Last week showcased the limitations of Oregon. This week it was Stanford. Which Pac-12 team will make the next national title appearance for the conference?
Jack Follman, Pacific Takes: I'm tempted to say USC because they are the only program in the conference that I think has the tools to regularly get there, but they don't even know who their coach is so I will go with Oregon. Keep in mind, that it would just take Oregon winning out (which they are expected to) and a few upsets of the top teams to get the Ducks back in this year. Also, if Mariota returns next year, I think they will be enter the season ranked number one or two.
Chris Landon, UW Dawg Pound: If I had to lay bets, I'm of the mindset that the next national champion type of team to emerge from the Pac 12 will be USC, assuming they get their hire right. Stanford is likely headed into stormy seas with the graduation of all those seniors on D and Oregon, while talented, is likely to see just enough attrition in their coaching staff on an ongoing basis, not to mention a defection of some of the talent they've accessed while USC has been under penalty, to keep them from getting over the top. That said, I do see the Pac 12 continuously being competitive enough that any single team will struggle to go undefeated. Compare and contrast to an Alabama team that will literally play just four teams next year who have winning records this year.
Will the competitive balance of the Pac-12 help or hurt them in terms of national title hunting when the conference moves to a playoff system?
Jack Follman, Pacific Takes: Help, even though upsets will knock a team down, if you aren't strong top to bottom, you risk being a conference like the Big Ten or AAC where one loss completely destroys your chances.
Chris Landon, UW Dawg Pound: Hurt. It isn't so much the number of losses our best teams will have. It will be when those losses occur. As we've seen with Oregon and then Stanford, Pac 12 upsets often occur at the end of the season, in particular during rivalry games, and the freshness of those kinds of upsets can skew perceptions in selection committee settings.