Archive for the ‘USC’ Category

The 2K Decade Revisited, PAC-10 Style

July 1, 2009


This post has been hijacked to wish HAWK a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

First of all, what a tough month on the celeb death front. A moment of silence for those who passed on…..

I loved Farah. She was like THE dream-gal of dream gals back in the day. Raise your hand if you at least knew someone who had that poster on their wall. You know the one I mean.


What’s weird is that she was only on ONE season of Charlie’s Angels? You would have thought she was the entire franchise, but she sure cashed in there. And, yes, I loved Michael Jackson, but that was back in the Thriller/Beat It days, when everyone was trying to moonwalk. But once Michael decided he wanted to physically become Diana Ross, and all the ugly accusations and lawsuits against him with young boys? In other words, once “Jacko” went wacko? I was done. Sad to see him spiral down the tube like he did, but the guy had some serious issues. I would imagine being in the conversation as one of the most famous individuals on the planet for a number of years would do some weird things to you? Still, an amazing talent, a once-in-a generation type, ala Frank Sinatra and Elvis.

That said, I don’t know about you, but the Billy Mays death was one that made me the most sad of all. Not Billy Mays! He gets hit in the head with a piece of luggage on a rough landing of his flight into Tampa, then dies that night in his sleep? Probably a heart disease problem according to reports, but still, weird.

I think Mays might be one guy that Coug fans would have liked. Down to earth, hard worker, fun to be around, and lots of passion for what he does. I can imagine him wandering through WSU tailgate parties, handing him a Natural Light and a hot dog right off the grill, and just enjoying his company, more so than the others.


Well, OK, we’d probably enjoy Farah’s company too. But we like Mays. And no, I won’t insert a joke or video or whatever about the Sham Wow guy. Not today. Maybe tomorrow or the next day, but that would be disrespectful to Mr. Mays.

Moving on in a completely different direction, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at how the PAC-10 has fared since the year 2000. If you remember, we looked at this last summer, and it was an eye-opener in how successful some teams were (Oregon State) and some teams weren’t (cough*UW*cough). Check out the updated numbers and see for yourself….

1) USC: 93-22 overall – 47-8 at home, 38-12 on the road, 8-2 in neutral sites/bowls. It just continues. At least 11 wins since the 2002 season, including the 2004 13-0 record. Still amazing to think that they started out the decade by going 5-7 and 6-6, but have lost just 9 games the last seven years. And SC has lost some key assistants over the years, including super-O-Coordinator Norm Chow, yet the machine rolls on. They have run away with the decade, and it’s clearly the era of the Trojan.

2) Oregon: 77-35 overall – 44-12 at home, 29-18 away, 4-4 in neutral sites/bowls. Just one losing season in the decade (5-6 in ’04), but otherwise a winner on an annual basis. Bellotti hands off a major PAC-10 power to Chip Kelly, and when you look at the numbers? It’s hard to imagine a better situation to walk into than the state of the program that Kelly inherits. Also included is now an impressive 27-9 non-conference record against some bigger-name programs. A super-strong number two to USC in the conference.

3) Oregon State: 72-40 overall – 43-12 at home, 23-27 on the road, 6-1 in neutral sites/bowl games. Just one win behind Oregon for #2 in home wins, and just five wins overall away from the Ducks, they are legit as legit can be. Don’t forget this program had 28 straight LOSING SEASONS before 1999! Since Mike Riley returned in 2003, the Beavs have had just one losing season(5-6 in ’05). It was a surprise to many last year when they came in such a strong #3, and it just continues this year.

4) CAL: 63-48 overall– 37-18 at home, 21-28 on the road, 5-2 in neutral sites/bowl games. A horrendous start to the decade (4-18 from ’00-’01), it has completely turned around. Like another Jahvid Best run through the Washington-Washington State defenses in ’08, Cal has sprinted to #4 in the conference, up from #7 last year. They won’t catch Oregon State for third, but there is no doubt Cal is on a roll. They are finally over .500 in conference, now at 38-36 after going 6-3 in the PAC last year. If Tedford sticks around long-term, this may be the most interesting team to watch once we get into the next decade. After all, Tedford is now an impressive 59-30 at CAL in seven seasons. It’s hard to imagine CAL going away anytime soon?

