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The Pac-12’s Death Throes Make For The Most Entertaining Football In The Country

Shedeur Sanders #2 of the Colorado Buffaloes throws a pass against the Stanford Cardinal during the third quarter at Folsom Field on October 13, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado.
Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images

It's as if the members of the Pacific 12 Conference know their days together are running low and are having movers' remorse. Or maybe it's just passive aggressive overreactions to leaving each other over some money. Or maybe they're just lashing out at their joint killers, ESPN and Fox.

Or maybe that's all nonsense and we're being treated to the most interesting/hilarious season the conference has produced since it was the Pac-8 just because of a series of accidents. However you want you want to edit the movie, make sure Colorado is well lit—pun kind of intended.

Because the entire sport this year has been reduced to WWDD (What Would Deion Do?), Colorado's preposterous 46-43 double-overtime loss at home to Stanford led the weekend even though it happened on Friday. The Buffs took a carefully crafted 29-0 halftime lead, apparently large enough for quarterback Shedur Sanders to send out links to his merch page during the break, only to blow the works in the second half, due in considerable part to little-known redshirt freshman receiver Elic Ayomanor crushing Buffs secondary star Travis Hunter (13 catches for 294 yards and three scores, seven and 133 of those coming against Hunter, including this). Ignoring schadenfreude junkies who imagine somehow that Sanders is more responsible for changing the business than TV money, this was epic stuff. And including schadenfreude junkies, Sanders handled the collapse with coachly diplomacy—no doubt while promising to loudly and profanely chew out his players for the next 332 hours, also a coaching tradition.

There was Washington-Oregon, without question the best game of weekend and the one in which prohibitive Heisman Trophy favorite Caleb Williams turned into prohibitive Heisman Trophy favorite Michael Penix Jr. after a sensational 36-33 win over its archest of rivals. Compare this to Iowa 15, Wisconsin 6, which by any standard is abuse of the system.

Or USC, the prom queen at the dance with one left shoe and one firefighter's boot, which has revolutionized football by totally forgoing the notion of tackling and getting boatraced by Notre Dame. Or Washington State, one of the Scorned Two, getting hammered 44-6 by Arizona in Spokane while their brothers in abandonment Oregon State throttled UCLA, one of the two schools (with USC) that started the conference's destruction by running a massive athletic department debt and bailing for the Big Ten when it became clear that Pac-12 administrators couldn't organize a bake sale at PBS.

And then there was Utah, which beat Cal in a pretty ordinary way. Utah always wins that way, because Utah is objectively the best-run program.

Either way, the powers in the conference as well as the most entertaining shows are all a 10-hour drive away from the Los Angeles hub that had the B1G all hot and drooly to begin with. The Pac-12 is in its death twitches providing the most and best entertainment on an almost weekly basis in the bland and repetitious cartel that is college football. It's the dance of the condemned, in which the cost of the hall and the price of the band is no object because nobody will pass this way ever again. The Pac-12 was the blue plate special on the industry's first aggressive step toward rampant cannibalism, and they're going out with blazing middle fingers at all of it because next year, they're all going to be indistinct gray smears in a sport that only rewards the Rust Belt and Deep South because that's where the money really is.

And then there's Stanford, which even at 2-4 gave themselves and the rest of us the memory of the season. And maybe the last memory of a conference that forgot that this is all just bidness, and late-stage bidness at that. They'll all be destroyed in the end, of course, but that's for the Kiss Your Ass Goodbye asteroid to sort out. Or Ohio State. The two are pretty much indistinguishable.

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