Three wins! It was a pretty ugly bowl season for the Pac-12, but three wins (by a combined four points), and going 3-4 was sadly an improvement for the conference. We can all take some solace in that it was a pretty mediocre bowl season for just about every conference, including the SEC, outside of Alabama.
Washington’s rally - The Huskies were pummeled by Ohio State for the first three quarters of the Rose Bowl, but at least were able to rally enough to be a recovered onside kick away from having the ball in a one-possession game in the closing moments of the game. Many may have already changed the channel, but the Huskies at least saved themselves, and the Pac-12 some embarrassment.
Myles Gaskin - Gaskin was one of the few Huskies who showed up in Pasadena, rushing for more than 120 yards with two touchdowns while also throwing a touchdown in a throwback performance that would have fit in at the Rose Bowl in the 1900s. He wrapped up one of the best four-year Pac-12 careers in the history of the conference well.
Gardner Minshew and the Cougs - Washington State grabbed the conference’s biggest bowl win, pulling one out against a very good Iowa State team. Minshew was the man again for WSU, with an efficient game where he threw for nearly 300 with two scores and even ran one in and led the Cougs in rushing.
Utah’s first half - The Utes looked like the peak version of themselves in the first half of the Holiday Bowl. Their defense played tough, held Northwestern to just three and Jason Shelley and the offense rolled to 20 points with two TDs and two very short field goals. For a moment, it looked like Utah was setting themselves up for a very exciting offseason.
Oregon’s defense - The Ducks squeaked out a one-point bowl win over one of the nation’s best defenses with a lot of defense of their own. Jim Leavitt’s group kept Michigan State out of the end zone, forced key turnovers and willed Oregon to their first bowl win since 2014.
Dillon Mitchell - Mitchell was once again the Ducks’ biggest spark on offense, grabbing the game-winning touchdown with a highlight reel catch while accounting for a major chunk of Oregon’s overall offensive yardage. He will be sorely missed in 2019.
Stanford somehow pulling it off - It was as ugly as possible, but the Cardinal got a bowl win, and without Bryce Love. A little Cameron Scarlett, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, defense and some luck got them a one-point win in the Sun Bowl.
Cal’s pass defense - Yes, their offense was terrible, but the Cal’s pass defense was lights out again. They gave up less than 30 yards passing in 2018 and picked off four passes. It should have been much more than enough to get the Bears the win.
3-4 - 3-4 in bowl play may have been an improvement, but it still was far from impressive, especially considering how narrowly the Pac-12 winners won their games and given their match-ups. The conference needs to keep improving.
Washington’s first three quarters - The Huskies looked like USC against Ohio State last year in the Cotton Bowl for most of the Rose Bowl - helpless. Their offense stalled over and over again and their defense couldn’t stop Ohio State when it counted in the first three quarters of the Rose Bowl and it buried them.
Washington in the red zone - The Huskies actually moved the ball a bit against Ohio State, but struggled mightily once they got close to the end zone until very late in the game. The same could be said for their defense, as they failed to ever force the Buckeyes into kicking a field goal once they got into the red zone.
Utah’s second half - Everything quickly fell apart for the Utes in the second half as Northwestern’s offense came alive and their offense started turning the ball over. The Utes will now have a sting left on their squad all offseason as they try to build up for what will be a highly-anticipated 2019 campaign.
Oregon’s offense - I will say that the Spartans had one of the best defenses in the country, but the Ducks still should have been able to put up more than seven against them, especially with how often Michigan State’s offense gave them the ball and with the hype around Justin Herbert and their offensive line. The Ducks will need to make some adjustments on offense in the offseason.
K.J. Costello - I thought Costello was quietly the conference’s best QB after Minshew this season, but he had a nightmare game in El Paso, going just 6-17 for barely over 100 yards while getting sacked three times and fumbling away what easily could have been a game-winning touchback for Pitt.
Arizona State’s run defense - The Sun Devils got gashed by Mountain West champ Fresno State in Las Vegas, giving up 260 yards and three scores while giving up almost seven and a half yards per-carry.
Can Washington ever be elite? The Huskies remind me A LOT of Michigan State. They’re disciplined, play tough defense, run the ball well and have had a lot of large scale success, but have lacked flash, struggled to compete in big games. The Huskies have rebuild again under Chris Petersen after losing a lot of their defense and heart and soul in running back Myles Gaskin. Can the Huskies ever break through and beat an elite opponent, or they just a very good, consistent team whose power window is at risk of closing in 2019?
Is Oregon for real? The hype for Oregon in 2019 started even before Justin Herbert officially declared he will be coming back for his senior season. The Ducks won nine games with Herbert as a junior in Mario Cristobal’s first season and return a ton of experience around him. However, the Ducks and Herbert, haven’t proven much in the way of impressive play yet. Is it fair to make them the Pac-12 favorites in 2019?
Stanford? We’re all writing off Stanford yet again. They went 9-4 in 2018 (their third-straight season of not winning the conference and fourth in five), lose Love and other key players, and have almost no buzz around their program. However, the Cardinal’s four losses came at Notre Dame, at Washington, to Utah and to Washington State, and they easily could have beaten both Washington schools. They also return some nice pieces in 2019. Are they a team that’s being a bit slept on going into 2019?