This weekend was the first weekend since August that we have been without college football. Feels weird doesn't it? I don't know about you guys, but the NFL just isn't cutting it for me.
Anyways, as the season has drawn to a close, I have decided I'd like to write a recap on what was, in my opinion, one of the best college football seasons we've seen in the last decade.
For the Pac-10, I'd consider this season a success. Some might look at it and say, "well, you only had 4 bowl teams". While that is the case, we need to recognize that the Pac-10 futured by far the two best non bowl teams in college football, for all that's worth. USC and Arizona State being those two teams. Both of which had 6 wins or more, however USC's well documented probation prevented them from playing in the postseason, and Arizona State's 2 wins over FCS teams kept them away.
First, I'll begin with a simple breakdown, team by team, on what I think of their season. Grading them from "success", to "failure", to "even with expectations".
The team's are listed in order of their final Pac-10 standings:
1. Oregon- Success
Oregon's regular season was one for the ages. With the exception of the game at Cal, a 15-13 win, this team looked unstoppable. While they may have lost a heartbreaker in the National Championship Game, I think most fans, and most reasonable SEC fans, will agree that Oregon was for real, and hopefully, their performance garnered much national respect for their program, and the Pac-10. The final game of the season may have left Ducks fans with a bitter taste in their mouth, but they have much to look forward to for next season, as they will likely be the preseason favorite to win it all.
2. Stanford- Success
Arguably the greatest regular season in Stanford history, capped off with the best BCS bowl game performance in the Orange Bowl, a 40-12 beat down of ACC Champion, Virginia Tech, make this a season to remember for Cardinal fans. With the exception of a loss in Eugene to the Ducks, Stanford's season was perfect. They shutout 3 AQ conference opponents, and of their 12 wins, 11 came by double figures. Andrew Luck coming back is the cherry on top.
3. Washington- Success
At one point, the season looked lost. At 3-6, with 3 rugged Pac-10 games left to play, UW's chances of going 'bowling' looked slim. However, lead by Chris Polk who averaged 171 yards per game in the final 4 contests, the Huskies trampled over UCLA, Cal, and Wazzu to make it into the Holiday Bowl. There, they'd have a very surprising win over Nebraska, a team that demolished them earlier in the season, at home no less. While this season may have merely "met" preseason expectations, the manner in which the Huskies achieved their 7-6 record, makes it a success.
4. USC- Failure
I'm not knocking USC for their lack of a bowl game, it was not an option to start with. However, USC's regular season (8-5) really didn't live up to expectations for a team that was considered by many to have the most raw talent in the Pac-10. USC started the season 4-0, however, the 4-0 start may have been the most criticized in NCAAF history. 3 wins over Hawaii, Virginia, and Minnesota all came in incredibly unimpressive fashion. Giving up 36 points, winning by only 3, and winning by 11 to an awful Big-10 team respectively. Additionally, USC's 8 game winning streak against Notre Dame was snapped... at home.
5. Oregon State- Failure
The Beavers were considered a preseason sleeper for the Pac-10 crown. However, a 5-7 finish, including a loss to Washington State certainly dissapointed many. Their losses to Boise State and TCU were respectable. But the team's lack of identity down the stretch was very frustrating to watch. During a two week span, the Beavers lost to UCLA and Wazzu, the Pac-10's two worst teams. Additionally, they were spanked by Stanford 38-0 two weeks following that stretch. The win over USC was a high point, but for a team that had made 6 straight bowl games prior to this season, that's a pretty wimpy consolation prize.
6. Arizona State- Even with expectations
The Sun Devils lost 4 games this season by 4 points or fewer. The list of teams they nearly beat is impressive too, including Wisconsin (lost by 1), USC (lost by 1), and Stanford (lost by 4). With that said, Arizona State was literally inches away in some cases, from being a 10-2 football team. I put them at "even" because 2 of their wins were over FCS opponents. Pretty unimpressive OOC schedule, even with Wisconsin on there. Overall though, next seasonl looks bright for the Sun Devils as 21 starters are expected to return. That's an unheard of number, and with that, come high expectations next season.
7. Arizona- Even with expectations
It's a shame Arizona simply "met expectations". This team started off the year looking great with a win over Iowa. They were 4-0 at one point, before a tough loss in Corvalis to the Beavers. They followed that loss with 3 wins before running into the road block that was Stanford. The Cardinal embarassed them 42-17 and the WildCats just never got back on track after that losing their final 5 games. Of those losses, none were more dissapointing then the beatdown they received from Oklahoma State in the Sun Bowl. The team appeared to roll over in a 36-10 romp. None the less, the WildCats finished with a 7-6 record and were at one point a top 10 team.
8. Cal- Failure
Yet again, Cal proved to the rest of the conference, that regardless of how talented you are, they'll find a way to lose, and lose frequently. I often compare Cal to Clemson, as the team that has the talent to win BCS games, but can't put together a winning effort for 4 quarters against anyone worth speaking of. Cal's only wins came against UC Davis, Colorado, ASU, UCLA, and Wazzu. However, when Cal played teams that were of equal skill level, they flopped. Their losses to Nevada (by 21 points), USC (by 34), and Stanford (by 34) were truly embarassing. Cal did live up to it's potential on occassion though, nearly beating Arizona and Oregon.
9. UCLA- Failure
I just don't understand numerous things about this team. I'll keep the list short though, to the two things that stand out to me the most. First, why is Rick Neuheisel still the coach? And why can't this team play parallel with their talent level. UCLA's in a recruiting hotbed, and regardless of the fact they have to compete with USC, they should still be bringing in slightly better recruiting classes. I mean, how hard is it to get some kids to stay close to home? And how hard can it be to convince kids in the Midwest to come to your school and play by the beach for God sakes? Not much to say about their play this season, they sucked, you get the picture. Wins over Houston and Texas highlight the season. But 4-8, is the bottom line.
10. Washington State- Success
I'll keep this one short and sweet as your all probably tired reading: They finally won a Pac-10 game. That's why this season is a success.
The Pac-10 has 4 successful teams, 4 failures, and 2 meeting expectations. Overall though, the huge success of Oregon and Stanford help pick up the pace for teams like USC and Oregon State. Having 2 BCS teams for the first time since 2002, is always a plus for national recognition.
Really quickly, let me do a rundown of my postseason thoughts for the conference:
- Jacquizz Rodgers, what are you thinking?!?! Sure your team sucked this year, but give it more time! You're too small for the pros, nowhere near the bruiser that Stephen Jackson, fellow Beaver running back, was when he entered the draft. Addittionally, your team will be better next year. Your brother has been granted another season to play due to injury, and Katz will be coming back for his second full season as a starter.
- Good Luck Jim Harbaugh. Thanks for all your work with the Cardinal.
- Lane Kiffin, well done on the recruiting class. Currently, USC is ranked no. 10 in recruiting classes on ESPN.com. Not bad for a team that was given the worst punishment possible after the death penalty.
- Props to Andrew Luck for doing what HE wants, and not what others think he should do. If he wants a degree from Stanford, anyone who advises him otherwise, is just jealous.
- Oregon, tough luck in the Nat'l Title Game. Dyer's run would never happen like that again if it was done 1,000,000 times over. None the less, good showing.
- Jake Locker, congrats on a great career. I'm happy you were finally rewarded with a bowl win.
Alright, that's all guys. Thanks for reading!