The Rose Bowl concluded a 6-3 effort in bowl games for the Pac-12. Here is a wrap-up from the Hotline blog at www.mercurynews.com/blogs:
Theme I: Mixed bag.
Favored in all nine games, and with two teams using interim coaches, the Pac-12 was set up to fail -- and it almost did.
Yes, the conference set a record for bowl victories, and it outscored opponents 316-206. But I'd argue that the 6-3 record constitutes a break-even postseason given all the favorable matchups and the Rose Bowl result.
When your champion loses, it tends to darken the overall picture.
Bottom line for the conference in 2013:
As good as it has been in years, if not ever, but only one BCS bid, no Heisman finalists, no national title participants and modest success across the sweep of the postseason.
The price of parity.
Theme II: Unhappy Holiday.
For the second year in a row, the Pac-12 was embarrassed in the Holiday Bowl. This week, Arizona State no-showed against Texas Tech. Last year, UCLA rolled over against Baylor.
Surely it's not a coincidence that both the Devils and Bruins were coming off losses in the Pac-12 title game, turning San Diego into Letdown City.
(Add UCLA's loss in the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, and the Pac-12 runner up is 0-3 in the postseason.)
Theme III: Draft declarations.
Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins and TB Bishop Sankey are entering the NFL. Same with USC S Dion Bailey, C Marcus Martin and DE George Uko.
More are sure to come, including USC WR Marqise Lee and Stanford G David Yankey and S Ed Reynolds.
My guess on UCLA QB Brett Hundley: He's gone.
Passed for 226 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns and out-gained Virginia Tech all by himself.
Plenty of stellar performances (to name four: Arizona's Jake Fischer, UCLA's Myles Jack and UW's Timu/Kikaha), but Reynolds is the pick for returning two fumbles for touchdowns to fuel the victory over Boise State.
Billed as a collision of evenly-matched teams with rugged defenses, power running games and old-school philosophies, the Granddaddy was exactly that.
It joined the New Mexico as the only Pac-12 bowl games to be decided by less than two touchdowns.
Arizona's Carey out-gained Boston College's Williams 169-75 in the Tailback Bowl, providing the last bit of evidence that he's the superior runner -- check the stats against top competition -- despite Williams far outdistancing Carey in the Heisman.
Carey's problem this season: Exposure. With all the night games and all the Pac-12 Networks appearances (i.e., not on DTV), not enough voters saw enough of Carey.
The Cardinal gained 141 yards on three plays against Michigan State. On the other 51 plays, it averaged 3.2 yards.
Say what you will about the overall state of the Big Ten -- and I have certainly said plenty -- but the Spartans, who beat Stanford without their version of Shayne Skov (suspended LB Max Bullough), were the best team in either league, hands down.
Down 14, with first down at the Texas Tech 1, the Sun Devils: Bungled the shotgun snap, resulting in a loss of 6 yards; had a no gain (Taylor Kelly); and missed a 24-yard field goal.
That about sums it up for the Sun Devils.
I went 3-6 against the spread in Pac-12 games and was 4-5 in straight-up picks.
The Ducks held Texas to 236 yards and seven points and had two Pick-6s for their retiring defensive coordinator.
Aliotti, a first-rate coach and one of the good guys, will be missed. We wish him well in his next life.
The Cougars gave up 18 points in the final three minutes against Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl -- a loss that will resonate in the Palouse throughout the offseason.
Combine the Holiday no-show with the Pac-12 title game loss to Stanford, and the Devils were outscored 75-37 in December.
Two decades after they lost to Fresno State in the Freedom Bowl (Larry Smith's final game), the Trojans were at their best.
The 45-20 win over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl completed a turnaround in which they won six of their last seven games -- and makes the blowout loss to UCLA all the more confounding.
His knee healthy, the Duck quarterback was back at full speed in the Alamo Bowl, rushing for 133 yards against Texas -- more than his total from the final five games of the regular season.
Had cramps not set in, Mariota could have topped 200.
The pass-happy Beavers churned for 195 yards on the ground in their victory over Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl.
Add their 200+ yard performance on the ground in the Civil War, and it's fair to wonder if they should have been more committed to the run during the sweep of the season.
The sterling performance against Texas was an important public perception victory for first-year coach Mark Helfrich after a less-than-impressive finish. Helfrich now heads out on the recruiting trail with momentum -- the good kind.
Eight months and counting.