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The 25 Best Pac-12 teams of the BCS/CFP era: USC and Oregon have dominated the Pac-12 since 1998

With the BCS era of college football hitting the 20-year mark, let’s look back the conference’s best teams over the years.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

*Note: I decided not to consider any Colorado or Utah teams before they joined the

  1. 2004 USC - The only question to me is if this is the best Pac-12 team of all-time or not. They were the last Pac-12 team to run the table and absolutely blew Oklahoma off the field in the BCS Championship Game. This was the peak mix of talent, coaching, hunger, and achievement for the Pete Carroll USC teams. This might be the most purely talented team in the history of the conference.

2. 2005 USC - This team was right there with 2004 right until they ran into Vince Young and Texas in the championship (I still think they win that game nine out of 10 times, but oh well). They dominated the Pac-12 outside of one game at Arizona State and were again loaded with ridiculous talent, if not even more than the 2004 team.

3. 2003 USC - Just another USC team that tore through the Pac-12, blasted a powerhouse in their bowl game and won national championship honors with a ridiculous amount of NFL talent. Only a triple overtime upset at Cal kept this team from running the table. This team was utterly dominant and still had the hunger some of the later USC teams lost.

4. 2008 USC - The last great USC Pete Carroll team was another “what if” team that may have been the best in the country, but suffered a narrow in-conference upset on the road early in the season. This Mark Sanchez-led bunch was scary talented across the board and dominant in and out of conference with an early blowout of Ohio State and domination of Penn State in the Rose Bowl showing what they were truly capable of.

5. 2012 Oregon - This Duck team didn’t play for a national title like the 2010 or 2014 squads did, but it was the best of the Kelly/Helfrich bunch, in my opinion. They rolled through the Pac-12 other than their tough loss to Stanford and showed just how scary they could be with a talent like Marcus Mariota at quarterback. Chip Kelly coaching. Mariota at QB. College football still a couple years from starting to figure out the hurry up. All those things make this the scariest Ducks of the bunch.

6. 2010 Oregon - The only Duck team to run the table in the regular season did so by being so far ahead of everyone else with their scheme.They also were also in their early hungry years of coming into dominance and had a defense capable of holding Cam Newton and Auburn to just 22 points.

7. 2002 USC - This USC team had some early season close losses, but no one wanted to play them at the end of the season. They closed the season by wrecking a ranked UCLA team then a Top 10 Notre Dame squad and then number three Iowa in the Orange Bowl. I liked how this team had the most hunger and biggest chip on their shoulder of any Pete Carroll USC team.

8. 2014 Oregon - The last great Duck team of the era is the only Pac-12 team to win a Playoff game thus far and was maybe the scariest of any of the teams when fully on (see Rose Bowl dismantling of Florida State and win over Michigan State and Marcus Mariota as a junior) with the best overall resume, but they weren’t as consistent or well-coached as 2010 or 2012. They avenged their one regular season loss in a big way in the Pac-12 Championship Game and scored not one, but two elite non-conference Pac-12 wins. Something that hasn’t happened much lately.

9. 2010 Stanford - Jim Harbaugh’s last Stanford team is still the best in their recent bunch. The Andrew Luck-led crew only lost against an Oregon team that was just too fast and scored a blowout win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. They absolutely wrecked teams when they were at their best.

10. 2000 Washington - This team’s calling card is being the only team to (really) beat Miami between 2000 and 2002. They also beat Drew Brees in the Rose Bowl and almost ran the table in a strong Pac-12. They weren’t the most purely talented team, but were gutty and led by Marques Tuiasosopo who was like a less physically gifted Mariota.

11. 2000 Oregon State - This Beaver team might have been the best team other than Miami at the end of the 2000 season. Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzadeh were unstoppable as the season went on and Jonathan Smith and Ken Simonton were college legends. They beat a great Joey Harrington-led Oregon team in the Civil War and then proceeded to absolutely embarrass Notre Dame in a Fiesta Bowl that was one of the most fun second halves of a college football game I have ever watched. Their only loss was a tight one at Washington very early early in the season.

12. 2001 Oregon - Man, can a Pac-12 team ever not have that one really close in-conference loss that costs them a shot at a national title? This Oregon’s team’s issue was dropping a game to Stanford mid-season. Like 2000 Washington, this team had a love affair with pulling out close games, but that wasn’t the case in their biggest game, as they bounced Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl by 22.

