The Pac-12 placed one team in the final AP top-25 poll: What that says and why it matters

Judgment has been rendered. The final Associated Press top-25 poll is out, and it confirms exactly what we pondered, witnessed and discussed:

Collectively, the Pac-12 underperformed in 2020, even when accounting for COVID chaos — for the late start and canceled game and truncated postseason.

Granted, the end-of-season AP poll is hardly a perfect measure of success.

But the sport’s sprawling, messy postseason leaves us with only imperfect tools for judgment beyond the teams involved in the College Football Playoff.

Of those tools, the AP poll stands above.

First published in 1936 — and with a process that has remained largely unchanged — it serves as a benchmark for comparing conference and team success across years and decades.

The broader your scope, the more clarity the AP poll provides.

In the poll released last night following the national championship game, the Pac-12 is represented by one team.

USC is No. 21, four spots below Liberty but four above Buffalo.

There’s no Oregon or Washington, no Utah or Stanford.

It’s the first time since 1999 that the conference placed just one team in the final poll.

(Full disclosure: USC was the only Pac-12 team on my final ballot.)

Yes, yes, yes: The COVID disruption must be considered — strongly — in any assessment of the Pac-12’s performance.

The conference started later than its peers, played fewer games than its peers and sent fewer teams (two) to the postseason than its peers.

Those factors undoubtedly undermined its representation in the final AP poll.

That said …

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— The Mid-American Conference started when the Pac-12 started, and it placed two teams in the final AP poll (Buffalo and Ball State).

— The Big Ten started just two weeks before the Pac-12, and it placed four teams in the final poll (Ohio State, Northwestern, Indiana and Iowa).

But again, the weeds are difficult to navigate. The AP poll is better served as a tool for spotting multi-year trends — as a means of illuminating the landscape.

With that in mind, the Hotline examined the final AP poll for each season since the conference added Utah and Colorado.

The trend line is all wrong for the Pac-12.

2011 (three teams)
No. 4 Oregon
No. 6 USC
No. 7 Stanford

2012 (three)
No. 2 Oregon
No. 7 Stanford
No. 20 Oregon State

2013 (six)
No. 9 Oregon
No. 11 Stanford
No. 16 UCLA
No. 19 USC
No. 21 ASU
No. 25 Washington

2014 (six)
No. 2 Oregon
No. 10 Arizona
No. 14 UCLA
No. 15 ASU
No. 22 Utah
No. 24 USC

2015 (three)
No. 3 Stanford
No. 17 Utah
No. 19 Oregon

2016 (five)
No. 3 USC
No. 4 Washington
No. 12 Stanford
No. 17 Colorado
No. 23 Utah

2017 (three)
No. 12 USC
No. 16 Washington
No. 20 Stanford

2018 (two)
No. 10 Washington State
No. 13 Washington

2019 (two)
No. 5 Oregon
No. 16 Utah

2020 (one)
No. 21 USC

So we’re left to wonder …

— What accounted for the mid-decade success, with at least five teams in the final AP poll in 2013, 2014 and 2016?

(In both ’14 and ’16, the Pac-12 produced playoff participants, its only playoff participants in the event’s seven-year history.)

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— What has caused the ongoing regression, with three consecutive years of no more than two teams in the final poll?

Essentially, this: Why so many good teams a half …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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