There’s an age-old question that has baffled and confused minds for centuries, “If a team wins a game against a ranked team, but the game is televised on Pac-12 Network, so nobody sees it, does it still count as a quality win?” People have wondered about this for centuries, but it is an impossible question to answer because nobody has ever actually seen a game on Pac-12 Network. They can only continue to speculate on the value of a win that nobody witnessed. Now, if the game was on ESPN2, ESPNU or even ESPN Ocho, we would already know that a ranked win would be meaningful for a team. As for the value added by a win on Pac-12 Network, that remains unknowable and for the greatest philosophers in the world to figure out.
If we attempt to answer the great Pac-12 Network debate based simply on the voters in this week’s FanPulse College Football Top 25, we would determine that winning games on Pac-12 Network adds no value to a team’s reputation. If anything, winning a game on Pac-12 Network might actually hurt the reputation of a team. To illustrate, here is Week 8 of the SB Nation FanPulse College Football Top 25:
Also, here is the BlockU Top 25 from this week, which we will also be discussing:
This data is supported by the fact that despite beating the No. 20 team in last week’s rankings, Utah remained stagnant at No. 16 in the country. ASU, on the other hand, only fell one spot to No. 21 after getting embarrassed by the Utah defense for 60 minutes. These numbers lead me to believe that to play a game on Pac-12 Network is equivalent to not playing a game at all. ASU and Utah could have just decided they weren’t feeling it on Saturday and skipped the game altogether, and nobody outside of the stadium would have noticed or cared. Plus, it was freezing cold and rained the entire game, so I doubt most of us inside the stadium would have actually complained that much.
I will not be using this time to rant about the shortcomings of the Pac-12 and specifically the Pac-12 Network. I have already done that at length along with everyone else who has ever even remotely cared about a team in the conference. I will say this, putting a game between Top 20 opponents on Pac-12 Network was a travesty. The Pac-12 had two pieces of content fans actually wanted this week, Oregon vs. Washington and Utah vs. ASU, and they chose to hide one of them from the world. It’s not like the conference has actually had a lot of games between ranked teams to show off this year. I highly doubt the slight bump in viewership on the Pac-12 Network was worth the loss of exposure for two of the best teams in the conference.
On second thought though, Arizona State was probably okay with nobody watching this game.
Which Team Should Be on Top?
In a fascinating turn of events, the BlockU Top 25 has a new No. 1 team in the country: LSU. While LSU didn’t do anything all that extraordinary on the field this week, unless you count Joe Burrow showing his butt to the world on national television as extraordinary, the Tigers 36-13 win over Mississippi State was enough to push them into the top spot with Utah voters.
LSU suddenly looks like the most dangerous team in the country. A large portion of this is because of Joe Burrow, who broke the school record for passing touchdowns in a season. Keep in mind, he broke this record in the team’s seventh game of the season. The prior record was 28 touchdowns. LSU fans are probably shocked at the Tigers’ offense adopting this forward pass thing, but it seems to be working out.
The other thing that makes LSU dangerous is their biggest competitor just lost their starting quarterback for a number of weeks. Tua Tagovailoa went down against Tennessee with a high ankle sprain. He had surgery on Sunday to repair some of the damage, but he could miss a number of weeks. That’ll be fine for two weeks as Alabama plays Arkansas (they real bad) and then has a bye week. However, the week after that is the game with LSU in Tuscaloosa. Normally, it wouldn’t be a problem for Alabama to not have a good quarterback against LSU because LSU never scores more than ten points against the Crimson Tide to begin with. This year it’s different though. With the play of Joe Burrow and the rest of the LSU offense, it could actually be a problem if Alabama doesn’t have Tagovailoa back by then.
If LSU could steal that game, they would suddenly have the inside track to winning the SEC West, the SEC and securing the No. 1 seed in the college football playoff. And then we will all have the pleasure of arguing about where a 11-1 Alabama team belongs in the playoff conversation. I’m sure it will be a rational and measured conversation.
Avoiding the Bottom
The Pac-12 and the ACC remain in a heated race to see which conference will finish with the fewest teams in the Top 25. The ACC looked like a heavy favorite for most of the season, but as several ranked Pac-12 teams have fallen off it has become a much closer race. The Pac-12 has Oregon, Utah and Arizona State in the Top 25. The ACC has Clemson, Wake Forest and Virginia.
Until the Pac-12 gets a team in the playoff, Clemson will remain a trump card for the ACC. The perception of a conference is not heavily influenced by teams outside of the Top 4 in the conference standings. Clemson will continue to cover many of the glaring flaws in the ACC until the Tigers lose enough games to miss out on the playoff. To be fair, the voters are taking some notice of the weakness of the ACC and of Clemson’s this year. Clemson has fallen all the way to No. 4 after starting out the season as the unanimous No. 1.
At the moment, a higher percentage of Pac-12 teams have a winning record than in the ACC. 8 of 12 Pac-12 teams (75 percent) are above .500 while 9 of 14 ACC teams (64 percent) are above .500. Keep in mind that the ACC only plays eight conference games and therefore each team can schedule one more easy nonconference win than the Pac-12 teams can.
The Pac-12 doesn’t appear to be gaining much ground on the other three Power 5 conferences, but for the moment it looks like the conference is at least not losing ground to the ACC in terms of depth. As unimpressive as that sounds, it still feels like a positive for the conference.
The Most Impactful Games This Week
There will be a major shakeup in the Top 25 after this coming week of football. Two games this week have very real playoff implications. The first is LSU and Auburn. The Tigers sit at No. 2 in the national poll and could legitimately pass Alabama as No. 1 in every major poll if they can beat Auburn. A loss for Auburn would all but eliminate the program from playoff contention. LSU would continue to bolster the team’s resume and gain a lot of confidence heading into the bye week to prepare for Alabama. A win by Auburn would only throw the SEC West into further confusion and would leave Auburn with a hope of claiming a playoff spot, either through winning the SEC or by other means.
The other game of note will be Wisconsin against Ohio State. The Buckeyes have yet to be challenged this season, and up until this prior week, Wisconsin had looked like the second-best team in the Big Ten. Then Wisconsin did this weird thing where they lost to Illinois, a school that is notoriously bad at football. The loss doesn’t knock Wisconsin out of playoff consideration yet. Plenty of playoff participants have had losses to teams of similar caliber to Illinois, but this does take away any margin for error the Badgers have in this game. A loss will all but eliminate the Badgers from playoff contention and actually put Minnesota in the driver’s seat to win the Big Ten West.
Ohio State does not have the same pressure entering this game. The Buckeyes continue to massacre bad opponents and have moved up to No. 3 in the national poll. This is the part of the schedule where Ohio State can secure some statement wins. With Penn State also sitting at 7-0, the Buckeyes don’t want to be giving games away. If they do lose though, the Buckeyes will still be just fine when it comes to playoff contention unless the team follows it up with a loss to Penn State. Then Ohio State would actually be in trouble. This is such an important game for the conference I am shocked that the Big Ten didn’t choose to put this on Big Ten Network. It’s almost like they wanted people to watch the game. It’s an interesting strategy.
Thanks for joining us in creating this week’s FanPulse Top 25. As always, I will continue to invite you to sign up to help us make the poll by clicking HERE. People don’t often change unless invited to do so. I am inviting you now, so come, join with us.