Pac-12: Oklahoma Sooners

Position U: Running backs

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
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Who really deserves to claim the title of "Running Back U" for the 2000s?

1. Arkansas (104 points)
In perhaps the biggest upset at any position, Arkansas can call itself “Running Back U” for the 2000s. Certainly Darren McFadden played the biggest role in the Razorbacks’ claim, but he got an assist from Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis. Those former backfield mates are among six Arkansas running backs who have been drafted since 2001, helping the Hogs barely edge Oklahoma for the top spot.

Award winners: McFadden, Walker (2006, 2007), Camp (2007).
Consensus All-Americans: McFadden (2006, 2007).
First-team all-conference: Fred Talley (2002), Cedric Cobbs (2003), Darren McFadden (2005, 2006, 2007).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jones (2008), McFadden (2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Cobbs (Round 4, 2004), Knile Davis (Round 3, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Hillis (Round 7, 2008), Kiero Small (Round 7, 2014).

2. Oklahoma (102 points)
When someone like Adrian Peterson has been on your campus, you have to start there when discussing Oklahoma running backs. But one of the main reasons the Sooners racked up such a considerable point total is the Big 12’s unusual practice of honoring fullbacks on its all-conference team. In addition to the Petersons and DeMarco Murrays, there are also several blocking backs included in the Sooners’ 12 all-conference running backs who made our list.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Peterson (2004).
First-team all-conference: Quentin Griffin (2002), Peterson (2004, 2005, 2006), J.D. Runnels (2005), Brody Eldridge (2007), DeMarco Murray (2008, 2010), Matt Clapp (2008), Trey Millard (2011, 2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Peterson (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Griffin (Round 4, 2003), Murray (Round 3, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Runnels (Round 6, 2006), Patrick (Round 7, 2008), Trey Millard (Round 7, 2014).

3. Alabama (100 points)
Arkansas’ Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams had better pick it up this season, or the Alabama train is going to roll to the top spot. The Crimson Tide once again has one of the nation’s most talented backfields with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry set to join the likes of Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy as top point producers from Alabama.

Award winners: Ingram, Heisman (2009); Richardson, Walker (2011).
Consensus All-Americans: Ingram (2009), Richardson (2011).
First-team all-conference: Kenneth Darby (2005), Ingram (2009), Richardson (2011), Lacy (2012), Yeldon (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Ingram (2011), Richardson (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Le’Ron McClain (Round 4, 2007), Glen Coffee (Round 3, 2009), Lacy (Round 2, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ahmaad Galloway (Round 7, 2003), Darby (Round 7, 2007), Brad Smelley (Round 7, 2012).

4. Auburn (86 points)
Auburn hasn’t been as flashy as its in-state rival -- the Tigers don’t have a single award winner or consensus All-American in the 2000s -- but few schools have been as consistent at developing solid tailbacks. Perhaps the most memorable names are the stars from the undefeated 2004 team -- Ronnie Brown and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams -- but Rudi Johnson, Kenny Irons, Ben Tate and Tre Mason all made big impacts at Auburn, as well.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Johnson (2000), Williams (2003, 2004), Brown (2004), Irons (2005, 2006), Michael Dyer (2011), Mason (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Brown (2005), Williams (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Heath Evans (Round 3, 2001), Johnson (Round 4, 2001), Irons (Round 2, 2007), Tate (Round 2, 2010), Mason (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jay Prosch (Round 6, 2014).

4. Wisconsin (86 points)
Montee Ball is Wisconsin’s only major award winner and consensus All-America tailback from the 2000s, but the Badgers have an impressive tradition of turning out 1,000-yard rushers. Among the program’s top producers from this era are 2001 first-round pick Michael Bennett, Brian Calhoun and Anthony Davis, among others. Ball posted huge yardage and touchdown totals in 2011 and 2012 -- which explains why he was a two-time All-American and won the 2012 Doak Walker Award -- but it’s the run of consistency at running back that makes Wisconsin a producer of top rushers.

Award winners: Ball, Walker (2012).
Consensus All-Americans: Ball (2011, 2012).
First-team all-conference: Davis (2001), Calhoun (2005), P.J. Hill (2006), John Clay (2009), Ball (2011, 2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Bennett (2001).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Calhoun (Round 3, 2006), Ball (Round 2, 2013), James White (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Davis (Round 7, 2005), Bradie Ewing (Round 5, 2012).

6. Oregon (82 points)
Although the Ducks have ranked among the nation’s top programs over the past half-decade, LaMichael James’ 2010 Doak Walker Award is the only major award that an Oregon player has won at any position in the 2000s. James is the Ducks’ top point producer out of the backfield in recent years, but they also won points with backs like Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith before Chip Kelly’s rushing attack turned Oregon into the offensive juggernaut that we see today.

Award winners: James, Walker (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: James (2010), Kenjon Barner (2012).
First-team all-conference: Smith (2002), Jonathan Stewart (2007), James (2010, 2011), Barner (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Stewart (2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Morris (Round 2, 2002), Smith (Round 4, 2003), LaMichael James (Round 2, 2012), De’Anthony Thomas (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Barner (Round 6, 2013).

7. USC (78 points)
Reggie Bush was actually a two-time All-American, but we aren’t factoring the 2004 nod he received because that was as an all-purpose player, not a running back. Nonetheless, Bush’s standout 2005 season was the main points driver as the Trojans cracked the top 10 largely because of the former No. 2 overall NFL pick’s accomplishments. It bears mentioning, however, that USC has already had eight running backs drafted in the 2000s.

Award winners: Bush, Heisman (2005), Camp (2005), Walker (2005).
Consensus All-Americans: Bush (2005).
First-team all-conference: Bush (2004, 2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: Bush (2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Justin Fargas (Round 3, 2003), LenDale White (Round 2, 2006), Joe McKnight (Round 4, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Malaefou Mackenzie (Round 7, 2003), David Kirtman (Round 5, 2006), Allen Bradford (Round 6, 2011), Stanley Havili (Round 7, 2011).

8. Penn State (72 points)
Larry Johnson’s huge 2002 season accounts for much of Penn State’s point production -- he generated 52 points between winning three national awards, becoming a consensus All-American, winning first-team all-conference honors and getting drafted in the 2003 first round -- but the Nittany Lions have had five running backs drafted and Evan Royster also won all-conference honors in 2009.

Award winners: Johnson, Camp (2002), Maxwell (2002), Walker (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Johnson (2002).
First-team all-conference: Johnson (2002), Royster (2009).
NFL first-round draft picks: Johnson (2003).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Omar Easy (Round 4, 2002), Michael Robinson (Round 4, 2006), Tony Hunt (Round 3, 2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Royster (Round 6, 2011).

9. Oklahoma State (70 points)
There’s nothing flashy about Oklahoma State’s point production here. No national awards, and just Kendall Hunter among its All-Americans. But the Cowboys have been outstanding at producing all-conference running backs, with Hunter (twice) and Tatum Bell ranking among their eight backs who made the coaches’ first team.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Hunter (2010.
First-team all-conference: Bell (2003), Dantrell Savage (2007), Hunter (2008, 2010), Keith Toston (2009), Bryant Ward (2009, 2010), Joseph Randle (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Bell (Round 2, 2004), Vernand Morency (Round 3, 2005), Hunter (Round 4, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Randle (Round 5, 2013).