5) ASU: 61-50 overall – 41-19 at home, 18-27 on the road, 2-4 in neutral sites/bowl games. A rough ’08 season at 5-7, but still good enough to catch UCLA for #5. They continued their road struggles last year, just 1-4 away from home (the lone win @ UW). Very similar to UCLA, now with three losing seasons this decade (’01, ’03, ’08). Also like UCLA, a couple of breakthrough seasons (9-3 in ’04, 10-3 in ’07), but otherwise a .500 record. They continue to be strong out of conference though, where even with some tough losses to UNLV and Georgia last season, they still are at 26-10 OOC for the decade.

6) UCLA: 60-51 overall – 38-18 at home, 20-28 on the road, 2-5 in neutral sites/bowl games. #4 in the PAC-10 wins last year, they have been passed by CAL and ASU and now sit at #6. A big step back last year at 4-8, but overall just three losing seasons in the decade (’03, ’07’, ’08). And even prior to last year, their previous two losing seasons, both were of the 6-7 variety. But aside from their ’05 ten-win season, they’ve hovered around .500 for the decade. Still a pretty good home record even with a down year last year at 3-4, just their second home losing record in the decade (2-4 in ’02).

7) WSU: 56-53 overall – 26-24 at home, 23-25 on the road, 7-3 in neutral sites/bowl games (including 5-2 in Qwest Field). You know the deal here. WSU has fallen down a peg to 7th in the decade. Three straight top-ten finishes in the polls from ’01 through ’03, but home for the holidays ever since. ’06 was promising, at one point 6-3 and ranked, but the season fell apart down the stretch. Still hanging in at over .500 at home, slightly under .500 on the road, but nearly a .500 record overall. Interesting that WSU is nearly a .500 school all-time? According to the WSU media guide, since 1894, WSU’s combined record is 494-484-45 (45 ties?? YUCK!). So, I guess one could say that the 2K decade has gone just about the same as WSU has done in it’s entire body of work/history? Some great heights, some ugly depths, but basically hovering near .500.

8) UW: 44-64 overall– 29-29 at home, 14-32 on the road, 1-3 in neutral sites/bowl games. Like last year, this is where you see a big separation from the rest of the teams. UW has 13 fewer wins that WSU, 17 fewer that UCLA in the decade. 0-12 is a huge anchor on their record, but this isn’t a one-year fluke. You have to remember where UW was when the decade started to wrap your head around this thing. 11-1 and Rose Bowl champs in 2000, 8-4 in 2001, 7-6 in 2002 and even 6-6 in 2003. It all fell apart in ’04 though, a 1-10 campaign considered by many as one of the worst teams in UW history….at least until ’08 happened. But anyway, that ’04 season ended a string of 27 straight non-losing seasons, but it’s been down in the dumps ever since. Now with five consecutive losing seasons and on their fourth different coach this decade, it’s been a mind-bending fall down the ladder.

You know the weirdest thing of all? Not so much the overall record, I mean that is a surprise when you consider where UW used to sit in the pecking order. But they are now an even .500 at home after going 0-7 in Husky stadium last year. Remember Husky Stadium, back in the 90’s? That place used to freakin’ SHAKE it was so loud. One of the most intimidating venues in the country, teams used to relieve themselves down one leg when they lined up and heard that crowd. Times have certainly changed in Montlake. But it’s a new era, so we’ll see if they can recapture that setting that used to be a complete nightmare for opposing teams.

9) Arizona: 41-64 overall – 25-34 at home, 15-30 on the road, 1-0 in neutral site/bowl games. After last year’s 8-5 season, they have inched past Stanford for #9 in the conference. While still 9 games under .500 at home, they did go 5-2 in Tucson, their second home-winning record this decade (4-2 in ’07). They do have a realistic shot at catching UW, just three wins behind them for 8th place in the decade with this ’09 season yet to come. But they are trending upward and may have turned a corner after last season’s bowl-win over BYU.

