7/17 Roundtable - 5 Thoughts On The Pac 10

Posted Jul 17, 2009

7/17 Roundtable - Five thoughts on the upcoming Pac 10 season. It's the Friday topic in the CFN Daily Roundtable Discussion.

CFN Daily Roundtables

July 17

5 Thoughts on the Pac 10.

Over the next several weeks, as part of the CFN 2009 Preview, we'll examine some of the key questions going into the year with a daily discussion of the big topics.

Past Roundtables
7/16 5 Thoughts on the ACC

7/15 5 Thoughts on the WAC
7/14 5 Thoughts on the Sun Belt

7/13 5 Thoughts on the Big 12
7/10 M-West & the BCS
7/9 Guilty Pleasures
7/8 OU or OSU - Biggest BCS Bust
7/7 5th BCS Game
7/4 Should the SEC get a BCS break?
7/3 There should be a playoff
7/2 There shouldn't be a playoff
7/1 The unbreakable record
6/30 BCS on ESPN
6/29 Best non-BCS program
6/26 Rule changes
6/25 Why does the Big 10 stink?
6/24 Top 3 non-conference games
6/23 Coach on the hot seat
6/22 The No. 5 team is ...
6/19 Most underrated teams
6/18 Most overrated teams
6/17 BCS title sleeper
6/16 Do 40 times matter?
6/15 Is a Rooney Rule needed?
6/12 Should Bama vacate wins?
6/11 Should players be paid?
6/10 Recruiting hype
6/9 Your No. 1 draft pick
6/8 Where would you coach?
6/5 Who does the least with the most?
6/4 Who does the most with the least?
6/3 Sept. star players
6/2 Who'll generate early buzz?
6/1 The one coach you'd want
5/29 Tebow, McCoy, or Bradford?
5/28 Should the Big Ten expand?
5/27 Should the Pac 10 expand?
5/26 Chizik, Kiffin, or Mullen?
5/24 Heisman sleepers
5/22 Most interesting teams
5/21 Is Tebow the best ever?
5/20 When should polls come out?
5/19 The M-West & the BCS, Part 1
5/18 BCS or bust for Weis

Pete Fiutak, CFN

Yes, I'm part of the problem. You can check me out at twitter.com/CFN_Fiu and find out future roundtable topics and other random musings.

Q: 5 Thoughts on the Pac 10.

The Pac 10 can't seem to get a second team into the BCS, and why? Because few are taking the league seriously enough, and before the bowl season, there was no reason to think the league deserved much more than second-tier status.

Yeah, the league went 5-0 in the bowls, but does that erase the lousy non-conference season? For every big win, like USC throttling Ohio State, there were close calls against the mediocre, like Oregon vs. Purdue, ugly blowouts, like Fresno State and BYU over UCLA, and the Mountain West's year overall against the Pac 10. Throw in Penn State's blowout over Oregon State, Georgia's win over Arizona State, and Maryland's win over Cal, and the conference didn't exactly take the college football world by storm.

And then there were the bottom feeders. Washington and Washington State were among the worst teams in America, UCLA was an unmitigated disaster, and Arizona State was a major disappointment. However, because USC is so good and so consistent, all is not lost. Now it's time for everyone else to pick up the slack.

Pac 10 fans are right when they complain that the East Coast isn't paying attention, but it has nothing to do with a bias. SEC fans don't care about the Pac 10, and it's not like ACC coaches who vote in the polls are staying up late to watch the Oregon State - Arizona State battle that starts at 10:30 p.m. EST. Simply put, the rest of the nation hasn't had a lot of reasons to give all that much credit to the Pac 10. The league has to change that and force everyone to pay attention.

The Pac 10 gets more breaks than many think. Everyone watches USC's blowouts when the lights are on, but not enough see the mediocre performances, where they happen on the rare occasion. Oregon was a shoo-in for the national title game a few years ago before Dennis Dixon got hurt, USC is a mortal lock to play for the national title if it can win all the games it's favored in, and there are more than enough chances in the non-conference schedule this year to show that the bowl season wasn't a fluke in any way.

It might not be fair, but that's the deal for the Pac 10. The league has to do something splashy and it has to shine a little brighter in the big battles to grab the attention away from the weekly Saturday night SEC and Big 12 games. The conference has to give fans a reason to stay up late (even though those shootouts are among the best week after week and deserve watching no matter what). And this year, the conference has the teeth to do it.

USC is USC. It has to rebuild, but it's replacing star players with more star players. Oregon and Cal are as good as they've been in years, Oregon State is always plucky, and the dregs of last year are going to be better. Step one is to beat the non-BCS teams. Oregon has to beat Boise State and Utah, and the conference can't be so lousy against the Mountain West again. Step two is to generate more of a buzz in league play. Oregon State's run to a possible Rose Bowl berth didn't exactly capture the nation's imagination, partly because it was obliterated by Penn State and lost to Utah and Stanford. If anyone is going to challenge USC, it has to be the real deal with a big-time record.

It's time for the league to step up and challenge the other BCS leagues in the pecking order, and it's time for another BCS bid so this doesn't remain USC and the little nine.

Richard Cirminiello, CFN

Q: 5 Thoughts on the Pac 10.

Although I’m probably going to regret this at some point during the season, here it goes … Cal has a shot to be real good in 2009.

