We'll stay out west this week as we review the Pac-12. Here are the 2017 Pac-12 standings.
Pac-12 Championship Game participants, Southern Cal, and Stanford, Arizona State was outgained on a per play basis by over two yards per snap (5.80 to 8.05). In their other seven games, the Sun Devils were much more competitive. In those seven contests, they were slightly outgained per play (5.59 to 5.63), yet they managed to win six of them. Credit Todd Graham’s voodoo and the vagaries of an even smaller sample size. Meanwhile, it’s much easier to see why Stanford exceeded their expected record. The Cardinal had the best in-conference turnover margin of any Pac-12 team (+12) and won all four of their one-score conference games. Those close games, especially the Friday night tilt with Washington, decided the Pac-12 North. That close game good fortune continued a trend under David Shaw. Since Shaw’s arrival on The Farm prior to the 2011 season, Stanford is 16-8 in one-score conference games.
The 2017 Pac-12 Championship Game was a rematch (or is it re-imagining?) of the 2015 Pac-12 Championship Game. Southern Cal was able to exact a modicum of revenge and claim their first ever Pac-12 title and first conference title since 2008! But, let’s go back to the 2015 game. Southern Cal won their first Pac-12 South title that season. It also marked the fourth consecutive year a different team won the
division (with no repeats). Allow me to explain. UCLA won the South in 2012, Arizona State won it in 2013, Arizona won in 2014, and Southern Cal won in 2015. Colorado would extend the streak to five in 2016 before Southern Cal ended it in 2017.
Rice won the West division of Conference USA, SMU, Houston, and Tulsa were members of the AAC. Louisiana Tech won the division in 2014; their second season in the conference after the WAC’s dissolution. Southern Miss was a charter member of the East division of the conference, but came over to the West following the league’s shifting in 2013.
If Utah can come away with the crown in 2018, every member of the Pac-12 South will have won the division. This would be a remarkable achievement considering the conference did not begin divisional play until 2011. The league would still not be able to match Conference USA in terms of egalitarian streaks, but it would be a distinctive accomplishment in its own right. And if either Virginia or Pitt claim the ACC Coastal in 2018, Conference USA will have company in terms of rotating division winners.