10) Stanford: 39-64 overall – 23-30 at home, 16-33 on the road, 0-1 in neutral sites/bowl games. Another big separation from the rest of the PAC, Stanford still has just one winning season this decade (9-3 in ’01). But they are clearly making progress under Jim Harbaugh. However, even after a promising 5-7 mark last year, they have fallen to 10th place in the conference. But, considering Harbaugh inherited one of the worst recent teams in PAC-10 history (1-11 in ’06), they are now 9-15 under Captain Comeback. They continued to struggle on the road though, just one victory away from home last year (@UW). But they are on the rise, and we think they are staring at bowl-eligibility this year for just the second time this decade.

So there you have it. No surprises at the very top, a still-nice surprise at Oregon State at number three, and a high-riser in CAL at number four.

That’s it for a Wednesday. Enjoy it, and as always, GO COUGS!

USC North or USC NOT?

January 8, 2009

Well, sports fans. The UW has finally completed its off-season mission of trying to become USC North.

Funny, when I was a wee lad watching Spider Gaines and Warren Moon down the big condoms, I thought the goal of UW was to BEAT USC, not become them.

Thankfully, these recent hires and developments by the Defeateds on behalf of the Defeateds have ensured that UW will neither beat nor become USC anytime in the near future. Here’s why:


First and foremost: UW HAS NONE OF THE THINGS THAT CURRENTLY MAKE USC THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAGNET IT IS TODAY.

Need proof of this claim? How about a quick run-down of the primary attributes of the Football Program at the University of Southern California.

1) In case you didn’t know, USC is located right outside of the Hood in Los Angeles, California. This location makes USC the lifelong dream of every kid who grows up in an Urban locale anywhere in Southern California–one of the top 4 recruiting hot beds in the country. Moreover, USC’s location near Hollywood and its relationship to several celebrity alumni make it attractive to kids all over the country that want 15 minutes or more of fame.

Last time I checked, Washington was not located in Southern California.

2) USC has FIVE DECADES of National Stature. Yep, a half century. USC was great in the 60’s, great in the 70’s, great in the 80’s, pretty darn good in the 90’s, and record breaking in the past decade. Washington was really good in the early 80’s, great in the early 90’s, and had one good year this decade. If this were a boxing match, let’s call it a 3rd round TKO in favor of SC.

3) USC is Heisman Central. You wanna win a Heisman? Go to SC. You wanna go to New York? Go to Washington State.

Last I checked, the Huskies have sent NO ONE to New York even when they were great. So, if you want to strike a pose


you go to SC. Period.

4) Four and Five Star recruits go to warm weather–or they go to Ohio State. Its really that simple. Since scholarships have been reduced, warm weather teams have overwhelmingly been in National Championship games as well as the top 5. Sure there have been exceptions, but like home buying, its all about location, location, location. And Montlake sure ain’t what it used to be.

5) USC motivates by both fun and fear. Everyone knows that Pete Carroll’s enthusiasm is nothing short of infectious. Hell, I want to play for USC when I watch them play and I’ve grown up hating them my whole life. But the other factor that makes USC great are their famous OPEN WEDNESDAYS. Yep, every Wednesday, the whole team of 5 star parade All Americans strap it on to determine who starts EACH WEEK.

You wanna cool those bandits down a bit? How about putting each player’s job on the line every stinking week! And you know what? Each player knows that the staff means business because SC WILL WIN with you or without you. Its plain. Its simple.

And its PROVEN.

Which brings us back to the little Defeateds.

You wanna know what it takes to re-build a last place program (which it IS by record for this decade) into an upper division team?

It takes development. It takes recruiting 2 star kids and making them 3 star kids. It takes recruiting 2 and 3 star kids and making them into NFL players.

And you know how you do that? The EXACT way that Coach Paul is doing it with our program right now.

You go on the road, you build air tight relationships with high school and community college programs, and you build the darn thing up brick, by brick, by brick. And as we know, it is a slow and VERY painful process.

