Six Must-Win Games for the Pac-10
While the Pac-10 performed reasonably well in the opening weekend games, Oregon's loss to Boise State greatly tarnished the conference's reputation, and not just for some after-game altercations.
New Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott is frantically searching for new revenue as the Pac-10 is second-lowest among BCS conferences in TV dollars. While Scott has been moderately successful in regarding bowl contracts, ultimate success depends upon success on the football field.
With allegations regarding a Pac-1(+9) abounding, the Pac-10 needs to dominate in out-of-conference games. This weekend features six games of significance (the other four are virtual locks).
Failure in any one of these games will hurt the conference's reputation. Failure in two games would be bad. Anything more and the conference might as well write off this season.
So, let's look over the six must win games for the Pac-10 this weekend.
Trojans at Buckeyes
This weekend's national highlight game is also one of the most important of the season for the Pac-10. USC does not lose out-of-conference games, even in intimidating environments like the Horseshoe.
Last year, USC dominated the Buckeyes in LA.
A loss here would severely hurt any chance for USC to make the BCS title game on Jan. 7, while setting up the Buckeyes for a berth in that same game.
While I think USC should roll, it remains a must-win.
Trojans 34—Buckeyes 14.
Boilermakers at Ducks
With the Duck offense blunted last week in Boise and with Blount going loco after the game, Oregon needs to regroup and fast. In the easiest of Oregon's three OOC games (the Utes are up next), the Ducks face an improved Boilermaker team with a powerful running attack.
A loss here is not unlikely, given the pathetic nature of the Duck offense in the opener. So, did Oregon make the wrong hire?
Purdue 28—Oregon 17
Cardinal at Demon Deacons
Wake Forest opened the season with a loss at home to a much improved Baylor team featuring super-soph QB Robert Griffin. No shame there.
Stanford opened up pounding a hapless Washington State Cougars squad. The power-running attack looks good. While there is no reason to suppose that Stanford will not continue to improve, a cross-country roadtrip is always different.
Wake Forest 24—Stanford 21
Bruins at Volunteers
Last year, Tennessee's trip to LA began a downward spiral into a bad season. Of course, UCLA's victory was short-lived, as the Bruins were blown out 59-0 by BYU the next week.
Tennessee and UCLA both won in their opening games, but Tennessee faced the newest member of the Football Bowl Subdivision, while UCLA struggled early against the formerly incompetent Aztecs.
This game will not tell us whether either team is actually good, but will tell us which team is closest to coming back to competitiveness.
Tennessee 27—UCLA 21
Warriors at Cougars
Hawaii struggled with FCS Central Arkansas last weekend, while Stanford rolled over Washington State. Hawaii is not the same team it was a few years ago under June Jones, and the Cougars are working on a long-term rebuilding project.
Washington State 17—Hawaii 14
Beavers at Rebels
Oregon State came out of nowhere and upset USC last year thanks to Quizz Rodgers. The Beavers look to challenge again for the Pac-10 crown. But the Beavers lost a lot of talent from last year's team.
Moreover, the Beavers do very poorly in road openers. Traveling to Las Vegas to face a much improved UNLV squad could prove to be too much for the Beavers.
Oregon State 27—UNLV 24