Chaos in the Pac-12 Conference: What It Means for the Oregon Ducks

Kay Jennings@KayJenningsPDXContributor IIISeptember 18, 2012

Chaos in the Pac-12 Conference: What It Means for the Oregon Ducks

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    Well, that was certainly a Saturday of college football, wasn't it?

    I'm not sure what's weirder: LSU and Oregon winning by the exact same, somewhat odd, score—63-14—or USC losing yet again to Stanford for the fourth year running.

    When we look back to the previous Saturday, it begins to appear that the Pac-12 Conference has many tricks up its sleeve.

    Who knew?

    What the heck is going on? Why are there suddenly five Pac-12 teams ranked in the AP Top 25?

    Let's analyze.

Oregon State Beating Wisconsin

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    While some of us predicted this game's outcome (it's the first time I've ever agreed with Rick Neuheisel about anything, and will probably be the last time), it was still shocking when it actually happened.

    Whatever colors you wear on game day, you have to be happy for the Beavers getting this huge win. Oregon State's last season was utterly abysmal, and the team has endured personal tragedies. A big bounce back was long overdue for Mike Riley's team.

    If you'd been paying attention to the Beavers' practices in fall camp and noticed the development of key position players like Sean Mannion, Jordan Poyer and Markus Wheaton, you would understand that the Beavers are going to win some games in 2012.

    Throw in the bad karma from Bret Bielema's petty decision to not send game film from Wisconsin's previous game to Mike Riley, and this was an upset waiting to happen.

    Anytime a Pac-12 team beats a B1G team there is cause to rejoice.

    Go Beavs! Until Nov. 24, that is.

Arizona Beating Oklahoma State

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    This was an important interleague game that we'd pointed to last summer as a big matchup. Pac-12 loyalists hoped that Arizona would not embarrass the league in this one, and I, for one, thought Rich Rodriguez and the 'Cats could pull this off.

    But are you kidding me? Who predicted this game's result? It wasn't even as close as the 59-38 score would indicate.

    Just a really loud, really pushy message from Arizona.

    I'm so proud, and I don't even like their team.

    But it's back to reality this weekend when the 'Cats get skinned at Autzen.

Down on the Farm

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    Getting older pretty much sucks. You have to pay attention to your health.  You can't drink as much during football season as you did in college without really paying for it the next day. It takes much longer to recover between workouts.

    However, there is one thing that is good about getting older: your BS meter is finely tuned. With age comes the wisdom to realize that "conventional wisdom" usually means that most people just accept whatever other people are saying without really looking at the facts.

    It should be fairly clear by now that USC was overrated. In fact, their entire preseason rating was based on beating the Ducks by three points in a game that caught the Ducks looking ahead. Pundits conveniently forgot the Trojans losing to Stanford and Arizona State last season.

    Matt Barkley is a very good quarterback—but he is not a great one. He looks the part, and he is a PR dream both on and off the field. Barkley is a golden boy, and media and poll voters like golden boys, especially when the topic is the Heisman Trophy.

    Lane Kiffin is not a great coach, and may not even be a good coach. He may also not be a great recruiter. People much closer to the USC program than I am say that recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron should really get the credit for the Trojans' great 2013 class.

    Note to Kiffin: blaming your players for the loss instead of manning up to poor coaching decisions and lack of proper preparation is very unattractive. You might want to check who is more popular in southern California—you or Matt Barkley—before you mouth off again.

    But it's also unattractive to kick a good team when it's down, so let's be clear that USC is by no means finished for the year. History tells us that plenty of one-loss teams have gone on to the National Championship game.

    It still comes down to Nov. 3.



UCLA: Huh?

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    There is a terrific Seinfeld episode in which Elaine turns to Jerry and asks: "Is it possible that I'm not as fabulous as I think I am?"

    Today, I'm asking myself: "Is it possible that I was dead-wrong about Jim Mora? Is he really the right coach for UCLA?"

    If someone had told you last summer that UCLA would be 3-0 on September 16, and that one of those W's would be a win over Nebraska, what would you have said? Uh-huh.

    Well, much to all of our surprise, that's where we find the Bruins. It's suddenly not even a stretch to think they might return to the Pac-12 Championship Game representing the South Division, and having truly earned it this year. Really.

    But it's a long time till morning, and we're not totally buying it just yet. Week 4 will tell us a lot, and I like the Beavers by 8.

    It is, however, possible that I'm not as fabulous as I think I am.



Stanford: Yikes

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    Admit it: You thought Stanford was dead-in-the-water without Andrew Luck.

    We're back to that "conventional wisdom" thingy. A good college football team is so much more than a great QB. So the people who wrote off a very good team because one guy graduated didn't really think the whole thing through.

    How did the Cardinal pull off this stunning upset? Here's a clue: by making Matt Barkley lay on the ground for a good portion of the evening.

    It wouldn't have mattered if it was Andrew Luck, Josh Nunes or Fred Flintstone under center for Stanford—defense won this game for the Cardinal.

    If the Oregon O-line looks like USC's on Nov. 17, the Ducks may end up with the same result. But they won't, will they? Will they?

The Rest

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    While there have been some pleasantly surprising storylines after the first three weeks for other Pac-12 teams, don't fall for them.

    Arizona State is off to an interesting start under new head coach Todd Graham. But it will take more than a big win over a weak Illinois team and a close loss to Missouri to consider them any kind of Pac-12 Conference threat.

    Washington and Washington State haven't shown us a gosh-darned thing so far. Perhaps they will as the season progresses, but for now, they get big fat zeros.

    Utah showed a flash of greatness in their Holy War win over BYU, and might cause sporadic trouble if they can keep their fans from getting another unsportsmanlike penalty.

    And Cal is still Cal. And losing is still losing.

    Colorado? That sound you hear is silence because there are no words.