Monday, November 14, 2011
Pac-12 is a bunch of homebodies
By ESPN.com staff
Oregon defeated a top five team on the road for the first time in school history at Stanford on Saturday, but road warriors are few and far between in the Pac-12.
Two teams are a perfect 5-0 at home: Oregon and Arizona State. Can you guess what differentiates the elite team from the one that is crumbling?
The Sun Devils are 1-4 on the road, one of eight conference teams that have won one or zero road games this season.
That's terrible. And it's the reason the conference has become so top-heavy. Stanford, Oregon and USC are a combined 12-2 on the road. Everyone else is 9-34, with three of those wins coming from Utah -- two in nonconference play.
Playing on the road is always tough, but this is sort of ridiculous.
For comparison, three Big 12 teams have one or fewer road wins, five from the ACC and six from the SEC and Big Ten.
Last year, with just 10 teams, five conference teams won three or more road games. In 2009, six won three or more on the road.
In 2008, it was much like this season. Six teams won just one or zero road games.
A team cannot be good if it can't win on the road. It's a fact.
If you want to win a national title, you have win all your games, which means five or six road games a year. If you want to win the conference, you probably can't afford to lose more than two conference road games out of four or five.
Want to be a "good" team. Go .500 on the road. In a 12-game season, with six at home and six on the road, a 3-3 road record combined with a 5-1 home record provides a solid 8-4 season. With a bowl win, that could mean a top-25 ranking.
That's what the Pac-12 needs more of: More teams spread throughout the top-25. More 8-4, less 6-6.
The conference has consistently produced top-10 teams over the past decade. But elite depth has been elusive. Too many programs have been hanging out in the muddled middle.
Part of this is playing nine conference games, which adds an extra road game every other year. Part of this is a willingness to play tough road nonconference games.
Still, when Arizona State is 3-8 on the road over the past two seasons, and California is 2-7 and UCLA is 2-9, you have to wonder about the mental makeup of three prominent programs.