We are currently in the fourth season of the College Football Playoff. While it’s not a perfect system, almost all will agree that it’s miles ahead of the former BCS format. The change expanded the number of teams truly competing for a national title and left room for a team on a hot streak at the end of the year to potentially slip in.
The PAC-12 has had two members represent the conference, Oregon in 2014 and Washington in 2016. The PAC-12 has eaten itself alive in recent years, to the point where the best team in the conference might not make the cut. If Tuesday’s rankings reflect the end of the season, the PAC-12 will join the Big 12 as the only Power 5 conferences to miss multiple playoffs. Does this hurt the conference’s recruiting?
The truth to this statement is a different story, but the PAC-12 has generally been regarded as the weakest of the Power 5 conferences for years now. In fact, Washington head coach Chris Petersen had his own war with ESPN over exposure in early October. The PAC-12 has had the longest drought of the major conferences without a national title. That most recent title was won by USC, who is usually excluded from the negative reputation that the conference carries, anyway.
Before the playoff format, a conference could get away with not putting out a national title contender. As long as there were teams that were relatively competitive, a top-ten team here or there, the conference would be fine. Since the playoff, however, conferences are judged much more harshly than before. A conference like the PAC-12 is constantly under scrutiny to see whether the best team is worthy of a playoff spot. With only four spots, at least one of the Power 5 conferences is going to be snubbed every year. If it consistently becomes the PAC-12, this could be an issue in the future.
The 65 Power 5 teams typically make up the majority of the top 65 in recruiting rankings, with a few smaller schools sprinkled in. When averaging the 247sports 2018 recruiting rankings of each conference, the PAC-12 was the worst by far. The average ranking for the PAC-12 was 43, over five spots below the next lowest at 37.9. It is also the only Power 5 conference without two teams in the top 10.
As expected from a low recruiting ranking, the PAC-12 has had difficulty landing top players. About half of the players in the Armchair Top 100 have committed, and the PAC-12 is lagging behind. Only seven Top 100 players have committed for the 2018 class. For reference, twice that many are committed to the Big Ten, and Ohio State alone is tied with the whole conference.
It’s obvious that the PAC-12 has the worst reputation of the Power 5 conferences. It typically has the reputation of not being physical enough to keep up with the other conferences. The PAC-12 also has to deal with other issues, such as the schools being on the west coast, causing later kickoff times.
Many recruits from the west coast will choose a PAC-12 school, but there’s only so many of them, and most go to USC and UCLA. The difficulty of getting recruits has more to do with the conference’s reputation over the years of being the weakest of the Power 5, but if its schools keep missing the final cut for the College Football Playoff, the PAC-12 may never be able to shed that reputation. Recruiting will continue to fall behind the rest of its competitors as a result.