13. 2012 Stanford - This Cardinal team hit a rough patch as they figured out their quarterback situation and lost tight games at Washington and Notre Dame, but went on an absolute tear once they went with Kevin Hogan and beat four-straight Pac-12 teams to close the regular season (including the #5 team on this list on the road) and then won a Rose Bowl over Wisconsin.

14. 2006 USC - The first Pete Carroll team once their run started to truly show weakness. They had two upset losses in-conference (thought they were very close) and some other close calls. Still, this would be one of the best, if not the best recent team for almost every program in the Pac-12, and they proved themselves in the Rose Bowl by beating a very good Michigan team convincingly.

15. 2011 USC - This was a strange season for USC as they were under the banner of sanctions, started out slow, got blown out by Arizona State, but were the scariest team in the country by the end of the season. Matt Barkley was deadly throwing to Robert Woods and Marqise Lee and the Trojans destroyed teams down the stretch, beat Oregon on the road to spoil their national title hopes and almost beat Stanford. Sadly, the only problem was they couldn’t play in a bowl game.

16. 2011 Oregon - Good highs and lows for this Duck team as they beat Russell Wilson and Badgers in the Rose Bowl and tore through almost all of the conference again, but missed out on playing for a national championship by opening with a tough loss to LSU and getting tripped up by USC. They bounced back with that Rose Bowl win.

17. 2016 Washington - Chris Petersen broke out with the Huskies and took them all the way to the Playoff. The ran into the buzzsaw of Alabama’s defense and had a regular season dud loss against USC, but this team had a high-flying run most of the season as a team that could drop 70 on offense with Myles Gaskin, John Ross, and Dante Pettis leading the way, but also suffocate you on defense with Vita Vea and and a second of four 1st/2nd picks.

18. 2007 USC - Funny to say a team that went 11-2 and won a Rose Bowl was a disappointment, but this was the biggest disappointment of the prime Pete Carroll USC teams. Still, they lost just two games by a combined eight points and bashed Illinois in the Rose Bowl. It should be noted that Oregon almost certainly would have taken the conference away from them for the first time in more than five years had Dennis Dixon not gotten hurt though.

19. 2015 Stanford - The Cardinal climbed back from a disappointing 2014 and a nightmare opening loss at Northwestern to nearly run the table and destroy Iowa in the Rose Bowl behind Christian McCaffrey. Like almost everyone one of these teams, a tight upset loss to Oregon derailed their national title hopes, but they did everything else they could down the stretch to show they were an all-time great BCS team including beating a Top 5 Notre Dame team and beating USC twice.

20. 2011 Stanford - Andrew Luck’s Cardinal got taken down the Ducks again, but were unmarked the rest of the way in the regular season, scored a win over a Top 15 Notre Dame team, and made a BCS bowl. They lost a heartbreaker in the Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma State, but still finished as one of the greatest Stanford teams of all-time.

21. 1998 UCLA - One of the classic “what if” Pac-12 teams. The Bruins were undefeated through November and ranked third in the country, but lost a tough game at Miami to close the season and then a tight Rose Bowl to Wisconsin. This team gets a lot of points for running the table in the Pac-10 and for having a scary prolific offense before that was the norm in college football.

22. 1998 Arizona - The best the Wildcats have been since they joined the conference, they lost just one game to the team above them, UCLA, and beat Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. They finished number four in the final polls and would have made it to a BCS bowl in later years once the bowl slate was expanded.

23. 2004 Cal - Aaron Rodgers led the Bears to 10 wins, a near upset of probably the best Pac-12 team of all-time, and should have a BCS bowl. The Bears dropped the Holiday Bowl against Texas Tech, but that might have been because they were pissed to be there. Outside of that, they were killer in-conference and were just a hair away from running the table.

24. 2000 Oregon - This Ducks team lost just one in-conference game on the road against the #11 team on this list and beat the #10 team. The Joey Harrington-led squad’s only other loss was on the road against Wisconsin early in the season and closed with a Holiday Bowl win over a highly-ranked Texas team.

25. 2007 Oregon - I made sure to include this team because they were at least probably going to play for a national championship in Chip Kelly’s first year as OC and Dennis Dixon was probably going to win the Heisman before he got hurt.