“There was an idea. To bring together a group of remarkable people.”
The curtain was drawn. In the blistering heat of the summer of 2022, a revelation sent shockwaves through the world of college sports. USC and UCLA, two founding members of the PAC-8 and the major players in the biggest TV market east of the Mississippi, were cutting ties. The aftermath?
A tidal wave of jokes, endless ridicule aimed at the PAC-12, and the ever-present question hanging in the air: Is this the end of the PAC-12? What does the future hold for the remaining teams? Arizona, Seattle, and Denver are colossal markets in their own right, but do they have the capacity to stand alone? And amidst the chaos, fingers were pointed squarely at the commissioner, who many believed should shoulder the blame for the situation (rightfully so). Years of failed leadership had culminated in this predicament.
But is it one?
The final act is upon us, as the curtain prepares to fall on what we know as a PAC-12 football season. Just a short while ago, my intention was to stir a sense of nostalgia, to make everyone reminisce about their memories of the conference, to defend “what was and will always be”. But not this time. No, this week, the narrative is about the Resistance.
All too frequently, we see the disparaging comments on Facebook or listen to Finebaum on his ESPN show, absorbing the insults hurled at the PAC-12. But we are not here to debate whether or not they are the worst of the major conferences (spoiler: they’re not). It’s time to switch from defense to offense.
Before the start of the previous season, two of the biggest football teams were reeling from abysmal 4-8 seasons. Washington hit a new low, only garnering national attention twice: once for losing to a lesser-known school from Montana, a state with a population outnumbered by elk, deer, and antelope, and once for our coach being caught on camera striking a player. Meanwhile, Oregon was in a state of flux - Mario Cristobal leaving for Miami, a move ultimately doomed to end in tragedy.
Since then, Washington, USC, and Oregon have all brought in new coaches, with the least successful of those teams, the Ducks, finishing at a respectable 10-3. Utah stood firm while USC and Washington rallied. Perhaps the revamped transfer system played a part in this resurgence, as 2022 Heisman winner Caleb Williams, 2023 favorite Michael Penix Jr, and Bo Nix all thrived in the national spotlight as quarterbacks. Numerous other roster changes sparked a transformation far more significant than any seen elsewhere.
So where does this animosity towards the Pacific originate? With Oregon State acquiring a skilled new quarterback and Cam Rising in Utah (provided he stays fit), this is arguably the most talented group of quarterbacks in the league. Yet, when the teams falter out of conference, the narrative is that the PAC-12 is not a Power 5. Conversely, when they excel and post legendary statistics, the story shifts - it’s only because the defenses are weaker.
This is only week one, and it’s far from the PAC’s sunset. Now is not the time to succumb to nostalgia. The future is here, and it’s now. In week one, we might see a rejuvenated Colorado, with no time to adjust as they gear up for a clash with TCU. Florida travels to Utah, marking the second game to watch. A game that should have been won, if not for a blatantly absurd call, offers Utah a second chance. And this time, the Gators will be met with a sea of red.
Can you hear it? The drumbeats of battle resonate beneath our feet, and this is one fight the PAC-12 cannot afford to lose. This is the final showdown. Who will emerge victorious? USC - the media’s darling that has yet to clinch a second PAC-12 Championship in the game’s entire history? Utah - the team that secured back-to-back victories, yet still had to endure USC chatter all summer? Oregon - the team plagued with short-term memory, believing its football legacy began with Nike’s financial backing? Perhaps the Beavers, who triumphed over the Ducks and narrowly missed victories against both Washington and USC last year?
Or is it time for Washington to reclaim the trophy - a chance cruelly snatched away by COVID in 2020 (we don’t acknowledge Oregon’s fourth PAC-12 Championship victory)? The second-highest ranked PAC-12 team and the best performing team after last season?
That’s where the battle commences. If Washington aspires to be the last titleholder of the PAC, it must accomplish what hasn’t been achieved since 2020: secure a ticket to Las Vegas. And if it wishes to author this narrative, to assert its dominance over any shared word, it must achieve the impossible. Navigate the gauntlet, vanquish all of the top teams in the PAC-12. They hold their fate in their own hands, and as we witnessed last year, these are comrades who have each other’s backs.
It’s clear, the Resistance is spearheaded by purple and gold, and it’s their time to etch their name in history. This is the dawn of triumph. This is the Last of the PAC-12.