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UCLA Football: We Need Better Bowl Tie-In's. Pac-12 Coming Up Short

The Pac-12 will finish with the best bowl record of the Power Five conferences in 2014. We also finished with one of the best bowl records in 2013. So how come we can't get better bowl matchups?

We want to see more Bruin touchdowns on the biggest possible stage
We want to see more Bruin touchdowns on the biggest possible stage
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Before next week's national title game, here are the win-loss bowl records for each of the Power Five conferences-

Pac-12    6-2

SEC        7-5

Big 10     5-5

ACC       4-7

Big 12    2-5

Here are the win-loss bowl records for the same conferences in 2013-

SEC       7-3

Pac-12    6-3

Big 12     3-3

ACC       5-6

Big 10    2-5

As you can see, two conferences, the Pac-12 and the SEC, have winning records both years. As you can also see, none of the other Power Five conferences could break .500 in either year.

I decided to try to break this down further for 2014, to see how conferences did top to bottom. The first step was to split each conference into three tiers,  1-3,  4-6,  7+

To place teams in each tier, I used the College Football Playoff final rankings. For teams not ranked I used conference win-loss, followed by overall record, followed by head-to-head.

I then computed the win-loss for each conference by tier. I threw out wins over minnows, because beating a minnow should be a given. But I did note losses to minnows, which should never happen (I am looking at you, Arizona).

Here is the top tier, by conference-

Pac-12   Oregon W, Arizona L to minnow, UCLA W

SEC       Bama L, Miss St L, Ole Miss L

Big 10    Ohio St W, Mich St W, Wisc W

ACC      Florida St L, Georgia Tech W, Clemson W

Big 12   Baylor L, TCU W, Kansas St  L

If we just stop right there, you could argue that the Big 10 is the toughest conference, and the SEC sucks. But in measuring the strength of the conference, we should also look at the next two tiers. If a conference has real power at the top but a bunch of weaklings underneath, that is not a tough conference.

Here is the 2nd tier, by conference-

Pac-12   Arizona St W, Utah W over minnow, Southern Cal W

SEC      Georgia W, Missouri W, Auburn L

Big 10   Minnesota L, Nebraska L, Maryland L

Big 12   Oklahoma L, West Virginia L, Texas L

ACC     Louisville L, Duke L, Boston College L

As you can see, the Pac-12 and SEC are the only conferences where the 2nd tier teams won bowl games.

In the 3rd tier, the Pac-12 was 1-1 (Stanford win, Washington loss), the SEC was 4-1 plus a win over a minnow, the Big 12 was 1-0, the Big 10 was 2-2 including a loss to a minnow, and the ACC was 2-3, including a loss to a minnow and two wins over minnows.

I would argue that the ACC was actually the worst conference in the postseason bowls, because beating minnows should be par for the course. Throw out those wins, and their record drops to 2-7, which is worse than the Big 12's 2-5. The ACC showed no decent results below the top three, whereas the Big 12 at least had Oklahoma State win a game as a bottom tier team.

The SEC clearly had embarrassing results for themselves and for ESPN at the top of their standings. But after the top three, the rest of their bowl teams did fine. Playing through the SEC is definitely a test.

But the Pac-12 did better at the top, and was just as good in the middle. So playing through the Pac-12 is a bigger test, at least based on bowl results.

Let's look at results during the regular season, to see if the bowl results are giving a misleading read. In short, no.

The Pac-12 was 6-2 in games against opponents in the rest of the Power Five conferences. Next best was the ACC at 7-5, followed by the SEC at 5-5, the Big 12 at 4-6, and the Big 10 brought up the rear at 5-9.

Now here are the bowl tie-ins for the Pac-12 for the next few years. Except for the conference champion, the order shown is not necessarily conference standing. The bowls are listed in the order in which they choose, and they are not locked in to taking the next team in the standings- they may leapfrog another team (within limits) to avoid repeats of regular season matchups, to avoid repeat Pac-12 teams in consecutive years, to enhance the perceived attraction of the two opponents, and whatever else would come into the mind of somebody wearing a blazer with a chicken or a cactus on the breast pocket.

#1-  Rose Bowl vs. Big 10 #1.  This is fine, but probably won't happen all that often anymore with the College Football Playoff system.

#2-  Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12 #2.  This is also fine. Thanks to our team going into idle mode, the final score gave the bowl organizers a close game, which is what they would want in pairing comparable placed teams in Power conferences.

#3- Holiday Bowl vs. Big 10 #3-#5.  This is where it starts to get a little ugly. There is no way the Pac-12 #3 team should not be able to beat the Big 10 #5 team, which can happen. This year, the Holiday Bowl leapfrogged Southern Cal up into this game, despite being the 6th best team in the conference, and they still beat Nebraska.

#4- Foster Farms Bowl vs. Big 10 #6-#8. Same problem as the Holiday Bowl, but magnified. This year, the Foster Farms leapfrogged Stanford into this game to get a local team. And Stanford, despite being the 7th best team in the conference (all 6 teams ahead of them were included in the final College Football Playoff rankings), they walloped Maryland.

#5- Sun Bowl vs. ACC #3-#6. This may be okay on paper, but the ACC has been weak the last two years. So matching the #5 team from the best conference against the #3-#6 team from a weak conference can lead to a mismatch.

#6- Vegas Bowl vs. Mountain West #1. We are the only conference which matches up a top six conference opponent against a minnow.

#7- Cactus Bowl vs. Big 12 #6. This is a decent matchup on paper.

What you can see from this is the fact that we have seven bowl game tie-ins, three with the Big 10, two with the Big 12, one with the ACC, 1 with a minnow, and none with the SEC.

That is a shame. The two best conferences should meet on a regular basis.

The conference is tied in to these arrangements for a few more years. So we can only wait, and hope that the Playoff Committee will set up some interesting matchups for us.

It would be nice if we could shut the SEC up by beating them in the regular season. But that is not in the cards either.

In 2015, Pac-12 teams play the following nonconference opponents- Texas, Michigan State, Michigan (2 teams), Northwestern, Rutgers and our game against Virginia. That is 7 games- 5 Big 10, 1 Big 12, 1 ACC.

In 2016, Pac-12 teams play the following nonconference opponents- Texas, Virginia, Nebraska, Minnesota, Rutgers, Texas Tech, Michigan, Alabama (Southern Cal in Texas), and our game against Texas A&M. That is 9 games- 4 Big 10, 2 Big 12, 2 SEC, 1 ACC.

In 2017, Pac-12 teams play the following nonconference opponents- North Carolina, Nebraska, Minnesota, Virginia, Rutgers, Texas Tech, Texas and our game against Texas A&M. That is 8 games- 3 Big 10, 2 ACC, 2 Big 12, 1 SEC.

It is frustrating that we can't prove that we are the best on the field. The Playoff system is certainly helping. Pat Haden and Condi Rice apparently used their positions on the committee to help push the conference into deserved rankings. And the Playoff Committee can set up Pac-12/SEC matchups in the New Year's Six games.

The Playoff Committee supposedly values strength of schedule. Hopefully, we can pin down the SEC for more matchups in the future. I rarely give a hat tip to the Trogans, but I do like the fact that they will be able to play Bama next season. And it is great that we are able to rotate Texas A&M into our nonconference schedule in 2016 and 2017. I hope that we can see more Pac-12/SEC matchups in the future, so that we can prove what we already know- the best football is played in the Pac-12.

Go Bruins !