The Pac-12 Conference has struggled with keeping relevance in recent years, but scooping up some of the Mountain West talent can change that.
When spitballing what all the Pac-12 Conference has to look forward to as far as national relevance, there is only so much to go off of beyond Utah and USC—and the abilities of the latter are completely hypothetical at the moment.
Considering both that lack of depth and the league’s ongoing playoff drought, it can’t be denied that the Pac-12 is in some serious trouble when it comes to keeping a foot in the college football door. However, there is one way to build the brand back up to at least a fraction of what it once was.
The idea does not lie in the hands of any of the Pac-12’s current powers; rather, it comes down to those in an entirely different league: the Mountain West.
The MWC has consistently been one of the strongest Group of 5 conferences, headlined by promising programs like Boise State, Fresno State, San Diego State, Utah State, and even Air Force.
Adding four names of their caliber would be a monumental step in the right direction for the Pac-12, as it would then equal the size of the upcoming 16-team SEC, while also having the potential to surpass the Big 12 in both competitiveness and depth.
Assuming that such a move was to ever happen, a successful transition could eventually leave the once-great league with several programs hitting eight wins or more in a season.
If you can combine that with the thoughts of Utah remaining as a Rose Bowl contender and Lincoln Riley making a playoff hopeful out of USC, then the Pac-12 could be one of the best-looking conferences on paper.
Such a move is easier said than done, though
The main problem with any plan like this comes down to its actual execution. Obviously, a league can’t expand at the snap of someone’s fingers, as there is a lengthy/expensive process that plays into a realignment of any severity taking place.
And as if that didn’t put enough strain on the matter, the Pac-12 would likely be the last Power 5 league to go out of its way for a massive expansion. This is because they, simply put, don’t prioritize football as much as any of the other major conferences do.
Think about it: the minute that news broke about Texas and Oklahoma heading to the SEC, the Big 12 brought in four new members as quickly as it could. And these members weren’t selected out of mere convenience.
Of the four new powers confirmed to join the conference (Cincinnati, UCF, BYU, and Houston), all but one of them was out of typical Big 12 territory. Not only that, but they have all combined for just one national title in the histories of their programs (two when including 2017-18 UCF).
In other words, none of the programs that the Big 12 picked up had a favorable combination of location and dominance, yet they were brought in any way for the better of the league’s CFB performance right now. But as critical as it may sound, the Pac is nowhere near that selfless for the sake of its own performance, despite the parity of the sport plummeting at an alarming rate.
Even when a school like the aforementioned Boise State—an Idahoan university that possesses one of the greatest college football programs of the 21st century—is ripe for the picking, hiccups that always arise revolve around unrelated things like the Pac’s academic standards, which are easily the most pretentious of all Power 5 conferences.
In short, it appears as if the Pac-12 is a limited college football league with a limited future. However, that could change with the absorption of some of the Mountain West’s wares. All the former has to do is be willing to seek them out.