The Pac-12 has been one of the more disappointing yet interesting conferences over the past five years. When looking at most conference’s recruiting across the board, it typically will coincide with the winners. Land the top recruiting class in the conference, and you win the conference championship. However, that hasn’t necessarily been the case the past five years in the Pac-12. Player fit and coaching seem to be the breadwinners when evaluating previous winners.
Looking at the previous recruiting ranking over the past five years, USC has had the top class four out of five times with UCLA the single outlier. The second ranking has been a revolving door of Oregon, UCLA, and Stanford.
Looking back on the history of Pac-12 Championship games, the results showed the following: 2014 Oregon vs. Arizona with Oregon being the winner, 2015 Stanford prevailing over USC, 2016 Washington blowing out Colorado, 2017 USC edging out Stanford, and finally 2018 Washington in a 10-3 snooze fest over Utah.
In the last five years, the 2017 USC Trojans were the only team to have a number one recruiting class and win the conference. Overall, it seems like finding the RIGHT players for the coaches’ systems is far more important than a collection of talent.
When ranking the top 5 coaches in the conference, my personal order goes as follows: Chris Peterson, David Shaw, Kyle Whittingham, Chip Kelly and Clay Helton.
Helton seems to be the elite recruiter of the bunch, but the teams he puts together don’t quite pan out. Hanging your hat on winning a conference the one year that you had a top pick at quarterback doesn’t seem like much to brag about. Shaw and Peterson seem to only recruit specific positions that are highly rated and finding fits for other groups.
The ability to develop lower-rated recruits and having an identity on both sides of the ball has led to those two to essentially controlling the conference over the past five years. In the end, the biggest finding is that there’s no true correlation with recruiting and the winner of the conference.