Blog Entry

What I Learned from the Pac-10 (Nov. 27)

Posted on: November 28, 2010 1:57 am
 
Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. The Ducks are who we thought they were. It's just not accurate to say we learned anything new about Oregon in their 48-29 Friday night win over Arizona . We knew already they were as dominant a second-half team as any in the country (save maybe their likely BCS title game foils at Auburn ), and that's how they played. We knew already with weapons like LaMichael James, Darron Thomas and even the ever-more-terrifying Josh Huff , the Ducks could put up nearly 50 points without even being particularly sharp in the first half, and that's what they did. We knew that playing in the comfort zone of Autzen Stadium, they were going to win and win comfortably when all was said and done, and in the end the Wildcats feel by nearly three touchdowns. (We also knew their defense could have the occasional

In short, we knew that Oregon was the 2010 Pac-10 champion and almost certainly on their way to the BCS championship game, and that's what we still know. If there was anything surprising about their dismantling of the Wildcats, it was the realization that by this point of the season, Oregon's championship-caliber excellence isn't even surprising any more.

2. And yeah, you can forget about them choking away that title berth in the Civil War. Mike Riley will almost certainly have his Oregon State team ready to play a competitive game against their archrivals at home in Corvallis, but it's hard to imagine that he has the horses to actually finish off the hypothetical shocker of the season, not when two of the Beavers' previous three results are a home loss to Washington State and today's hideous 38-0 whitewashing at the hands of Stanford . The Cardinal are legitimately playing as well as any team in the country right now, but still; fewer than 300 total yards an zero points doesn't exactly portend the kind of offensive explosion that will be necessary to stay with the Ducks.

3. USC is ready for its season to be over. The Oregon State result sandwiched between the aforementioned losses to Wazzu and Stanford? An inexplicable-looking 36-7 demolition of the Trojans that this space immediately chalked up to USC's longtime tendency to break into football hives upon crossing the Oregon border. But after watching USC's listless, often yawn-inducing performance in a 20-16 loss to a Notre Dame team that at times seemed determined to give the game away -- Irish quarterback Tommy Rees threw three interceptions, more than one of the highly charitable variety -- it may be time to wonder if Lane Kiffin is still able to get through to a team with nothing to play for other than pride.

Now, true, the Trojans still would have pulled out the victory if Ronald Johnson hadn't dropped a certain game-winning reception late, and the absence of Matt Barkley (coupled with a shaky-looking first start from Mitch Mustain , who averaged less than 5 yards an attempt and failed to throw a touchdown pass) no doubt didn't help USC's cause in the least, either. But for a team playing its oldest and arguably biggest rival, the spark needed to really get the Trojan blood pumping (and the crowd involved) seemed curiously absent. Maybe it was the rain. But maybe it's just Week 12 of a season whose self-described bowl game took place a month ago.

4. The end to one team's bowl streak is just the start of someone else's.  Or so it would appear after Washington edged Cal 16-13 to pull within a game of bowl eligibility at 5-6, with only the feeble specter of Washington State (surely not due for two major upsets this season) standing in the way of the Huskies' first postseason appearance since 2002. Steve Sarkisian 's second season in charge hasn't always lived up to the outsized expectations of the preseason, but at least he can point towards some concrete progress.

Unfortunately for Jeff Tedford , unless you count the upcoming long-since-overdue renovations to the Bears' Memorial Stadium, "concrete progress" seems further away than ever. Kevin Riley 's career-ending injury a few weeks back appears to have been a fatal dagger for Cal's bowl hopes, which finally dissolved in the loss and resulting final record of 5-7. The record is the worst of Tedford's nine-year Cal tenure, with the Bears missing the postseason for the first time since -- whaddya know -- 2002. Tedford's not in any kind of trouble just yet (don't forget that Cal was hands-down the worst program in the Pac-10 when he took over), but the heady mid-aughts days when the Bears were serious Rose Bowl and BCS contenders have never seemed further away than they did on Saturday.

5. Rick Neuheisel had better have something more up his sleeve this offseason than just canning Norm Chow. Because when you give up 55 points to Arizona State 's backup quarterback , your offensive coordinator is pretty obviously not the only thing wrong with your football team. 
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