10. California (66 points)
Considering how Cal shares a conference with splashy programs like Oregon and USC, perhaps it’s understandable that its success developing tailbacks might fly a bit under the radar. But just look at the Bears’ résumé, starting with Marshawn Lynch, Jahvid Best and J.J. Arrington. There have been some enormously productive tailbacks who got their start in Berkeley.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Arrington (2004).
First-team all-conference: Adimchinobe Echemandu (2003), Arrington (2004), Lynch (2006), Justin Forsett (2007), Best (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Lynch (2007), Best (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Arrington (Round 2, 2005), Shane Vereen (Round 2, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Echemandu (Round 7, 2004), Forsett (Round 7, 2008).

10. Virginia Tech (66 points)
Frank Beamer’s Hokies are another bunch who trotted out productive tailback after productive tailback. Virginia Tech hasn’t won a national award and has only Kevin Jones among its All-America backs, but its list of all-conference backs -- including first-round picks Jones and David Wilson, along with Lee Suggs, Brandon Orr and Ryan Williams -- features some players whose running abilities fit perfectly with Beamer’s winning formula in Blacksburg.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Jones (2003).
First-team all-conference: Suggs (2000), Jones (2003), Orr (2006), Williams (2009), Wilson (2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jones (2004), Wilson (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Suggs (Round 4, 2003), Williams (Round 2, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jarrett Ferguson (Round 7, 2002), Cedric Humes (Round 7, 2006).

REST OF “RUNNING BACK U” RANKINGS
62 -- Boston College; 60 -- Michigan, Ohio State; 58 -- Stanford; 56 -- LSU, Miami; 52 -- Georgia Tech, Oregon State; 50 -- West Virginia; 48 -- BYU; 44 -- Arizona, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, TCU; 42 -- Texas; 40 -- Clemson, Iowa, Nebraska; 36 -- Kansas State, Rutgers; 32 -- Georgia, Minnesota; 28 -- Florida State, Louisville, Tennessee, UCLA; 26 -- Illinois, Maryland, Syracuse; 24 -- Virginia; 20 -- Colorado, North Carolina; 18 -- Baylor, Mississippi State, Wake Forest; 16 -- Florida, Northwestern, Washington, Washington State; 14 -- Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas Tech; 12 -- Iowa State, Kentucky; 10 -- Kansas, N.C. State, Texas A&M; 8 -- Missouri, Utah; 6 -- Arizona State, Duke, Indiana, Notre Dame; 2 -- Vanderbilt

Pac-12 lunchtime links

November, 6, 2013
11/06/13
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His subtle obsession with uniqueness troubled all his dreams.
Last year, the chant of "We're No. 2! We're No. 2!" was heard in both Pac-12 and Big 12 country.

That other conference, however much it makes folks grumble, gets to be No. 1 until somebody dethrones it. But the debate among Pac-12 and Big 12 fans for second place was a spirited one.

The Big 12 just clipped the Pac-12 in the ESPN.com Stats & Info power rankings by 0.6 points after going 2-1 versus the Pac-12 in bowl game, with Baylor whipping UCLA in the Holiday Bowl and Texas outlasting Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl.

Of course, Oregon, the Pac-12 North runner-up behind Stanford, blew out Kansas State, the Big 12 champion, in the Fiesta Bowl, and Arizona beat Oklahoma State in the regular season -- by 21 points -- to even the conferences' overall mark at 2-2. So even then there was some wiggle room.

The Pac-12 went 4-4 overall in bowl games, winning two BCS bowls, while the Big 12 went 4-5, losing its only BCS bowl. Both conferences finished with three Top 25 teams, but the Pac-12 had two teams in the top-seven compared to no top-10 teams for the Big 12.

Like we said: It was close. And highly subjective to judge.

This is all prelude to the new Pac-12 bowl agreements, which haven't yet been officially announced but we can strongly conjecture upon.

What the Big 12 could always counter in bowl matchups with the Pac-12 is a lower seed. The past three Alamo Bowls matched the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Pac-12 team against the No. 2 non-BCS bowl team from the Big 12. The Holiday Bowl featured the No. 2 Pac-12 team against the No. 4 team from the Big 12.

(There's even a Pac-12 counter to this, with the Pac-12 sending two teams to BCS bowl games the past three years and the Big 12 sending just one during the same span, which thereby evening out the seeds).

Guess what, though? Since the Pac-12 signed on with the Alamo Bowl, the Big 12 is 3-0 against it. Baylor beat Washington in 2012 and Oklahoma State crushed Arizona in 2011.

The new bowl contracts likely will match the No. 1 non-playoff/non-Rose Bowl Pac-12 team vs. the No. 1 non-playoff/non-Sugar Bowl Big 12 team.

Previously, the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Big 12 team played in the Cotton Bowl, which is now part of the College Football Playoff. Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has already commented on the change for his conference.

What does that upgrade mean for the Pac-12?

Well, if we go by teams that played in the Cotton Bowl that means UCLA would have played No. 11 Oklahoma, Washington would have played No. 11 Kansas State and Arizona would have played No. 18 Texas A&M.

Now, these trades aren't exact and aren't always better because bowls have their own selection politics. For example, No. 16 Oklahoma State was ranked higher than Texas A&M in 2011 but the Cotton Bowl preferred a Texas-based team.

Still, this means the bowl competition for the Pac-12 is moving up. It will be a test worth watching.

And the No. 1 non-BCS bowl Big 12 team might like getting out of the Cotton Bowl rotation. The Big 12 has lost nine of the past 10 Cotton Bowls to the SEC, and the lone victory was No. 7 Missouri over No. 25 Arkansas in 2008. Of course, the Tigers are now in the SEC.

By the way, the Big 12 and Pac-12 also appear headed to a matchup in the Buffalo Wild Wings in Sun Devil Stadium -- the Big 12 likely will be replaced by the Big Ten in the Holiday Bowl -- so the conferences will matchup at the top as well as measure each other's depth.

While both conferences would like to move up to No. 1, neither wants to yield the perception of being at least No. 2. The Alamo Bowl will provide a nice annual measuring stick for the two conferences.

Poll: Pac-12's best BCS moment

May, 23, 2013
5/23/13
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On Wednesday, we provided you with our top five Pac-12 BCS moments.

Here's what we wrote (our polls can only included five choices, so if you think Oregon and Stanford both winning BCS bowl games this past year qualifies, go with other):
SportsNation

Best moment for the Pac-12 in the BCS Era?

  •  
    31%
  •  
    6%
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    29%
  •  
    25%
  •  
    9%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,226)

1. USC drubs Oklahoma for the 2004 national title: The 55-19 victory over unbeaten Oklahoma was the most dominant display of the BCS era. It was also the pinnacle of the Trojans' dynasty under Pete Carroll. It's worth noting that future Pac-12 member Utah also whipped Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to finish unbeaten that same year.

