Pac-12 Faces Several Challenges Heading Into Next Football SeasonBy Russell Westerholm
On paper, the Pacific 12 had a pretty good season for a conference that was shut out of the College Football Playoff.
Unlike the Big 12 last year, the Pac-12 needed to get awfully lucky for a shot at the playoff and there was really only one team that could have gotten the bid. It didn't happen, and the conference didn't implode.
Stanford rolled over Iowa in the Rose Bowl, Christian McCaffrey finished second for the Heisman Trophy, and though Oregon lost its bowl game against TCU it was an entertaining, high-scoring affair.
In a piece published Thursday, ESPN.com staff writer Ted Miller outlined several ways the Pac-12's perceived "stability" is a myth. Here are a few key excerpts.
1. Coaching personnel
USC was the only Pac-12 school to hire a new head coach, promoting long-time assistant Clay Helton. Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon, and Oregon State all underwent major assistant coach and coordinator shuffles.
2. Offensive and defensive identity
Along with those coaching changes will be scheme changes. Teams in the Pac-12 have typically favored 3-4 setups on defense to get more smaller, quicker linebackers and defensive backs on the field to cover fast-paced offenses. With the hiring of Brady Hoke, Oregon is switching to a 4-3 defense, joining Utah and Cal.
More changes may be ahead for other teams as well, given UCLA head coach Jim Mora referenced altering "philosophies and schemes" in an official news release.
3. Returning rosters
The Pac-12 is losing a relatively low number of underclassmen, but few are considered first-round draft prospects. That doesn't bode well for the next wave of rising underclassmen, nor does it account for the seniors that are departing. Most notably, USC, Stanford, and Oregon are losing their starting QBs due to exhausted eligibility.
The reinforcements are also uninspiring. While UCLA's roster shows promise with QB Josh Rosen entering his sophomore season, the Bruins' incoming class of recruits ranks 20th overall, per ESPN. The highest-ranked Pac-12 team on that list is USC at 14th.
Not only is the Pac-12 based in the country's most expensive city, but their revenue in the CFP era is not increasing like it is for the Big Ten or SEC. Miller argued there is no short-term solution for this other than caving on their opposition to signing a deal with DirecTV or slashing expenses.
Lastly, Miller noted the Pac-12 faces a real chance of being shut out of the CFP for a second straight season if teams like Stanford or USC regress or don't progress enough.