Pac 10 Has Quality Beyond USC
October 14, 2009
There’s a perception nationally that the Pac 10 is a weak football conference beyond USC.
\But I don’t think that’s right. Sure USC has won the championship the last seven years, I can understand the reasoning. Then I watch the games and know I’m seeing some quality competition.
Stanford beats UCLA in a meaningful game, but then Oregon State wallops Stanford. Oregon opens with a loss to Boise State but now looks good.
I recall that a couple of years ago Oregon was headed to the BCS championship game until quarterback Dennis Dixon was injured. Without that injury Dixon might have won the Heisman trophy.
USC has lost conference games to underdog teams in recent years – UCLA, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington – representing a blemish on Coach Pete Carroll’s otherwise sparkling resume. Three of those losses were on the road, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
Teams in the same conference know the conference leader best of all. They’re more familiar with the personnel and the history than an Auburn or a Virginia Tech.
USC lost at Washington this season the week after it defeated Ohio State USC lost at Oregon State last season the week after it defeated Ohio State.
I asked Pete Carroll why USC doesn’t avoid conference road games the week after it plays a major intersectional opponent. After all, a letdown following a big game is natural.
Carroll said that’s a good idea but schedules are made many years in advance so it won’t be easy to implement that policy.
USC has a tough schedule this season. Six of its first nine games are on the road and they play most of their big games away.
They’re at Notre Dame Saturday, then home against Oregon State and on Halloween night at Oregon. If Oregon defeats Washington October 24 it will play USC with a chance to take control of the conference race.
USC gets the highest-rated recruits nationally and is equipped to play a tough schedule. But being challenged week after week will test the depth of any team.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley subscribes to the theory that the Pac 10 is a strong football conference. And he’s not alone.
As for UCLA, Rick Neuheisel is making inroads in recruiting. His talent has been upgraded in the last year, but it’s tough to climb in the conference.
UCLA is far more competitive than a year ago but lost to Stanford and Oregon the last two Saturdays. That’s a measure of how good the Pac 10 is.