Yep, the key for the UW’s fortunes in this coaching cycle was to hire a builder.

Instead, they got his opposite.

Case in point:

Let’s take a look at their newest hire:

In addition to setting a record for the most “awesomes” ever recorded in one press conference as he did yesterday, the former lead singer of Midnight Oil also

talked about his preference for having full contact drills each practice for the entire season next year. Really? Think that’ll work with the bodies they’ve got on that winless roster of theirs?

Last time I checked, when teams that are not 17 deep and try to do that kind of stuff, they wind up having nationally publicized try outs for quarterback at Week Six of the season. Moreover, the last time that tricky Nicky was charged with a development project, it didn’t work out so well did it? (although his dome sure was perfect for the University of Spud Hub, no?)

So, in a nutshell, when you try to make Walter Matthau

into Brad Pitt

you run the risk of getting a really ugly outcome:

And such is the case with the Defeateds. They shot for the stars and got a constellation of White Dwarfs.

So, watch the recruiting wires in the coming months and years: If this group can’t land 4-5 star guys in the next two, then this is a train wreck just waiting to happen.

And I for one am looking forward to Episode I of that sixteen car crash around the week of November 22nd next year.

Nice job of keeping alive your current streak of wonderfully bad coaching decisions.

Losers.

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)

***

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.

Pac-10 Sneak-a-Peek

July 21, 2008

With Pac-10 media day on Thursday, it’s time for our two cents (and they are a worthless two cents, if you believe the grumpy, crusty “couch slouch”, Norman Chad. When Chad isn’t hating on a growing medium that is both entertaining and informative, you’ll find him yelling at those kids to “GET OFF MY LAWN!” Or better yet, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, for the GREAT OZ has spoken!).


Anywho, here’s a sneak peek at the Pac-10, at least from these worthless, uninformed eyes:

1) USC – I dare you to find anyone who hasn’t picked them to win the conference, and for good reason. The defense is going to be a nightmare, with maybe the best defensive players in the conference on the d-line (Fili Moala at d-tackle) inside-and-outside linebackers (Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing), and safety (Taylor Mays). They are a sight to behold.

But offensively, hmm. Something seems a little off. Maybe it’s because everyone knows QB Mark Sanchez can be special, but he hasn’t yet inspired the masses that he’s the next great thing. But the kid has barely had a chance to work the room. Let him have a few drinks and get comfortable, then judge his game! Or maybe it’s that the WR corps have, thus far, failed to live up to the hype. They are All-Airport (you know, you see them in the airport and think OH MY GOD how are we going to stop these guys??) but the on-field production hasn’t been there compared to guys like Mike Williams or Dwayne Jarrett.

All that said, this is still USC. Nobody can match the overall talent, and of course, Pete Carroll has the magic touch with five-star talent. The home conference schedule is extremely favorable this year (Oregon, ASU and Cal all at home) so they’ll win their seventh Pac-10 title in a row. Think about that for a second. They have won at least a share of the championship for six consecutive years, and likely their seventh this year. I know it’s still considered a small “sample size”, but isn’t it time to stop proclaiming Pete Carroll as not just one of the best right now, but start talking him up as one of the best ever? 76-14 in a high-pressured job in a tough conference is unbelievable. There’s no greater pressure than winning big when everyone – EVERYONE – expects it. WSU Football Blog continues it’s man-crush on Pete Carroll.

2) ASU – I think the offense really takes off this year in Rudy’s last season as the changes Erickson implemented in the spring will help the offense. Rudy struggled with injuries and was beaten to a pulp with the well-publicized 55 sacks, but he still threw for 3200+ yards and a 25/10 TD-to-INT ratio. He could improve on that with another year in the system and with Erickson’s tweaks.

On D, eight of their top 11 tacklers are back, and their d-ends in Luis Vasquez and Dexter Davis are probably the best pass-rushing combo’s in the conference. They will be tough up front.

