Chris Graythen/Getty Images
The cruelest irony of the crumbling Pac-12 is how much success the conference has enjoyed in 2023. Monday night in the Sugar Bowl, Washington provided the league with a final shot at a memorable first.
For only the second time—and likely the last—the conference will have a representative in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
And the Huskies could be the Pac’s first winner.
Washington survived a late charge from Texas, celebrating yet another nerve-testing win in a 37-31 thriller. Star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw for 430 yards and two touchdowns, leading seven scoring drives on the night. The defense made a clutch red-zone stand as time expired to seal UW’s dramatic win, too.
Most importantly, the second-ranked Huskies sealed a place opposite top-ranked Michigan on Monday, Jan. 8, in Houston, Texas, with an elusive national title for the conference at stake.
What a complicated end to the Pac-12 era.
In the last decade, the league has endured a steady decline as the least-significant power conference. Oregon made the CFP title game in 2014—the debut season of the four-team format—and UW appeared in a 2016 semifinal. But that was it.
Along the way, poor leadership ruined the conference’s future in what should’ve been utterly unthinkable fashion.
UCLA and USC bolted for the Big Ten, which eventually added Oregon and Washington. Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah found a landing spot in the Big 12 before Cal and Stanford committed to the ACC.
As a result, the conference will effectively vanish.
That dramatic—and arguably unfortunate—wave of realignment made the 2023 campaign the swan song for the Pac-12. So, naturally, the league put together its finest collective year in a long, long time.
Washington is playing for a title. Oregon, which just routed Liberty in the Fiesta Bowl, would’ve made the CFP with a victory over Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Arizona had a breakout 10-win season, and four others finished with an 8-5 record.
Not since 2015 had seven Pac-12 programs hit eight wins. Throw in Cal making a bowl, and the conference boasted seven postseason qualifier for the first time since 2017.
Thanks for the memories, I guess.
Yes, the Pac-12 will technically exist in 2024 as Oregon State and Washington State attempt to rebuild the fractured league. We hear you.
This season, however, has been the conclusion to the historic conference as we know it. While the brand may continue to exist, it certainly won’t be the same without Cal, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington—all members since 1928 or earlier.
As money and power reshape the sport, it could hardly be more poetic that the Pac-12 may snap its title drought as the league dissolves.
Also, you know, against Michigan—a program from the Big Ten, the conference that served as the catalyst for the Pac-12’s nightmare and the impending home of this very Washington team.
The story writes itself sometimes.
Washington, for many reasons, is simply an incredible team to be authoring this final Pac-12 chapter.
Two years ago, the Dawgs mustered four wins. The school then hired Kalen DeBoer, who reunited with Penix, who sparked a lackluster offense, which has propelled UW to the brink of a national championship.
As if that’s not enough, Washington has now survived 10 straight games with a margin of 10 points or less. So many things could have gone wrong, but DeBoer, Penix and occasionally the defense kept finding ways to squeeze out uncomfortable victories.
Amid the Pac-12’s descent, the Huskies’ rise is remarkably timed. Simultaneously, they’ve set the stage for a fascinating matchup.
Michigan and Washington will share a conference next season—and already have a showdown slated for Oct. 5 in Seattle. No matter the result on Monday in Houston, it’s safe to suggest the Big Ten will be bragging about having the reigning national champions in 2024.
But if Washington wins, we’ll know the truth: the dying Pac-12 tossed one last, glorious dagger.
(The following story may or may not have been edited by NEUSCORP.COM and was generated automatically from a Syndicated Feed. NEUSCORP.COM also bears no responsibility or liability for the content.)