In 1992 the SEC came up with the idea to split into two divisions and hold a championship game pitting the division winners, and the college football landscape changed forever. There was money to be made with that extra game, so the Big 12 followed suit four years later, and the ACC instituted their championship game in 2005.
Along with the influx of cash, the championship gives the conference a marquee spot on the national stage, an advantage which surely helped propel Alabama's Mark Ingram to the Heisman when he was playing in the SEC championship as Stanford's Toby Gerhart sat at home in 2009.
So when the Pac-10 expanded to the Pac-12 and split into two divisions, it was a perfect opportunity for the conference to join the 21st century and create its own championship game. While critics might complain that it's simply a money grab, this year's game between Stanford and Arizona State proves that games like this are necessary.