Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pac-10 Roundtable: Week 2

California Golden Blogs is our host this week. In their honor, here's a picture in tribute to the 21-month plight of those valiant freedom fighters who braved cold, wind and Stanford fans to keep the oak trees from falling around Memorial Stadium.

Just joking. They were crazy. Bat s*** crazy. And if you're reading this and were sitting in one of those trees, I'm not changing my stance. Oh wait, you were in a tree for 21 months! You probably don't remember how to use the internet anyway!

Woah. Tangent city. On to the roundtable!

1. Washington showed moxie and elbow grease in nearing knocking off Yahoo! (oh wait is that BYU, sorry the hat confused me). Also, spunk. They showed spunk. Locker finally showed some promise as both a running QB AND a throwing QB. Unfortunately, the odd ending to the game probably left a bitter taste in many Husky mouths. But should Husky fans see this game as the beginning of something big or just another emotionally brutal loss en route to Willingham's departure? And why does BYU's hat look like its from Yahoo!?

It's brutally unfair how that game ended because the excessive celebration rule is so dumb, but unfortunately, Jake Locker should have known better. The NCAA sent a tape out to all 120 FBS teams explaining how that rule would be called this year, and Locker was in literal violation of it. So, I'll defend the referees for calling it. I'll spit on the NCAA for having it.

Unfortunately for Washington, it's just another brutal loss. We see it every year; a bad team always has those one or two games where they push a much better opponent to the brink of an upset, sometimes even springing it (I'm looking at you, USC). But in the end, it's a flash in the pan. Max Hall still did pretty much whatever he wanted through the air and the Cougars defense had a rare lapse in performance. Locker has to play the perfect football game for Washington to win, period.

As for their logo, I couldn't tell you why it looks like the Yahoo! logo, but I do know that if you Yahoo! Brigham Young, a Ken Burns documentary pops up before anything about the Cougars does. So they've got that going for them. Which is nice.

2. September is barely a week old, yet we've already seen 4 Pac-10 conference games. Stanford already has both a win and a loss in the conference. UW lost a rivalry game to Oregon before September even started. Early conference games are not exactly new, but I don't recall there ever being so many of them this early.

Cal Coach Jeff Tedford has gone on record as saying he's not a big fan of early conference games. "You like to play your non-conference games first and then get to conference play," Tedford said. "You like to be able to figure out who's exactly going to play for you in special teams, and get some game experience for guys before you have to get into conference play. That's a challenge this week to cut down to 64 for the road. You're still evaluating some situations on special teams and so on and so forth." It's worth noting that of the 4 conference games so far, only Tedford's Bears have managed to win a road game.

Are these early conference matchups good for the teams involved, or do they merely present an unnecessary challenge for teams that need their non-conference games to prepare for the rigors of conference play? Are such games, and any exposure they might garner, good for the conference as a whole? Or does it not matter when you play someone, as long as the matchups between the top teams are saved for later in the season?

I never have been and never will be a fan of these early season Pac-10 games. One of the only things that I'll agree with Jeff Tedford about, in fact, is his stance on this. From our standpoint, ASU had one chance to get their special teams, linebacker rotation, offensive line and a STARTING cornerback spot worked out before playing a conference game, and that was against FCS Northern Arizona. For Stanford, OSU, Oregon and Washington, that chance wasn't even presented to them.

The Pac-10 will always be one of the most competitive conferences in America; us and the Big East are still the only ones that play a complete round-robin. The Big East only has 8 teams though, so they still have the opportunity to schedule five (FIVE!) non-conference games per team. Five! The Pac-10 gets three. That's a major discrepancy.


3. The "second tier" teams (Oregon, ASU, & Cal) have all looked strong so far. Which team from this group will turn out to be the strongest, and do any of them have a chance of challenging USC for the conference title? Arizona has also looked good (against weak competition) and UCLA (somehow) took out big, bad Tennessee; will either of these teams crack the top 4 in the conference?

I think that of those three, Oregon will end the 2008 season as the strongest. It might not reflect that in the standings; ASU and Cal may still finish ahead of them; but Oregon will be in the best position to have long term success and strength. There's so much to build off of in Eugene. The recruits keep rolling in, the facilities are still the best and they still have one of the 10 best coaches in America. The Ducks have a the most athletic and well-balanced team in the conference outside of Los Angeles and their defense is still sick.

None of those three will challenge USC for the conference title. We'll know more about the Trojans after this week's game against Ohio State, but from all I've seen from their camp, read about and saw in the Virginia game, this is a dominant football team that, barring a major catastrophe, will at least share the Pac-10 title again.

Arizona is going to get exposed at some point. I actually think that Arizona will start the season at least 4-2, but that's because their schedule is frontloaded with a ton of crappy teams. Once UofA meets a team with a competent passing attack, their secondary is going to get ripped to shreds. As for UCLA, they've got a chance to be OK if they stay healthy and if Kevin Craft can keep making the good decisions that he made in the 2nd half against Tennessee.

4. Since the dawn of time itself, Washington State has been regarded as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest college football program. Now headed by universally hailed genius Paul Wulff and rocket armed uber-stud QB Unclear At This Time, Washington State (or Wazzu as it is sometimes called by the plebes) contends year in and year out for the brass ring (i.e.crystal football).

Yet, Cal was recently able to defeat this troupe of pigskin superstars by the rather unbelievable score of A Lot to A Little. Does this recent gridiron mauling mean that Cal is nigh unstoppable and en route to not only this year's National Championship, but also an almost certain thousand years of never before seen dominance?

Finally, feel free to answer with "yes," "Hell Yes," or the always popular "OH HELL YES!"

Sarcasm is awesome. Sorry, CGB, but the answer is "Uhh...not quite." The eight of us who head up the Pac-10 Roundtable could probably grab three stragglers from Mill Avenue here in Tempe and at least squeak out a 3-point victory over the Cougars at this point.

However, I have been saying throughout the offseason that I think Cal is a better team than most expect. 1,000 years of dominance is just a tad unrealistic though.

5. As much as we all hate each other, I think the one thing we can agree on is how much we hate the SEC. I think everyone hates the SEC. So what are your thoughts on the Teflon reputation that the SEC has for its losses and why the losses by Tennessee to UCLA and Cal get written off?

First of all, I hate no one in the Roundtable. I always expected that if we all got together, it'd look a little bit like the Men of the Square Table, except we'd all be wearing goofy headgear and football jerseys. I would expect, oh...let's say, Conquest Chronicles to bust out a "Have you done it? No! Then you don't know what you're talking about!" to Addicted to Quack.

As much as I despise the SEC for it's crappy non-conference scheduling, the disgusting humidity in the region, the idea of selling out a Spring Game and the thousands upon thousands of misplaced hot chicks that belong in, I don't know, the Pac-10, let's be real.

There's a jealousy factor. The last two national champions have come out of the SEC. Three of its teams have taken home four BCS Titles, more than any other conference. Fact is, SEC teams tend to win games when they actually matter, something the Big Ten certainly can't claim.

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