PULLMAN – After another week of heavy churn in the Pac-12 it’s apparent that the conference has achieved a level of parity that may be unmatched in college football. While this has made it more difficult for teams to rack up double-digit wins, the conference has earned enough national respect that perhaps they don’t need to.
Stanford couldn’t take care of business against the Utes, who were unable to get past Arizona, which was thrashed by the Huskies. In other years, this sort of chaos might be indicative of a dearth of credible teams in the conference. But this season it is due to a surfeit of talent and good coaching.
“The Pac-12 has become a meat grinder just like the SEC, in my opinion,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Every single week you’re going to be challenged, and Arizona, I don’t want to paint the picture that it was all our being flat, this and that, why we lost. They’re a darn good football team – they deserved to win. Kadeem Carey is one of the top running backs in the country and did a number on us.”
While the conference has always been well represented at the top, it has been the rising tide in the middle of the conference that has led to such an exceptional year in the Pac-12. Seven different teams have been ranked in the USA Today poll of FBS coaches, and the conference may still not be getting enough credit.
“Traditionally in our conference we’ve always had an elite team or two that has been knocking on the door,” UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Whether it was the run that USC was on – Cal had a nice run there, obviously what Oregon and Stanford are doing now, we’ve always had the elite teams. What makes our conference unique now is compared to years past is the overall depth.”
The SEC has long been considered the standard when it came to judging conferences and with good reason; a team from the league has won the last seven BCS national championships. But that success may be causing voters to overrate the league in comparison with the upstarts on the West Coast.
Bruce Feldman of CBSSports.com spoke with Las Vegas analyst RJ Bell this week, who said that as many as four Pac-12 teams would be favored on a neutral field against No. 7 Missouri, the second highest-ranked team in the SEC.
Of course, for the conference to truly have bragging rights as the nation’s best, it needs to knock the SEC off its perch in a title game. Undefeated Oregon looks to have the best shot, and could face either the Tigers or No. 1 Alabama for a shot at the crystal trophy.
Mora reflects on James
While recently-departed Washington coach Don James will be remembered for his six Rose Bowl appearances, his championship season in 1991, and the plethora of players he sent to the NFL, his lasting impact on college football will be in the extensive coaching tree he left behind. James had a legion of mentees who have gone on to rival or even better his success, and coaches such as Alabama’s Nick Saban and Missouri’s Gary Pinkel have made comments this week about the influence the so-called “Dawgfather” had on their coaching careers.
UCLA’s Jim Mora played for James at the UW and was a graduate assistant for one season under the coach. Furthermore, his father, Jim E. Mora, was an assistant coach for James during his son’s teenage years.
“His older daughter used to babysit me, I used to babysit his younger daughter. Our families have been close forever and I got the chance to play for him,” Mora said on Tuesday. “You talk about a guy with great integrity, toughness, discipline, attention to detail and a real consistency about him and that was coach James. We all had a tremendous amount of respect for him and appreciated him. Every day I go to work in this profession I draw from him.”