Pac-10 second-half preview

October, 21, 2009
10/21/09
10:06
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

If the Pac-10 decides to make sense, then the conference race will be decided on Oct. 31 when USC visits Oregon on Halloween.

 
 Kyle Terada/US Presswire
 As Kevin Riley goes, so goes Cal.
Trick or treat!

Or will there be some tricks that prevent us from tying a neat bow around the race before we get to November? Probably.

Oregon or USC certainly will have plenty of work ahead before either could claim the title, though it's difficult to predict which darkhorse might insinuate itself into the race: Arizona? Oregon State? Arizona State?

Imagine a cluster of three or four teams with two losses atop the conference having to work through the abstruse Pac-10 tiebreaker. Yucky and intriguing at the same time.

And what about everyone else? Seven teams have three or four wins. Only Washington State's bowl hopes seem impossible.

The key team might be California. I know. Here I go again.

But seriously. The Bears have already played and lost -- badly -- to USC and Oregon. But, other than UCLA, which the Bears beat last weekend, everybody else still has to play the Bears.

It's not insane to think Cal might dust itself off and roll to a 10-2 record. Nor is it insane to imagine the Bears losing five or six games.

How the Bears rebound could mean the difference between a gaggle of teams going 5-7 or 6-6 or 7-5.

Cal's fate is probably tied to how well quarterback Kevin Riley performs. In four wins, he's been good-to-solid. In two losses, not so good-to-solid.

Who's a candidate for eight or nine wins, which might be enough for a final national ranking?

Arizona, Arizona State, Cal and Oregon State are all 4-2. Those are the best bets.

Of those four, Oregon State might have the toughest path -- four of the last six are on the road, including visits to USC and Oregon.

Arizona plays three of its final four on the road, concluding the season with visits to rival Arizona State and USC.

Can Arizona State create a home-field advantage? Can it generate some consistent offense to complement a strong defense? If so, the Sun Devils play Cal, USC and Arizona at home down the stretch, and each of those games could have significant ramifications should they prevail.

And how might Stanford (4-3) and Washington (3-4) fit in? Have those two teams run their course, or might they have more to say?

Moreover, when the smoke clears, will the Pac-10 have a team contending for the national title? Or, if not, might the conference earn a second BCS bowl berth with an at-large invitation for the first time since 2002?

Ah, those are the questions that will answer themselves in the weeks ahead.

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