Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The 11/11 Pac-10 Roundtable: "Everybody Love Everybody"

It's apparently Will Ferrell reference week here at PFN.

Not that this is a bad thing...as long as we stay away from that Stranger Than Fiction disaster. I'm waiting for those two hours of my life back.

Anyway, we had another new and welcomed twist to the Pac-10 Roundtable: the "everyone hosts" edition!

Five of us (including yours truly) submitted one question to the pot and we came out with the best five. Don't forget to check out the other Square Table member blogs to check out their answers as well.

And now, in the spirit of spreading the wealth, it's this week's roundtable.

1. USC and OSU win out. OSU wins the Pac10 and goes to the Rose Bowl. USC doesn't win the Pac-10, but due to the Big XII and the SEC cannibalizing themselves, manages to get into the National Championship game. Discuss.

Forgive me, but I'm a little verklempt thinking about USC being, once again, where they shouldn't. The scariest thing here is that this could actually happen. Don't forget that back in 2001, Nebraska didn't even WIN THE NORTH DIVISION in the Big XII yet still went to the Rose Bowl/National Championship (and got jackstomped by the Fighting Dorseys).

That 2001 season, with Oregon and Colorado having better cases than Nebraska to get to the title game, was clearly the strangest season the BCS has ever seen, but 2008 has a chance to be almost as weird.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that the winner of the SEC Championship will be in the National Title game, so throw Florida/Alabama in there. That leaves USC, the champion of the Big XII and, as the longest shot, Penn State.

It's easy to say that if Texas Tech wins out, and that's far from a certainty since they'll have to beat Oklahoma and most likely Missouri in their conference championship, they'll be in Miami to face Florida/Alabama.

If the Red Raiders lose, all hell will break loose. Then you've got Texas stating their case to move up if they can win out and take the Big XII, Penn State wanting to vault USC and Utah into the top two and, in a repeat of 2006, even the loser of Alabama/Florida claiming in Michigan-esque fashion that they still deserve a chance at a rematch.

Oh, and about those pesky Utes. Don't forget them. They're hovering at #7, and a perfect storm of losses could hasten their ascent to the top two. And frankly, none of us want that.

But about USC. Absolutely possible. If the Trojans can win out, Texas Tech loses and Texas loses the Big XII Championship game, then the Men of Troy will most likely be #2.

2. Oregon State is the only team that controls its Pac-10 destiny due in large part to freshman phenom Jacquizz Rodgers, but their next 3 games will be their toughest stretch of conference games. What are their chances of winning out and going to their first Rose Bowl since 1965?

Very possible, but it wont be easy. California has steadily gotten better over the course of the season but they've struggled away from Berkeley, going 1-3 with that only W coming in Pullman, so it really doesn't count. What's more disturbing is that the Bears offense nearly shuts down away from home (6 points in the first three quarters at Maryland, 2nd half stagnation at Arizona and the debacle in LA).

Arizona will be a stiff test because now that they are guaranteed a bowl game, they wont be content to just stand pat with their six wins. They'll also have to find a way to shut down Rob Gronkowski and Keola Antonin, who have established themselves as the offensive pacemakers for the Wildcats.

Anything can happen in that Civil War. Nothing more needs to be said.

3. It's pretty widely accepted as of now that the Pac-10 is having, across the board, its worst season in years. Give us your #1 reason for this sudden downturn in quality.

The quality of quarterback play in the Pac-10 has been completely diminished over the past four seasons and I relate that directly to the downturn in quality of play in the conference. In fact, I've been working on an enormous project which I'll unveil between the UA game and the start of the bowl season here on PFN showing you exactly why.

Consider this a Cliff's Notes version of it.

Just four years ago...the good old days of 2004 when I was a sophomore at ASU and the world was my kegger, the Pac-10 had the nation's 7th and 8th rated passers (Matt Leinart and Aaron Rodgers) with Andrew Walter of ASU coming in at 22nd. The conference also had six of the nation's top 40 in passing yards (Leinart, Rodgers, Walter, Derek Anderson, Drew Olson and Kellen Clemens). Anderson was 4th in the nation that year.

This season, the conference's highest rated passer is Mark Sanchez in 12th and Arizona's Willie Tuitama comes in at 18. Another Pac-10 QB doesn't show up until #38. Sanchez has the most passing yards in the Pac-10 with 2,122...good enough for 29th in America.

Even beyond stats, that generation of quarterbacks in 2004 were more mature, had better decision making skills and better field managers than this crop is. It's fair to say that there's a gap in age between the two seasons, but these youngsters have a lot of ground to make up.

4. Each season can bring significant change to a college football team, whether from graduation or a change in starters. Now that we've seen the majority of the 2008 season, what do you think will be the significant changes for your team to contend with in 2009?

The first major change will be at quarterback, where I'm now convinced that none of the undergrad signal callers currently on the ASU roster (Sullivan, Szakacsy, Stangel, Elway) will be anywhere close to being Pac-10 caliber starters in 2009. I'm convinced that ASU will hit the JuCo quarterback market to find a spot starter for next season and wait for Jack Elway or another QB recruit to develop.

At the same time, I'm not sure who is going to be in the backfield for the Devils next year either. Keegan Herring is out of eligibility, I'm really sketchy on Dimitri Nance or Shaun DeWitty being the full time starter and, sadly, we haven't seen enough of Ryan Bass in game situations to know if he's going to be a difference maker yet.

5. Will USC ever suck again? EVER!?!

Of course! The beautiful thing about college football is it's ebb and flow, regardless of how long change might take.

Every major power in college football eventually takes a step back, however brief. It can be for a number of reasons; a coaching change, a string of weak recruiting/disappointing recruiting classes, strength of the conference and other factors can all signal a temporary downfall of a major NCAA football powerhouse.

You need to look no further than teams like Miami, Florida State, Nebraska, Colorado, Alabama and, most recently, Tennessee and Michigan as programs where mitigating factors have led to all of these programs to briefly take a step back in power in the past decade and have, well, a "regular" or even a "bad" season. Yet, at their time at the top, we all wondered if they would "ever suck again...ever."

Eventually, Pete Carroll will leave, the allure may wear off and the Trojans may suffer a 9-3 or 8-4 season. Don't forget that this was the team that lost the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl after going 6-6, so it wasn't that long ago that USC was a program treading water in the Pac-10. This all may take 25-30 years, of course, but it will happen. Trust me.

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