The Season is Over

The Season is Over

Happy New Year to you, Followers.  I hope your New Year is off to a great start.

Last night, the Florida State Seminoles capped off the third best game of the BCS era (Ohio State-Miami and USC-Texas were the top two) by beating the Auburn Tigers 34-31.  And in so doing, closed the book on the 2013 College Football season.  

And so now we in the WSU Football Blog universe are left once again with this stunning, annuall reality:


But before we head into yet another off-season, I thought I’d offer a few thoughts about this past one—with special attention toward the Pac-12’s participation in the inaugural 2014 college football playoff.  For more on that, click on the old jumperoo.


Followers, I know that Auburn was much improved from the first game of the year.  But the fact of the matter is that if I’m a 20 something young man who is playing for the Cougs, I’d have been pretty inspired by what I saw last night.   Because even though Auburn became better as the year went on, anytime that you can say that you went into SEC country and darn well could’ve won a football game, well, that says something about the direction of your program.

The Season is Over

And, although our game against Auburn received no mention this past week in the national media, our performance in the season opener also said something about our conference this year.  Namely:  It was no small feat for the Pac-12’s 8th or 9th best team  to be able to go toe-to-toe with the National Runner-Up on their field and in the heat. 

And while the transitive property seldom applies in college sports, that fact should not glossed over by anybody, let alone the faithful.

The Season is Over

At the same time, Michigan State’s fantastic performance against Stanford in the Rose Bowl last week dampened the conference’s prospects for entry into the National playoff—at least for the next couple of years.   And the reason for this claim is as follows:

1)      Oregon is slipping. 

The Season is Over

To be clear, I fully expect the Ducks to win 10 games or more for the next several years.  At the same time, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Oregon’s window of dominance is closing quickly.  In fact, I think it already has.  You see, Oregon’s rise to prominence coincided with the end of USC’s run.  Not so coincidentally, it also began when Stanford was awful, when Washington was morbidly down, and while our program was as a bad as any major college program will ever be again,

And now?  Well, the Dawgs just finished the season 25th in the country. WSU just made it back to a bowl in Leach’s second season and is loaded with youth. Stanford is already listed among the top 6 in the country for next year.  On top of that, Oregon State has already been slated as a top 20 team for next year—even with Cooks and Crichton leaving early for the NFL draft. 

The Season is Over

In other words, while Oregon used to have a slate of divisional patsies , the road to a one loss (or better) season is no longer paved for the Quackers.  And that’s just the north.

Now, look South for a moment.  For the past several years, USC was on probation, UCLA was average at best, and the Zona schools weren’t much to write home about either.  And now?  All of those schools are significantly on the uptick.   What’s more, while Oregon was able to deeply penetrate So CAL a few years back for recruits, LA is going to be tough sledding with Sark and Mora now in LA’s front yard.  Graham and RichRod are now deeply engaged in Texas and are running similar offenses.  And all Pac-12 schools have pretty incredible new facilities.  (They just don't have those fricking awesome uniforms!)

The Season is Over

Speaking of Texas, anyone remember how Texas and Texas A&M fared when Oregon became a West Superpower?  The answer:  Not too good.  And now:  Sumlin and A&M are hot AND in the SEC.  And Charlie Strong is about ready to reclaim anyone and everyone in Texas who is fast, strong, and TOUGH.  In other words, Oregon's ability to get blue-chips out of the southwest is going to significantly more challenging that its been in the past two years–and even more so now that Chip Kelly is in the NFL and doing well.

And then on the field? Well, we saw what happens  when teams hold Oregon under 30 points: Oregon loses.  And we’ve also seen that teams with fast and physical defenses are still able to overpower Ducks and hold them under 30 points.  In other words, I don’t expect Oregon to have very many opportunities to do better than 2 losses moving forward.  And that has as much to do with everyone else starting to close the gap as it does them slowing down.  Next year is going to be HUGE for that program,

2)      Stanford is Scheduled OUT

John Wilner noted this the other day: While Stanford is a terrific football team and program, they remain vulnerable to teams that are able to match their physicality and toughness.   As a result, teams like Michigan State as well as most SEC teams are going to be able to beat Stanford on any given day for the precise reason that their offense is just not consistently able to score points AND also because Stanford will always struggle getting enough 4.4 forty guys into their program (and that includes defensive backs as well as linebackers)

The Season is Over

But beyond the nuances of their style, the Trees also are challenged by a schedule that all-but prohibits National Title contention moving forward.  The reasons:

a)      9 Non-Conference games.  If you want to know the dangers of a nine game conference slate versus 8 all you have to do is look at the Stanford-Utah contest.  Not only do SEC schools NOT have to deal with that extra non-divisional game—they also don’t have to deal with a couple of other sneaky factors.  The first is weather—particularly against Utah, Colorado, and the Northwest schools.  The other:  Altitude.  Add all that up, and you have recipe for 1 or 2 additional tough conference games or conditions that the SEC, ACC, and Big-12 don't have to deal with very much.

b)      LA Confidential.   WSU gets the opportunity of playing in LA every other year.  In years we don’t,  we get an LA school at home.  Stanford gets to play BOTH LA schools EVERY stinking year.   And moving forward, if Stanford is fortunate enough to win the North, the odds will be good that they’ll have to get three wins from USC and UCLA in order to make a playoff.  I wonder how successful LSU, Auburn, Bama, Florida State, and company would be if they had to play non-divisional powerhouses with as much consistency?  My thought:   I think they'd struggle mightily.

The Season is Over

c) Notre Dame.  Once upon a time, Notre Dame fell off the radar.  And now?  Well, they’re pretty darn good.  Last year, ND was in the national title game.  This year: Notre Dame was only a half of a taco short of another marvelous combination.   Need proof?

The Season is Over

They beat Pac12 South Division winner ASU, beat USC, and last I checked they beat a Michigan state team that would have made a playoff if they had one this year.

The Season is Over

Not only does Stanford play Notre Dame every year—they always do so either mid-season or late.   In other words, Notre Dame acts as a 10th conference game for Stanford every year.

So, when you look at a schedule that requires the Trees to play the Pac-12 North, both LA schools, Notre Dame, AND two other South Division teams, you can see a recipe for at least 2 losses every year.

The Season is Over

To wit, unless Condy Rice has a TON of pull on that committee, Stanford looks to be a prime candidate for the first out every stinking year.

All of this is to say that the conference’s depth coupled with all of its late night games is going to make it pretty hard to crack the playoff—especially if the SEC is able to stake a claim to get two teams in every year.  And frankly, the threat of SEC hegemony in the selection process is one of the reasons why I was THRILLED to see both Bama AND Auburn lose in the final week.

The Season is Over

Because of that, the door to the playoff remains open for a one loss Pac-12 team to make it in.  But the selection committee is going to have to make one heckuva statement about the importance of strength of schedule in order for the Pac-12 to be a regular participant in College Football’s final four.

That’s all the time I have for today.  I’ll be back later in the week for a couple of posts, including a look at the 2014 schedule as well as a few closing thoughts on Ken Bone and WSU Men’s basketball.

All for now.  Go Cougs. 

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