Tuesday, September 6, 2011
'Measuring Stick Week' for Pac-12
By Ted Miller
The week that wasn't. The week that might be.
Welcome to "Measuring Stick Week" for the Pac-12, which comes right on the heels of "Mostly Laid an Egg Week" in the Pac-12.
- The conference went 8-4 when 12-0 seemed perfectly reasonable to expect.
- Oregon lost its marquee showdown with LSU. The nation is saying it was because the Tigers bullied the Ducks with their super-superior angry robot players. Seems completely reasonable, of course, to ignore four Ducks turnovers and 12 Ducks penalties. Sure that had nothing to do with it.
- Oregon State lost at home to Sacramento State, which is not only an FCS team, it's a mediocre FCS team.
- UCLA lost at Houston, a team it pushed around a year ago.
- Colorado lost the battle on the line of scrimmage at Hawaii.
- Even the teams that did win didn't do so with distinction: Washington needed a late interception to beat Eastern Washington. Utah most certainly did NOT just barely beat Montana State -- that's for you angry Twitter sorts -- but it looked terrible on offense against Montana State. USC went scoreless in the second half and also needed a late interception to beat Minnesota.
- And in, "Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?" news, Washington State's price for manhandling Idaho State was quarterback Jeff Tuel's clavicle.
One word: Yuck.
But if you lay an egg, you can always pick it up and make an omelet. (Preferably with real butter. And some cheese.)
Measuring Stick Week offers plenty of opportunities for redemption. Or, if you want to be a negative-Nelly, for a precipitous slide in national esteem. (Here's a quick preview of the games).
- Instead of FCS foes, games include matchups with three ranked teams from other AQ conferences -- two on the road -- and two games against foes from non-AQ conferences that had double-digit wins in 2010 (Nevada and Hawaii).
- There are two conference games, though only one counts as a conferences game. Utah's visit to USC not only counts in the standings, it will be widely viewed as an early measure of the Utes' place in the conference pecking order. California's visit to Colorado stands as a nonconference game -- it was scheduled before expansion -- and is all about the Buffs hoping to redeem themselves for the disaster in Berkeley last year.
- Stanford and UCLA are heavy favorites against Duke and San Jose State, respectively, but Stanford is traveling 2,800 miles to Durham, while it's never certain what the Bruins will do.
- Can Washington State improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2005 at home against UNLV without its starting QB?
Pac-12 teams are underdogs in only two of these nonconference games: Arizona and Oregon State (by two and three TDs, respectively). That means the conference needs to go at least 6-2 to hold serve. That means Arizona State -- a 7.5-point favorite even though Missouri is ranked -- and Washington need to beat good teams at home. And Oregon, Stanford, Washington State and UCLA need to take care of business against double-digit underdogs.
And it wouldn't hurt if the Wildcats and Beavers at least distinguished themselves with competitive performances on the road.
The reaction to the Pac-12's first weekend of games was bad from the national media. You can see some here. And here.
You might find it unfair that few took note of the SEC suffering a few embarrassing performances, too, with Georgia getting outclassed by Boise State in a glorified home game and Ole Miss going down at home to BYU and Auburn just escaping Utah State. But that conference, as its adherents are known to point out, has won five consecutive national titles.
The Pac-12 needs more teams in the Top 25 to burnish its image. If Arizona State and Washington win this week, the Sun Devils will be in and the Huskies will be close. The Utah-USC winner will be ranked, while the Wildcats would be too if they pull the upset.
College football is often more of a beauty contest than a game contested on the field of play. The Pac-12 made big news this offseason by getting rich. That's why it has so many suitors now who want a piece of the action.
Being rich makes you attractive in our society.
But the Pac-12 would rather be George Clooney -- rich, good looking -- rather than T. Boone Pickens -- rich and wrinkled.
It figures to become one or the other when the smoke clears after Measuring Stick Week.