The Pac 10 is bowled over
Jeff Sagarin had the Pac 10 rated as the top conference in college football. The final BCS standings placed five programs, half the conference, among the nation’s top 25. Those representatives marked the most of any league, and the feeling was that long awaited respect had finally been earned. But after posting a dismal 2-5 postseason record, all is short-lived, and the league’s reputation must be rebuilt from scratch.
There were two big questions entering the bowl season, but there obviously should have been more. Forget the worry of USC not being motivated enough to play in a December bowl. Forget the embarrassment of bowl selection, when UCLA becomes a postseason choice after posting just three conference wins. The bigger questions should have surrounded Oregon State, Oregon, California and Arizona, who could not seize the opportunity to place the Trojans in the shadows of themselves.
Oregon won the Pac 10, and Arizona was in the hunt. Each was given the opportunity to announce their arrivals and repel speculation that they simply reaped the benefits of USC falling off. They failed. Regardless of a Pac 10 crown and victories over the conference’s longtime power, with the bowl season nearing its end, the Trojans are still viewed as the league’s premiere program. It’s still “USC and the 9 dwarfs”.
Oregon allowed Ohio State and the Big 10 to finally break through and capture the Rose Bowl, something USC has defended and denied for an entire decade. Arizona, clad in their white uniforms of surrender, were embarrassed by Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, which was traditionally a competitive contest between the Pac 10 and Big 12, until this paddling occurred. The losses by both Cal and Stanford were foreseeable, with each playing without key roster participants. But for Oregon State, with a 5-game bowl win streak now snapped, there was no excuse for the collapse against BYU.
Seventy percentage of the conference went bowling, and fifty percent failed. This underachievement will be remembered and carried throughout the offseason, and reflect in the earliest polls. Don’t cry foul or “east coast bias”. Respect was in our grasp, and the Pac 10 allowed it to slip through its fingers.