Pac-12 North regains upper hand over the South in 2015

After a one-year lull, the collective might of the Pac-12 North returned to grab the league's balance of the power from the Pac-12 South.

The North finished 2015 with a 15-10 record in its head-to-head matchups with the South, marking the fourth time in five years since expansion that the division has held the final advantage. The South won the head-to-head by a 15-10 tally last season, but the tumbles of both Arizona schools -- coupled with the resurgence of Stanford and the rise of Washington State in the North -- shifted the advantage back the other way.

And for the fifth straight season, the ultimate prized stayed in the North. Stanford captured the league title, so a South team has still not won a single Pac-12 Championship Game. The Cardinal and Oregon have dominated that affair, combining to go 5-0 in it since the birth of the division format in 2011.

Pac-12 North teams finished with a 30-25 overall record in league play, while the South's tally was 25-30, the inverse of that. The North held its advantage despite carrying the carrying the dead weight of 0-9 Oregon State, though the Beavers' struggles were virtually canceled out on the other side by 1-8 Colorado. Last season, all but one South team finished over .500 in conference play; this year, both Arizona and Arizona State joined the Buffs with losing league records. Meanwhile, the North saw significant improvements from both Washington State and California to complement Stanford's re-entry into the national elite.

Utah is the one Pac-12 South team that saw considerable success in intra-divisional matchups: The Utes finished 4-0 against the North. Take Utah out of the equation, and Pac-12 North teams would have owned an absolutely dominant 14-6 record against their southern counterparts.

And while we finally saw an increase of parity within the Pac-12 North itself this season, it's not readily apparent in the final tallies. Before 2015, Oregon and Stanford were a a combined 39-1 against their other Pac-12 North counterparts this decade -- the only blemish on that record was Stanford's 17-13 loss at Washington in 2011. This year, despite a very competitive showing from Washington State, the Ducks and Cardinal finished 7-1 against the other North schools, pushing their record to 46-2 in that regard since 2010. The one loss this season, Oregon's 45-38 overtime setback to the Cougars, was actually the Ducks' first loss to a Pac-12 North team not named Stanford since conference expansion.

So while it's apparent that parity is slowly creeping from the South to both sides of the conference, it's still not clear when we'll see a real challenger to Stanford and Oregon at the very top of the Pac-12. Even while the quality of the league's depth improves, those two programs remain the only ones that have proven capable of taking the ultimate cake.