Who Is the Front Runner to Win The Pac-10?

Bleacher ReportAnalyst IOctober 5, 2009

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 26: Running back LaMichael James #21 of the Oregon Ducks looks for some running room in the first quarter of the game against the California Bears at Autzen Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won the game 42-3. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

After the first five weeks of the College Football season, we as fans, analysts, and general sports junkies have seen many surprises.

From the Oregon Ducks rising up from the ashes of their humbling week one loss against the Boise State Broncos, to the Washington Huskies' huge upset of the national juggernaut USC Trojans, this season has already had its fair share of publicity.

Looking at the Pac-10 conference, which for the last seven years has been dominated by the USC Trojans, three teams are neck and neck in what is sure to be a thrilling race.

If one were to watch a swimming race of let's say, Michael Phelps, Mark Spitz, and Jason Lezak, it would be a perfect epitome of the Pac-10 race as of now, likely ending in a photo finish.

There are currently three teams that are undefeated in conference play. The Stanford Cardinal sit atop the conference with a 3-0 record. The Oregon Ducks fall in right behind them at 2-0, and the Arizona Wildcats round out the conference's top three squads with a 1-0 record.

The Stanford Cardinal should arguably be in the Top 25 this week. The Cardinal have looked impressive so far in conference play. Their most notable win came against the same Washington Huskies team that upset the USC Trojans this season.

The Cardinal allowed the Huskies to score only one offensive touchdown, en route to a 34-14 victory.

The Cardinal's other two victories have come against a rebuilding Washington State squad and a previously undefeated UCLA team.

The Oregon Ducks, despite losing their first game of the season to Boise State, have returned with fire in their hearts.

The Ducks have won four straight since losing to Boise State, and have won their last two contests in very impressive fashion.

The Ducks slaughtered then No. 6 California 42-3, following up that performance with an even more impressive victory over Washington State, sending the Cougars back home to Pullman with a 52-6 loss.

The Arizona Wildcats' lone conference game, and victory, came against Oregon State, beating the Beavers in Corvallis 37-32.

Referring to the three-team race I used as an analogy, the Pac-10 conference's edition comes down to the Stanford Cardinal, Oregon Ducks, and USC Trojans.

Yes, Arizona is undefeated in conference play, but I am not completely sold on the Wilcats' performance this season. Especially since the Wildcats lost to an overachieving Iowa Hawkeyes squad, who in all honesty, should be 2-2 instead of 4-0.

Not to take anything away from Arizona. The Wildcats will be hosting both the Cardinal and the Ducks this season.

If either of the two teams know how hard it is to play in Tuscon, ask the Oregon Ducks, referencing the Wildcats' upset of No. 2 Oregon in 2007.

Looking at the all three teams, the Oregon Ducks would appear to have the advantage over the Cardinal and the Trojans.

The Ducks and Trojans have both faced the Washington State Cougars and California Golden Bears this season, and in both match-ups, the spread has been larger for the Ducks.

California received two consecutive blowouts from the Ducks and the Trojans. Both teams allowed the Golden Bears to score a meager three points, but the Ducks put up 42 on the Golden Bears, whereas the Trojans put up a slightly lesser amount of 30.

The other common matchup, against the Washington State Cougars, also had a larger spread in favor of the Ducks. This time, by a wider margin than against Cal.

Oregon's offense flew high for the second consecutive week, scoring 52 points against the Cougars.

The week before, the USC Trojans managed only 27 points against the struggling Cougars.

The Stanford Cardinal, who also have faced the Cougars this season, put up 39 points.

It would appear that the Oregon Ducks should be the front runner to win the Pac-10 conference.

But as the first five weeks of the season have proved, projecting how teams will finish is next to impossible. Upsets will always occur. Teams that are picked to struggle will find ways to win.

For the Oregon Ducks, the season is far from over.

The Ducks will be traveling to Pasadena, CA this week to face the UCLA Bruins, who as I mentioned before, were undefeated until this past week.

The Rose Bowl is always a tough place to play. With over 90,000 seats, the venue can become deafeningly loud.

The last time Oregon traveled to Pasadena, the Ducks were in the middle of their end-of-season slump in 2007 after Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon was lost for the season with a torn ACL.

If the Oregon Ducks are going to run the table in the Pac-10 conference, they need to keep following the disciplined mantra of first-year head coach Chip Kelly.

Take the season one game at a time.

The Ducks still have to play key road games at UCLA, Washington, Stanford, and Arizona, and face both USC and Oregon State at home.

The season is far from over, and Oregon will need to continue to follow the guidance of Chip Kelly to even have a shot at making the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1994.





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