2. USC wins "real" national title: In 2003, USC was No. 1 in the AP and coaches polls at season's end. If you had eyes and knew anything about football, it was clear the Trojans were the nation's most talented team on both sides of the football, a notion that was reinforced the following season. Two teams picked by computers played in New Orleans -- most folks outside of Louisiana don't even remember who -- and that forced the Trojans to settle for three-fourths of a national title after dominating Michigan 28-14.

3. The year of the Northwest: After the 2000 season, three teams from the Northwest finished ranked in the AP top 7. Washington beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl and finished third. Oregon State drubbed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and finished fourth. Oregon beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl to finish seventh.

4. Oregon gets left out but finishes No. 2: One of the grand faux paus of the BCS era was Nebraska playing Miami for the 2001 national title. Nebraska was coming off a 62-36 loss to Colorado, but the computers failed to notice, and the Cornhuskers were euthanized by the Hurricanes before halftime. The Ducks would whip that same Colorado team 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl and finish ranked No. 2.

Ah, but as you all know we are not infallible. Not entirely, at least.

So what's your take?

Hope springs in the Pac-12

May, 22, 2013
5/22/13
9:00
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The 2013 season will be the final year of the BCS era.

And there was much rejoicing!

So, what have been the Pac-12 highs and lows of this often confounding system? Thanks for asking!

Best

1. USC drubs Oklahoma for the 2004 national title: The 55-19 victory over unbeaten Oklahoma was the most dominant display of the BCS era. It was also the pinnacle of the Trojans' dynasty under Pete Carroll. It's worth noting that future Pac-12 member Utah also whipped Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to finish unbeaten that same year.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesReggie Bush and USC ran away with the 2004 national title.
2. USC wins "real" national title: In 2003, USC was No. 1 in the AP and Coaches polls at season's end. If you had eyes and knew anything about football, it was clear the Trojans were the nation's most-talented team on both sides of the football, a notion that was reinforced the following season. Two teams picked by computers played in New Orleans -- most folks outside of Louisiana don't even remember who -- and that forced the Trojans to settle for three-fourths of a national title after dominating Michigan 28-14.

3. The year of the Northwest: After the 2000 season, three teams from the Northwest finished ranked in the AP top seven. Washington beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl and finished third. Oregon State drubbed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and finished fourth. Oregon beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl to finish seventh.

4. Oregon gets left out but finishes No. 2: One of the grand faux paus of the BCS era was Nebraska playing Miami for the 2001 national title. Nebraska was coming off a 62-36 loss to Colorado, but the computers failed to notice, and the Cornhuskers were euthanized by the Hurricanes before halftime. The Ducks would whip that same Colorado team 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl and finish ranked No. 2.

5. Oregon and Stanford both win: The 2012-13 bowl season wasn't good to the Pac-12, but Oregon pounded Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl and Stanford beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks finished ranked No. 2 and Stanford was seventh. It was just the second time two Pac-10/12 teams won BCS bowl games in the same season.

Worst

1. Just one BCS national title, lots of frustration: No conference has more legitimate gripes with the BCS system than the Pac-12. Multiple seasons saw the conference have teams skipped over, most notably Oregon in 2001 and USC in 2003 and 2008. And ask California fans about how Texas coach Mack Brown gamed the system in 2004, preventing the Bears from playing in the Rose Bowl.

2. USC's three-peat gets Vince Younged: It's difficult to look at Texas's epic 41-38 win over USC as anything but great college football art -- perhaps the all-time greatest game -- but Trojans fans don't feel that way. The loss prevented USC from claiming three consecutive national titles and, of course, a second BCS crown for the Pac-10/12.

3. Oregon falls short versus Auburn: Oregon looked like a great team and Auburn a team with two great players before the BCS title game after the 2010 season. The Ducks chose a bad time to play one of their worst games of the season, but they still nearly prevailed before being undone by a dramatic game-winning drive from the Tigers.

4. Make a field goal, Stanford: Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson missed three field goals, including a certain game-winner from 35 yards on the last play of regulation, in the Cardinal's 41-38 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2011 season. Williamson also missed from 43 yards in overtime, which set the Cowboys up for the win. Stanford dominated the game, outgaining the Cowboys 590 yards to 412, with a 243-13 edge in rushing.

5. Ducks drop Rose Bowl: Oregon fell flat in Chip Kelly's first BCS bowl game, with the favored Ducks losing to Ohio State 26-17 in the Rose Bowl after the 2009 season. Buckeyes QB Terrelle Pryor had perhaps the best game of his career -- 266 yards passing, 72 rushing -- and the Ducks offense struggled, gaining just 260 yards.

Panic! Oregon tumbles to fourth in ranks

October, 21, 2012
10/21/12
9:15
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BCS standings reaction: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC | Notre Dame

Despite being ranked second in the human polls, Oregon is fourth in the second iteration of the BCS rankings.

Man the battle stations! Launch preemptive attack on East Coast bias!

Easy now. Do not fret. Lots of football left.

And if Oregon finishes 13-0, it still remains a good bet the Ducks would play for the national championship, even if there are three unbeaten teams.

First of all, the SEC title game takes care of one team: Alabama and Florida, ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings, cannot both finish unbeaten. If they end up 12-0, they will meet in the SEC title game. And, no, a 1-loss SEC team won't eclipse an unbeaten team from another AQ conference.

As for No. 3 Kansas State and No. 5 Notre Dame, both have plenty of work ahead, particularly the Fighting Irish, who play at Oklahoma on Saturday. That game is a win-win for Oregon. If Notre Dame wins, Kansas State's best win will tumble in the rankings. If Notre Dame loses, there is one less unbeaten team to worry about.

Kansas State has a number of tough games ahead, including Texas Tech on Saturday. And, folks, the simple reality is Kansas State ran away from a schedule game with Oregon, which is why the Ducks ended up with such a weak nonconference schedule. It's hard to believe pollsters, knowing that, would consider in appreciable numbers ranking 12-0 Kansas State ahead of a 13-0 Oregon.

But Oregon has a far more arduous slate: No. 9 USC on Nov. 3, No. 17 Stanford on Nov. 17 and No. 7 Oregon State on Nov. 24. Then the Ducks would play what figures to be a ranked team in the Pac-12 title game.

That schedule should make up considerable strength of schedule ground for the Ducks. And if they stay ranked No. 2 in the human polls, which is two-thirds of the vote, the odds are strong they will finish ahead of Kansas State or Notre Dame, even if they both remain unbeaten.

Of course, there are variables. What if one or more of these presently highly-ranked Pac-12 teams face plants? Kansas State and Notre Dame have the same issue, by the way.

The bottom line: It's too early to know how this plays out. And, really, Oregon needs to focus on the only thing it can: winning.

As for the rest of the BCS standings: Oregon State is seventh overall and fifth with the computers. The Beavers most certainly are not out of the national title picture if they finish unbeaten. Truth is, the Beavers' strength of schedule ranking could end up better -- far better, in fact -- than Oregon's.

USC is ninth in the standings, behind two one-loss teams: No. 6 LSU and No. 8 Oklahoma. The Trojans are not out of things, particularly if there is only one unbeaten team at season's end.
The Stats & Info gang is once again doing its weekly conference power rankings. And the Big 12 has the early bragging rights, followed by the SEC and then the Pac-12.

