterested yet again as they lost a very winnable Holiday Bowl.

UCLA - UCLA, you lost to a 5-7 Nebraska team in your home state. That is all.

Arizona State's defense - Todd Graham river boat gambler defense came up major snake eyes again as West Virginia torched them for almost 700 yards.

The Unknown

Was this a good bowl season? The conference finished, 6-4 with a huge Rose Bowl win, but bowl season sure felt flat with the LA schools and Oregon disappointing greatly on fairly large stages. The overall record was nice, but was this bowl season a big disappointment for the conference, especially considering the buzz around going 10-0 going in?

Is Stanford the best team in the country? The Cardinal sure looked the part in Pasadena, but we will never know what they could have done had they gotten into the Playoff.

Where do we go from here? Last year things were fairly clear at the top of the conference at this point - Oregon was a Playoff contender if they could replace Marcus Mariota/Top 5 team, Stanford was a borderline Top 10 that could move up if Kevin Hogan stepped up, USC was a preseason favorite, UCLA was a top 10 lurker/sleeper if Josh Rosen could step up right away, Utah was a defensive powerhouse in the Top 20 and the Arizona schools were dangerous teams inside the Top 25.

I feel that 2016 is much cloudier at this point. There is no clear cut conference favorite or even division favorite in my mind and no one who looks like they could be a preseason Playoff contender or maybe even Top 10 team. Stanford is the closest thing to a favorite in my opinion but they have to find a new quarterback, replaced their two best offensive linemen and a lot of spots on their defense, Oregon is a disaster at quarterback with anyone currently on their roster and on defense even with a veteran front seven they are losing, the LA schools have talent but lose a ton of it and experience this year and seem to be perpetually inconsistent.