Pac-12 stock report: The (mostly) good and (slightly) bad from the initial CFP rankings

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Commentary on Pac-12 developments on and off the field …

Rising: Pac-12 November relevance

The Pac-12’s reputation has been severely damaged in recent years by the absence of College Football Playoff participants. Not since Washington in 2016 has the conference produced a semifinalist, and it has only claimed two of the 28 berths over the history of the event.

But within the broader CFP canvass is an important component: stretch-run relevance.

Whether or not the Pac-12 ultimately sends a team to the CFP this season — Oregon is the only option — the conference needs to be part of the conversation in the sport’s most important month.

Without a legitimate playoff candidate, the Pac-12 might as well be Conference USA for all the attention it would garner on ESPN and FOX and every other national media outlet.

That’s why Oregon’s No. 4 position — the highest ever for a Pac-12 team in the initial rankings — was so vital.

Until they lose, the Ducks will be smack in the middle of the conversation, reminding everyone that the conference exists … that it’s worthy of the Power Five designation.

Because plenty of folks aren’t sure about that these days.

The history of Pac-12 teams in the initial CFP rankings:

(Playoff participants in italics)

2014No. 5 OregonNo. 12 ArizonaNo. 14 Arizona StateNo. 17 UtahNo. 22 UCLA

2015No. 11 StanfordNo. 12 UtahNo. 23 UCLA

2016No. 5 WashingtonNo. 15 ColoradoNo. 16 UtahNo. 25 Washington State

2017No. 12 WashingtonNo. 17 USCNo. 21 StanfordNo. 22 ArizonaNo. 25 Washington State

2018No. 8 Washington StateNo. 15 Utah

2019No. 7 OregonNo. 8 Utah

2020No teams ranked

2021No. 4 Oregon

Falling: Pac-12 November cushion

The precipitous decline in representation over the past four seasons reflects the Pac-12’s continual marginalization within the sport.

The SEC and Big Ten have more teams included this week than the Pac-12 has had ranked in the first week over the past four years combined.

Yes, Oregon’s placement is a respite from the gloom and irrelevance, but it’s a fragile existence.

With one loss, the Ducks will tumble into the teens or 20s, and there’s nobody to replace them as an object of attention.

The Hotline devoted considerable time and space to all those September losses to Group of Five opponents, largely in anticipation of what the early carnage would mean late in the season.

It means teams that could be 6-2 and ranked by the committee are instead 5-3 and ignored by the committee.

It means there are no other teams within a short winning streak of attaining CFP relevance.

It means Oregon could play the entire stretch run without facing a ranked opponent, thereby jeopardizing its CFP chances.

The losses to BYU and San Diego State — to Montana and Utah State — have no significance on the Pac-12 division races and conference championship.

But they could have severe consequences in the race that matters most.

Rising: UCLA recruiting

We’re talking basketball, not football, although the Bruins are experiencing an uptick in the caliber of committed football recruits.

On the hardwood, Mick Cronin just secured his second verbal commitment from an elite prospect in the class of 2022.

Months ago, the Bruins landed five-star wing Amari Bailey, from powerhouse Sierra Canyon.

Earlier this week, they secured a commitment from five-star big man Adem Bona, from Prolific Prep in Napa.

Add four-star point guard Dylan Andrews, and UCLA’s recruiting class for 2022 trails only Duke and Kentucky in the 247Sports rankings on a per-player basis.

That’s exactly what the Pac-12 needs from its premier basketball brand, which has flourished on the court and on the recruiting trail in the past 10 months.

Rising: Washington’s NIL counterpunch

It was only a matter of time before the Huskies offered a response to Division Street, the newly-founded organization designed to provide name, image and likeness opportunities for Oregon athletes.

On Thursday, we were introduced to Montlake Futures, which isn’t directly affiliated with Washington but will support NIL endeavors for Husky athletes.

Division Street’s brass includes Nike boss Phil Knight.

Montlake Futures have the backing of Amazon.

Division Street is employing Sabrina Ionescu as the Chief Athlete Officer.

Montlake Futures has Chris Petersen as Lifetime Transformational Leader.

Neither entity can be involved in the recruiting process.

Both entities are entirely about the recruiting process.

Each school believes it has the superior support system, and one of them might eventually be proved correct.

For now, it’s rivalry week. Two days until kickoff.


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