Pop quiz: Two teams ranked in college football's Top-10. Team One comes up short against a program with 15 losses in its last 16 games. Team Two falls to one of the preseason's Top 20.
Who drops further in the rankings?
Sure, the Bears looked bad. And yes, Kevin Riley deserved to be benched—along with the offensive line and Cal defense.
The Ducks went 10-3 in 2008. After their season-opening loss on the road to undefeated Boise State (4-0), now the fifth-ranked team in the country, they've since beaten No. 18 Utah, snapping the nation's longest winning streak (16), and the then-No. 6 Bears. They're better than we thought they were after Week 1.
The Huskies, meanwhile, went 0-12 in 2008. They lost to Stanford by 20 the week after beating the Trojans and haven't won consecutive Pac-10 games since 2006. They're still very, very bad.
Somehow, a 39-point loss to the former doesn't seem twice as bad as a 3-point loss to the latter.
Either way, Cal's 18-spot submarine is more indicative of the Pac-10's perception than the Bears—the conference is still very much seen as USC and everyone else. The conventional wisdom from pundits is that someone in the Pac-10 needs to beat the Trojans to trash the type-casting.
Washington, Oregon State and Stanford have all done so in consecutive seasons, but where has it gotten them? A .500 record, a Sun Bowl and an early winter vacation.
Meanwhile, an Alabama loss to Florida in 2008 took them to the Sugar Bowl. A Michigan loss to Ohio State in 2006 left them at No. 3 in the country and in the Rose Bowl. A 2004 stumble for Texas against Oklahoma earned them a trip to Pasadena.
Then again, who's to say all three didn't belong there? If he was smart, Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott.
Against the six BCS conferences, the Pac-10 is 75-58 (.564) this decade. The SEC is 89-82 (.520). No other conference is above .500. The Pac-10 has a better record against BCS teams in bowl games, not to mention a better record against BCS teams with 10 or more wins.
As for the USC-does-all-the-heavy-lifting argument: minus the Trojans, the Pac-10 would still have more BCS wins than the ACC and as many as the Big East. And then there's 2008. The Pac-10 went 5-0 in postseason affairs last season with wins over Penn State, Miami, BYU, Oklahoma State and Pitt.
And this should come as no surprise: four of those five teams have as many losses as the Bears this season and are ranked higher.
Follow Grant Marek on Twitter: @Grant_Marek