If every season is solely judged on which programs reach the College Football Playoff, the Pac-12 has consistently fallen on the wrong side of that pass-or-fail exercise.
After two months of optimism in 2022, the conference is merely a USC loss removed from another failing grade.
Heading into Week 11, the Pac-12 had three legitimate contenders. Oregon, UCLA and USC each entered its contest with a single loss against a team currently in the Top 15. Relative to the CFP chase, any of those setbacks could be easily forgiven in a few weeks.
USC wrecked Colorado last Friday, improving to 9-1 and taking the first step toward what could have been a glorious Pac-12 weekend. The looming showdowns in Week 12—USC at UCLA and Utah at Oregon—had an immense potential impact on both the Pac-12 and CFP.
The latter, not so much anymore.
In order to maximize the College Football Playoff stakes, USC needed Oregon and UCLA to hold up their ends of the bargain at home. The full expectation was a couple of wins, considering they arrived as double-digit favorites over Washington and Arizona, respectively.
Instead, the night turned into two demoralizing losses that rapidly diminished the conference's shot at a national title.
Washington rode a late touchdown and last-minute field goal to edge Oregon, and Arizona also put together a fourth-quarter rally to stun UCLA in Pasadena.