Thursday, June 30, 2011
Before Pac-12 day: Best Pac-10 teams
By Ted Miller
On Friday, the Pac-10 becomes the Pac-12, and life as we all have known it ends.
But before we move on as a 12-team league, let's look back at the best of a 10-team league.
On Wednesday, we looked at the best players. Thursday, it's the best teams.
We've listed 12 teams because that's the new magic number (Arizona fans, see if you can guess who came in 13th).
Again, no team before 1978 -- when Arizona and Arizona State joined the Pac-8 -- was considered.
1. 1991 Washington: The Huskies finished 12-0 and split the national title with Miami.
Best player: Defensive tackle Steve Emtman won the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award.
Point differential: Washington outscored its foes 495-115.
Best win: Whipped Michigan 34-14 in Rose Bowl. Wolverines finished ranked sixth.
Comment: Four wins over teams that finished ranked in the final top 25, including road victories at No. 15 Nebraska and at No. 8 California. Featured one of the great defenses in college football history, yielding just 9.2 points and 67.1 rushing yards per game. Eight Huskies earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.
2. 2004 USC: While the NCAA and BCS have nixed it in their own ways, the Trojans finished 13-0 and won the national title on the field.
Best player: Quarterback Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy.
Point differential: USC outscored its foes 496-169.
Best win: Crushed Oklahoma 55-19 in the national title game.
Comment: Basically a push for dominance with 1991 Washington. Beat four teams that finished ranked in the top 25, including the bludgeoning of Oklahoma. Eight Trojans earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors.
3. 2003 USC: The Trojans finished 12-1 and split the national title with LSU. Their only loss came in triple overtime at California.
Best player: Receiver Mike Williams was a consensus All-American.
Point differential: 534-239.
Best win: The completely dominant 23-0 victory at then-No. 6 Auburn in the opener set the tone for the season -- and caused many Pac-10 fans to question how good these highly rated SEC teams really are.
Comment: The Trojans finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in both polls but lost out playing in the BCS title game because of the computer polls. LSU fans have been thanking the computers for that glitch ever since.
4. 2005 USC: A 34-game winning streak came to an end with a nail-biting loss to Texas in the national title game. The Trojans finished 12-1.
Best player: Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy.
Point differential: 638-297.
Best win: The 34-31 win at Notre Dame -- the "Bush Push" game -- was one of the all-time greats.
Comment: Perhaps the best collection of offensive players in the history of college football: Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Dwayne Jarrett, Ryan Kalil, Sam Baker and Taitusi Lutui earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors. And don't forget LenDale White, Winston Justice, Steve Smith and Dominique Byrd.
5. 1978 USC: Finished 12-1 and split national title with Alabama. Lost to Arizona State, 20-7.
Best player: Charles White was a unanimous All-American.
Point differential: 318-153
Best win: A 24-14 win over the team that "claimed" the other half of the national title.
Comment: Split national title -- coaches liked the Trojans; AP the Crimson Tide -- despite a decisive 24-14 USC at Alabama. So much for head to head.
6. 1979 USC: Finished 11-0-1 and No. 2 behind Alabama. Tied Stanford 21-21.
Best player: Charles White won the Heisman Trophy.
Point differential: 389-171
Best win: The 17-16 win over Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, in which White ran for a record 247 yards, including the game-winning touchdown with just more than a minute remaining.
Comment: Team featured four future College Football Hall of Famers in White, Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lot and Brad Budde. By the way, THAT undefeated, untied Alabama team was really, really good: Outscored foes 383-67. So no sour grapes on that one.
7. 2001 Oregon: The Ducks finished 11-1 and ranked No. 2 in both polls. The only loss was 49-42 versus Stanford (a really, really weird game, if you recall).
Best player: Quarterback Joey Harrington finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Point differential: 412-256.
Best win: A 38-16 win over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl.
Comment: The Fiesta Bowl victory caused plenty of folks to bemoan the Nebraska-Miami matchup in the BCS title game, considering Colorado had blown out Nebraska the final weekend of the regular season. As for the Stanford loss, the typically straightforward AP noted the game had "everything but aliens landing on the Autzen Stadium turf."
8. 1984 Washington: Finished 11-1 and ranked No. 2 behind BYU. Lost to USC ,16-7.
Best player: Defensive tackle Ron Holmes was a consensus All-American.
Point differential: 352-145
Best win: Shocked Oklahoma 28-17 in the Orange Bowl. Sooners finished ranked sixth.
Comment: A controversial season. Before the Orange Bowl, Sooners coach Barry Switzer lobbied hard for the winner to be declared the national champion. As it was, BYU won the national title after beating a bad Michigan team in the Holiday Bowl. Does anyone believe BYU was better than the Huskies? No.
9. 2010 Oregon: The Ducks finished 12-1 and No. 3 in both polls, losing the national title game to Auburn.
Best player: Running back LaMichael James finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Point differential: 611-243
Best win: The Ducks handed Stanford its only loss, 52-31, after trailing 21-3 early. Cardinal finished ranked No. 4.
Comment: An innovative, exciting team to watch, one that played faster than perhaps any big-time college team in history.
10. 1996 Arizona State: Finished 11-1 and ranked No. 4 in both polls. Lost Rose Bowl -- and potential national championship -- to Ohio State, 20-17.
Best player: Quarterback Jake Plummer finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Point differential: 488-216
Best win: The Sun Devils trounced top-ranked, two-time defending national champion Nebraska, 19-0.
Comment: The Sun Devils lost one of the most dramatic Rose Bowls, when the swashbuckling Plummer was out-swashbuckled by Joe Germaine, who was raised in Arizona as an ASU fan.
11. 2000 Washington: The Huskies finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3, their only loss coming at No. 7 Oregon. They beat Purdue 34-24 in the Rose Bowl.
Best player: Marques Tuiasosopo finished eighth in the Heisman Trophy voting.
Point differential: 387-270
Best win: Beat Miami, 34-29. Hurricanes finished ranked No. 2.
Comment: This is not the most talented team on the list. In fact, some have rated the 2000 Oregon State team -- see below -- ahead of the Huskies. And based on NFL results, the Beavers were more talented than the Huskies. But head to head matters, and the win over Miami is better than anything Oregon State did.
12. 2000 Oregon State: The Beavers finished 11-1 and ranked No. 4, their only loss a 33-30 decision at Washington, which finished ranked No. 3.
Best player: Running back Ken Simonton was first-team All-Pac-10.
Best win: Beat Oregon 23-13 in Civil War. Oregon finished ranked seventh in the coaches poll.
Comment: One or two more plays at Washington, and the Beavers would have played for the national title. And they, by the way, were more talented than the Oklahoma team that did win the title. Notable Beavers: Ken Simonton, Chad Ochocinco (the Chad Johnson), T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Chris Gibson, DeLawrence Grant, LaDairis Jackson, Dennis Weathersby and Eric Manning. They spanked Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl.