Stating “we’ve never seen something like this before” in sports is usually overused.
Shohei Ohtani’s ability on the mound and batter’s box? Fine. Most blue-chip high school prospects? Nope.
Yet, when Washington State and Oregon State face each other in both teams’ Pac-12 Conference openers, it’s the beginning of the end. The two league teams without league affiliations elsewhere after this season are carrying on the Pac-12 crown without knowing where they’ll call home next season. That’s crazy when you take a breath and look at it from afar. The conference housing both the Cougars and Beavers either won’t exist this time next year, or it’ll look completely different, with plenty of chapters in this decade’s conference realignment still to be written.
Now, that’s something we truly don’t see every day.
Arguably the Pac-12’s least marketable brands on a national level aren’t joining the Big Ten (Oregon, Washington, USC & UCLA), the Big 12 (Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado), or ACC (Cal, Stanford) next summer, as of now, with Washington State president Kirk Schulz confirming Tuesday that the Cougars still don’t have a home for next year. The outliers have taken being deserted a step further than looking like the kid picked last during recess dodgeball. Oregon State and Washington State have taken legal action against the departing 10, first with a Washington judge barring a board of directors meeting between conference commissioner George Kliavkoff and representatives from each of the schools leaving the league from taking place. The schools also filed a breach of bylaws complaint against the conference and Kliavkoff on Friday.
Their gridiron meeting in Pullman on Saturday night is the only conference matchup as of now either school will have past December. And it’s a matchup between the No. 14 and 21 teams in the country, respectively, in an early season game that’ll skyrocket the winner closer to a conference championship and plummet the loser’s chances. The Pac-12 does have eight of its members ranked in the latest AP poll, and the in-fighting that’s about to ensue may ruin the conference’s final chance as we know it to have someone advance to the final 4 of the College Football Playoff. The Pac-12 hasn’t made a CFP since 2016 and the conference’s lone win in the competition happened in the inaugural playoff of 2014, with Marcus Mariota leading Oregon over Florida State.
That feels like a century ago.
Both Washington State and Oregon State aren’t slouches that should get eaten alive by their soon-to-be-ex colleagues. Oregon State is the higher-ranked team and probably has the less impressive resume, thus far. The Beavers defeated two Mountain West opponents by a combined six touchdowns and throttled FCS-level UC Davis by 48. Washington State entered the AP Top 25 last week after beating then-ranked Wisconsin. The Cougars defeated Colorado State in Week 1 by 26: That same Rams team that Colorado needed double overtime to beat last Saturday. And to round out Wazzu’s schedule was a dismantling of Northern Colorado.
Whether whatever conference Washington State and Oregon State play in next year is called the Pac-12, it’ll be interesting to see whether it maintains that Power Five designation. Being absorbed into the Mountain West, joining the American, or cherry-picking the best available Group of Five teams from around the country to not be a Pacific Ocean-adjacent league anymore would decrease the competition, and it won’t be even close. Boise State and Fresno State don’t compare to Oregon and Arizona. Yet, both the Beavers and Cougars still have their Pac-12 legacy to build, at least for several more weeks.
Original source here
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