Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
Instant reaction to Pac-12 developments on and off the field …
1. Order restored
So Washington State (7-5) won't win the North. Neither will Oregon State (7-5). Instead, the division race came to the expected conclusion with Oregon handling the Beavers 38-29 to advance to the conference championship game.
That matchup is also devoid of chaos.
The Ducks will face Utah on the field for the second time in three weeks and in the Pac-12 title game for the second time in three years.
The South was settled last week, when Utah poleaxed the Ducks — a result that created narrow paths to the North title for both Oregon State and Washington State.
The Cougars did their part with a 40-13 victory in the Apple Cup, which eliminated the Beavers (5-4). But Oregon State wasn't up to the task in Autzen Stadium, thereby eliminating the Cougars (6-3) … and leaving the Ducks (7-2) as the last team standing.
For a season immersed in chaos, with three coaching dismissals, the final weekend of the Pac-12 regular season was decidedly anti-climactic: Of the seven games, six were decided by two scores and four by at least 20 points.
The only drama was in a largely meaningless game in the Coliseum.
Utah 28, Colorado 13
WSU 40, Washington 13
Oregon 38, OSU 29
ASU 38, Arizona 15
Notre Dame 45, Stanford 14
UCLA 42, Cal 14
BYU 35, USC 31
It wasn't just a lopsided week. The entire month was lacking in drama. Of the 23 games played in November, 18 were decided by at least two scores.
2. Postseason clarity
The Ducks and Utes are hardly new to the championship stage.
Utah is making its third consecutive appearance in non-COVID seasons, after losses in 2018 (to Washington) and 2019 (to Oregon).
The Ducks are making their third consecutive appearance, after victories in 2019 (over Utah) and 2020 (over USC).
Rematches in the title game are not uncommon. The 2018 finale was a rematch of Washington's early-season win over the Utes. But the proximity of the 2021 game to the regular-season tangle — a mere two weeks — is unusual.
It reminds us of the 2012 matchup, when Stanford faced UCLA one week after wrapping up the regular season against the Bruins.
The Utes dominated the first game in every facet and are likely to be the slight betting favorite, as they were last weekend prior to the 38-7 wipeout of the Ducks.
(Oregon is extremely fortunate to have star safety Verone McKinley available for the entire game after a targeting call against the Beavers was overturned — the biggest whiff on targeting that we've seen this season from Pac-12 officials.)
Meanwhile, the Pac-12 bowl pairings will be announced Dec. 5, along with the College Football Playoff matchups. But we know this much:
— Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Utah and Washington State are bowl eligible.
— Arizona, Cal, Colorado, Stanford, USC and Washington are not.
— The Cal-USC winner next weekend will finish 5-7, but the Pac-12 adopted a rule three years ago that prohibits five-win teams from bowling, even if a slot is available and the academic requirements (APR scores) are met.
— With only six eligible teams, the conference won't fulfill its commitment to the ESPN game that occupies the No. 7 slot in the bowl lineup.
3. More BYU, all BYU
In another unsurprising development, Brigham Young defeated USC to complete the super-sweep.
The Cougars are 5-0 against the Pac-12 in football and 2-0 against the Pac-12 in basketball, with competition concluded in both sports for the 2021-22 school year (barring a matchup in the NCAA tournament).
On the court, they beat Oregon and Utah.
On the field, they handled ASU, Utah, Arizona, USC and Washington State.
That's fairly embarrassing for the Pac-12, especially considering the Cougars were soundly defeated by Baylor and lost at home to Boise State.
Including the losses Saturday to BYU and Notre Dame, the Pac-12 finished the 2021 season with a 16-20 nonconference record and a 4-10 mark against teams from the Mountain West and BYU.
Not good. Not good at all.
4. The carousel slows
We'll have more on the coaching situation across the conference on Monday, but several pieces of news should be mentioned here:
— Herm Edwards is returning to ASU for the 2022 season, according to reports out of Tempe.
— Jake Dickert was named Washington State's permanent coach and will receive a five-year contract.
— UCLA won its eighth game, seemingly ensuring that Chip Kelly will return next season.
— Jonathan Smith received a contract extension from Oregon State through the 2027 season.
As a result, the potential for massive turnover at the top has diminished greatly. Instead of five or six changes, we could have just the two jobs currently vacant: USC and Washington.
5. Honor roll options
The Pac-12 head coaches will vote on postseason award winners following the conference championship, with the public reveal set for early the week of Dec. 6.
As we see it, there are three candidates for Coach of the Year: Utah's Kyle Whittingham, Oregon's Mario Cristobal and Oregon State's Jonathan Smith. (WSU's Dickert did a masterful job but was only a head coach for half the season.)
There are three candidates for the first-team all-conference quarterback: UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Utah's Cam Rising and WSU's Jayden de Laura.
There are four other players who could receive support for Offensive Player of the Year (in addition to the quarterbacks listed above): USC receiver Drake London (despite the injury), Oregon State tailback B.J. Baylor, Utah tailback Tavion Thomas and ASU tailback Rachaad White.
And there are only two players worthy of Defensive Player of the Year honors: Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux and Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd.
Really, there is only one option: Lloyd has been the most consistently impactful player on that side of scrimmage, and I'm not sure it's all that close.
*** Finally, a quick Public Service Announcement for fans planning to travel to Las Vegas for the championship game.
The conference office provided the following statement on COVID protocols at Allegiant Stadium:
"The Pac-12 Football Championship Game will follow local health authority protocols in Las Vegas. Currently, all fans must wear masks at public indoor venues, and that includes Allegiant Stadium."
Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.
Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at email@example.com.
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