Final Grades for the Pac-10's 2008 College Football Season
This slideshow is going to go over the 2008 season for the Pac-10 season. It will cover all 10 teams in the league and the strengths and weaknesses of each programs including key wins and key losses.
The Pac-10 had some teams that were absolutely miserable and teams with immense talent, which was shown in each of the bowl games.
There's really not much to say about a team that doesn't win a game. For one, Washington's schedule was considered the toughest in the country. The Huskies' season started out with Oregon ranked 21st, BYU ranked 15th, and Oklahoma ranked number 3.
It also didn't help that the Huskies' best offensive player, quarterback Jack Locker, got hurt and he was basically the Huskies offense. He can run or throw the ball and he's extremely talented. His problem is, though, he's a fearless type player and he's taken a lot of big hits so far in his two years at Washington.
Washington's defense was non-existent. They allowed an eye-popping 39 points per game. Now wonder why the Huskies finished the season 0-12.
On the flip side, 2009 will be much better for the Huskies. It may not get them a winning season, but with former USC offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian taking over for Tyrone Willingham ,who resigned after the Huskies' last game of the season, things have to improve.
The most memorable part of the horrific season the Huskies suffered will be their second game. They were about to tie the score against BYU but got a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct because, lost in the excitement of scoring what should have been the game-tying touchdown, Locker tossed the ball over his shoulder and was flagged for unnecessary celebration.
For that, it's just disgusting that the officials made that call and it also symbolized the downfall of the Huskies' season. They didn't have what it took to overcome the penalty because the extra point attempt was blocked and BYU hung on for the 28-27 win over the Huskies. The Huskies never were able to recover after that game.
Grade for the Washington Huskies:
Regular season the team gets an F.
Postseason: you don't win, you don't get to play in the postseason.
Washington State Cougars
The Washington State Cougars 2008' season can barely qualify as better than the Huskies. On the Cougars' final drive, they got the benefit of having a a catch by Brandon Gibson reviewed, which allowed the Cougars to set up the game winning play.
I don't know if the Cougars would have won the game if the refs had let the game on. I'm still in disbelief that the play was reviewed in the first place there was no doubt that it was a catch.
Since the Cougars did pull out the victory over the Huskies, they will be able to say that they finished ninth in the conference. The victory over the Huskies meant that they were able to pull out one win in conference play.
The only other victory for the Huskies came against the Portland State Vikings, but in that game the Cougars lost their top two quarterbacks to serious injuries. One ended the career of their starter, Gary Rodgers, with a broken back and Kevin Lopina had a stress fracture in his back. He did return from that injury.
The Cougars had two really talented players—one on the offensive side in Brandon Gibson, but with the lack of a quarterback with any experience his stats suffered. Greg Trent was their best defensive player, but he couldn't make up for the costly mistakes game in and game out the team made.
Even with the Huskies giving up 39 points a game, the Cougars set record after record for futility in their losses including allowing 60 plus points four times this season and in the end the Cougars gave up 44 points per game. If you take out the Portland State game, which is a team in a lower division, the Cougars gave up an average of 47 points per game.
It wasn't surprising that the Cougars struggled all season especially with their poor defense and no real leader at the quarterback position. The Cougars should be able to at least show some improvement next year, but I have my doubts, although coach Paul Wulff seems to be able to recruit. It's just going to have to take time for the Cougars to recover from this dreadful season where they finished 2-11.
Washington State Cougars grade:
Regular Season another F
Postseason when you're battling for another school to say out of last place in the conference you know the team isn't doing well.
If there was a recurrent theme throughout the season it was the bad decisions by quarterback Kevin Craft, who was starting in place of the injured Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson.
Craft finished the season with 232 completions on 417 attempts with a completion percentage of 55.6 but the problem stemmed from throwing only 7 touchdowns to 20 interceptions.
Craft did show his ability not to let the turnovers bring him down in the first game of the season against the Tennessee Volunteers.
Craft did horrible in the first half of the game, only netting 66 yards and throwing three picks, but in the second half he threw for 193 yards, a touchdown, and another interception.
The Bruins started the season winning against the Volunteers in overtime 27-24. So, there was hope for the Bruins after the poise showed by Craft. Going against BYU the next week wouldn't be so bad.
Yet, that never happened. The Bruins got run over 59-0 against BYU. The game proved what the downfall of the Bruins season was—a lack of a consistent running game.