The power rankings use a formula that equally weights the rankings from the AP poll and a combination of the available BCS computer rankings. The Big 12, SEC and Pac-12 all rank first, second and third, respectively, in the AP poll and computer rankings.

You can see the complete Stats & Info story here.

As Sharon Katz points out in the article, it's early. And while the Big 12 is 15-2 against teams outside the conference, its teams have only faced three AQ opponents.

Writes Katz:
It should be no surprise that the Pac-12 is in third place after going 6-1 against AQ opponents on Saturday, including four wins by double digits. Pac-12 teams upset three ranked opponents at home (No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 16 Nebraska and No. 18 Oklahoma State) on Saturday and are 17-6 overall in games outside the conference.

The Big 12 has five ranked teams in Oklahoma (5), West Virginia (9), Texas (14), TCU (16) and Kansas State (21). The Pac-12 has five ranked teams in USC (2), Oregon (4), Stanford (21), UCLA (22) and Arizona (24).

The one major difference? The Big 12 is yet to play a ranked opponent. The Pac-12 played four of them in Week 2.

So what do we take from this? Not a whole lot. Especially two weeks into the season. The Pac-12 has faced significantly stiffer competition as a conference and come out ahead in most of those games.

Mailbag: Pac-12 fans happy USC is back?

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
5:30
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Week 2! Let it be better than week one.

Follow the Pac-12 blog on Twitter.

To the notes!

Brenden from Portland writes: Do you get the general feel that PAC12 fans are happy that USC is back? I, for one, am hoping for them to pair up against an SEC team in a BCS bowl and pound them into submission. But I also remember how much I despised USC in their epic run through the early and mid 2Ks.

Ted Miller: Hmm. Don't know, what say you, UCLA fans?

For a lot of folks, USC serves as a Pac-12 villain. It's certainly the conference's longtime historical superpower. Being a superpower doesn't tend to inspire warm feelings. I've received hate mail about USC from fans of just about every Pac-12 team. The Utah folks are even getting into it this fall.

If we polled Pac-12 fans about which program they like the least, I'd guess USC would be No. 1, though Oregon fans are working very hard on changing that, as are the Ducks by winning three championships in a row with a sometimes snarky coach and a look-at-us! way of doing things.

So, I'd say many Pac-12 fans aren't happy to see USC again at the top of the polls.

Of course, there are the sorts who root for their team first and their conference second. I believe this is the right way to think. For the most part. You get a pass on supporting the conference when it's your bitter rival thriving. Still, I found it notable that, based on my unscientific observation, a greater percentage of Alabama fans rooted for Auburn against Oregon in the 2010 national title game than Washington fans rooted for the Ducks.

SEC fans are so obsessed with their recent dominance of college football, that SEC rivalries now come second to conference loyalty (again, for the most part). It was not like that 20 years ago. Many Pac-12 fans think like NFL fans. They root for their team and then to heck with everyone else.

But USC back doing its USC thing does come in handy. For example, when SEC fans come trolling around the Pac-12 Blog, it's certainly nice to be able to say, "Look, we welcome your trash talk, but if you misbehave, we'll 'sic the Trojans on you and you know you don't want that.

"See! You flinched! As I was saying... USC! You did it again. Too funny!"

I think there are plenty of fans who just hate USC and that's all they've got for you. There are others that want their team to win first but that also want their conference to be successful. These folks would like to see a Pac-12 team knock the SEC off its pedestal, and many believe the 2012 Trojans have the best shot to do it of any team in the nation.

As for me, my general feeling is college football is better as national entertainment when traditional powers are relevant. It's more fun when Notre Dame is good, and the Michigan-Ohio State/Texas-Oklahoma games have national implications.

At the end of the day, I suspect most Pac-12 fans would hold their nose and root for USC if it were playing, say, Alabama for the national title on Jan. 7. I don't, however, suspect it would make them "happy."


Kyle from Austin, Texas writes: What do you think of the idea of waiting a few weeks into the season before making the voting for rankings official? Personally, I like all the speculation and arguing over the preseason and early season rankings. However, I've heard some people who think that the official rankings should wait. What's your take? Any good arguments to wait a few weeks?

Ted Miller: The ideal way to do the rankings: 1. Post a preseason top 25; 2. Restart the poll six weeks into the season.

That would allow a pecking order to be established in the preseason by our speculative, projective selves. And then we'd get a do-over based on what actually happened. You'd get nonconference and a handful of conference games to re-stagger things.

I always tell fans to keep their own weekly poll. Only by doing so can you see how difficult it is to maintain a consistent, defensible logic on a weekly basis. You get so many of those: Team A beat team B, and Team B beat Team C, and Team C beat Team A... so how does that go?

Now, you ask, why do we not do polls this way -- waiting until midseason to re-rank. One reason: People love the polls. It's an engrained part of college football. If the AP started doing its poll this way and stopped doing it weekly early in the season, another organization would step in and fill the weekly void.

Some might, by the way, argue that one of the great things about college football is the messiness -- the subjectivity and endless debate that lasts bell-to-bell and often even goes on after a national champion is crowned.


Mark from Goose Creek, S.C., writes: I'm currently stationed in Goose Creek, South Carolina, with the U.S. Navy.This weekend UCLA plays Nebraska at home. A fellow sailor and I have a little going on the game; If my Bruins lose then I have to grow a mustache for 3 weeks, and the same goes for him if the Huskers lose.What do you think my chances will be of not having to grow a filthy stache?Please tell me that there is some hope for me and the Bruins!Much appreciated.

Ted Miller: Mark, I just want to say I always thought Magnum PI rocked the 'stache.

Now, my partner is Pac-12 Blog Awesomeness, you call him "Kevin G-Man Gemmell" is feeling fairly positive over the chances your upper lip stays naked this fall after a Bruins victory. I, unfortunately, watched Nebraska against Southern Miss and couldn't help but whisper out loud, "'Huskers look good."

I think this game could be interesting. And UCLA has been at its best in recent years against marquee nonconference foes, see a home-and-home sweep of Tennessee and a win at Texas. I certainly think there is hope, and I wouldn't be shocked if the Bruins won.

But my belief is your buddies' upper lip will be spared the Ron Jeremy.


Jamie from Beaufort, S.C., writes: Just wanted to know why so many people are impressed with Oregon. They have a great offense but give up 530 yards and 34 points to Arkansas State. Lucky for Oregon that AS turned the ball over three times. Even though Gus is the man, what will happen to the Ducks when they play someone for real!!

Ted Miller: It was 50-10 at halftime. Other than a 72-yard TD pass, Arkansas State had little to no offense in the first half. The Ducks then played backups all of the second half. Every player who was not hurt or isn't redshirting played.

When Oregon needs its defense for four quarters, it will be there. Promise.


Jeff from Las Vegas writes: Ted, Can you explain why you have Oklahoma ranked ahead of Oregon?

Ted Miller: My justification would be that I don't write too much into Oklahoma's poor performance on the road at UTEP or into Oregon's dominant performance at home versus Arkansas State.

It's one game against an overmatched foe. Sometimes those are blowouts for the favorite. And sometimes the favorite futzes around.

