Archive for the ‘Pac-10 Football’ Category

Is Fat the Way to NCAA Glory?

July 2, 2009


Greetings Coug Nation! Hope you are all set to enjoy a nice holiday weekend while we celebrate the birth of this great nation.

I am lifting this from Colin Cowherd’s ESPN radio show, but he made a point today that bears some thought. If you haven’t heard, they released the list of the fattest states in the country. Have you seen the list?


It’s striking for one big thing – since 2006, nine of the “top” ten obese states are in the south. Mississippi is in the lead, with Alabama closing in. In other words, red states = fat states.

Why does this even matter? Well, think about the SEC for a moment. What are they known for? Speed, for one thing. They have tremendous speed, especially on defense, throughout the SEC. But the bigger thing they have over most other conferences in America? SIZE. The SEC’s linemen on offense and especially defense are huge, among the biggest in the country. And compared to the PAC-10? It’s an eye-opener. Just check out the average size of some of these starting SEC d-lines:

LSU: 281.75 pounds
Florida: 286.25 pounds
Alabama: 287 pounds
Ole Miss: 287.5 pounds

Now, check out some of the average size of some of the PAC-10’s starting d-lines:

USC: 282.5 pounds
Cal: 292.75 pounds

Hang on a second. USC and Cal are actually BIGGER than the touted SEC powerhouses? It’s true. But, they are also the exception to the rule. USC is on another level obviously. They are an NFL pipeline, and produce NFL-ready defensive linemen from all over the country. And they own the state of California, where the biggest, best of the best usually go to Troy. And Cal has changed to a 3-4 exclusively, and that calls for bigger defensive linemen (particularly defensive ends). They also have a wide recruiting net right now, so the numbers are going to be bigger for their starting d-line.

But where you start to see the separation are with the rest of the conference, especially where they play a 4-3 defense…and ESPECIALLY in the northwest! Check out these d-lines:

Oregon: 260.50 pounds
Oregon State: 264.75 pounds
Washington: 277.75 pounds (note – this includes 348-pound defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu. The rest of the starting linemen are under 270).
Finally, WSU: 271 pounds.

Now, of course, the defensive lines don’t play against each other. It’s not like Oregon’s D-line has to face off against Florida’s D-line. And some of these schools feature speed-over-brawn. Remember WSU’s top defenses this decade had converted outside linebackers as defensive end, like Isaac Brown and DD Acholonu. Both those guys were barely 230, and that’s half the starting d-line.

But it is interesting to see the differences, where the SEC lines are approaching an average of 290 pounds, while the NW schools are between 260 and 275 or so.

Think it’s any coincidence that the heaviest regions produce the heaviest players? Where fit states like Washington and Oregon (both tied for 28th in the country in obesity) have some of the smaller defensive linemen? What’s also amazing is to think about the size of Mississippi and compare it to Oregon. Oregon produces only a handful of D-1 prospects every year, while Mississippi might produce 30 in any given year. Both states have about the same population (roughly 3.5 million people). Yet Mississippi is the fattest state in the country. There is no comparison. It’s a huge difference (literally).

It makes you wonder if there is any hope, nationally, for the NW schools. Do they have to try and dip into regions where they normally don’t, hoping to get some of the 300-pounders and try to compete? Or do they do what Wulff has tried recently, getting the 250-lb kids with great frames, and then try and add the “right” thirty, forty, even fifty pounds over time? I guess when you are recruiting kids from your base who are going to be on the smaller side, yet you want to compete, you pretty much have to search for those desirable frames that can see added weight without destroying the player’s mobility and speed!

The thing to watch around here will be when LSU comes to Seattle to open the season vs. UW. Football players usually lose some weight as the season wears on, but out of the chute, even after training camp, the lines should be at their heaviest.


Just watch the game or even catch the highlights from that opener, and use the ‘ol eyeball test. LSU will come at you in waves of near-300-pounders up front, and over the course of four quarters, that size difference can wear teams down.