While Craft did finish the game with 230 yards passing and one interception. The Bruins ran for a combined for 9 yards on 16 carries. That's not going to get it done against a ranked team.
The lack of the running game and the interceptions thrown by Craft just symbolized their season. The Bruins ended up eighth in the conference. They did beat the teams they should have beaten in the conference season and that was Washington, Washington State, and Stanford.
The Bruins with the victory of the Volunteers ended the season with a record of 4-8—a disappointing first season for Rick Neuheisel.
UCLA Bruins grade:
Regular season: D
While Jim Harbaugh has made the Cardinal more respectable, the team still has some work to do, specifically on the defensive end of the ball.
The Cardinal did pick up a impressive win over Oregon State and Arizona. The Cardinal also took some bad losses with three of those coming against teams they should have beaten, the likes of Notre Dame and UCLA.
The theme for the Cardinal was inconsistency. The team put out great effort in some games and then the next game there wouldn't be the same kind of effort. and that's why they took the two bad losses to Notre Dame and the Bruins.
The Cardinal had a solid running back in Toby Gerhart, who rushed for 1,136 yards and 15 touchdowns. With the Cardinal having a solid running game, the problem was with the passing game. They didn't go deep very often and when your quarterback throws for just 1,633 yards it's going to be tough to have a winning record, especially if teams can stop the run.
The Cardinal tied for sixth place in the conference with Arizona State, but the Sun Devils beat the Cardinal, which knocked them down to the sixth seed in the conference. The Cardinal went 5-7 on the year.
Stanford Cardinal grade:
Regular Season: D+/C-
Postseason: Again didn't have what it took to beat the teams they should have beaten, which cost them the postseason.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Arizona State started the season ranked, but they quickly fell out of the rankings after struggling. The Sun Devils ended up with the same record as Stanford—5-7 and 4-5 in the conference.
The season started to fade after the loss to UNLV. Starting quarterback Rudy Carpenter struggled after sustaining a severely sprained ankle, but tried playing through it.
During one point of the 2008 season, the Sun Devils lost six in a row and the team was never able to recover from it. Part of the reason was that the Sun Devils could not get a solid contribution in the running game, which led to more pressure on Carpenter, who was sacked 34 times.
Arizona State Grade:
Regular season: D+/C-
Postseason: Not even a thought after losing streak.
The Arizona Wildcats finished the season strong in their bowl game against the No. 17-ranked BYU Cougars. In fact it was just the start of the Pac-10 dominance in bowl games.
The Wildcats were led by senior quarterback Willie Tuitama, who had an excellent season throwing for over 3,000 yards and had 23 touchdowns to 8 interceptions.
The Wildcats also provided a solid running back tandem of Keola Antolin and Nic Grigsby, who combined for 1,678 yards on the ground and 23 touchdowns. Also, at wide receiver they had a great target in Mike Thomas.
The Wildcats played tough against the upper echelon teams like the California Golden Bears, whom the Wildcats defeated 42-27. The Wildcats came up with solid efforts against USC, Oregon State, and Oregon but were not able to pull a victory out.
Arizona unlike other years also had a pretty stout defense as well ranking No. 24 in the country in terms of total defense. Something that coach Mike Stoops must love was the improved play of the defense.
That's why when they took on the No. 17-ranked Cougars, the Wildcats didn't miss a beat in the 31-21 victory of the Cougars thanks to the arm of Tuitama and the pass catching abilities of Mike Thomas.
The Wildcats finished the season at 8-5.
Arizona Wildcats grade:
Regular Season: C
California Golden Bears
The California Golden Bears finished the 2008 season with a 9-4 record. Yes, the record was good and the solid victory over Miami definitely helps build the Golden Bears' momentum into next year.
Cal returns the best running back in the country in Jahvid Best. This year Best was pretty much the offense. Of course it's going to be hard to replace all the offense the Bears lost after last year with Desean Jackson, Justin Forsett, Craig Stevens, and Robert Jordan all leaving.
The problem throughout the season for the Bears was a lack of a solid go-to receiver as well as experience of those receivers. I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Jeremy Ross had lined up properly. Could the Bears have possibly beat the USC Trojans? That we will never know.
The surprise though of the season was how well the Bears did switching from a 4-3 defense to 3-4. It definitely benefited the Bears because of their athletic linebackers in Mike Mohamed, Zach Follett, Worrell Williams, and Anthony Felder.
