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College Hotline - Pac-12 football: 2015-16 bowl season wrap (and a forgettable bowl season...

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    Hope your holidays went well. The Hotline’s early look at 2016 is coming next week — need to let the NFL Draft early-entry process unfold before delving into projections …

    Bowl theme I: Kerplop.

    Six wins + four losses = Meh.

    At least initially.

    The performance feels worse when you consider Pac-12 teams were favored in eight games and underdogs in … none.

    And it feels even worse when you consider the conference started with four consecutive wins (Arizona, Utah and the Washington schools), then went 2-4.

    And it feels even worse when you consider the last two games (Oregon and ASU) were bad, bad losses. The Pac-12 staggered off the stage.

    Two words: Basketball conference.


    Bowl theme II: We’ve seen this before.

    In some respects, the Pac-12 postseason was reminiscent of the Pac-12 regular season, which didn’t come close to matching the preseason hype (best league in the land!).

    And the South …. yikes.

    It wasn’t the best division in the conference, much less the country, and then went 2-3 in the postseason.

    Bowl theme III: Hindsight.

    Should Stanford have been included in the playoff?

    The Hotline was darn near the only place that didn’t dismiss Stanford’s playoff chances after the mid-November loss to Oregon.

    (And it turns out, the Cardinal was eight North Carolina points away from making the playoff. Had Clemson lost, Stanford would have been ahead of Iowa in the final rankings — the Big Ten runner up would not have made it ahead of the Pac-12 champ, even with the difference in losses. No way.

    (With the top four set, it was easy for the committee to slot the Hawkeyes fifth in order to help the Rose Bowl justify picking Iowa over Ohio State.

    (Yes, there are politics involved.)

    That said, the answer to the above question is clear: No, Stanford should not have been included in the playoff, dominant as it looked in the Rose Bowl (and bad as Michigan State and Oklahoma looked in the semis).

    The selection process was rightly based on performance as of Dec. 6. At that point, it was exceedingly difficult to make the case that the Cardinal deserved a spot ahead of Clemson, Bama, Michigan State or Oklahoma.

    In fact, nobody was making that case.

    Don’t forget: It’s not a matter of absolutes (Stanford in or Stanford out). It’s relative (Stanford in instead of …. ?). And the case breaks down when you view it relatively.

    No, this won’t get us any closer to an eight-team event. That’s a decade away.

    Best Game: Alamo Bowl.

    Given TCU’s record-tying comeback — from 31 down to beat Oregon 47-41 — this was an easy pick.

    The quarterback situation partially muddles the context, however. The Ducks were ahead 28-0 with their starting QB against TCU’s backup QB. Only when Vernon Adams left the game due to injury did it become an apple-to-apples comparison.

    Put another way: Had you been told ahead of time that both teams would use backups and TCU would win handily, that outcome wouldn’t have been a stunner.

    But because Adams played most of the first half and Oregon built that huge lead, the collapse turned epic.

    That said …

    Awful loss for the Ducks — one that puts the spotlight back on their failure to properly recruit the QB position.

    Worst call: Arizona State.

    The Sun Devils’ inexplicable decision to kick a PAT instead of going for two with a five-point lead down the stretch proved costly in their 43-42 loss to West Virginia.

    Credit coach Todd Graham for owning the mistake: “Mismanagement there and that is my responsibility.”

    But Graham, it should be said, is also ultimately responsible for a season that didn’t come within close to meeting expectations.

    Best performance: Stanford.

    The Cardinal administered a start-to-finish beat down of the nation’s fifth-ranked team and won its second Rose Bowl in four years.

    (And if you saw the first play from scrimmage, you know what I mean by start-to-finish.)

    Best avoidance of defeat: Utah 35, BYU 28.

    What would have become of Utah football … of Utah athletics … of the university itself … if the Utes had blown a 35-0 first-quarter lead to BYU?

    Seriously. Would the Utes have ever recovered?

    Speaking of eternity …

    Worst alum EV-ER: Carly Fiorina.

    The Republican presidential candidate publicly shunned her alma mater in the single worst instance of sports pandering we’ve seen.

    With an eye to the upcoming Iowa Caucus, the Stanford grad tweeted this Friday morning.


    Love my alma mater, but rooting for a Hawkeyes win today. #RoseBowl

    — Carly Fiorina (@CarlyFiorina) January 1, 2016

    The guess here is Iowa fans saw through her weak-sauce efforts as easily as Christian McCaffrey ran through the Hawkeye defense.

    Better than it looks: Arizona 45, New Mexico 37.

    Road game against a motivated opponent for a team that had higher aspirations: Solid effort by the Wildcats.

    Worse than it looks: Nebraska 37, UCLA 29.

    Would have been an understandable result in 1975, or 1985, or 1995, or even 2005. But not in 2015.

    The Cornhuskers were 5-7 and lost to Purdue and Illinois … and trailed 21-7 in the second quarter.

    That’s right: The Bruins lost to a team that lost to Purdue.

    Atrocious result.

    You sure about this I? USC.

    Since the Trojans named Clay Helton the permanent coach, they have been thumped by Stanford in the Pac-12 title game and lost to a lesser opponent (Wisconsin) in the Holiday Bowl.

    They’d better hope the reality of the Helton regime proves better than the initial optics of the Helton regime, because the optics couldn’t be much worse.

    You sure about this II? UCLA.

    The Bruins are all in with Jim Mora and his $3.5 million contract for the next four seasons.

    In four years, his teams have one division title, no league titles, no wins over Stanford or Oregon and lots (and lots) of penalties.

    Two questions: 1) Do the injuries this season justify the five losses? 2) Is the Mora era past its peak?

    My thoughts: Probably not on 1) — the injuries sure don’t justify the Foster Farms result — and I’m honestly not sure about 2). But it’s not unreasonable for Bruins fans to consider that possibility.

    Best Adios: Jared Goff

    Cal’s gifted quarterback carved up Air Force for 467 yards and six TDs, then two days later announced he was taking his talents to the NFL.

    Given the situation at 4949 Centennial Drive, Santa Clara, CA, it’s entirely possible Goff will play on Sundays while doing laundry at his parents’ house on Mondays.

    Best entrance: Myles Gaskin

    Pac-12 fans were well aware of Washington’s talented freshman tailback, but Gaskin showed the nation – err, however many fans watched the Heart of Dallas Bowl – that he’s one of the nation’s top young runners with 181 yards and four touchdowns.

    Thinking out loud: Might the Huskies receive a few first-place votes in the North title when the Pac-12 preseason media poll is released in July?

    Looming challenge I: Stanford, Cal and Oregon.

    Gargantuan holes to fill at quarterback.

    Looming challenge II: USC.

    Two hundred and forty-three days until Bama.

    It’ll come quick.

    xxxxxxx

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    The post Pac-12 football: 2015-16 bowl season wrap (and a forgettable bowl season it was for the conference) appeared first on College Hotline.

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    by Jon Wilner
     

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