Finally, they are making news in the athletic department again.


Yep, ticket sales and donations are down. Yep, we’re poor. Yep, the economy sucks. Yep, we need to get the stadium renovation done. Rinse. Repeat. Per the article:

Fiscal year 2009 came to an end Tuesday, and the WSU Athletic Foundation forecasts a $1.5 million drop in donations from last year’s record total of $8.26 million. Final numbers have yet to be calculated.

Donors dropped from 6,200 to 5,500 in one year. WSU already had the fewest athletic donors and donation dollars in the Pacific-10 Conference.

We’ve heard it before, and we’ll keep hearing this message until things change. I hope we can do our part around here, but so far, we still don’t have anything to announce (I know, I know).

That’s it for today. Enjoy it, enjoy your weekend, and as always..GO COUGS!


Are Coug Fans Sinking Sonics 2.0?

April 23, 2009

So late yesterday, there was some news on the controversial bill, SB6116. One of the bill’s sponsors, senator Ed Murray, declared to the Seattle Times that “the bill is dead”. The bill is a wide-reaching piece of legislation designed to allow King County to allocate some existing tax money when it becomes available in the near future, for a renovation of Key Arena, affordable low-income housing, the arts…..and POSSIBLY Husky Stadium. We say possibly, because, well, the bill doesn’t actually say “and Husky Stadium”. Instead the bill talks about maintenance for other sports “stadiums” in the county. Obviously Husky Stadium would fall into that category, but so does Safeco Field and Qwest Field, two venues that are terrific today, but will also need some work in the years ahead.

But to break it all down, the bill gives King County the ability to decide for themselves if they should funnel some of the tax money to Husky Stadium. If anyone remembers the pain of the M’s and Seahawks stadium issues, and how the King County council nearly blew both of those situations, you have to wonder if UW would ever see the money. Or at the very least, it’s possible that the County, in total and complete COVER YOUR BEHIND mode, would simply push it to a public vote (much as we saw with the M’s and Seahawks). They don’t want the ill will from the anti-everything crowd by authorizing tax money for a college stadium in an economy like this.

Anyway, all that out of the way, the bottom line is that the bill looked promising, but now has hit a road block. Why? According to Brian Robinson at Save Our Sonics, they are lining up to blame YOU, Coug fans. Check it out:

This thing passed rules because they had the votes. It got put to the floor waiting for a vote that had already happened behind closed doors like they always do. The straw count had shown that it would pass so they allowed it to be put to vote.

Suddenly we had the worst case scenario. A split caused when eastern district republicans started to feel some pushback from WSU alumni. It wasn’t really that much, but enough to start getting questions asked. When questions got asked people started to wonder “is this worth it?” The momentum that had built stalled.

Then Ed Murray sent his message that it was dead to (Jim) Brunner. To put it really simply he was willing to carry the weight, but he didn’t want to carry it uphill. He said to Brunner clearly “it is dead.”

Let me be clear on one thing – I love the work of Brian Robinson. Nobody has done more for the cause to return the NBA to Seattle than this guy. He’s the one who has taken the whole effort on his back, rallied the fans, and tried to do everything he can to point out what a fraud the OKC owners were at the time they were playing their get out of town game. But to then shift gears and try to put the proper pressure on the state to get this thing done is very admirable. And I don’t believe he hates the WSU fan. But it sure seems like some of the blame game is starting. And when Cougfan goes out of their way to fight this thing, well, we are the easy targets. Don’t say you weren’t warned IF this thing doesn’t come to fruition.

THAT SAID, even after yesterday, it’s really, truly NOT DEAD YET. As Tim Ceis of Seattle said last night, it is still alive, and won’t be dead until the entire legislative session shuts down. And even then, it’s not truly dead. The settlement with Clay Bennett says that in order for Seattle to receive another $30 million, the city must have approval for funding by 12/31/2009. I’m no expert (CLEARLY), but it is always possible something could happen, like a special session or something, before the end of the year?