That said: I'm typically more reactive in my rankings. If I had a do-over, I would have reversed the order as many voters did.


Dexter from Hollywood, Calif., writes: The other day you wrote of Colorado's week-one performance, "It was outgained 298 yards to 245 but, most notably, outrushed 125 yards to 58. Fifty-eight! The Buffs, trying to become a physical team as they were during the program's heyday, rushed for 2.0 yards per carry. Yuck."Your choice of stats exaggerates the yuckiness of CU's rushing attack. For no defensible reason the NCAA's official boxscores deduct yards lost on sacks from team rushing yardage. Colorado State sacked Jordon Webb five times for 30 yards on Saturday, but we all know sacks by definition are passing plays. So, although the official boxscore said Colorado rushed for 58 yards on 29 carries (for a 2.2 yards per carry), more accurately they rushed for 88 yards on 24 carries (for a 3.7 YPC). That's still not good, but it's way better than what the official numbers suggest.

Ted Miller: Duly noted.

Is it too late for me to make an observation about the Buffs' pass protection?


Jason from Salt Lake City writes: You did a write up last year I think about the best places to eat/stay/etc according to locals. I'm heading to Tempe in a few weeks. Where can I find the AZ St article?

Ted Miller: You can find all the Pac-12 teams here.

And maybe some of you can help Jason out with some updated recommendations.


Bob from Seattle writes: As much as I have respected your sports journalism regarding the PAC 12 I want to correct the point you made regarding the negative 4 yard punt mentioned in your OSU vs Wisconsin article today. The punt was not backwards. The punter stands 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The punt went forward but landed behind the line of scrimmage...thus the negative yardage. By the way that punter went on to have a good year punting and is now the starting punter for the St. Louis Rams in the NFL.

Ted Miller: Duly noted No. 2.

And congrats to Johnny Hekker. My guess is a fellow up in Seattle is pretty proud.
In 2000, Oklahoma won the national title without any starters missing a game due to injury. Think about that. Think of all the injuries that your team has suffered through the years that make you go "what if?" I hear you Oregon, 2007.

With that thought, we introduce you to the 2012 USC Trojans -- a team loaded with talent and top-ranked by the Associated Press. If the national title game were to be played Saturday, the Trojans would be solid favorites against anyone.

And, yes, when that's the case, the media hype machine opens its maw wide and spews forth words, pictures and video that function as polarizing, love-hate attention-getters. USC and coach Lane Kiffin don't inspire many neutral reactions across the college football nation. Switzerland, USC is not.

As for talent, USC's is fairly remarkable, particularly on offense. There is no better offensive troika in the nation than quarterback Matt Barkley and receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. More than a handful of NFL teams would trade what they have for what USC has. There are a pair of 1,000-yard rushers behind Barkley: Curtis McNeal, who averaged 6.9 yards per rush in 2011, and Penn State transfer Silas Redd. Four starters are back from an offensive line that was very good last year. And both tight ends are NFL prospects.

[+] EnlargeDevon Kennard
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesThe Trojans were already replacing three starters on the D-line when they likely lost defensive end Devon Kennard for the season.
On defense, the back seven returns intact. And the Trojans welcome back both specialists.

Of course, you've read this before. In fact, this accounting of USC's starting 24 has become redundant. As is the caveat that the Trojans -- limited to 75 scholarships, 10 below the typical limit per NCAA sanctions -- are thin behind that strong starting lineup. In fact, most measures show the Trojans at present with just 71 scholarship players.

Yes, on paper today, this team looks better than anyone. But 12 regular-season games and a Pac-12 championship game lie between the Trojans and a berth in the BCS national title game. Attrition is typically an immutable -- and frustrating -- rule of college football. A redo of Oklahoma in 2000 is probably too much for Trojans fans to expect.

So, starting with a home date with Hawaii on Saturday -- Norm Chow finally getting his chance as a head coach -- the million dollar question is, can USC stay healthy enough to claw its way back to the top of college football? That's the first issue.

The second? How do folks feel about USC's quick return to the national title race despite brutal -- and brutally unfair -- NCAA sanctions that were intended to cripple a dominant power?

In the Pac-12, Oregon fans feel slighted by the USC hype. After all, the Ducks stepped up when the Trojans stepped down and won three consecutive conference titles. Nationally, there's the widespread -- and ignorant -- opinion that USC is one of the nation's corrupt , football-first programs. And down South there's the whispered suspicion that the biggest threat to SEC supremacy is USC.

Wherever you stand, be prepared: If USC piles up wins and impressive performances, the hype churn will only get more frenzied. Just the way it is.

As for depth issues -- so mundane! -- plenty of teams are thinner than the Trojans, whose roster is still full of four- and five-star recruits. But it's not difficult to create worry when fiddling with a black marker and the USC depth chart, particularly on defense.

For example, what if you mark off sophomore George Uko, the Trojans' best and most experienced defensive tackle? The remaining four defensive tackles are all freshmen. The Trojans already were replacing three starters on their defensive line when end Devon Kennard was likely lost for the season due to a torn pectoral. Kennard split time with Wes Horton last year. Any further hit to the D-line could mean trouble.

Or take away one of those talented sophomore linebackers. "Uh-oh" is right. In fact, the only position on defense where there's solid, proven depth is safety.

Things are deeper on offense, though it's worth noting both of Barkley's backups are redshirt freshmen.

As for the schedule, USC stands as a clear favorite -- today -- against all 12 foes, including Oregon on Nov. 3. There's a tough Week 3 road date at Stanford, and then back-to-back visits to Utah (a Thursday night game) and Washington. Those certainly won't be walkovers.

But it's not difficult to look at USC's depth chart -- today -- and look at the schedule and conclude this team will be headed Jan. 7 to South Florida, where it won its last national title in 2004.

The "USC Watch," with all the cheers and jeers it will inspire, begins in earnest this week.

But an observer who can contain his emotions about the polarizing program might want to focus on the Trojans' injury report, which could prove as telling in the early going as the scoreboard.
RodriguezChris Coduto/Icon SMICoaches around the country have implemented parts of Rich Rodriguez's hurry-up spread offense.
Here's an interesting story from Andrea Adelson about "copycat coaches." It's interesting not only because it's a good topic but also, for our purposes, because its central figure is new Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez, arguably the father of the modern day, run-first spread-option attack.

Andrea sent over the Q&A she did with Rodriguez, which we're going to publish in its entirety. It includes lots of background on Rodriguez and his innovative offense, which has been copied by a lot of folks -- yes, including that guy up in Eugene.

Thanks to Andrea for doing all the legwork and writing a nice story.

When was the first time you had coaches asking for pointers on your offense?

Rich Rodriguez: When we went to Tulane, the second year we had a good year, with Shaun King. Then you had some games on TV, and that was the first time after that season that a lot of coaches started coming and visiting and calling. We beat BYU in a bowl game, and Lavell [Edwards] was the head coach, Norm Chow the offensive coordinator. So after the game, they said, ‘Would you come over and talk some football with us? I’m thinking are you kidding me? This is Norm Chow and Lavell Edwards, the passing gurus. I said I’ll do it on one condition. You have to give me some of your information, too. You have to teach me what you’re doing. Norm and I have been friends since that time. It was a great trip.

