Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pac-10 Roundtable: Week 3

The men of the Pac-10 Roundtable are back. We've crushed cans on our heads, discussed the non-merits of fruiting beers and came up with about 18 new man laws, including one involving never, EVER moving to a city without a major college football team.

And guess what? For the week after the most disappointing loss of the decade for ASU and the week of the biggest non-conference game for ASU in years, PFN is the host.

That's right. We've thrown the doors open and let the rest of the roundtable sift through our chips and magazines, and if we're lucky, they've brought a six-pack each. The other 7 blogs will post links to their answers in the comments section. Enjoy everyone!

1) The Pacific-10 Conference expanded to its current state in 1978 when Arizona and Arizona State left the WAC to create the dysfunctional family we now are all members of today. In the 30 years in our current state, I think it's pretty obvious that we did not see a weekend as pathetic as we did last week when seven teams lost, four of them to Mountain West Conference foes, one as a 25 1/2 point favorite, one to Baylor (no more explanation needed) and one which was their worst loss since the Great Depression.

Thankfully, last week is over and we move on to this weekend, where there's a primetime televised matchup (Georgia/ASU), a middling conference game and three others. The question is, how does the conference save face this week?

Conquest Chronicles, if you feel like stretching out and passing on this question, feel free. You're more than excused.

When the United States and the Allies won WWII, they introduced the Marshall Plan, a way for the victors to help rebuild the nations destroyed in Western Europe during the war (knowledge courtesy of my Poly Sci minor). Much like the US did in 1945, I propose a sort of Marshall Plan to save the Pac-10 after it was completely destroyed last week.

A) Arizona and UCLA play a highly entertaining game with a final score somewhere in the 20's. That way, both team's offenses and defenses will have their chance to strut their stuff and show America that these middling teams, both of whom are trying to prove that they don't belong in the shadows, that they can perform on both sides of the ball.
B) Oregon should go out and destroy a Boise State team that, despite being a premier non-BCS conference program, only scored 20 points against Bowling Green last week. We'll have to see how the Ducks perform without Justin Roper, but a good performance out of Jeremiah Masoli or Chris Harper will get them a win.
C) ASU needs to at least be competitive against Georgia if not win outright. A hard fought, down to the wire loss to the #3 team in the nation on national TV will show the nation, who didn't see how pathetic the Devils looked against UNLV last Saturday, that there's still fight left in Erickson's boys.
D) Washington State and Stanford needs to roll their much less talented opponents, Portland State and San Jose State, respectively.

2) After everything that happened this past weekend, the two teams that are left nationally ranked are the Trojans and the Ducks. The Trojans did it in stunningly efficient fashion over a clearly overmatched Ohio State team while the Ducks pulled off a rousing comeback with a backup QB in a very hostile Purdue environment.

We've touched on this question before, but we're rehashing it this week. After seeing some pretty true colors last Saturday, can anyone in this conference challenge USC for the crown this year, and can Oregon continue to win with the now oft-injured Justin Roper on the sidelines?

I'll reserve comment on this until after I see the Oregon/Boise State game this weekend, but as of right now, the Ducks and Sun Devils are the only teams that has the moxie and across-the-board talent to legitimately challenge for the Pac-10 Title. However, both now fight extreme adversity as Oregon must prove they can do it for at least the next few weeks with a backup quarterback and the Sun Devils have to prove that the UNLV loss was the biggest fluke of the season.

As for Oregon, they can definitely win without Justin Roper. Jeremiah Masoli or Chris Harper need not be gamebreakers to lead the Ducks to victory. They simply need to manager Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount and occasionally toss one down the field. Their defense will pick up the slack.

3) The Washington Huskies nearly pulled off a UNLV-style upset last week when they came within one point and a crap excessive celebration penalty away from sending their game with BYU to overtime. With a chance to prove that they might actually have more spunk and grit than originally thought on Saturday, Oklahoma was up 34-0 before you could spit out "How much will it cost to buy out Tyrone Willingham, again?" At the same time, Washington State was rolled by Baylor. Yeah, that Baylor.

