Monday, September 22

Pac 10: Impressions

The Pac 10 has long been the "Box of Chocolates" conference in that you don't know what the fuck you're going to get. (I like my chocolate blue.) The last seven seasons of USC aside, teams are great one season and awful the next, making it incredibly exciting for the fans and competitive for all teams. In 2002 it was Washington State, the last team to earn the conference's automatic bid before USC's stranglehold began... they lost to a pretty solid Oklahoma squad everyone seems to forget. In 2004 it was Cal, controversially passed over for Texas before getting run out of the Holiday Bowl by Texas Tech. Next season Oregon, passed over thanks to the Notre Dame Clause... hm, they lost to Oklahoma. 2006, Cal's back - they get blown out by Tennessee, rebound to finish second in the conference despite a bizarre loss to Arizona, and run A&M out of the Holiday Bowl. Last season Oregon's wheels seemed to fall off the cart, just after beating USC and having an outright conference title in their own control, Dennis Dixon gets hurt and the Ducks lose three straight... then rebound to destroy a pretty good South Florida team in the Sun Bowl. Last season the conference at times looked as tough as the SEC; this season, they're secretly thankful that the ACC's as horrible as it is. Good times out west.

Here are my impressions, in roughly ranked order:

1. USC
Okay, so we know Ohio State was overrated. That 35-3 massacre is still the statement game of the season, rivaled only by LSU winning a road game at Auburn. Does anyone out there think Jarrett Lee could lead those Tigers to a victory over this Trojan team? Well, certainly not if they played next week. This is the clear #1 in the country, both on what they've done and how they've looked doing it.


2. Oregon
Giving Boise State their first road win against a BCS conference team dampens some of the mystique of Autzen. The Ducks are still the most talented and most physical Pac 10 team among the nine competing for that coveted at-large slot after USC gets done beating everyone senseless. They're almost +200 ypg on the ground, so really who cares what the QB situation is? This team actually has an offensive line and a runningback! Next two games are auto-win (Wash State) followed by auto-loss (USC), so Quackers just needs to have things together by Oct 11 (UCLA, lol)... so then make that, Oct 25 against Arizona State.


3. Arizona
You know what, they've won three games. Nobody else besides Oregon can say that, and bonus that they destroyed UCLA. I don't know how they lost to New Mexico, but beating Toledo now looks a little more impressive after they took Fresno to 2OT before going for the 2 and the win... coming up short. Willie Tuitama continues to show promise. U of A has an extra week to prepare for Jake Locker and get off to a great start in conference play.

4. Cal
I don't like a team that loses to Maryland by more than Delaware did. That said, by talent Cal is the #3 or maybe even #2 team in the conference. Too bad the mantra in Berkely is "60% of the time, we show up every time." Damn hippies. Colorado State is a must-win game for respect reasons, and the upcoming games against the Arizona schools will be huge in determining the team's place in the conference as I currently have them sandwiched between the two.

5. Arizona State
Good QB, good receivers. By far the worst offensive line in the conference, making any talent or lack thereof at RB irrelevent. No defense. Sound familiar? After losing to New Mexico then getting soundly beaten by Georgia, ASU has two weeks to prepare for a big trip to Cal.

6. Oregon State
At this point, it's safe to say that the Beavers' loss to the team below them was a fluke. Not just the retarded goalline stretch... fumble, but the fact that they lost a game where they were +189 yards offense... or more tellingly, where Moevao passed for over 100 yards more than Stanford's offense gained in total. Penn State was an unwinnable game talent-wise and... oh what's this? Next game USC! Well there's always October... the game at Utah should be very telling.

7. Stanford
The record says 2-2, the tale of the tape is -117 ypg differential, including -140 through the air. This does not bode well in the Pac 10. The Cardinal's victories include a win over Oregon State thanks to a goalline fumble and a close game against San Jose State, who admittedly also gave Notre Dame a close game too, so hey, they must be pretty good.

Say you get beaten 59-0 by team of Mormons. Following that up with a statement "oh, we have a game today?" performance against a struggling conference foe seems like a great idea, right? If you live in His Coachness' world, apparently so. This team is easily 0-3 if Tennessee just runs the ball, but noooooo, they have to confuse the football world with this new "Clawfense"... meanwhile, UCLA hosts a perplexing Fresno State team in a game both teams really need to win.

9. Washington
I'm only ranking them here because they're the only team in the conference that hasn't won a game yet. But look at who they've played! Oregon, BYU, and Oklahoma. That's three teams a combined 10-1, all of whom have been ranked at some point and truthfully Oregon may still be a top 25 team. They played BYU close and Oklahoma is just too good for all but about a dozen teams to make it interesting. I expect Washington to finish around the middle of the pack, after what we've seen from the likes of UCLA and Stanford. Speaking of whom, Washington has the opportunity to beat Stanford and jump up some this weekend.


10. Washington State
Just awful. With Baylor, Duke, and Vanderbilt looking surprisingly competent, is this the worst BCS team? Iowa State may have something to say about that! Thank god they won't settle that one on the field...

The lines represent groups of similar teams. There's USC, sitting atop not only the conference but probably the entire nation right now. With the conference down from a year ago, can we just pencil them into the BCS Championship? Then there's Oregon - surprisingly, despite losing so much offensive talent, the class of the non-USC Pac 10. Bonus for a road win at Purdue. Then... well, then there's Washington State. Complete train wreck. As for everybody else, who knows? I don't think they're all equally good (sure, Arizona and Cal are better than UCLA and Washington), but wins here will likely come by who gives the better effort.