While the ACC and Big East have made a story out of losing in the first couple weeks of the season, out west the Pac-10 has been making some headlines with some notable wins. Should college football fans start to recognize the Pac-10 as a national power this season?
The latest Sagarin rankings in USA Today have the Pac-10 ranked second among all college football conferences behind only the SEC. Oregon continues to look overpowering on offense by outscoring their opponents 189-13 and outgaining them in total yards, 1,835-580. The Ducks have won on the road in SEC country, against Tennessee. Arizona has scored the conference’s best win in the early weeks, knocking off top-ten Iowa Saturday night. Stanford is off to a 3-0 start after a demolishing of Wake Forest 68-24, and quarterback Andrew Luck has already thrown ten touchdowns. And don’t look now, but Lane Kiffin and USC are 3-0 with a pair of road victories.
But the Pac-10 has taken some hits as well in the first three weeks of the season. Oregon State came up short against TCU in a hard-fought game to open the season in Dallas. Arizona State took a loss at Wisconsin and Washington, led by the heavily hyped quarterback Jake Locker, was defeated at home by Nebraska. Washingotn State, not that many were expecting much from them, have also had a struggle against FCS opponent Montana State. So before Pac-10 boosters start pumping their chests out to the rest of the college football landscape, there is still something to prove.
The Pac-10 was 2-5 in last year’s bowl season, with the two victories coming from USC (against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl) and UCLA (against Temple in the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C.). The last time a school other than USC won a BCS game came in 2002 when Oregon beat Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. This is a conference that is waiting for someone to step up on the big stage, and with USC prohibited from post-seaon play all hopes may rest on the shoulders of the Ducks.
Oregon, even wihtout Jeremiah Masoli, has not lost a step, but they have a way to go before being considered a legitimate BCS championship game candidate. A win in Tennessee is a nice feat, but not quite what it used to be due to the state of the Vols. Wins over New Mexico and Portland State do little to prove much of anything. A pair of prime-time conference matchups could tell us more about these Ducks, though. This weekend Oregon travels to Arizona State for a tough test. After that is another prime-time game at home against Stanford. Andrew Luck and company will be fierce competitors with Jim Harbaugh finding ways to get his team to excel.
Hey, at least Utah is coming into the conference next season. The Utes have two BCS bowl victories under their belt, which is more than any other Pac-10 school eligible for post-season play this year can say.