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Westward power shift a shock to system


The game has been trending westward for a while. You just probably haven't noticed that ...

... the nation's new No. 1 team has been closer to the Pacific than it has to college football's mainstream for a large part of its history.

College football

... the new No. 2 features trout fishing just a deep post pattern from its stadium.

... No. 4 resides in Texas but has conquered a large part of the west, if you consider its conference -- the Mountain West.

That's just the top of the two main human polls reshuffled Sunday to show Oregon, Boise and TCU at Nos. 1, 2 and 4. (Somehow Oklahoma got in there at No. 3.) At the halfway point of the season it's clear the power base of college football has -- if not shifted -- evened out.

  The Pac-10 almost made that daring daylight raid of the Big 12 in the summer. Having "settled" for Utah and Colorado, the once-sleepy Pac-10 is seeking to become more of a player in media, recruiting and, ultimately, football. An SEC with less humidity. It helps to have three teams in the top 15 for now, but if anyone thinks commissioner Larry Scott's eyes have quit wandering hasn't seen the recent TV contracts doled out lately. Five words: Texas is still out there.

  Until Saturday, many Heisman voters had a skinny kid from Corona, Calif., atop their lists -- Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez.

Dodd's Power Poll
1. Boise State
2. Oregon
3. TCU
4. Oklahoma
5. Auburn
6. Utah
7. LSU
8. Michigan State
9. Oklahoma State
10. Wisconsin
11. Ohio State
12. Alabama
13. Missouri
14. Texas
15. Nebraska
16. Stanford
17. Arizona
18. Iowa
19. Florida State
20. West Virginia
21. South Carolina
22. Mississippi State
23. Virginia Tech
24. Arkansas
25. USC

  Feel free to replace Martinez with Oregon's LaMichael James. The native Texan recruited to Oregon leads the country in rushing yards per game.

  Since 2009, one-third of the combined top 10 recruits listed by (10 out of 30, including 2011) have come from west of the Rockies or have been signed by/committed to schools in the West.

  Nevada ranked for the first time since the 1940s this season (until Sunday), is the birthplace of the nation's hottest new offensive fad, The Pistol.

  The West's dominant program for the past decade, USC, is determined not to slip. The Trojans, down to 73 scholarship players, are a respectable 4-2, their only two losses coming from walk-off field goals by Washington and Stanford.

While the Trojans struggle to regain their swagger, Oregon could be embarking on its own dynastic run. For the first time in its history the Ducks celebrated a No. 1 ranking on Sunday. More to the point, they will be players in the BCS as long as they keep winning. Sure, the Nike money has helped but Oregon has changed both ADs and coaches within the past couple of years and gotten ... better.

The establishment must be reeling: Ohio State just got done playing its 19th game as a No. 1 under current coach Jim Tressel. All of those games have come since 2006. It took Oregon only 115 years to get there for the first time. It did so by sitting on the couch Saturday during a bye week. When you don't even have to play to the top of your profession, that's respect. Chip Kelly is the country's next rock star coach, even if he doesn't fit the Western profile. The New Hampshire native brought his version of the spread option to Eugene and prospered.

The establishment must be really reeling: Nineteen games into his head coaching career, Kelly is at the top of his profession and on top of the polls.

It doesn't end there out West, or even on I-5. Oregon State has been a consistent force under Mike Riley. Hawaii (5-2) is having its best season since the 2007 Sugar Bowl year. Three of the top eight rushers this week are from the Pac-10 (James), WAC (Nevada's Vai Taua) and Mountain West (San Diego State's Ronnie Hillman). Fresno State might have the best pair of sack artists in the country. Logan Harrell and Chris Carter have combined for 14.5 sacks.

That's without playing the quarterback card, a position where the West traditionally pumps out talent. But as long as you asked ... USC's Matt Barkley is second in the country with 20 touchdown passes, to Hawaii's Bryant Moniz. Boise's Kellen Moore continues to be No. 1 in pass efficiency with a staggering 55 touchdowns and four picks the past two seasons.

Utah might be the unfortunate "victim" of the West's recent rise. This is a program that beat Alabama two years ago while putting together two undefeated seasons under two different coaches since 2004. The Utes are a distant ninth this week while we celebrate how the West is being won. The only thing that separates them from the top is perception. Utah started out of the preseason AP poll with the 28th-most votes. They're assured of getting a shot at No. 4 when TCU visits on Nov. 6.

Six years ago, the 2004 AP preseason poll included three teams west of the Rockies -- USC, Cal and Utah. Sunday's AP top nine included the Ducks, Broncos, Frogs and Utes, four teams with a combined five BCS bowl appearances since 2004.

The Broncos and Frogs now have a realistic shot at playing for the national championship, becoming the first non-BCS teams to play in back-to-back BCS bowls. That would be a third consecutive bowl meeting -- Poinsettia Bowl in 2008 to Fiesta Bowl in 2009 to possibly, the national championship game in 2010 Don't look now but the BCS is about to be validated, maybe giving rise to a new book, "Death To The Whining" -- Boise's, TCU's, the SEC's, the Congressmen, everyone.

It doesn't matter if you think this is a good thing or not. It just is. The SEC has a nice little run going but once again is in danger of eating its own. The league will be down to one undefeated team after LSU plays at Auburn on Saturday. Picture the sports bars in Gainesville and Tuscaloosa the night of Jan. 10 watching the WAC and Mountain West champions play for the title the SEC has owned for the past four years. One team is named after a reptile known to eat prey its own body size . Fitting, in this BCS debate. The other needed blue turf 25 years ago to draw attention to itself.

It's high time to get rid of the haughtiness. If Saturday's Auburn-Arkansas score (65-43) had come out of the WAC, it would have been laughed off from Atlanta to Biloxi. Pardon TCU for smirking. It was on track to finish No. 1 in total defense for the third consecutive year until it looked up Sunday to see it had been passed -- by Boise.

Anyone in need of a credential from all the BCS title games? Dennis Dodd has them. In three decades in the business, he's covered everything from the Olympics to Stanley Cup to conference realignment. Just get him on campus in a press box in the fall. His heart lies with college football.

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