Don’t look now, but the Pac-10 is making its presence felt once again this bowl season.
Seven teams from one of the most underrated conferences in the NCAA reached bowl eligibility and they will all strive to maintain the dominance the conference demonstrated last year.
Unbeknownst to many, the Pac-10 threw down a perfect strike last bowl season.
All five teams that went bowling came home a victor. Despite this remarkable task, they still were not able to sway the minds of those who frequently question this conference's strength.
In 2008-09, the Trojans, Bears, Ducks, Beavers, and Wildcats combined for 138 points for and only allowed 93. With this year’s additions of the high-powered Cardinal offense and the tactically superior UCLA defense, teams facing the Pac-10 should be prepared to end this season on a sour note.
But will back-to-back perfect bowl seasons convince college football fans who stubbornly refuse to give the Pac-10 serious respect?
Honestly, a repeat perfect mark isn’t completely unthinkable. But the Conference of Champions will definitely have their hands full.
While there are many formidable opponents on this year’s list that are more than capable of delivering a blow to another perfect bowl seasn record, it should also be interesting to see if any of these Pac-10 teams fall into the “We are too good for this bowl game” trap and ruin it for the rest of us…you know who you are.
This first week of Pac-10 Bowl play has several times capable of falling into that trap.
Let’s see who is on tap for this week’s Pac-10 Bowl games
Las Vegas Bowl (12/22/09 5pm PST ESPN)
The Beavers came up a tad short in their bid for a Rose Bowl berth, and for the second straight season, their elimination came at the hands of the Ducks. Just more fuel to add to this increasingly bitter rivalry.
While these scars may take forever to heal, the Beavers can’t afford to take their foot off the gas.
Oregon State pulled a Mountain West opponent that is more than ready to pounce on another doe-eyed BCS foe. The intensity of this next game will be just as high if not higher, and they can’t afford to repeat the limp offensive performance presented last New Year’s Eve.
BYU shocked the nation in the first week of the season with a 14-13 upset of the then-No. 3 ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
Their BCS hopes were shattered a few weeks later though, when the heavily favored Cougars fell flat on their faces against the unranked Florida State Seminoles. A shellacking handed down by the conference king TCU would be BYU’s only other loss during the rest of their otherwise mild MWC season.
Max Hall led this 17th ranked offense through the air with 3,368 yards and 30 touchdowns, in a year where his touchdowns and yards actually took a drop.
The Mormon militia is firing at a 34.8 points per game clip which sounds amazing but is really just a shade better than the 32.4 put up by the Beavers.
Both defenses are rather courteous with their end zones, allowing a steady 21.7 and 23.4 average respectively, but if those stats tilt in any direction, it is towards Corvallis, considering their schedule of play.
This game is going to come down to a shootout, and it should be interesting to see if Oregon State can fully rebound from their second straight “near miss” with the Rose Bowl.
If the Beavers come out strong and the Rodgers brothers flat-out explode on the scorecard, BYU may not have enough fire power to keep up.
But if the Cougars defense (averaging two sacks per game) can get to Sean Canfield often, don’t be surprised if Oregon State mopes their way all the way back home.
Prediction: Oregon State 41, BYU 38
Poinsettia Bowl (12/23/2009 5pm PST ESPN)
There is not living up to preseason expectations, and then there is what the California Bears did this season. Hyped by many as the team that will finally take down the mighty Trojans, the Bears drove head first into a brickwall once Pac-10 play eventually started.
Two straight whoppings by Oregon and USC silenced all Rose Bowl aspirations in Berkeley…and much earlier than anyone truly expected.
Cal capped off its disappointing season with another thumping, but this time by the unstable Washington Huskies. Their only high point this season was taking home the Big Game Ax as underdogs against the upstart Cardinal.
Once Jahvid Best took his scary tumble, it was hard not to lose all hope. He is listed as out for this bowl game, and there have even been talks about him making a leap to the NFL next season.
With these rumors swirling around Best’s return and everyone’s patience with Kevin Riley wearing extremely thin, the make up of this offense could face serious changes before the next season arrives.
Utah is coming off an overtime loss to BYU in an intense game that sparked Cougars quarterback Max Hall to say that he thinks “the whole university and their fans and the organization is classless.”
The Utes’ other losses this season came against BCS bowl participants (TCU and Oregon), and all three of these losses makes you wonder if this team has what it takes beat to high-caliber teams.
Utah leans heavily on their junior breakout running back Eddie Wide to keep games close, and they will ask him to take the brunt of the load again against the Bears.
Unfortunately for Wide, Cal’s rushing defense has been the brightest part of their abysmal season. Cal’s defense is allowing only 118 yards per game, good enough for 54th in the FBS
And even luckier for Cal, it should be completely the opposite for Best’s emerging backup when they have the ball. Expect to see a good helping of Shane Vareen against this Utah rushing defense that ranks 119th, giving up a horrendous 141.3 yards per game.
Despite the fact that Utes currently ranking No.23 in the BCS, I believe Cal is still the stronger team taking the field and if it comes down to a battle in the trenches the Bears definitely hold the edge.
Prediction: California 27, Utah 20
Emerald Bowl (12/26/2009 5pm PST ESPN)
The USC Trojans participate in their first non-January bowl game since 2001 and if any of these Pac-10 teams are going to enter a bowl thinking they are too good for it, it is going to be them.
Pete Carroll stumbled for the first time in what seemed like forever and the rest of the Pac-10 merrily rejoiced.
While Boston College hopes to be the next team to feast on this carcass of a Trojan, even a half-paced USC might be stronger than the talent that the Eagles are capable of flying out to the West Coast.
In another year where many thought they couldn’t possibly make a post-season appearance, BC dispelled all doubters and will make their 11th straight bowl game.
The Eagles have a one-two offensive attack with freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie and sophomore running back Montel Harris. The underclassmen duo combined for 27 touchdowns this season and both collected over 1,000 yards of offense.
Despite the potential brewing on this side of the ball, their offense as a whole was rather unimpressive. They ranked 115th or worst in points, total yards, rushing yards, and passing yards in the NCAA.
Defense is where the Eagles really flourished.
They allowed only 19.4 points per game and held rushers to an average of 104.4 yards.
This doesn’t bode well for the Trojans, as their offense has been lackluster at best. USC heavily relies on Joe McKnight to keep this offense moving while Matt Barkely and his 114th ranked passing game struggles to find their groove.
But even if USC only shows up half-heartedly to this bowl, they should be able to score at least three touchdowns and remind fans that one down year certainly doesn’t make a trend.
Prediction: USC 24, Boston College 17