The Pac-12 Conference is sending a record nine football teams to play in bowl games to cap the 2013 season, with only Cal and relative conference newcomers Utah and Colorado failing to get eligible.
However, the conference lost the chance to split up an approximately $17 million payday when the Sugar Bowl spurned Oregon in favor of Oklahoma.
Though the Ducks were ranked one spot ahead of the Sooners in the final BCS standings, and though the Pac-12 was widely hailed as the nation’s second-best conference behind the SEC, it is the Big 12 that will reap the monetary rewards of two BCS-bound teams.
So the Ducks will head to the Pac-12’s No. 2 contracted bowl game, the Alamo Bowl, knocking the rest of the conference down a tier on the list of seven Pac-12 affiliated games. Washington State snagged the final spot in the New Mexico Bowl, while Oregon State and Arizona secured at-large bids.
No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 4 Michigan State, Jan. 1
A pair of puzzling losses can’t derail Stanford, as the Cardinal head to Pasadena for a fourth-consecutive BCS game. While Salt Lake City proved too tough, Tempe was a breeze for Stanford (11-2, 7-2 Pac-12), which cruised to a 38-14 victory over Arizona State in the Pac-12 championship game.
But now the Cardinal will face an opponent with just as much grit, moxie and other toughness platitudes in Michigan State, which gave Urban Meyer his first loss at Ohio State to become the Big Ten champion. Stanford my be No. 10 in the country in points allowed, but the Spartans (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten) are No. 4, ensuring a memorable Rose Bowl for the “two-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust” purists.
No. 10 Oregon vs. Texas, Dec. 30
Pac-12 partisans are outraged at Oregon’s BCS snub, probably more so then the Ducks themselves, who have seemed largely disinterested since Stanford took them out of the running for a national championship.
Now the Ducks (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12) will face Texas (8-4, 7-2 Big 12), another team with the talent to play for a national championship, but not the wins. If first-year coach Mark Helfrich’s team loses this game, he’ll already have as many losses as the Ducks suffered over Chip Kelly’s final two season. Meanwhile, the yearly rumblings about Mack Brown’s job security at Texas get louder.
No. 16 Arizona State vs. Texas Tech, Dec. 30
Arizona State came oh so close to a January bowl game, but Stanford’s shellacking means it’ll settle for late December. The upshot is that the Sun Devils (9-3, 8-1 Pac-12) have three weeks to get over the nightmares they’re surely suffering after 60 minutes of hell with Shayne Skov and company.
They’ll face a Texas Tech team that hasn’t won a game since Oct. 19. The Red Raiders (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) were college football darlings after starting 7-0, led by freshman walk-on Baker Mayfield at quarterback. But a midseason injury took Mayfield out of the lineup for four games, and TTU couldn’t recover even after he returned. Mayfield and backup Davis Webb have each passed for exactly 2,315 yards this season.
No. 17 UCLA vs. Virginia Tech, Dec. 31
The Bruins are flying high after a 35-14 win over rival USC and a contract extension through 2019 for coach Jim Mora, who the Bruins faithful hope is around for as long as Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech. Beamer – the longest-tenured active FBS coach – has been in Blacksburg since 1987 and has coached some excellent teams.
This year, the Hokies (8-4, 5-3 ACC) are more of the “pretty good” variety, taking advantage of a down ACC and not having to play Florida State to finish with a respectable, if not particularly memorable, record. Beating UCLA (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) may be a tall task for Beamer and his crew.
Las Vegas Bowl
Southern California vs. No. 21 Fresno State, Dec. 21
It’s a rare and beautiful occasion when Fresno State (11-1, 7-1 MWC) is the ranked team when these two California schools match up. Ed Orgeron was beloved by his players and USC (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12) will need to be extra focused against the upstart Bulldogs.
If not, prolific quarterback Derek Carr and his teammates will relish the opportunity to beat up on their high-profile neighbors to the South.
Fight Hunger Bowl
Washington vs. BYU, Dec. 27
The Huskies will be coached in the bowl by fan favorite and former quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo with the departure of Steve Sarkisian to USC. New coach Chris Petersen will have to watch the Huskies (8-4, 5-4 Pac-12) in their final game before his era begins.
The Cougars (8-4) are 2-0 against the Huskies since 2008 and will rely on dual-threat quarterback Taysom Hill and heralded linebacker Kyle Van Noy to make it a three-peat.
New Mexico Bowl
Washington State vs. Colorado State, Dec. 21
Go ahead and leave the defense at home for this one. Washington State (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) leads the country with 58 passing attempts per game. Don’t expect the game plan to change much against the Rams, who rank No. 111 in the FBS in passing yards allowed.
WSU will need all the points through the air they can get to beat CSU (7-5, 5-3 MWC), which is the only team in the country with a 3,000-yard passer and a 1,500-yard rusher. Kapri Bibbs leads the nation with 28 rushing touchdowns, and figures to add to that total in Albuquerque.
Arizona vs. Boston College, Dec. 31
Nary a pass may be thrown in Shreveport on New Year’s Eve, not with the nation’s two leading rushers in town. Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC) boasts Andre Williams, whose 175 rushing yards per game leads the country by a wide margin. By comparison, Ka’Deem Carey’s 156 rushing yards per game appear positively scant.
But the Arizona (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) back has had bigger games against tougher opponents, meaning the title of nation’s best running back will have to be settled once and for all on the field.
Oregon State vs. Boise State, Dec. 24
It’s tough to complain about Hawaii for Christmas, but with potentially the two most beaten down teams west of the Mississippi headed to Honolulu, it will be interesting to see who wants to be there less. The Beavers (6-6, 4-5 Pac-12) have lost five straight games and their last two were a 69-27 waxing at home on Senior Night and a last-second 36-35 loss in the Civil War.
Boise State (8-4, 6-2 MWC) just found out that the most successful coach in its history is headed to the Rainier pastures of Seattle and will spend the time between now and the bowl game watching to see what assistants join him.