Moving on, WSU Nation is still dealing with our own shocker yesterday in that less-than-uplifting chat with Jim Sterk. If you didn’t see it, please do yourself a favor and check it out here. Lots of things to be concerned about, but basically a sledgehammer reminder about where we are in the PAC, where we need to go, and most of all, why we are moving the Apple Cup to Qwest. It’s the money honey, pure and simple. We don’t have much, and we need more if we want to even attempt to level the playing field.

The issue of getting booted from the PAC-10 has many layers. But as one person told me late last night, the thing the conference is looking at with our situation is the gate, season ticket sales, and donations. It’s no secret that we are behind the rest of the PAC, but, to see it stated by Jim Sterk himself that we are $14 million in budget…behind the NUMBER NINE team in the conference? That’s a lot of ground to make up. And in no uncertain terms, Jim Sterk and the rest at WSU were told several years ago to get going on that stadium expansion to keep their standing in the conference. And if it didn’t come together? Well, there COULD be another vote.

It’s not like teams get booted from BCS conferences all the time. If anything, the conferences have gone the other way, where they have grown or expanded (BIG 10, BIG 12, SEC, ACC all in the last 10 or so years have changed). But it’s not like teams NEVER get kicked out of said BCS conferences. Some quick searching last night found one recent team booted from a BCS conference, in Temple from the Big East.


The reasons for their ouster were many, according to ESPN:

“The Owls were kicked out of the Big East after 13 years for failing to meet minimum requirements for membership, most notably in attendance, facilities and fielding a competitive team.

The Owls were overmatched in the Big East and haven’t had a winning record since going 7-4 under Jerry Berndt in 1990. They went 2-9 last season and are 19-60 in seven seasons under coach Bobby Wallace.

Big East teams decided in 2001 that it was no longer worth the automatic win to keep Temple around. The conference gave the Owls a shove out of the nest and told them to look elsewhere.

Even when the Big East was fighting high-profile defections, they never gave Temple another look.”

GULP.

Suddenly the Qwest Field Apple Cup for six years doesn’t sound so awful, does it? What I hope here is that Sterk is giving us the full picture. I HOPE this isn’t an empty threat to spur donations. When you are trying to recruit high-quality student athletes to your university, and you have your AD going on a chat to say that we are on shaky ground to even stay in the conference? Doesn’t exactly help the cause, does it? But for him to go public with this, when everyone is paying attention? It’s probably a very real possibility that unless we get our act together, the PAC-10 will give it a serious look.

That’s about it for a downer of a Thursday. ENJOY IT, and as always, GO COUGS.

The 2K Decade – How the Pac-10 Has Fared

August 1, 2008

There were some interesting comments to come out of our own Rooster’s picks from Monday. Misguided as some of them were, as the muscle-bound anonymous was out to hate on us, well, someone brought up a good point in taking a look at how the NW schools have done since Y2K. I took a look at the conference beginning with the 2000 season, and thought the numbers were not only interesting, but deserving of it’s own post. So here goes:

Here’s all 10 teams in the conference starting from Y2K (neutral site records includes bowl games and non-traditional home sites for either team):

1) USC: 81-21 overall – 41-8 at home, 33-11 on the road, 7-2 in neutral sites. No surprise here. An amazing string of at least 11 wins since the 2002 season, including the 2004 13-0 record. What was interesting was that they started out 5-7 and 6-6 for the first two years, yet have lost just eight games over the last six seasons. The perception has been that it’s USC and then everyone else fighting for second place. Hard to argue against that in any way, shape or form when you look at the numbers!

2) Oregon: 67-32 overall – 39-12 at home, 25-16 away, 3-4 in neutral sites. A rough 2004 season where they went 5-6 is the only non-winning season in the decade. An impressive 25-8 non-conference record, and not just against Cupcake State either, as the Quack Attack hasn’t shied away from scheduling an “A” game. And the Autzen Stadium home-field advantage is strong as advertised. 39-12 is nothing to sneeze at. I was impressed with their road record, and their conference record was strong at 42-24, including three seasons of 7-1 (2000, 2001 and 2005).

