Now that this decade is drawing to a close, it seems like the leadership of the Pac-10 is undergoing a significant change. Since 2000, three names have dominated Pac-10 football: Pete Carroll, Jeff Tedford, and Mike Belotti.
But now new names are forging ahead and may possibly overtake the Old Guard in the next decade. Names like Jim Harbaugh, Mike Riley, Mike Stoops, and Chip Kelly are leading their teams on a fast track to overtake the competition.
Chip Kelly, who was Mike Belotti’s offensive coordinator and gave Oregon the multi-dimensional spread offense that has become their trademark, now has full reins of the Ducks as their head coach.
Oregon, under Belotti, wasn’t as explosive a team until Kelly’s arrival a few years ago. Now under Kelly’s leadership, the Ducks were the first team to destroy USC this decade, 47-20. A few weeks earlier they annihilated Tedford’s Cal Bears 42-3.
The Ducks were seemingly on their way to a Pac-10 title and a possible a spot in the BCS Championship game when Jim Harbaugh’s Stanford Cardinal exploded for 51 points in a 51-42 shootout on the farm this past Saturday. That win made Stanford bowl-eligible for the first time in eight years.
But that wasn’t the only major win for Harbaugh’s Cardinal. Stanford went into the Coliseum two years ago as 41-point dogs and upset the No. 1 Trojans 24-23. That victory broke USC’s 35-home game winning streak and may have been a harbinger of things to come.
Mike Riley’s Oregon State Beavers have upset the top-ranked Trojans the past two times they have visited Corvallis. Then a couple of weeks ago, they nearly upset USC in the Coliseum with a second-half offensive barrage that the Trojans couldn’t seem to stop.
Just this past Saturday, Riley brought his feisty Beavers down to Berkeley, where they embarrassed Tedford’s Cal Bears, 31-14.
The Arizona Wildcats have been inconsistent at best since Mike Stoops took over in 2004. His overall record is 31-36 and 21-27 in the conference, but that includes his first two seasons when the Wildcats had back-to-back 3-8 teams.
They have improved since then going 6-6, 5-7 and 8-5 last season with a 31-21 win over No. 17 BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. That was their first appearance in a bowl game and their first winning season since 1998.
Everyone talks about Pete Carroll being undefeated in the month of November, but Stoops has had victories over top-10teams during November in three of the past four years.
This year the Wildcats are 6-2 and ranked No. 1 in total offense in the Pac-10 and No. 13 nationally. They are ranked No. 17 in the BCS standings.
To win out, the Wildcats would need victories over Cal, Oregon, Arizona State, and USC. Such a feat would definitely put Mike Stoops near the top among Pac-10 coaches.
All four teams—Arizona, Stanford, Oregon and Oregon State—are ranked 1-2-3-4 respectively in total offense in the Pac-10. In scoring offense, Oregon, Stanford and Arizona are ranked 1-2-3 with Oregon State ranked fifth just behind California. USC is sixth.
Not only has there been a change at the top of the coaching ranks but also among players.
At the beginning of the year, freshman Matt Barkley was getting all the hype at USC as was tailback Joe McKnight and safety Taylor Mays. The other top running backs were supposedly Jahvid Best of Cal and LaGarette Blunt, who was suspended by Chip Kelly of Oregon for punching a Boise State player in the mouth after the Ducks lost their opener to the Broncos, 17-9.
But as we look at individual statistics now, James Rogers, Oregon State, Chris Owusu, Stanford, and Jacquizz Rogers, Oregon State rank 1-2-3 in all-purpose yards. Toby Gerhart of Stanford is fifth.
Further down on the list at eighth is Jahvid Best and ninth Joe McKnight. Damian Williams is 11th.
In rushing yards Toby Gerhart, Stanford, LaMichael James, Oregon, and Jacquizz Rogers, Oregon State rank 1-2-3 ahead of Jahvid Best, fourth, and Joe McKnight, fifth.
In passing efficiency, red-shirt freshman Andrew Luck of Stanford leads the Pac-10 followed by Nick Foles, Arizona and Sean Canfield, Oregon State. Jeremiah Masoli of Oregon, who runs as much as he throws, is fifth. However, Masoli is first in Points Responsible For—13.5 per game.
Matt Barkley is sixth in passing efficiency and ninth in Points Responsible For—8.75. However, he ranks third in interceptions behind Jake Locker, Washington, and Danny Sullivan, Arizona State, with seven.
Of course, there are still four more games to go, and anything can happen in the always unpredictable Pac-10. But as of right now, there has been a definite shift in leadership among the coaches, the teams and the top players in the conference.