The Bears also had one of the best corners in the country in Syd'Quan Thompson. The defense finished the season ranked 26th and also forced plenty of turnovers.
Nate Longshore got the start because he played better in practice before the Emerald Bowl and he did throw the game-winning touchdown to Anthony Miller, who was a freshman. It was his only catch of the year.
It was the running of Best that allowed the Bears to beat the Miami Hurricanes because Best went for 20 carries, 186 yards, and two touchdowns and it was also the play of Zach Follett, who came up with the huge hit on Miami's quarterback and forced the fumble that allowed the Bears to be able to score the game-winning touchdown.
California Golden Bears grade:
Regular Season: B
Oregon State Beavers
The Oregon State Beavers really made a name for themselves this year. Like California the Beavers ended up with a 9-4 record, but the Beavers had a better conference record than Cal.
The season started out disappointing for the Beavers though because they lost their fist game to Stanford and were completely dismantled by the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Yet, their season didn't really get started until they took down then No. 1-seeded USC on their home field. Then they almost took out a Utah team that went undefeated on the year.
They beat the teams they had to win to have a chance at the Pac-10 conference title, but unfortunately for the Beavers their in-state rivals, the Oregon Ducks, had something to say about that.
The Beavers played their second worst game of the season against the Ducks. The Ducks offense just flat-out destroyed the Beavers defense because at the time of the game the Beavers were one of the best teams in stopping the run.
The Beavers defense was solid and I find it funny that there are people who think that the Trojans' loss to the Beavers was a horrible loss. Even after allowing almost 700 yards of offense to the Oregon Ducks, the Beavers were still ranked 23rd in the country on defense.
Unfortunately for the Beavers toward the end of the season both James and Jacquizz Rodgers had to miss games due to injury, but even with that the Beavers took care of No. 18 Pittsburgh.
In what looked like a contest that would be high scoring, both defenses dominated and there was basically no offense at all except for one field goal made by Oregon State and the Beavers won 3-0.
Oregon State Beavers grade:
Regular Season: A
Oregon had one of the most feared rushing attacks in all of college football. In fact it was even more scary than the Florida Gators' rushing attack. The Ducks averaged 280 yards per game on the ground.
The only two teams that were able to beat the Ducks in conference play were USC and California. For USC it's their incredibly talented defense, which I'll get to on the next slide, and for the Bears the reason why the Ducks lost was because of the weather and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's inability to throw the football.
After that game Masoli settled down and was able to complete a higher percentage of passes and with his running ability he made a team with two solid running backs even more scary.
The only negative for the Ducks is even though they had a solid secondary they allowed a lot of yards through the air because the Ducks ranked 23rd in the country against the run but a miserable 111th ranking against the pass.
When the Ducks took on Oklahoma State there was no doubt the game was going to have a lot of scoring and it didn't disappoint with Oregon pulling out a 42-31 win.
Oregon Ducks grade:
Regular Season: B
There's no doubt in my mind that the USC Trojans got robbed out the national championship game. For one the defense the Trojans have is ranked No. 2 in the country and in terms of points allowed USC was No. 1 one.
There's not a lot of weakness at USC. Even when they play badly they are never out of the game—just ask Oregon State. Even with a comfortable lead the Trojans made a game of it and lost by six.
The Trojans have plenty of offensive weapons at wide receiver, running back, full back, and tight end and that is what makes USC so hard to beat. The Trojans defense had a ton of talent with 10 players likely to be drafted.
The only thing that could be said is that they should have had a better start against Oregon State. Otherwise it would have been the Trojans defeating the No. 2 gators in the national championship game.
USC played Penn State in the Rose Bowl and by halftime the game was pretty much over, except for a late rally which had the score come closer than the game actually was. USC won of course, 38-24, which ended the Trojans at 12-1.
USC Trojans grade:
Regular Season: A+
Pac-10 Overall Grade
The Pac-10 was the only major conference to go undefeated in bowl games. The Pac-10 finished 5-0 and the victories included the No. 6, 13, 17 and 18 teams in the country.
It just goes to show that the statement is true that it doesn't matter how you start it's how you finish. The Pac-10 finished with a bang.
Yes there were horrible teams as well with Washington State and Washington, which brings the grade down for the Pac-10, but still it was a great season for the Pac-10 schools who made a bowl game.
Regular Season: B+/A-