3) Oregon State: 63-36 overall – 38-11 at home, 20-24 on the road, 5-1 in neutral sites. The surprise obviously is how good they have been the last eight seasons. You can also see how strong the Reser Stadium advantage really is. Remember, prior to the 1999 season, Oregon State had a 28-year streak of LOSING seasons. While Dennis Erickson gets a lot of credit for turning things around, you cannot help but be impressed by the work of Mike Riley. Erickson initially won with many of the players Riley recruited, and since Riley returned in 2003, the Beavs have had just one losing season(5-6 in ’05). A huge tip of the cap toward the plucky Beavs. They should be proud of the program they have become.

4) UCLA: 56-43 – 35-14 at home, 19-24 on the road, 2-5 in neutral sites. While people love to rip on the Bruins and their fall from the elite, well, it’s not THAT bad. Just two losing seasons, and both were 6-7 affairs (2007 and 2003). Still, aside from their 2005 10-2 breakthrough, they’ve hovered just above the .500 mark. The home record is pretty impressive, and even though they’ve gone just 13-13 the last two seasons, they have gone 10-3 at home. Only one losing season at home, 2-4 in 2002, they’ve won 16 of their last 19 games in the Rose Bowl.

5) ASU: 56-43 – 37-16 at home, 17-23 on the road, 2-4 in neutral sites. I guess the big surprise to me was the road record. I knew they were good at home, and if you’ve been to a game in Tempe before you know that they do have a strong home-field advantage. But I didn’t realize they were six games under .500 on the road the last eight seasons. Similar to UCLA, they have at least had two big breakthrough seasons, 9-3 in 2004 and 10-3 in 2007. Only two losing seasons, 5-7 in ’03 and 4-7 in ’01, but otherwise they’ve hung in at the .500 mark. Interesting flip in their conference record, where they are just 31-35, yet out of conference, 25-8.

6) WSU: 54-41 – 24-20 at home, 23-19 on the road, 7-2 in neutral sites (including 5-1 in Seattle). We know all too well the story here. An unprecedented three straight top-ten finishes in the polls from 2001 through 2003, but it’s been a bowl-less drought ever since. 2006 was promising, at one point 6-3 and ranked, but the season fell apart due to injuries and finished with bitter 6-6 pill that really began the Doba Must Go talk. I thought the road record was interesting, a better mark that Oregon State, ASU, UCLA and Cal. But just 24-20 at home kind of sucks doesn’t it? The trip to Pullman is a bitch, and the small stadium can be as loud as any other Pac-10 venue when it’s packed due to how close the fans are to the action, but to be just 4 above .500 isn’t good enough. Maybe that will change with Wulff.

7) CAL: 54-44 – 30-18 at home, 20-24 on the road, 4-2 in neutral sites. Cal has recovered nicely from a disaster to start the decade, where they went 3-8 in 2000 and a brutal 1-10 in 2001 (where have you gone, Tom Holmoe??). Last year’s fade is on everyone’s brain, but Cal has still won at least seven games since 2002. Interesting was their conference record, just 32-34, but an impressive 22-10 OOC.

8) UW: 44-52 – 29-22 at home, 14-27 on the road, 1-3 in neutral sites. This is where you see a big separation from the rest of the teams, with UW at 10 fewer wins than WSU and Cal. Even eight games under .500, they are still seven games over .500 at home. But the home field clearly isn’t what it used to be. And the road record is rough. The thing is, UW started out hot this decade, rolling to 11-1 in 2000 and then it was 8-4 in 2001, 7-6 in 2002 and 6-6 in 2003. The bottom fell out in 2004, a 1-10 campaign considered by many the worst UW team in school history. The 2004 season was the first non-winning season in 27 years, but it’s been tough to climb out of the hole, now four straight losing seasons.

