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Would you realign Pac-12 Divisions?

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Illustrated broached an interesting topic this week, proposing ways to fix every Power Five conference division layout, minus the Big 12 since they don’t have divisions. All of the proposals were interesting, and I especially like the idea of the ACC rearranging teams so FSU and Clemson are in opposite divisions.

The SEC would easily create the most discussion if Alabama and Auburn moved divisions in exchange for...Vanderbilt and Missouri? Could you imagine the reaction from Georgia and Florida fans? Meanwhile, LSU fans would be dancing in the streets.

That brings us to the Pac-12. When the presidents and ADs were discussing divisional alignment back in 2010, a couple different proposals rose to the top. The California schools all wanted to stay together in the South to preserve their annual matchups. The northern schools wanted no part of that, as it would have curtailed their appearances in California’s fertile recruiting ground.

By the way, I completely forgot about Mike Bohn telling everyone that Colorado was promised a spot in the South upon entry, which Larry Scott pushed back on pretty heavily. Heckuva way to start!

Another proposal put forth by Jon Wilner was the “Zipper” plan. Admittedly, this was pretty intriguing. I don’t know how much traction it got during alignment meetings, but I bet it was discussed at length. The zipper proposal in the ESPN article had WSU in a division with USC, Stanford and Oregon. Yeah, no thanks! That would be in addition to Washington staying on the schedule every year, with the outside possibility that WSU would play UW twice in a row. Double no thanks!

The Sports Illustrated article proposes sending Stanford south and bringing Utah north. They use the following historical rationale:

Remember this time two years ago when a big off-season debate was whether the Pac-12 South had surpassed the SEC West as the toughest division in college football? Yeah, that didn’t hold up, and the division produced only three winning teams last season. In the six-year history of the Pac-12 championship game, the North Division representative has won every time, and apart from UCLA’s three-point loss to Stanford in 2012, the South hasn’t even come close.

Pretty sound reasoning, but there’s at least one rub. College football, like just about everything else in sports outside the Cleveland Browns, is cyclical. Five years from now, Stanford could stink. Is it likely? No. Is it possible? Of course. Would Cal fans lose their ever-loving minds if Stanford were in the other division? Probably, but Cal’s administration has demonstrated pretty clearly that being good at football isn’t very important.

The biggest issue with this swap? Massaging the schedule so the California schools can keep playing each other annually.

The biggest obstacle here is how to schedule the four California schools. All four play each other each year, which means that with the current division setup, each plays one of the others as a divisional opponent (Cal vs. Stanford, UCLA vs. USC) and the remaining two as protected crossover games. If Stanford moves to the South Division, that would require Cal to play three protected crossovers, leaving only one conference game left to rotate among the three other teams in the South.

Personally, I’m somewhat ambivalent to this proposal. But since this is the internet and we all have to have an opinion, I’d be fine with this swap. Utah is a good program, but they aren’t Stanford currently, and if we’re trying to find WSU’s cleanest path to the Pac-12 championship game, Utah probably represents a less resistant path over time. This is especially so because Utah has shown a chronic inability to finish strong since joining the conference.

I’d almost...almost be open to the idea of swapping Utah and Colorado for the Bay Area schools since we could probably call a Colorado/Cal swap a wash. The North coaches and ADs would obviously push back since this would hurt what foothold they have in California. It’s tough to gauge what impact that would have since the schools are all on TV every week. And who knows how recruits would really feel about playing at a northern school that can’t guarantee an appearance in the LA area most years?

I’m fine with the divisions staying the same, but wouldn’t have any heartburn if this swap took place. I’m 99.99% certain it never would, but it’s fun to talk about.

So if you had a chance to realign the divisions, would you do it? If so, how would you swap the teams?


What is your opinion on the Pac-12’s current division alignment?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    It’s just fine. Leave it alone.
    (309 votes)
  • 9%
    I’d swap a school or two, but nothing radical.
    (42 votes)
  • 8%
    Switch the California and Mountain schools.
    (36 votes)
  • 9%
    Blow it up and give me the zipper!
    (39 votes)
426 votes total Vote Now


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Should the Pac-12 revamp its football divisions, with Stanford moving to the South and Utah to the North?


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