Pac-12’s bowl teams weren’t ready for prime time

Dec 30, 2017, 7:17 PM | Updated: Dec 31, 2017, 7:56 am
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins throws against North Carolina State during the first half o...
Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins throws against North Carolina State during the first half of the Sun Bowl NCAA college football game in El Paso, Texas, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)
(AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Valley fans were angry on Saturday because the Arizona State-Arizona men’s basketball game was only available on the Pac-12 Network.

The conference might have been better served to put all of its teams’ bowl games on the rarely-viewed channel.

Penn State’s 35-28 victory against Washington in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium ended a postseason that will live in Pac-12 infamy.

The conference completed its bowl obligations with a 1-8 record, the most losses ever by a Power 5 conference in a postseason.

The previous worst came when the Big Ten went 1-6 in 2008, but that hasn’t been a problem for the Big Ten this season.

The Nittany Lions’ win improved the conference to 7-0 this postseason, with only Michigan left to play South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. All of the Big Ten’s wins have come against Power 5 teams.

As for the Pac-12, five of its eight losses were by double digits and four were by three scores or more.

“I think sometimes you have those years and everybody says, ‘that’s a bad conference,'” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “I think you look at the games individually and you’ve got to kind of analyze them that way.

“It’s nothing that we’re excited about, for sure, but I do think we have some good teams.”

There were extenuating circumstances in some of those losses.

Washington State played Michigan State without starting quarterback Luke Falk. UCLA played Kansas State without starting QB Josh Rosen and ASU played North Carolina State with lame-duck coach Todd Graham, an interim offensive coordinator and a lot of program turmoil after the hire of Herm Edwards.

So it was understandable that ASU’s player were less than focused.

Then again, the Pac-12’s lone win came when Utah beat West Virginia in the Heart of Dallas Bowl with Mountaineers starting QB Will Grier and multiple offensive starters out.

Thank heavens for Utes coach Kyle Whittingham, who is 11-1 in bowl games.

The most surprising part of the Fiesta Bowl was not that Washington’s offense couldn’t muster anything significant until it dropped into an early hole.

What was surprising is how easily Penn State shredded the Huskies’ vaunted defense.

Nittany Lions running back Saquon Barkley had nine carries for 126 yards and two TDS in the first half, including a 92-yard TD run that made it 28-7 at 9:01 of the second quarter.

Penn State finished the game with 545 yards of offense — the most yards Washington has allowed in more than three years — and Penn State was 13-of-17 on third downs.

After the game, Nittany Lions coach James Franklin hinted that if his team had not turned the ball over three times, the game might have been a rout.

Penn State had its way with Washington and that was the story of the postseason for the Pac-12.

“They had us on our heels most of the night,” Petersen said. “They got that lead and it’s hard to catch a good team when they have a big lead.”

Bowl games are mostly exhibition games for teams to get extra practice time for their young players. Unless you’re playing for a national championship, there is little meaning.

Even so, conferences will crow when they perform well in a postseason, as the Big Ten is doing right now. It’s only fair then that the Pac-12 should take its lumps for a pathetic performance, especially in the two New Year’s Six games where heavyweights USC and Washington played more like paper tigers.

The 2017 postseason was embarrassing for the Pac-12. DirecTV may have just gained some leverage.

A look at the Pac-12 bowl-game carnage

Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State 38, Oregon 28

Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah 30, West Virginia 14

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State 35, UCLA 17

Foster Farms Bowl: Purdue 38, Arizona 35

Alamo Bowl: TCU 39, Stanford 37

Holiday Bowl: Michigan State 42, Washington State 17

Sun Bowl: North Carolina State 52, Arizona State 31

Cotton Bowl: Ohio State 24, USC 7

Fiesta Bowl: Penn State 35, Washington 28

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