9) Stanford: 34-57 – 19-29 at home, 15-27 on the road, 0-1 in neutral sites. Another big separation from the rest of the PAC, Stanford with 10 fewer wins than 8th place UW. Just one winning season, a 9-3 campaign in 2001, Ty Willie’s last in Palo Alto. The worst was 2006, a 1-11 season considered not only the worst Stanford team in school history, but many rate it as one of the worst Pac-10 teams ever. And talk about no home-field advantage – they are just 3-16 in their last 19 home games. WOW that’s bad.

10) Arizona: 33-59 – 20-32 at home, 13-27 on the road (no neutral site games). I was surprised they were behind Stanford, but, when you consider AZ has been bowl-less since the 1998 Holiday Bowl, well, I guess it makes sense. Included in their record is an abysmal 19-47 record against the conference (WOW), but 14-12 outside the PAC. Their worst showing was 2003, where they finished 2-10, nearly had a player revolt against John Mackovic, and were actually outgained in conference play by 144 yards per game. AZ actually went 4-2 at home last year, the first time this decade they’ve had a winning home slate.

So there you have it, the conference since the new millennium. While the top three should hold firm in USC, Oregon and probably Oregon State, there could be a lot of movement from the rest of the teams as we play out the decade. And aside from USC’s domination in every way, shape and form, what do you think have been the biggest storylines so far? I would put Oregon State’s arrival as a legit bowl team as a big story. And sorry UW fans, but your fall from grace this decade has to be acknowledged. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts.

Don’t forget the Paul Wulff chat today at 11 AM.

And what do you know, today is 8/1. Are we really starting the season at the end of THIS month? Back-to-school ads already appearing in newspapers and TV? Where did the summer go??

AND AS ALWAYS, HAPPY FRIDAY TO Y’ALL, AND GO COUGS!

133 Reasons to Love the Pac-10

July 22, 2008

Greetings Cougies.

With summer flying by and only 40 DAYS until the Cougs and the rest of the Pac-10 kick of the 2008 season, I thought we’d take a peek at how the conference schedules look this year.
There are a couple things that jump out at me when I look at the 2008 Pac-10 schedule. First is that the non-conference schedules are looking tougher than in years past. That’s not to say that every school’s schedule is loaded with tough matchups – there are still some real softies on tap – but overall, I’d say the Pac-10 has stepped up the level of non-con competition.
From a purely Coug perspective, I also see that not only is WSU the only Pac-10 team with 13 regular season games, but we’re also one of only two conference teams (Stanford is the other) with only one bye-week. First of all, where was the 13th game during the Brink era? Seems to me that another easy ‘W’ or two over the last four years would have put us in at least one bowl game…
An astonishing SIX Pac-10 teams – all with a 12-game schedule – have THREE bye-weeks, yet we’re running our boys through a 13-game season with only one week off? I don’t get it. Three teams play an 8-week stretch with no bye. WSU and Stanford open up the season with eight straight; and USC plays eight in a row after they start the season with two games in the first four weeks. Oh yeah, these guys are supposed to go to school and get good grades too. No problem…

Based on my scientific formula involving eye-balling the schedule after five Kokanees, here’s how I rank the Pac-10 school schedules from easiest to toughest, with a few observations about each teams’ biggest games thrown in for good measure…
10) Arizona. UofA probably has the softest non-con schedule in the Pac this year, opening up with Idaho and Toledo at home, before traveling to Albuquerque to face the Lobos. They also get most of their tough conference games at home (Cal, USC, OSU and ASU).
The Wildcats have a VERY good chance at starting off their season 6-0 before facing Cal at home on October 18th. If they can get past the Golden Bears – which is also very doable – it will set up a huge game with USC before they finish out their schedule with four games in the last six weeks. With an offense that’s looking like it could be a juggernaut, Uof A could be poised for a huge year and a victory over USC would make them a legitimate BCS candidate, despite their weak non-con schedule.

