Random Ravings: The State of the Pac-10 Address

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Random Ravings: The State of the Pac-10 Address
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

See that single digit Oregon Ducks quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is holding up? That represents where the Ducks find themselves in the Pacific-10 Conference standings: number one.

After a tit-for-tat first half, Oregon exploded for 23 points in the third and fourth frames to put away the Southern California Trojans, 47-20.

The significance of this victory is being felt around the college football world, but we'll address that when the next Bowl Championship Standings are released.

For now, let's discuss the ramifications in the Pac-10, namely: who's left to challenge Oregon?

 

USC : The wounded Trojans have just suffered their worst loss in 12 years, to a program that seems poised to challenge their monopoly on the best recruits (an unofficial report: after the game, it's been rumored that two of the top 10 defensive linemen in the country committed to Oregon).

Also, to make matters even worse, they might be shut out of the BCS for the first time in a long while.

So, if you're Pete Carroll, where do you go from here? You have players who've never really suffered the agony of defeat in their young lives.

You have a freshman quarterback who's going to be a stud, but clearly isn't there yet. You have a defense that has been getting smoked like Mary Jane in the Bay Area.

Carroll must rebuild his team's shattered confidence, and get them focused on their remaining games, quickly. As embarrassing as the Holiday Bowl sounds to USC, they'd rather take that than another loss, and a trip to El Paso or (gasp!) Las Vegas.

 

Oregon State: The Beavers find themselves in a familiar position: looking up at the Ducks. To be truthful, their roles were reversed last year--OSU was the team seemingly destined for a Rose Bowl berth, while Oregon was simply trying to scratch together a decent season after getting trampled by Cal and USC.

Oregon State's BCS hopes last year seemed within definite reach as they entered the Civil War game. The home team had won the last several showdowns, and the game was being played at Reser in 2008. The Beavers should have had a Rose Bowl berth in the bag.

Instead, the Ducks blew the doors off OSU in a Civil War-record victory, simultaneously embarrassing their hated rivals and denying them their first Rose Bowl appearance since before my 54-year-old father was even born.

I know the Beavers, who find themselves tied with USC and Cal, would love to repay the favor this year.

 

California: These guys are walking proof of the absolute folly of preseason polls. Ranked absurdly high even after crushing a hapless Maryland team at home and squeaking by middling Minnesota on the road, Cal was brought rudely back to reality by the Ducks and Trojans, dooming their hopes of an elusive Pac-10 title.

The Golden Bears have found league play quite challenging, most recently squeaking by Arizona State thanks to a last-second field goal. They also had problems against UCLA, a squad winless in Pac-10 play.

Fortunately for Cal, those teams have inept offenses that can't move the ball against Division II defenses, let alone a decent major-conference squad. Unfortunately for Cal, the remaining teams on their schedule are all better than either UCLA or ASU.

 

Arizona: I find this team to be an intriguing group. Nationally ranked for the first time in nearly a decade, the Wildcats have so far put together an impressive 3-1 record in league play, including a victory over Oregon State at Reser Stadium. Beating the Beavers on the road is a difficult thing to do...just ask USC.

Arizona seems to be a well-rounded team: they don't pass the ball really well, they don't run it very well, and their defense isn't extraordinary. However, they execute all aspects of the game well enough to win on a consistent basis, led by their efficient sophomore quarterback, Nick Foles.

Unlike some of the other teams on this list, they have yet to play either Oregon or Southern Cal. If they can maintain the status quo and go up against the Ducks with only one conference loss, we might see "College GameDay" visit Tuscon, the gravesite for "The Oregon Ducks, circa 2007".

 

Stanford: For all those doubters out there that still believe the Pac-10 is full of pussball pass-happy squads, just take a look at the Cardinal. This is a team on the West Coast (in the very birthplace of the famous West Coast offense, no less) dedicated to old-school Big Ten tactics...three yards and a cloud of dust.

With the brutish Toby Gerhart running behind a large and punishing offensive line, and an intelligent freshman (Andrew Luck) under center, Stanford made some early noise in league play, taking down four conference opponents.

They've since suffered a couple of setbacks, taking their record down to 4-2 and a loss column tie with three other schools.

With Oregon coming to the Farm in Palo Alto for the annual West Coast Bird Bowl, the Cardinal will be looking to knock the new kings off their throne.

They'll have to play a complete game to do it, but the potential is there...I haven't forgotten what they did to the Trojans two years ago, and neither will Chip Kelly.

 

Washington: Even though they've fallen on hard times lately, the Huskies practically ooze prestige and history. This program was the alpha dog in the Pac-10 during my childhood in the early-mid 90s, winning a couple league titles and even splitting the national crown with Nebraska in 1991.

As a youngster, I was raised to hate the very sight of purple. Now, as a young adult who happens to be a Ducks fan, I laugh at the ineptitude that Washington has been struggling through for much of this decade.

However, this year has brought hope to the program in the form of Steve Sarkasian, the young up-and-coming coach that took over a Husky squad that went win-less last year and not only made them competitive, but improbably upset national power USC and dealt Arizona their only league loss so far this year.

Even if Jake Locker leaves for the NFL (with an 0-3 record against Oregon...muahaha), Sarkasian has proven that he can make a bad team better.

His next step will be to score at least one road conference win next year, and bring in the talent he'll need to put Washington football back on the map to stay.

 

The Also-Rans: Arizona State has taken a step backward since Rudy Carpenter's graduation. While their defense is very good, their offense has been a work-in-progress.

If ASU can scratch out a bowl berth, they might keep the carpet-bagging Dennis Erickson from bolting to his next fixer-upper for another year.

Poor UCLA. The athletes are there, the coaching staff is supposed to be top-notch, and the defense is loaded with its usual slew of NFL prospects.

However, the lack of chemistry between Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow, the lack of discipline from their players, and the general mishandling of the development of two gifted young quarterbacks has so far resulted in a win-less conference season.

The Bruins have gotten the meat of the conference schedule out of the way, and they won't stay win-less in the Pac-10 for long. However, they can forget about a bowl this year.

The Neuheisel Watch will officially begin in 2010.

As for Washington State...well, they're Wazzu. Nothing more needs to be said. I'll be surprised if they win a league game this year.

(Just to be cruel, and because I disdain Rick Neuheisel, I hope Wazzu beats UCLA. If that happens, not even Slick Rick's silver tongue will save his neck this time.)

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