The Pac-10 schedule is rough though, at Cal and at USC in a tough two-game stretch to start October. And of course, they play a top-ranked UGA team to cap off September, so we’ll see what they look like after that one. All that said, I had a hard time between ASU and Oregon with #2. But I went with the Devils based on a second year of Erickson and the senior QB element. Plus, Oregon comes to Tempe on 10/25, and that game will decide second place.

3) Oregon – Losing Dennis Dixon and J-Stew and all those yards and TD’s from last year’s 9-win team would normally cause a panic in Eugene. But not this year. In a style we aren’t used to, Oregon’s D is going to rule the day. DE Nick Reed is the top pass-rusher in the conference, coming off a 12-sack season. Reed is undersized but has that high-revving motor that NFL teams dream of. And oh, that secondary. I will go as far as to say that Oregon’s threesome of Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond III at corner is the number-one corner combo in the Pac-10, and has to be in the top 2 or 3 sets of starters in the nation. They are that good. And Patrick Chung as that rover/strong safety combo is just a fantastic senior who could contend for Pac-10 defensive player of the year honors.

But the cupboard isn’t totally bare on offense either. There is still impact talent at WR with Jaison Williams, at RB with Jeremiah Johnson and maybe the top newcomer in the conference this year in the mack truck known as JC transfer LeGarrette Blount. Finally, Nate Costa is going to be really, really good in this QB-friendly offense once he gets his feet wet.

With a relatively soft first month of the schedule, he’ll have the time to get comfortable. Our fine-feathered friends are, at worst, the #3 team in the conference this year. The main reason I have them #3 is the five conference road games (at WSU, at USC, at ASU, at Cal, and at OSU in the Civil War), which is against at least three bowl teams.

4) CAL – The star-power has left the building at Cal, and there are tons of questions on offense. Who will be the QB? Can Jahvid Best recover from injuries to be the top running back? And how is the running back depth now that Justin Forsett has graduated and James Montgomery transferred to WSU? The receiving corps suffered the most damage, losing the top five pass-catchers from ’07. Backup TE Cameron Morrah is the leading receiver coming back with a mere 13 catches for 155 yards? Yikes.

Defense will have to carry the load early, and they do look up to the task. They are going to a pure 3-4 defense this season behind former Coug Bob Gregory’s leadership as DC. 12 of the top 15 tacklers from last year are returning in ’08, including six of the starting front-seven from 2007. The linebackers in particular are loaded, with Zach Follett, Worrell Williams and Anthony Felder all experienced seniors. Outside of USC those guys are as good as you’ll find in the west. They COMBINED for an amazing 270 tackles last year(!).

The schedule doesn’t look too bad, with five Pac-10 home games, including Oregon and ASU, however they do go to the Coliseum to face USC in early November. But maybe the biggest question of all – can they recover from their big-time fold job of 2007?? They did rally to win their bowl game vs. Air Force, but otherwise lost 6 of their last 7 games. The damage done from that Oregon State home loss was remarkable, and to see a team with so many weapons just completely go into a shell is one of the most head-scratching things I’ve ever seen in this conference.

5) Arizona – Offensively throwing the ball Arizona is unmatched in the conference. Nobody has the scheme, QB and receivers that they do, led by Willie Tuitama. The top four pass-catchers return, as well as nine of the top 11 total from 2007. Top WR Mike Thomas is smallish, but catches everything in sight and reminds me a lot of the Bobby Engram-type, a guy you under-estimate because of his size but at the end of the day you look at his numbers and go WOW. Hard to argue with 83 catches, 1000+ yards and 11 TD’s. They have to run a heck of a lot better than they did last year however. They were an abysmal 114th in the nation in rushing in ’07, but the talent is there with Nic Grigsby, who averaged 4.4 yards per carry as a true frosh last year. And just an average-at-best running game would do wonders for getting the ball into the endzone. All that passing offense that finished 10th in the country in throwing the football only managed 28 points per game, good for a very mediocre 56th-ranked scoring offense.