Other big games: @ Oregon on 11/17; and vs. ASU on 12/6. (WSU 11/8, in Pullman)

9) Stanford. The Smart Kids start off with two conference games (Beavs at home followed by a trip to Tempe on 9/6 before a pretty soft 4-game stretch featuring TCU, San Jose St, UW and Notre Dame. If the plucky Cardinal can manage a victory in one of the first two, they could very-well parlay that start into a respectable season – especially considering the fact that they get tough conference games vs. OSU, UofA, and USC at home this year.

After knocking USC out of the National Title game last year, their matchup against the Trojans in Palo Alto on 11/15 will be interesting. Can they hold serve or will they get steam-rolled?
Despite the USC plotline, the key game to their season looks to be their matchup @ Notre Dame on 10/4. The Irish will surely be a motivated team this year, so a win on the road in South Bend could give Stanford the confidence they need to make it through their last six conference games with some fight.

Other Big Games: @Oregon on 11/8; and @ Cal on 11/22. (WSU 11/1, in Palo Alto)

8) Cal. We’re already splitting hairs on who has the weakest schedule because in all fairness, Cal’s schedule is not soft by any stretch. They go out of conference against the Big 10 and the ACC – but it’s Michigan State and Maryland that they’ll face off against – certainly not the best those two conferences have to offer. The non-con schedule is capped off by Colorado State.

Cal is one of the aforementioned 3-bye-week teams so they lose toughness points for that. They get MSU, ASU and Oregon at home. Cal has the look of a middle-of-the-Pac team to me, so the games vs. MSU and at Maryland should actually be very competitive from a matchup standpoint.
After last year’s second-half nose-dive, the one way Cal can get voters back in their corner is with a big win over ASU at home on 10/4. This will be especially true if they manage to win their first four games – and if ASU can beat UGA on 9/20. This would set up an early-season matchup of unbeatens. Even if this scenario does not come to pass, this game shapes up as Cal’s first big test of the year.

Other Big Games: @UofA on 10/17; @USC on 11/8; and @OSU on 11/15. (WSU 9/6, in Pullman)
7) Washington State. The Cougs score big points for 13 games in 14 weeks. Not many teams can (or should have to) pull that off. The toughest non-con game appears to be the opener in Seattle against Oklahoma State but trips to Baylor and Hawaii won’t be gimmes either. Portland State at home on 9/20 (my birthday, by the way…) is the one slam-dunk on the Cougs’ schedule this year. Five of nine conference games will be played in Martin Stadium, including tough ones against Oregon, USC and UofA.
For a team with hopes of a BCS Bowl game at the end of the year, it’s always best to lose a game early as opposed to dropping one late in the season. The Cougs don’t fall into that category this year, so in my opinion, no game is bigger than the first game of the Paul Wulff regime. With hopefully 60,000+ Cougar fans packed into noisy Qwest Field in Seattle, the Cougs and Coach Wulff have a tremendous opportunity to “announce their presence with authority.” A victory over Oklahoma State would provide a huge shot of confidence to the team, the university administration, and the boosters.
Other Big Games: vs. Oregon on 9/27; vs. USC on 10/18; and @ Hawaii on 11/29 (is this our “Bowl Game”?)

6) Arizona State. Despite the fact that the Sun Devils once again have scheduled Mrs. McBoob’s Alma Mater, the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, as well as UNLV this year, their non-conference schedule gets a big boost from their huge matchup with Georgia on 9/20. Three bye-weeks make up for the fact that they go on the road for five conference games, including USC and UofA.

I’d venture to guess that ASU will be picked #2 in most of the pre-season Pac-10 polls, so their matchup with the Trojans on 10/11 in Compton could very well be THE game of the year in the Pac-10. With both teams playing HUGE non-conference games before they meet, this game could also have National Championship -let alone Pac-10 title – implications.
Other Big Games: @OSU on 11/15 (Erickson returns to yet another of his former whistle stops): and @ UoA on 12/6. (WSU 11/15, in Tempe)

5) Oregon State. A trip to Happy Valley to play Penn State on 9/6 is the highlight of the Beaver’s non-con schedule. They’ll also battle Hawaii at home and Utah in Salt Lake City. Their schedule is almost ideal in terms of bye-week placement. They have a progressive build-up: Three weeks on; one week off; four weeks on; one week off; and then 5 weeks on to finish the year.

