Taking stock of the Pac-12 heading into the bowl season.
Team of the week: Oregon won its third consecutive Pac-12 championship with a 49-31 win over UCLA in the inaugural conference title game. The Ducks have officially become a mini-conference dynasty.
Biggest play: After UCLA fumbled on its first possession, Oregon faced a fourth and 1 on the Bruins 30-yard line in the first quarter. A defensive stop would have made a big statement. Instead, LaMichael James went 30-yards for a 7-0 lead. What seemed inevitable in any event seemed even more so at that moment.
Offensive standout: James, the 2010 Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist, is one of the best backs in the history of the Pac-8, Pac-10 and Pac-12. And, Huskies, USC and Beavers fans, to argue the point is to be stupid.
James, a junior, rushed for 219 yards on 25 carries against UCLA, giving him 1,646 on the season. He becomes the first player in conference history to rush for 1,500 or more yards three times in a career. First. In. History. That's enough, by the way. But there's more!
James passed former USC back Marcus Allen (4,810 from 1978-81) for third on the Pac-12’s career rushing list with 4,923 yards.
James tied USC’s LenDale White (2003-05) for second in conference history in career rushing touchdowns with 52. He also equaled White’s 342 career points, which is 10th in Pac-12 history.
If you want to argue, please, first insist the earth is flat. It's a more intelligent position.
Defensive standout: Oregon linebacker Michael Clay had two sacks, six tackles, a forced fumble and fumble recovery in the Ducks win against UCLA.
Special teams standout: UCLA punter Jeff Locke averaged 48.2 yards on four punts, killing two inside the Oregon 20-yard line.
Smiley face: Washington State for hiring Mike Leach. We don't use a hashtag often on the Pac-12 blog, but this gets one: #brilliant!
Frowny face: Arizona and Washington State conducted A-list coaching searches and got their man. It doesn't appear at this point Arizona State and UCLA are. We'll see who both end up with -- this frown can be turned upside down -- but it appears we're going to have an athletic director (or two) picking a third or fourth choice and then disingenuously insisting that's not the case.
Thought of the week: Getting two BCS bowl berths for a second consecutive year means each Pac-10 team will take home at least $1.2 million more over the past two years than if it had just one. And, yeah, I mean Pac-10 because Colorado and Utah don't get a BCS bowl share this year. Commissioner Larry Scott had nothing to do with Oregon and Stanford getting good, but he is the commissioner of record during those two years. Just by standing around and smiling, it seems as though Scott makes revenue appear.
Questions for the week: The Pac-12 is likely to be underdogs in five or six of its seven bowl games (spreads will be released later today). Oregon is expected to be favored against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and UCLA could go either way with Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. So will the conference lay an egg -- as expected in Vegas -- this bowl season or will it step up and prove the experts wrong?