Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Pac-12 is struggling badly right now. This wasn’t supposed to happen — the Pac-12 didn’t have any title contenders, it seemed, but it was filled with at least seven teams that could float around the Top 25, and three of which seemed capable of cracking the top ten. But nope! Besides Arizona State, everyone kinda sucks.
If you power ranked the Pac-12, it might look something like this:
1. Arizona State (9-4)
2. Washington (8-4)
3. Oregon (9-4)
4. Arizona (9-4)
5. Stanford (7-5)
6. Colorado (9-3)
7. Oregon State (7-5)
8. UCLA (7-6)
9. USC (7-6)
10. Utah (6-5)
11. Washington State (7-5)
12. California (5-6)
If Stanford is the fifth best team in a power conference with a 7-5 record, that’s, uh, not good. And if they’re not fifth best, Colorado is, and they just lost to Indiana State and Hawaii. Washington might be the best team in the Pac-12 and they’ve gone just 1-4 against good teams (big shoutout to UW for scheduling such a difficult slate). Oregon is one of the ten or so most talented teams in the nation, and they lost at home to Texas Southern. UCLA has eight former top-100 recruits on their roster — including Pac-12 POY contender Kris Wilkes — and they’re 7-6 with home losses to Belmont and Liberty. Towards the bottom of the rankings, we have an experienced and talented USC team falling off a cliff (their best loss was in overtime at Santa Clara, so, yeah), plus Utah struggling to find its footing with their youngest roster in years.
If you take the most impressive wins of all the Pac-12 schools, Arizona State beating Kansas is obviously the best, but from there, it gets dicey. It might be Arizona beating 10-2 Iowa State, Oregon beating 8-4 Syracuse, or Arizona winning at 9-4 Connecticut. It’s not for lack of trying either, as the Pac-12 has gone a staggering 8-31 against major teams. Washington losing to Gonzaga in overtime is probably the conference’s second best performance. Compared to other conference losses, CU’s overtime loss to Hawaii in Honolulu might be even be impressive.
There’s a chance that if you moved San Diego, Seattle or Hawaii to the Pac-12, they would finish in the top half of the conference. And those teams aren’t even the best in their mid-major conferences. If you think I’m hyperbolizing, you might be right, but also consider each team has knocked off multiple Pac-12 foes.
If there’s any good news, it’s that if the Colorado Buffaloes learn how to bring consistent energy and focus, they could clean up against what looks like a relatively easy schedule. Their next eleven games are @ Arizona, @ ASU, Wazzu, Washington, @ Utah, @ Cal, @ Stanford, OSU, Oregon, @ UCLA and @ USC. With Arizona and USC struggling, the Buffs could go 9-2 against that schedule and I wouldn’t be surprised. And that’s the hard part of the schedule. After that, CU plays ASU, Arizona, @ Wazzu, @ Washington, Utah, UCLA and USC. That’s not easy, but 6-1 is doable, and 5-2 might be probable.
I’m not saying Colorado will go 15-3 in the Pac-12 — my guess is 12-6, which is still great — but even after seeing them finish 7th place at the Diamond Head Classic, it speaks volumes about the Pac-12 that a young and inconsistent Buffs teams could finish with that gaudy record if they win the games they’re supposed to. Maybe the point of this article is that I’m delusional, or maybe that the Pac-12 is trash and it might force us to reconsider the Buffs’ season expectations. (Keep in mind I wrote a very similar article about the football team before their collapse, lol.)
This piece aside, it’s probably smart to take it one game at a time and see how the season unfolds. Oregon, USC and UCLA probably won’t stay this bad all season, and there’s still a lot that can happen between now and Las Vegas.