What was your connection with Tommy Bowden at Tulane?

RR: At Glenville, I went to the Bowden Passing Academy and I always talked football. Tommy had taken an interest in what we were doing. We never worked together when he called me to be offensive coordinator. It was really flattering. I asked, ‘Will you let me run my offense?’ He said sure. Tommy was the first big name, big coach, who took an interest in what we were doing. When we went to Tulane, there were a few folks. At Clemson, we saw a few more. Then at West Virginia, it wasn’t as good the first year we were there, but after that it took off again. I can remember Urban [Meyer], when he first got the Bowling Green job, we were at a coaches convention hospitality bar. He told me, ‘I’d like to run some of your offense.’ So he sent his whole staff for a week, we traded some ideas and so we always traded ideas. The Oklahoma guys, Bob Stoops and I became friends. They would come to our place or we’d go to Oklahoma and spend the week. After the Sugar Bowl year in the 2005 season, we had a whole bunch more. Some 30 different staffs come in, Penn State, Ohio State some non-traditional non-spread coaching staffs. I said maybe I am being too open, but I thought it was a great opportunity for us to learn, too. To pick their brains.

(Read full post)

USC wasn't eligible for the coaches' poll in 2011 due to NCAA sanctions, but it will start 2012 almost at the top.

The Trojans are ranked third, behind No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama, the two SEC teams that played for the BCS national title last season.

The vote at the top was tight. USC, with 19, and Alabama, with 20, actually got more No. 1 votes than LSU (18). That should be your first warning of the "What the heck" nature of the poll. LSU, which welcomes back 15 starters from a 13-1 team and upgraded at quarterback with Zach Mettenberger, seems like a clear No. 1 to the Pac-12 blog.

LSU, with 1,403 points, was just ahead of Alabama, at 1,399. USC got 1,388.

It's a little surprising that USC isn't No. 2. Alabama only has 11 position players returning, including just five from last season's outstanding defense. But coaches tend to tip their caps to defending champs, and it's not unlikely that each of the seven SEC coaches in the poll -- the Pac-12 had six -- voted the SEC teams one-two. I also have a hunch a Pac-12 coach -- or two -- didn't vote USC either No. 1 or 2.

And, of course, the coaches poll, though it is unfortunately included in the BCS standings, is the least respected of all polls due to its regional biases, obvious conflicts of interest, lack of transparency and the simple fact that few coaches pay attention to teams they don't play. Oh, and many of the coaches hand off their votes to sports information directors.

Oregon comes in at No. 5, 18 points behind No. 4 Oklahoma. Stanford is 18th, just ahead of the Oklahoma State team that nipped the Cardinal in the Fiesta Bowl.

And that's it for the Pac-12 in the top-25. Washington came in at No. 26 and Utah at 32nd, based on the "others receiving votes" tally.

The SEC led all conferences with seven ranked teams. The Big 12 had six, including new members West Virginia and TCU. The Big Ten had four, the ACC three.

It's also evident that the voters ran out of steam in the top 25. Florida, Notre Dame and Auburn combined for 16 losses in 2011, but were ranked Nos. 23, 24 and 25, respectively.

As we noted, "What the heck!"

Here are the coaches who voted, per USA Today, including the six Pac-12 coaches, who are bolded:
The USA TODAY Board of Coaches is made up of 59 head coaches at Bowl Subdivision schools. All are members of the American Football Coaches Association. The board for the 2012 season: David Bailiff, Rice; Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech; Tim Beckman, Illinois; Bret Bielema, Wisconsin; Terry Bowden, Akron; Art Briles, Baylor; Troy Calhoun, Air Force; Matt Campbell, Toledo; Gene Chizik, Auburn; Dave Christensen, Wyoming; Mark Dantonio, Michigan State; Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State; Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois; Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech; Jimbo Fisher, Florida State; Kyle Flood, Rutgers; James Franklin, Vanderbilt; Al Golden, Miami (Fla.); Jim Grobe, Wake Forest; Darrell Hazell, Kent State; Brady Hoke, Michigan; Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia; Skip Holtz, South Florida; Mark Hudspeth, Louisiana-Lafayette; Curtis Johnson, Tulane; Ellis Johnson, Southern Miss; Butch Jones, Cincinnati; Brian Kelly, Notre Dame; Lane Kiffin, Southern California; Mike Leach, Washington State; Pete Lembo, Ball State; Tony Levine, Houston; Mike London, Virginia; Rocky Long, San Diego State; Dan McCarney, North Texas; Mike MacIntyre, San Jose State; Ruffin McNeill, East Carolina; Gus Malzahn, Arkansas State; Bronco Mendenhall, BYU; Les Miles, LSU; George O'Leary, Central Florida; Paul Pasqualoni, Connecticut; Bo Pelini, Nebraska; Chris Petersen, Boise State; Joker Phillips, Kentucky; Paul Rhoads, Iowa State; Mark Richt, Georgia; Mike Riley, Oregon State; Rich Rodriguez, Arizona; Nick Saban, Alabama; Steve Sarkisian, Washington; Frank Solich, Ohio; Steve Spurrier, South Carolina; Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee; Bob Stoops, Oklahoma; Dabo Swinney, Clemson; Jeff Tedford, California; Tommy Tuberville, Texas Tech; Kevin Wilson, Indiana.

The most epic day ... ever?

July, 19, 2012
7/19/12
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Pause for a moment and ask yourself what will be the two biggest college football games in 2012.

LSU-Alabama, without question is one. It's a rematch of last year's national title game and the winner is highly likely to win the SEC West. These days that means you get to play for the national title.

Oregon-USC, without question is the other. The critical difference between this and the LSU-Alabama game is there likely will be a rematch in the Pac-12 title game, as the Ducks and Trojans are -- unlike the Tigers and Crimson Tide -- in opposite conference divisions.

[+] EnlargeRobert Woods
Chris Williams/Icon SMIRobert Woods and USC are expected to be involved in what could be college football's most intriguing Saturday in recent memory.
In just about every preseason poll, these teams will be ranked in the top five or so. LSU and USC are pretty much atop every preseason poll. Oregon and Alabama follow shortly thereafter. Athlon's had this foursome as its top four, going USC, LSU, Alabama and Oregon.

So, yeah, these are two big games. It would not be surprising if the winners play for the national title. And you couldn't get anyone to bet you that at least one of these four teams won't play for the title. I'd lay the odds of one of the four reaching the title game at 97 percent.

But this isn't really anything you don't already know.

What began to sink in with me today is that these games are both scheduled for Nov. 3. The same freaking day. The LSU-Alabama game is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on CBS. The Oregon-USC game is TBD.

Cue up this music. It will be the perfect accompaniment for what could become the most epic regular-season day in college football history.

The big story in college football this summer has been the four-team playoff coming in 2014. Well, we have one right here. In the regular season. And, again, on the same freaking day. While there are plenty of other national title contenders -- Oklahoma and Florida State to name two -- the odds are pretty good these two games will feature the nation's top four teams and no defeats.

And, by midnight PT of Nov. 3, that will all change and we could have a clear top two.