What could be one of the more entertaining games of the year is the 9/25 home date against USC. The Beavs start out with two on the road before taking on Hawaii for their first home game of the year – hardly an opponent to get real excited about. That game is followed by an off-week, so the team and their fans should be ready to explode on a Thursday night when the Trojans come calling.
Of course, if the young Beavers are not yet ready for prime time, the biggest and most important game on their schedule will be their last – against the Ducks in Corvalis on 11/29. This has been an extraordinarily entertaining series to watch over the last several years and with both teams fighting for likely bowl berths, it won’t disappoint.

Other Big Games: vs. ASU on 11/1; and @ UofA on 11/22. (WSU 10/11, in Corvalis)
4) Oregon. The Fightin’ Phil Knights’ non-conference schedule includes Utah St., Purdue and Boise State. While they have to travel to a possibly steamy Lafayette, IN to face the Boilermakers on 9/13, they get the other two at home. Five of their conference games are on the road, including key matchups against USC and ASU, as well as the Civil War against OSU.

If the Ducks are to remain among the conference elite this year, they’re going to have to earn it – and it should be entertaining to watch. They start off the season with seven-straight games before their first of two byes. The week off is well-timed, as they travel the following week (10/25) to Tempe for a big game against the Sun Devils. If they’re able to get through the first seven games at no worse than 5-2 and then pull off an upset in the desert, they’ll be in great shape. They’ll have to avoid a letdown the following week at Cal before what should be a bit of a grudge-match against UofA in Autzen. They then get another bye before the Civil War on 11/29 in Bean Dip Stadium.

Other Big Games: @UW on 8/30. (WSU 9/27, in Pullman)

3) UCLA. I’m ranking UCLA this high based on a very tough opening three weeks of non-conference games. They have Fresno State and Tennessee at home, followed by a trip to Provo to face BYU. Their conference schedule is a pretty even split with tough games on the road against UofA, OSU and USC; and roadies at Oregon, Cal and ASU.

With their major injury concerns, UCLA could be in for a tough few weeks to start the season. After their first three, they get a bye before opening up Pac-10 play with Arizona in Pasadena. If they make it to that bye-week without adding to their injury woes, they have a chance to get healthy and score a big win that would be a great way to start off their conference schedule.
The Bruins’ 12/6 matchup with USC is the game that I’m keeping my eye on late in the year. UCLA may not yet have the horses to run with the Trojans, but Neuheisel should have his team fired up.
Other Big Games: @ Oregon on 10/11; and @ASU on 11/28. (WSU 10/4, in Pasadena)

2) USC. As if they needed the help, USC is another one of the Pac-10’s 3-bye-week teams. They actually ease into the season, with each of their first two games followed by a week off. Of course, when those first two games include an opening week 6-hour flight to Virginia and a possible #1 vs. #2 matchup with Ohio State, perhaps they’ll have earned the rest.

The battle vs. the Buckeyes is one of the most anticipated matchups in all of college football this year. The winner of that game will be an immediate favorite for the National Title game. Of course, even though the loser will have no more room for error, this game will be played early enough in the season that they could still rebound for a shot at the national championship if the stars align.
While this is obviously the most important game on USC’s schedule, if you’re a fan of the Pac-10, you also have to be wringing your hands, waiting for the first contest between Handsome Pete and Slick Rick. Call it Ego Bowl I. As much as I love to hate these two, there’s no denying the fact that Neuheisel’s presence in Westwood will breathe some life back into what has become a very stale rivalry.
Other Big Games: vs.ASU on 10/11; @UofA on 10/25; and vs. Notre Dame on 11/29. (WSU 10/18, in Pullman)

1) Washington. If the puppies are anything but 0-3 heading into their week 4 bye, it’ll be reason for celebration on Montlake. A trip to Autzen Stadium is no way to start your year – especially if you’re a despised rival. That game is followed by tough non-conference games at home vs. BYU and Oklahoma. UW also gets Notre Dame at home on 10/25, arguably rounding out one of the tougher non-conference schedules in the nation, let alone the Pac-10. The conference schedule doesn’t get any easier, as there are trips to Arizona, USC, Pullman and Cal on tap.