The defense is loaded with new faces, as only four seniors will start and just three total starters are back from last year. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There was talk of some bad apples spoiling the whole bunch from last year’s D, and flushing the lousy attitudes could be the best thing for them. They lose seven of their top nine tacklers from last year, but #2 tackler, linebacker Ronnie Palmer, is back. He should be a big-time leader of the defense.

The schedule is the clincher for me . Idaho, Toledo and New Mexico leads to one of the softest non-conference schedules in the conference, if not the nation. Win those first three games and with 12 games on the schedule, they are already halfway to bowl-eligibility. And with five Pac-10 home games, well, it’s time. Arizona has been predicted to break through for the last few years, and finally, 2008 is THE YEAR they do it.

6) Oregon State – The QB situation is unclear, where it still sounds as though one day it’s Lyle Moevao, the next it’s Sean Canfield. Neither guy overwhelmed last year, and while Moevao gets the ink for winning his four starts at the end of last year, his passing numbers “reeked” (52%, 2 TD’s, 6 INT’s). Canfield struggled as well, throwing for more yards that Moevao (1661 vs. 876) but he tossed 15 INT’s in nine games before getting injured vs. USC in the last part of 2007. Most likely Moevao gets the job to open 2008. The skill positions look OK, led by the return of Sammie Stroughter as one of the most explosive players in the conference now that a disasterous 2007 is behind him. But they lose a true workhorse in Yvenson Bernard at tailback, and combined with some losses on the O-line with Roy Scheuning and Kyle DeVan, it could be a tough year offensively.

The bad news is that the defense has suffered some huge losses. The nastiest front-7 around against the run last year, the Beavers lose ALL STARTERS from the d-line and linebackers from ’07. They are also dealing with the loss of projected starter Bryan Payton at free safety, who abruptly left the program this summer, and the early-season suspension of Al Afalava.

The schedule doesn’t look too bad though. USC, Cal, Oregon and ASU all come to Corvallis, where the Beavs have gone an impressive 38-11 since 2000. Reser Stadium is a tough place to win, period. They go to Happy Valley to face Penn State in week two, and they also play at a tough Utah team on a Thursday night TV game, but otherwise it’s a schedule that could be another bowl season. While they won’t worm their way into the top-3, and they lose so much in terms of defense and a key guy like Bernard, they still have enough to get to 6th place. I don’t think this is the year that Riley’s magic touch runs out.

7) UCLA – The offense is, well, a mess. The QB’s are injured, but at least Ben Olson should be in uniform this fall. You can’t say the same for Patrick Cowan. But even Olson is taking baby steps, just now rounding into shape by doing easy treadmill workouts in recovering from a broken foot. He’s been banged up and not exactly productive over his career anyway, so even if he is upright and ready by the opener, it’s almost impossible to know exactly what you are going to get out of him this season. They could have RB Kahlil Bell back, and when healthy he’s pretty special. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry but was lost with an ACL injury and still remains a bit of a question mark for 2008. And all that is the GOOD NEWS?? The bad news of all is the O-line, or what’s left of it. They were already beyond thin coming into spring ball, but now this summer they lost a projected starter at tackle, Sean Sheller, to an ATV accident. They only have 16 combined starts out of all their offensive lineman, ranking #114 in the nation coming into ’08. Combine those question marks up front with an immobile QB in Olson, and it could be a long, tough season trying to move the football.

The defense will really have to improve in ’08 if they have any hope at a bowl game. They were a pretty good #29 in the nation in total defense last year, but they lost six pretty good starters from that group heading into this season. They still have some studs though, in linebackers Reggie Carter and Kyle Bosworth. And their d-tackle combo of Brian Price and Brigham Harwell will cause havoc up front.

The schedule is unforgiving, opening with Tennessee on a Monday night Labor Day special, and then after a bye they head to BYU, a team many are saying will upset the BCS apple cart. They also go to Oregon, Cal and ASU, and of course, the Neuheisel Bowl in Seattle in mid-November. This just in – UW fans HATE Neuheisel. And while Neuheisel will be a breath of fresh air, and he’s armed with the best offensive and defensive coordinator in the conference, this will be a very difficult season in Westwood.