It's not necessarily great that both games are on the same day. It's possible -- perhaps likely -- there will be some overlap. Might be a good idea to check the "recall" button on your remote control the week before. That said, the potential for a cataclysmic Saturday, overbrimming like never before with the intrigue, emotion and trash talking that fuel our passion for this great game, could cause heads to explode across the nation.

Mine already is throbbing a little typing this.

We conclude with a serious note.

Each of you should heed this warning. At this very moment, you should fire out an email to everyone you know or could potentially know in advance of Nov. 3. The email should say you will be unavailable, on Nov. 3, 2012, for any weddings, family reunions, births, funerals or any sundry events that don't involve a Hi-Def, large-screen TV tuned to college football.

Now, try to refocus on your Thursday, July 19.

Pac-12: A look at Year 1

June, 29, 2012
6/29/12
1:15
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On Sunday, the Pac-12 will celebrate its first birthday. If you forgot to get the conference a gift, just send a check my way. I'll make sure Larry Scott gets it. Promise.

A year ago, Utah and Colorado held celebrations on campus as they officially transitioned into a new conference. Colorado moved from the prairies and tumbleweeds of the Big 12 into a more like-minded conference with big cities, snow-capped mountains and beaches. Utah took a step up from a non-AQ conference, the Mountain West, to an AQ one, meaning it could blow raspberries at programs with whom it once shared a common gripe. It's fun to sip single-malt inside the penthouse, eh Utes? And easy to forget the little people.

As for the Pac-10 members, there was some ambivalence. The 10-member symmetry was gone. There were scheduling sacrifices. But a $3 billion TV deal mostly kept the grousing in check.

[+] EnlargeKyle Whittingham
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillUtah and coach Kyle Whittingham made a fairly smooth transition to the Pac-12 Conference.
So how do we feel after one year with two new members, 12 teams, North and South Divisions, and a conference championship game?

If there is a groundswell of unhappiness, the Pac-12 blog isn't hearing it. And it's not like you guys are shy about complaining. Moreover, here's a guess that when the new TV deal kicks in this fall, as well as the debut of the Pac-12 Networks, and every freaking football game is on TV, folks are going to find themselves thinking, "This is pretty cool."

What about the new members? Well, it's hard to imagine that you found Salt Lake City and Boulder lacking as new road trip destinations. Two great towns, two strong stadium experiences.

As for football, the Utes darn near won the South Division, getting shockingly cut down at home by those Buffaloes in the season finale, which perhaps will provide a nice boost for efforts to make that a rivalry. They also won the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech, one of just two Pac-12 victories in a seven-game bowl season. Utah should again be in the South mix this fall, as well as a threat to push into the Top 25.

Colorado? The Buffs, lacking team speed, struggled. And they probably will again this season. But this is a program with a split national title, six Big 8/12 conference titles, a Heisman Trophy winner and a Fiesta Bowl berth in 2001. The Buffs will rise again.

And here's hoping you Buffs and Utes enjoyed your new digs.

As far as the new format -- divisions and a championship game -- it could have been awesome but mostly stunk. That's because, with true South Division champ USC ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions, a middling and overmatched UCLA squad became a sacrificial cub for Oregon in the conference title game. Still, the game management was solid. There was nothing lacking other than a compelling matchup. And it's too early to pass judgment on the No. 1 seed hosting format.

Expect the title game this season to be far more compelling. In fact, it's a good bet it will have national title implications.

There were other changes, most notably four new coaches who commanded big salaries. The SEC-ness of the salaries -- though not completely there yet -- is due in large part to the TV money. It's also nice that Rich Rodriguez, Todd Graham, Jim Mora and Mike Leach are nationally recognizable names. It doesn't hurt, either, that some of them are controversial. You know what they say about publicity -- even the bad is good.

That TV money also is paying for facilities upgrades across the conference. It seems as though just about every program is either finishing up, in the midst of or planning new buildings and renovations that will make their programs more appealing and up-to-date. (Let's not dwell on these millions going toward sports instead of academics -- no one likes a party pooper.)

Let's not romanticize things too much. The Pac-10 became the Pac-12 to make more money. Hard to say that mission wasn't accomplished. Yet things move quickly in college football these days. As we saw with the gamesmanship this offseason with discussions about a new postseason format and rumblings of further conference expansion/contraction, there are plenty of competing interests out there. Pac-12 leadership needs to remain vigilant and nimble. It might not be time to get too comfortable. Being proactive seems like a better strategy than being reactive. The conference might, in fact, rue the day it opted to not bring Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech aboard.

Further, as we eyeball the future, let's have no illusions about what needs to happen next: Winning.

It's certainly nice that the Pac-12 does well in the Director's Cup standings, and that the conference continues to pile up national titles in nonrevenue sports, but football is the engine inside the college sports machine. The Pac-12 needs to win football national titles. It needs to produce multiple elite teams annually. It needs to scatter itself evenly throughout the Top 25. It needs to win bowl games.

Oregon and Stanford rose impressively as USC faltered. Now the Trojans appear back in the mix. Can all three be top-10 threats on a regular basis? Maybe. Is anybody else ready to make a move?

Amid massive change across the college football landscape, Year 1 of the Pac-12 certainly feels like a success. And promising for the future.

So, happy birthday. Now, back to work.
We're saying goodbye to the BCS today, even though the BCS isn't going away until 2014. Oh, well.

So what are the Pac-12/10's best and worst BCS moments?

Best

The Pac-12 has won one BCS national title (though just about everyone believes USC to be the "true" 2003 national champion). So that has to be conference's best BCS moment: USC's undisputed 2004 championship.

The 2004 Trojans were dominant with quarterback Matt Leinart; running backs Reggie Bush and LenDale White; receivers Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett; and a defense led by defensive tackles Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson and linebacker Lofa Tatupu. They outscored foes 496 to 169.

In the BCS national title game in Miami, they stomped Oklahoma 55-19 and made USC a repeat national champ under Pete Carroll.

Honorable mentions
  • In 2000, Washington beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl and Oregon State whipped Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The Pac-12 has produced two BCS bowl teams four times, but this is the only year it won both games.
  • While Utah was not a member of the Pac-12 in 2004 and 2008, it's worth noting the Utes capped undefeated seasons both years with wins in the Fiesta Bowl over Pittsburgh and the Sugar Bowl over Alabama.


Worst

Not to make this all about USC, but the worst BCS moment was USC's exclusion in 2003, despite being ranked No. 1 in both major polls.

Those who had eyes knew that the Trojans were the nation's best team. But the computer chips liked LSU and Oklahoma better, even though the Sooners were fresh off a 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game.

The AP poll would go on to crown USC the national champion, as did the Football Writers Association of America, after it whipped Michigan in the Rose Bowl. As for the coaches poll, it was contractually obligated to vote LSU No. 1 after its ugly win over Oklahoma. Three coaches, nonetheless, showed courage, rebelled and voted USC No. 1.