If there’s a swing game on the UW schedule, it’s their matchup with Oregon State in Seattle on 10/18. This game follows the second of two early-season bye-weeks, which follows a tough trip to face UofA in Tucson. If they win this one, they may have a chance at respectability. If they lose, their chances for a six-win bowl-eligible season are likely gone.

Other Big Games: @USC on 11/1; and @Cal on 12/6. (WSU 11/22, in WINTERY Pullman)

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Top 10 Games of 2008 – Pac-10 Style

1) Ohio State at USC. 9/13. Early-season game with major implications on the National Championship. Simply put: the NCAA needs these types of games in order for the BCS to work.

2) Georgia at Arizona State. 9/20. Another early-season, non-conference matchup of likely top-10 teams. This is one of those “How legit is the Pac-10?” games. If the Sun Devils and Trojans can win these first two games, it will give the conference two top-5 teams and the spotlight will be shining on the west coast for the rest of the fall.

3) USC at UCLA. 12/6. There are definitely more important games, with bigger conference and national implications but if you’re a fan of the Pac-10, you should be champing at the bit for this one. Ego Bowl I is hopefully just the first of many battles between Pete Carroll and Rick Neuheisel in La-La Land. Nothing would be better for the conference and west-coast football in general, than a return to significance for the UCLA program and a bitter, heated rivalry between these two schools.

4) USC at Arizona. 10/25. I believe this will be a matchup of 7-0 Uof A and 6-0 USC. This will be the 5th conference game for both schools and the winner will hold their own destiny on the way to the conference championship.

5) Arizona State at USC. 10/11. I want to believe that this will be a great game but I have a hard time buying stock in ASU. I think they’ll lose to Georgia which will actually provide a lot more motivation for Erickson and Co. A second loss in their first six games would mean that they’d have to run the table for a BCS bid and they’ll still have six conference games to get through after this one. If the Devils are for real, the outcome of this game will have a huge impact on the national and conference landscape. If not, they’re just another Pac-9 team, and USC is in a league of their own.
6) Arizona State at Arizona. 12/6. This will be the game that decides 1st place in the Pac-9 (second place in the Pac-10) this year. I’ve never really paid much attention to this rivalry and I’m sure that’s pretty much the case for anyone outside the state of Arizona – but it will mean something this year and should be a shootout. This will be the closest thing to an arena league score as you’ll ever see on grass.
7) Oregon at Oregon St. 11/29. This game has become the conference’s best in-state rivalry game over the last several years and is always entertaining. This year, I expect a middle-of-the-Pac OSU team gunning to knock the Ducks out of Sun Bowl contention.

8) USC at Oregon State. 9/25. This is the first conference game for both teams. The thing I love about it is that it’ll be played on a Thursday night, which should make for a liquored-up crowd and rowdy atmosphere in Corvalis. If the Beavers can ride the emotion and energy generated by their fans and stay close, it could be very interesting.

9) Arizona at Oregon. 11/15. There’s no better game day atmosphere in the Pac-10 than Autzen Stadium, and Arizona will be the biggest test for the Ducks in Eugene this year.

10) Oklahoma State at Washington State. 8/30. Obviously, this is the homer in me but this is a very big game for WSU and Oklahoma State. The Cowboys and their fans are undoubtedly counting this game in the win column already so they really can’t afford to lose it. The Cougs on the other hand, are embarking on the first season of a rebuilding process and expectations are relatively low. A loss would surprise no one but a victory in Paul Wulff’s first game as head coach would be monumental.