Two losses in Friday games will keep the Pac-12 from making any Monday appearances.

That’s the partial summary of a football season that will end with Pac-12 teams playing in two New Year’s Six games, while the conference misses the College Football Playoff semifinals for the second time in three years. Going into the bowl season, a review of 2017:

Best game

Late in the third quarter of a Sunday game during the season’s opening weekend, a lot of UCLA fans wanted coach Jim Mora to be fired. And then quarterback Josh Rosen rallied the Bruins from 27 points down to beat Texas A&M 45-44. Mora eventually would be fired, anyway.

Most important games

The conference’s missing the CFP field is partly traced to two Friday road games: USC’s 30-27 loss at Washington State in September and Washington’s 30-22 defeat at Stanford in November. The Trojans and Huskies may have been able to absorb those losses, if not for poor performances at Notre Dame (USC) and Arizona State (Washington), but the conference’s parity — and short-week scheduling — made an impact. In the end, the Pac-12 didn’t come close to the CFP’s top four, with USC ranked No. 8 by the committee.

As for the consolation of a New Year’s Six invitation, Washington needed a rally against Utah to get into the Fiesta Bowl, scoring 10 points in the last minute of a 33-30 victory.

Most inexplicable outcome

Washington State’s 37-3 loss at California (another Friday road game) came against a team that posted only one other conference win.

Highest approval rating for a failed idea

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham was almost universally praised for ordering a 2-point conversion attempt against USC, never mind that it failed in a 28-27 loss. Quarterback Troy Williams couldn’t see Darren Carrington II, open in the back of the end zone, and was tackled short of the goal line.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham reacts to a call by the official in PAC-12 football action Utah Utes vs. Colorado Buffaloes at Rice-Eccles stadium, Saturday, November 25, 2017.

Most criticized strategy that shouldn’t have mattered

In that loss to Washington, Whittingham called a timeout with 23 seconds left and the Huskies in possession at their 30-yard line. In that moment, no analytic information ever published would have given Utah a better chance than Washington of winning the game in regulation. The Huskies’ odds of getting into position for a field goal were low, although they succeeded.

Best single-game performance

Stanford’s Bryce Love ran for 301 yards vs. Arizona State in a goodillustration of how he gained yards in big chunks, after seemingly beingcontained. Five of his runs — of 61, 43, 39, 59 and 31 yards —accounted for 233 yards. Love netted 68 yards on his other 20 attempts.

Best repeat performances

Washington’s Dante Pettis returned four punts for touchdowns, giving him an NCAA-record nine TDs in his career.

Washington's Dante Pettis celebrates with teammates after his 64-yard punt-return touchdown against Oregon in the first half of an NCAA college football game in Seattle on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Pettis broke the NCAA record for punt returns for touchdowns with nine, after taking a punt back 64 yards for the score in the second quarter on Saturday. (Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times via AP)

Coach of the Year (Retained)

Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez took a team picked to finish last in the Pac-12 South to a 5-4 conference record, thanks mostly to an accidental substitution. Quarterback Khalil Tate became a phenomenon after replacing the injured Brandon Dawkins in the first quarter against Colorado. Tate ran for four touchdowns in the Wildcats’ first Pac-12 win and subsequently played his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation, until Arizona faded.

Coach of the Year (Fired)

Todd Graham’s award also could be filed under Most Overstated Value of a Rivalry Game. Arizona State beat Arizona in the Territorial Cup, finishing second in the South after being picked fifth. Graham still was fired after a 7-5 season.

Best Return on Investment

That’s to be determined, after UCLA and ASU each spent over $12 million to buy out a head coach. The early favorite is UCLA, thanks to Bruins’ landing Chip Kelly. ASU’s hiring of Herm Edwards is unconventional, at best.

Assistant Coach of the Year

Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt moved from Colorado to Oregon. Instantly, the Buffaloes got worse and the Ducks got better, ranking fourth in the league in total defense. Keep an eye on Leavitt, if Oregon coach Willie Taggart goes to Florida State.

Utahn of the Year

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Washington State Cougars quarterback Luke Falk (4) as the University of Utah hosts Washington State, NCAA football in Salt Lake City, Saturday November 11, 2017.

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, from Logan, played inconsistently a senior, but he beat Utah in his only home-state appearance and will finish his career with nearly 15,000 passing yards.

Offensive Player of the Year

Love, Stanford. He ran for nearly 2,000 yards and his importance became clear when he was sidelined at Oregon State and the Cardinal rushed for 81 yards in a 15-14 win.

Defensive Player of the Year

Hercules Mata’afa, Washington State. He’ll certainly get Utah’s endorsement, after the lineman ransacked the Utes during his season of 22½ tackles for loss.


If the definition truly is “most valuable,” Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is deserving. His replacement passed for a total of 78 yards in consecutive games, a win over Utah and a loss to Washington.

Play of the Year

With his team leading the Pac-12 championship game by three points in the fourth quarter, USC’s Uchena Nwosu stopped Stanford’s Cameron Scarlett on a fourth-and-goal play from the Trojan 1-yard line. The Trojans claimed their first championship of the Pac-12 era — and the first for any South member.

Didn’t see this coming

Oregon State went winless in Pac-12 play for the second time in three seasons and coach Gary Andersen walked away in early October. The Beavers had beaten Oregon to finish 4-8 in 2016 and expected to make a bowl game this season. During the summer, Andersen said, “This is a big year for us. It’s year three, and I think we can make strides.” Ex-Beavers quarterback Jonathan Smith, formerly Washington’s offensive coordinator, is OSU’s new coach.

Didn’t see this coming II

Utah kicker Matt Gay failed to win the job initially, but the former college soccer player took over during the season opener and became a Lou Groza Award finalist by making 27 field goals. Gay never was the Pac-12 special teams player of the week, thanks to Pettis’ exploits and the inspirational story of USC long snapper Jake Olson.

(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes place kicker Matt Gay (97) kicks a field goal during the game at Rice-Eccles Stadium Thursday, August 31, 2017. Utah Utes defeated North Dakota Fighting Hawks 37-16.

Best bowl matchup

USC vs. Ohio State, Cotton Bowl. A traditional Rose Bowl pairing has been shipped to Texas in the New Year’s Six lineup.


Dec. 16 • Oregon vs. Boise State, Las Vegas Bowl.

Dec. 26 • Utah vs. West Virginia, Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Dec. 26 • UCLA vs. Kansas State, Cactus Bowl.

Dec. 27 • Arizona vs. Purdue, Foster Farms Bowl.

Dec. 28 • Stanford vs. TCU, Alamo Bowl.

Dec. 28 • Washington State vs. Michigan State, Holiday Bowl.

Dec. 29 • Arizona State vs. North Carolina State, Sun Bowl.

Dec. 29 • USC vs. Ohio State, Cotton Bowl.

Dec. 30 • Washington vs. Penn State, Fiesta Bowl.