This is a little late, but the team at Pacific Takes and I did a quick Q&A for the CFP Championship game between the Oregon Ducks and Ohio State. Many topics were broached including the history between these fine conferences, willingness to move forward, conference solidarity, lasting legacies, and more. Take a gander here, and when you're filling up the hours between now and then, go ahead and head over to Pacific Takes to read my answers to their questions.
1. Let's just get it out of the way, this was perhaps the best possible non-conference year in Pac 12 history, right? Go ahead and get on that soapbox and spread the good word about how well your fair conference has been playing. The congregation will support any and all taunting of the SEC - do you perchance chant P-A-C.
Zach Willman: PAC, PAC, 12! 12! All we need is to be overrated, have ESPN cover us way too closely, and we'll get insecure enough to have a conference chant. Pac-12 had a great non-con year, but there were some uuugly victories. A 59-52 Washington win over Eastern Washington helped the PAC avoid a 2nd straight upset to that team and go 10-0 vs FCS. A USC loss to BC, Cal loss to an injured BYU and 2 Wazzu losses to Rutgers and Nevada marred what otherwise was a great year: 9-3 vs Power 5 teams, 14-3 vs rest of FBS. Would like to see more Power 5 vs Pac-12 games though.
2. The Big Ten and Pac 12 sort of have a lot of history together. It does seem sort of fitting that the first official College Football Playoffs would feature these two conferences, right? With everything right in the world again, how does it feel knowing that all that is standing in the way of Pac 12 World Domination is a Big Ten school? Is it a rivalry or more of an inconvenience?
Zach Willman: I would say inconvenience, but the Big Ten was pretty under-rated. I had quite a bit of fun watching and supporting Arizona-State-in-bizarro-world Minnesota as they clambered for national prominence in some weird sense of Maroon and Gold solidarity. The Big Ten and Pac-12 SHOULD be in this game as they are
3. Knowing everything you do about the B1G from a national perspective, how surprising is it that they a) made it to the CFP in the first place, and b) took it to Alabama (sorta) and find themselves in the enviable spot of playing for the Championship? Does it feel like Ohio State is a team that deserves to be here or do you think they're more just taking advantage of what was given to them?
Zach Willman: From a disinterested point of view, it seemed like the B14G is just loaded down with too many sub-par and mediocre teams. Almost like to give Wisc, OSU, Mich/MSU, and Nebraska some comfortable should-win games until they can over-hype the games that matter. But based on potential alone, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State are all perennial contenders and have the infrastructure every year to have a good season. 6 teams. That's more than the Pac-12 can say, as we operate on a rotating schedule of breakout teams like the Arizonas and the Washingtons.
4. Speaking of Ohio State - being as they're who we're here to talk about - give me your initial impressions on the Buckeyes and their incredible offense. How does Oregon go about stopping a team as dynamic as OSU?
Zach Willman: The events of the Buckeye-Badger rout and of course, LOLBigXII, moved Ohio State into the playoff which we know now was a good call. I am convinced it will be impossible to stop an offense that has a 3rd-String quarterback in charge. Its like The Replacements, and Cardale Jones is like Shane Falco.
Intermission time: How amazing is it that the SEC isn't playing in this game? Awesome, right?
Avinash Kunnath: Let's enjoy this together.
5. Does Oregon have the full support of the Pac 12? In B1G country, it seems 50/50 on the Buckeyes because we have a long tradition of more or less hating everyone that isn't our team. What's the tenor out in the land of not freezing cold temps and no sun?
Avinash Kunnath: Doubtful. I mean, it's there. But conference allegiance is pretty much a new thing. The B1G and ACC usually bears the brunt of the college football criticism, but the Pac-12 has generally been respected (if marginalized). Washington fans will definitely be dotting the i. Oregon State fans will share allegiance with their fellow OSU. And a lot of the other programs in the South are fighting Oregon for major recruits.
I imagine a plurality of Pac-12 fans will be with Oregon, but it won't be overwhelming the way it will be with the B1G or the SEC.
6. Tell me more about Oregon and how important this game is to their lasting legacy. Nobody would deny that they have been a team on the cusp of great things, and they're most definitely one of the modern day power brokers, but we would also be kidding ourselves if we ignored the fact that the titles haven't followed. Do the Ducks need this game to cement their place on the college football totem pole?
Avinash Kunnath: Right now they're the most popular team of Generation Y, but Generation X is still taking that "wait and see if they can beat a great team even though they've beaten Michigan State and Florida State and USC and Stanford with Andrew Luck and Wisconsin with Russell Wilson and Kansas State and ...". Obviously, beating Alabama would have put all those stereotypes to rest, but beating the team that beat Alabama would be as close as you can get.
Winning this national title would legitimatize Oregon in the national sphere. A national championship is the last piece to put them up there with the big boys. There is still the stereotype of speed and flash that dogs them until they can flash the rings. It's annoying the way the world works, since Oregon has kind of proven that they can beat plenty of great teams with plenty of different styles, but that's the culture we work in.
(Of course, we don't bring in the TV ratings, so expect ESPN to keep on SEC circle jerking from here to eternity. )
7. While we're on the topic of Oregon, can you give the OTE readers a few things we might not know about Oregon? Sure, we see fancy jerseys, a fast offense, and a Heisman winner, but what things are we going to be surprised at in watching the matchup? Anyone in particular we should be keeping an eye on?
Avinash Kunnath: These are not the Ducks of four years ago that made their way to a title game with just speed and tempo. Oregon won the Rose Bowl semifinal in the trenches. Their offensive line smashed Florida State's four and five star recruits to bits by the third quarter. Oregon's defense surrendered the yards through the air, but their front seven is playmaking and forced so many turnovers. Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner are two of the toughest running backs Ohio State will face all season.
Oregon has learned that they need power to win the big games. Ohio State is probably the most disciplined defense they'll face all year, so we'll see if they've recruited well enough for games like these.
8. Finally, in stealing a little bit from the questions you gave us, who do you see needing this - from a conference perspective - more? Going forward does the Pac 12 need to re-establish the dominance it once had with teams like USC rolling fools, or is it time for the B1G to be more than just an old stodgy has-been?
Avinash Kunnath: The Pac-12 probably needs it more. No one thought the B1G would win a national championship this year. Getting to the title game and knocking off the best the SEC has to offer is good enough for this season. Also, it's Ohio State. It's kind of like USC winning a national championship-it doesn't elevate the conference, it elevates the usual power over everyone else.
Oregon winning would not only validate the Pac-12 as the best conference in college football this season, but finally give the conference a second national brand to respect. Having multiple powers in one conference is what elevates it, and Oregon winning a title before USC finally reloads could really create a balance that the Pac-12 needs to be the best going forward.
Huge thanks to Pacific Takes for dropping by today. Go follow them on twitter (@PacificTakes). Extra special thanks to Avinash (@avinashkunnath) and Zach (@ZachWillman) for getting me these answers in short order. It was a quick turnaround.