Pac 12 News: Welcome To The New Conference
Northwest college football fans, say hello to the Pacific 12 Conference. The Pac-10 era is over. 2011 marks the beginning of a new, expanded conference.
Let’s look at the noteworthy changes, including the newcomers, plus a few key Pac-12 matchups to watch in 2011.
KEY CHANGES FOR 2011
1. The Pac-12 is divided into the North and South Divisions.
The North will feature Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Washington State, California and Stanford. The South will feature Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA, USC, Utah and Colorado.
2. The Pac-12 is now eligible to host a conference title game.
Expanding from 10 to 12 teams means the winners of the Pac-12 North and South will face each other for the conference championship on December 3.
3. Utah and Colorado join the conference.
The key additions to the Pac-12 are the Utah Utes and the Colorado Buffaloes. Both teams arrive from the Mountain West. Colorado’s expectations are low but Utah has a chip on its shoulder and wants to prove it can contend in a major conference.
TEAMS TO WATCH
1. Oregon. The Ducks came within a victory of the national title last season and will aim to be the country’s top team again with key offensive stars like LaMichael James returning.
2. Stanford. Andrew Luck stayed behind, opting not to declare for the NFL draft. It’s Heisman Trophy or bust for the star quarterback and he hopes to lead Stanford to a championship, too.
3. Arizona State. The Sun Devils will take a different approach to winning the Pac-12, hoping their defense makes the difference.
TOP GAMES OF 2011 (within the Pac-12)
1. Utah at USC – September 10. OK, Utah, here’s your chance to prove you belong. The Utes will face a tough road test against the championship-ineligible-but-angry USC Trojans.
2. Oregon at Stanford – November 12. The stakes change slightly now that these two rivals play in different divisions but both teams could theoretically be undefeated and trying to keep their national title hopes alive at this point.
3. Oregon State at Oregon – November 26. I almost picked Arizona State’s trip to Oregon as the third game to watch, as it’s probably the more important matchup. But I’m a sucker for cross-state rivalries.
So there you have it, folks – a quick breakdown of what’s new and exciting in the Pac-12.
There’s never been a better time to be a college football fan in the Northwest!