USC puts it together - The 2017 Trojans aren’t going to finish on any greatest of all-time teams list, but they are clearly the best team in the Pac-12, and earned it this year. They beat Stanford in LA and basically at Stanford, only lost one really-close game on the road on a Friday after a road game in Pullman with half their team injured and that was it. They aren’t going to the Playoff, but they earned a second-straight NY6 bowl.
Sam Darnold - Darnold’s turned the ball over like crazy this season, but he saved his best for the Pac-12 Championship Game. He was deadly in Santa Clara and the main reason the Trojans were able to wrap up the conference.
USC’s balance - The Trojans weren’t devastating on offense or defense this year, but they were able to turn up the heat with either unit when they needed to in close games. The same could be said for their offense - they could run the ball with Ronald Jones or sling it with anyone with Darnold and Deontay Burnett all year. That’s what put them over the top in the championship game.
Bryce Love - Dear God this guy was a force this year. He’ll easily crack 2,000 yards as long as he plays in the bowl game. I can’t remember the last player in the conference who was as scary as him whenever he touched the ball. Another tough game by an outrageous competitor. One of the guttiest performances I have ever seen in the Pac-12.
The South finally rises! It took seven years, but the South finally took the conference. A championship-caliber USC, and South is good for the conference and they might be able to pull the rest of the division up with them.
A great championship game - Exciting championship game by two really good teams that deserved to be there trading blows that came down to the last play. Can’t ask for anything more. Well...a good setting, but let’s not get crazy with asking for too much. It’s not like home settings for Stanford or USC would have been electric either.
Two NY6 bowls - Yeah, the Pac-12 wasn’t even really in the Playoff conversation, but at least two teams go into great NY6 bowls against Big Ten teams. Traditionalists can get excited about getting basically two alternate venue Rose Bowls against marque Big Ten blue bloods. Should be fun.
Moving up the bowl chain - Washington slipping into the NY6 was a huge score for the Pac-12 because it moved each team down the chain up a bowl, into a better, more-exciting slot. This helps also keep teams motivated as they end up in better than expected bowls instead of the other way around.
Nine teams in bowls - The conference’s parity was a positive in getting three quarters of the conference into bowls, with all of them honestly being good match-ups all the way down line against real teams.
Back-to-back big time for USC and Washington - The Husky and Trojan programs reached major milestones by qualifying for back-to-back NY6 bowls. They aren’t quite where Oregon and Stanford were in their primes a few years back, but they’re getting there.
No Playoffs - The Pac-12 not only didn’t get a team into the Playoffs, USC wasn’t actually really in the conversation. The Pac-12 needs to work on scheduling in the future and the conference’s top teams need to step up to avoid second losses to make sure this stops happening.
Championship game environment - I will admit I am being a complainer here because I don’t have an exact solution, but the conference championship game venue and environment is a dud. Las Vegas time maybe? Home venue to team with better conference record/tie-breaker? Rose Bowl in years where the Rose Bowl is not a Pac-12 bowl? Smaller, indoor venue?
Friday night championship game - Even many Pac-12 fans missed the championship game since it was at 5pm on a Friday night. Thinking you have to play on Friday for anyone to watch outside of the West Coast is a loser’s mentality and one the conference needs to drop. Have confidence that you will have a good matchup and game and put it later on a Saturday so non-Pac-12 fans can close the night with it and/or flip from the ACC or Big 10 games if they are snoozers like the ACC game was and the Big 10 game was till the very end.
Coaches peeking around - It looks like Mike Leach is keeping his pirate ship in Pullman for now, but it looks like Willie Taggart could be announced to Florida State at any second. There’s a damage that occurs even when these coaches flirt around and stay and Taggart actually leaving would be a major blow to Oregon, giving them three coaches in three years and hurting a well-stocked recruiting class he was building. This could also hurt Cal as the Ducks’ first call may be to Justin Wilcox should Taggart bail.
Can USC and Washington step up? The Huskies and Trojans have big boy games coming up around the new year and the pressure will be on against the Big 10’s best. Can the Pac-12 two flag carriers right show deliver?
Willie Taggart? As I mentioned earlier, it appears Taggart could leave Eugene at any moment for Florida State. Is there any chance the Ducks can keep him, and who might they replace him with?
Stars in bowl games? Christian McCaffrey started it last year by sitting out the Sun Bowl. Will we see any Pac-12 stars with serious NFL Draft potential not play in bowl games this year? I think we will see less because most of the bigger prospect are playing in bigger bowls, but maybe watch for someone like Josh Rosen?
Early entrants? It’s going to be a tense year for early entries in the Pac-12 and we are going to start seeing them roll out...the big one...Sam Darnold.