However, Washington and WSU are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the state of their programs. WSU is breaking in a new coach and trying to find a quarterback of the future, while the Huskies have a star under center but are chasing their boss out of town.

Which of these programs, then, is closer to edging back toward respectability?

Right now, it has to be Washington State. The Huskies are in shambles, their fan base is split and there's no incoming legitimate talent to surround Jake Locker for the next two seasons. Husky Stadium is falling apart and fans wans to go Lord of the Flies all over Tyrone Willingham. Seattle is not a place at this point where football is flourishing (including the Seahawks) and it'll be a while before it recovers.

However, at least in Pullman, facilities are being renovated and Paul Wulff is reinvigorating a jaded fan base. It just seems to me, as an outsider from those programs, that there's more of a positive vibe around the Cougars than the Huskies in that state. It also doesn't help Washington that the Cougars have won three of the last four Apple Cups, including both of the last two in the Emerald City. That still does sway recruits.

4) Those pesky Wildcats are at it again. Their fan base got super excited after starting 2-0 and putting up a ton of points to open the season, but at the first sign of adversity on the road at New Mexico this week, they once again folded like Charlie Weis' kneecap.

Mike Stoops is already on the hot seat for not taking several paper tigers to the postseason in previous seasons, and now the stove just got turned back up after losing on the road to a Lobos team that they're clearly better than. The perception down here in the Grand Canyon State is that Little Brother has to get the U of A to a bowl...any bowl...to save his job. Give me your perception of the state of the Arizona Wildcats.

Sorry Tucson, but your program and your team is still one that folds under pressure and against adversity. Even head coach Mike Stoops went on the record after last week's loss to New Mexico that he's even at a loss for what to do right now.

John Mackovic ruined this program earlier this decade when he lost control of the locker room and Mike Stoops, while he was at the time a sexy hire, has proven himself to be no man for a head coaching job. Like Dirk Koetter up I-10 at ASU, Stoops is a career coordinator who's in way over his head.

However, I will say that if you look at the kind of talent their program is spitting out, they've still got some players that can make an impact. We've seen Mike Bell, Antoine Cason and others make NFL rosters in recent years and more will continue to do so. However, there's no one there right now that can cohesively put them together and make a winner at Arizona, and they'll be stuck in neutral until they do.

5) Might as well address the giant elephant in the room. A game that was so hyped across America had its stock fall faster than...well...the stock market on Monday afternoon. I'm not good at puns. Anyway, like it or not, Georgia is still visiting Arizona State on Saturday in a game that the Devils need to save face after their embarrassing loss to the Rebels last week.

Georgia looked like a team that could be beaten against South Carolina as the Gamecocks were able to get plenty of pressure on Matt Stafford and Chris Smelley picked apart the Bulldogs secondary.

Can the Sun Devils still beat Georgia this weekend? And what would a win over one of the SEC's finest mean for the conference?

Without a doubt, the Sun Devils can still beat Georgia, but they're going to have to play with a giant chip on their shoulders to do so. It's going to take a nearly perfect effort to get by the Bulldogs with 20,000 Georgia fans packing into Sun Devil Stadium, though.

The key to victory for ASU will be Luis Vasquez and Dexter Davis getting relentless pressure on Matt Stafford. Make him move and he'll be forced into situations where he's made poor decisions in the past.

A win over Georgia would put ASU back on the map and make most pundits at least forget a little about the UNLV debacle, but it would certainly mean a lot to a conference which was beaten up and stripped of its lunch money and pants after last week.


Jason said...

See you guys this weekend! Go Dawgs!


Mackalicious said...


Conquest Chronicles said...

Our answers are up!


David said...


fashionably late as usual

GoldenBlogs said...


even later!