Honorable mentions
  • In 2001, Nebraska was picked over Oregon to play Miami for the national title, even though the Cornhuskers were stomped 62-36 by Colorado in their final regular-season game. The Ducks went on to whip Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, while Nebraska got bludgeoned by the Hurricanes 37-14.
  • In 2004, Texas coach Mack Brown lobbied hard for his Longhorns to eclipse California in the national polls. It worked, as the 10-1 Longhorns climbed past the 10-1 Bears and quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the standings for no justifiable reason and thereby finagled their way into the Rose Bowl, where Cal hadn't been since 1959.
Over on the Big 12 blog, David Ubben decided to go through all the teams in the conference and see how they've done against the Top 25 since 2008.

That sounded like a ton of fun, so here's a look at the Pac-12 results. For seasoning, I added a best/worst category against Top 25 teams, which is very subjective and, as always, open to debate.

Since 2008 the Pac-12 is 52-105 against Top 25 teams. Utah and Colorado records prior to 2011 are not factored in, but we'll still look at them in the team-by-team breakdown.

Oregon carries the flag for the conference with a robust .705 winning percentage while Washington State has a Blutarsky.

Here's how the entire conference shapes up:

Oregon

Record vs. Top 25: 12-5 (.705)

Best win: The Stanford victories in consecutive years put the Cardinal back in their place (and last year, signified the clear leader in the North), but the 45-38 win over No. 10 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl last year was a breakthrough for the program. It put an end to the "can they win the big one" questions and was critical for the legitimacy of the league. Oregon to the rest of the conference: You're welcome.

Toughest loss: The Boise State loss in 2009 was a stinger. But anytime you lose in the National Championship game to the No. 1 team -- and the way it went down in those obscure final two minutes -- it's tough. That loss brought about some of the questions the Ducks were able to answer with the Rose Bowl win.

USC

Record vs. Top 25: 9-5 (.642)

Best win: The 35-3 win over Ohio State in 2008 stands out. But the victory at No. 4 Oregon last year bloodies the water for this year's much-anticipated showdown.

Worst loss: Also from last year, the triple-overtime loss to No. 6 Stanford shouldn't have ended the way it did. Maybe Stanford still would have won -- but that game was too epic to end on a fumble.

Stanford

Record vs. Top 25: 7-6 (.538)

Best win: The '09 win over Oregon stands out because the Ducks were a Top 10 team on a seven-game winning streak. Toby Gerhart ran wild -- picking up 223 yards and three scores. It was really Stanford's declaration that they'd arrived in the conference under Jim Harbaugh.

Worst loss: Many will think it's the Fiesta Bowl last year because the wound is still fresh and the manner in which it went down. But losing the Big Game 34-28 to No. 25 Cal in 2009 -- especially after notching back-to-back wins over Oregon and No. 9 USC -- is simply deflating. If the Oregon game was a declaration of arrival, the Cal game was a reminder of how deep the conference can be.

Utah

Record vs. Top 25: 4-5 (.444)

Best win: The 2008 Sugar Bowl. Big, bad 'Bama gets bounced by a tiny little non-AQ, leaving most West of the Mississippi with a great-big smile.

Worst loss: An overtime loss hurts. An overtime loss to a rival hurts more. An overtime loss when the opposing quarterback gives you a verbal smack down following the loss is just brutal. The 2009 Holy War loss to No. 19 BYU will always sting.

Arizona

Record vs. Top 25: 4-10 (.285)

Best win: Willie Tuitama was simply prolific in carving up No. 16 BYU in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl, throwing for 325 yards, two touchdowns and running for another in a 31-21 win. It was Arizona's first bowl win in a decade.

Worst loss: The double-overtime loss to Oregon in 2009 was tough, but the 33-0 beat down by No. 22 Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl that same year was a real stinker.

Oregon State

Record vs. Top 25: 5-15 (.250)

Best win: Jacquizz Rodgers busted out 186 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in a 27-21 stunner of No. 1 USC in 2008. Doesn't get much sweeter than an unranked knocking off a No. 1. Though the 3-0 win over No. 20 Pitt. in the 2008 Sun Bowl gets a tip of the cap simply for the novelty.

Worst loss: The Beavers were shutout 38-0 by No. 6 Stanford in '10. That came a week after a 36-7 win over No. 20 USC. Talk about highs and lows.

Washington

Record vs. Top 25: 5-15 (.250)

Best win: Because of the record the previous year and because it was Steve Sarkisian against Pete Carroll, the 16-13 stunner over No. 3 USC in 2009 is one worth re-living over and over if you're a Washington fan. Erik Folk was so clutch.

Worst loss: Anything from 2008 will do.

UCLA

Record vs. Top 25: 4-12 (.250)

Best win: Maybe No. 7 Texas was looking ahead to the showdown with Oklahoma. Oh well, don't turn the ball over four times in the first 30 minutes. Great performance from Johnathan Franklin in the 34-12 win in 2010.

Worst loss: Toss up between the 35-0 loss to No. 25 Stanford at home in 2010 or the 59-0 loss to No. 18 BYU in 2008. Both were brutal -- but the BYU one probably stung more since the Bruins had clipped No. 18 Tennessee in overtime just 12 days earlier in the season opener.

Cal

Record vs. Top 25: 3-10 (.230)

Best win: What's bad for the Cardinal is generally good for the Bears. The 2009 Big Game win at No. 17 Stanford was extra tasty -- especially when a late Andrew Luck interception in the red zone sealed the deal. Shane Vereen was on fire with 193 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.

Worst loss: The No. 6 Cardinal reclaimed the axe the following year with a 48-14 thrashing in Berkeley. Stepfan Taylor produced three touchdowns and Luck produced a Stanford fan's dream highlight with his forearm deflection of Sean Cattouse.

Arizona State

Record vs. Top 25: 3-11 (.214)

Best win: The USC and Missouri wins last year were pretty big, but there is nothing sweeter than beating a rival, in double-overtime, on the road, when they are ranked and you aren't. That was the case in 2010 with a 30-29 win over No. 23 Arizona. James Brooks will always be remembered for blocking an extra point near the end of regulation to force overtime. And then blocking a second extra point -- seriously -- to lock up the win. As bizarre as it was magnificent for the Sun Devils.

Worst loss: The loss to No. 7 Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl last year was completely uninspired and capped a horrific end to the season. The Sun Devils went into a tailspin and Todd Graham has to pull them out.

Colorado

Record vs. Top 25: 2-12

Best win: In his first career start in 2009, Tyler Hansen threw for 175 yards, a touchdown and ran for another to spark an upset win over No. 17 Kansas. That was Colorado's last win against a Top 25 team. The Buffs are 0-7 since.

Worst loss: Back in the day before they joined the Pac-12, Colorado had a little rivalry with a midwest school named Nebraska. The No. 15 Cornhuskers sent Colorado into the Pac-12 with an ugly 45-17 loss in 2010.

Washington State

Record vs. Top 25: 0-12

Best win: You have to think the streak ends under Mike Leach -- and sooner rather than later.

Worst loss: Tragically, there are so many choices. But we'll go with the 69-0 to No. 6 USC in 2008 because at the time, WSU was riding the nation's second-longest streak without being shutout (280 games). That came to an end in a very embarrassing fashion. While Mark Sanchez threw for five touchdowns, the Cougars managed just 116 yards of total offense.

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Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12