I’ve been burned enough times to hate myself for admitting it, but I do like the make-up of this team, and not simply because of superstar RB Jahvid Best. Yeah, he’s the cover boy, but I’m really intrigued by this program because of the potential of both lines. The offensive unit is a massive group that’ll be able to bully many opponents into submission. On defense, Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan are a couple of full-sized ends, who’ll both be playing on Sundays. Couple that line with one of the Pac-10’s best defensive backfields, and few teams will be able to throw the ball with success.

Cal has the speed and the athletes, like it usually does on both sides of the ball. However, this year’s squad also brings a physical demeanor in the trenches that could separate it from those that disappointed under Jeff Tedford in recent years. The Bears are, by no means, USC-good, but if Kevin Riley can finally put it all together under center, they should deliver the school’s third 10-win season this decade.

Matthew Zemek, CFN

Q: 5 Thoughts on the Pac 10.

A: I won’t deny that USC should rate as the favorite in this conference. When one considers the track record established by Pete Carroll and Co. since 2002, it would be hard to rate any other program as the likely earner of a Rose Bowl berth. With Taylor Mays patrolling the secondary and a more experienced offensive line in tow, the Trojans will be a formidable opponent for anyone they play. Safe to say, USC is not a program in decline.

With that said, however—and please, L.A. sports fans, you have to avoid taking this as a personal insult—no team wins everything all the time. The Lakers have not won every NBA title since 1947, the year of the very first NBA World Championship Series (later re-named the NBA Finals). The Dodgers have not won every World Series since moving to Southern California in 1958. (Only Vin Scully has been a constant in DodgerWorld over that period of time.) The Angels needed 41 years to win their first world title. The Rams made only one Super Bowl (XIV) while in L.A., and the Raiders didn’t stick around SoCal long enough to accumulate titles beyond their Super Bowl XVIII conquest. Even the best teams (outside of Los Angeles) eventually miss out on a title. The Yankees? Nine years without a world championship. The Montreal Canadiens? Try 16 years. The Celtics went 22 years without a crown before the 2008 title against Los Lakers. The New England Patriots have been Supe-less over the past four seasons.

Therefore, when I proclaim that Oregon—winner over USC the last time the two schools met in Eugene, and host of this year’s titanic conference tilt—will win the Pac-10 in 2009, one should not view such a prediction as a stinging indictment of USC football. Daring to think that the Trojans will (GASP! HORRORS! GOODNESS GRACIOUS SAKES ALIVE!) go “only” 11-2 this year and finish sixth or seventh in America does not represent a downgrading of that fine program. Picking the Ducks to rise to the seat of Left Coast leadership is little more than an acknowledgment that all good things must come to an end. If there was a season in which a really good USC team was nevertheless poorly positioned to make (yet) another Pac-10 title defense, this is it. Oregon’s skill-position studs and overall quickness will give UO the chance to exploit SC’s young and unproven linebacking corps. If Trojans-Ducks comes down to a field goal, SC’s weakness in the kicking game could rear its ugly head.

Oregon will need a mighty effort to subdue its persistent nemesis and rival, but again, just spare any and all talk about the presence of an anti-USC agenda. Pete Carroll ranks at the top of this correspondent’s list of premier college football coaches; Oregon simply seems to be good enough to exceed the Trojans for one solitary season, nothing more, due to the convergence of several key factors.

The laws of averages affect all of us. Not even the USC juggernaut is immune, and Oregon is the team that stands to benefit after seven seasons of uninterrupted dominance by the Trojan Empire of College Football.

Hunter Ansley, Publisher, DraftZoo.com

Q: 5 Thoughts on the Pac 10.

A: If there’s one thing everyone should have learned about USC by now, it’s that no matter the personnel losses, they’re still the class of the Pac 10.  And yet here we are again -- it’s posh to doubt the 2009 version of the Trojans. 

But what’s so different about this year than 2003.  Both Trojan’s squads entered the fall with some defensive stars lost (2003 team had just lost Troy Polamalu).  Both have questions at quarterback (2003 was Leinarts’s first year at the helm and some were thinking Brandon Hance would get the start).  And both have strong backfields (remember Reggie Bush and Lendale White?).  Joe McKnight is still looking to break out, and there are only about 100 other backs looking to play Lendale to his Reggie.  Then there’s the fact that the Trojans have two former number one overall recruits playing quarterback.  Whether it’s Aaron Corp, Matt Barkley, or even Mitch Mustain that ends up leading Pete Carrol’s squad, having three names like that sounds like pretty good odds to me.

Yes Oregon looks great on paper, and Cal should be improved with Kevin Riley in his third year under Jeff Tedford and a hopefully healthy Jahvid Best.  But it’d be a pure pipe dream to believe that someone can actually knock USC from their perch until it actually happens.  This team has already proven time and again that they can drop a conference game and still earn the trip to the Rose Bowl.

Jon Miller, Publisher, HawkeyeNation.com

Q: 5 Thoughts on the Pac 10.

A: This appears to be one of the most wide open BCS leagues in the nation.  I believe that Oregon, Cal and USC each have a shot at winning this thing, and I don't believe USC to be the favorite.  First off, they have a lot of talent to replace on defense and their quarterback situation is as unsettled as it's been since Pete Carroll got things rolling back in 2002.  Next, this is the year their road schedule is brutal.  Stanford and UCLA appear to be on the come, as does Arizona, except they have to replace some key offensive linemen and Willie Tuitama at quarterback.  A coaching change in Washington has Huskies fans feeling optimistic.  Week to week, this should be a fun league to watch, as it will be unpredictable.