8) Washington – Yes, Jake Locker is a phenom. He is the best running back in the conference back for 2008, and could probably start at running back, linebacker or safety on any team in the Pac-10. He’s breath-taking as a pure athletic marvel, like a faster version of John Elway. He might be the greatest running QB in Pac-10 history when it’s all said and done. But the passing game? Not yet. The worst completion percentage of any starter in the Pac-10 last year at 47%, plus a 14-15 TD/INT ratio shows a ton of room for improvement. Then you mix in that seven of the top nine receivers are gone from last year, and the top two back in ’08 are Michael Gottlieb and Curtis Shaw? Uh-oh. There is a TON of buzz on the young skill guys, however, and true frosh Chris Polk is touted as one of the fastest skill guys at Washington since Napoleon Kaufman. But it’s still a group in diapers, and they are going to have to learn how to crawl before they can run circles around Pac-10 defenses.

The defense will be better. I mean it has to be, right? The worst defense in school history last year, giving up a miserable 446 yards per game, they are pulling out all the stops by nabbing former NFL coordinator Ed Donatell to revamp everything. Will it work? Are college kids ready to fly with Donatell’s complex NFL schemes? The early word is that things are going to be better based on how the defense played this spring, but, it’s still a new system. But Donatell has the NFL credit to his name, and will command respect from the first practice. The talent is another issue. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim is big-time as a pass rushing force at defensive end and could be first-team all-conference, but the rest of the d-line is wet behind the ears. Leading tackler EJ Savannah is back, but he broke his arm in a freak spring arm wrestling accident and while he should be ready to play this fall, he’s battled some injuries to his neck and shoulder his whole UW career. You have to wonder if the mileage is catching up to him and if he’ll be the same player in 2008. The secondary will be better, with some experience back there in three out of four starters from last year. Mesphin Forrester should have a big senior season after recording an impressive 93 tackles from the corner position last year.

Oh yeah, the schedule? BRUTAL. At Oregon to start the 2008 campaign, with all those young skill kids to start the year? It could unravel in a hurry. Then it’s home for BYU, as mentioned before a real darling of the non-BCS types. The week after that, top-5 power Oklahoma rolls into town. They also get Notre Dame later in the season. Overall they have five Pac-10 road games, including at USC, at Oregon, at Cal, at Arizona and of course, at Pullman for the Apple Cup. While Locker should improve as a passer, and the defense will be better, they still might not have the wins to show for it.

9) WSU – I’m sorry. I didn’t want to do this. But if you have ever read our stuff over the years, there’s one thing we don’t do, and that’s run wild with blind homer-ism. And I look at the rest of the conference, I just see this as where we will end up.

I won’t go into the deep details as to our offense, defense and schedule, because you likely know as much as there is to know right now on this team. But taking off the crimson glasses and stepping far enough away from it, here’s what I see:

1) An inexperienced QB in a brand new system.
2) An unsettled running back situation with injury (Tardy) and academic (Ivory) questions.
3) A talented WR group, but it’s young, and it loses three of the top four from last year in Michael Bumpus, Charles Dillon and Jed Collins.
4) Unproven kicking game where one of Wade Penner, Patrick Rooney and the new JC guy will be a starter for the first time.

On defense, we have eight of the top nine tacklers back from 2007, but this from the 85th ranked defense in 2007. They improved by a wide margin down the stretch of the season, but, part of that improvement could be laid at the feet of the quality of the offensive opponent (Stanford, UCLA and Oregon State were in the lower half of Pac-10 teams in total offense last year). We are thin as hell at tackle, where A’i Ahmu will have to magically stay healthy for the first time in his career, and the other tackle is an unproven JC guy in Bernard Wolfgramm, Josh Luapo or fill-in guys like Matt Eichelberger. I love our linebackers, and moving Andy Mattingly to D-end could turn out to be the best move this staff could pull off when it’s all said and done. Mattingly is a beast in every sense of the word, and with his quickness and power off the edge, he could cause a lot of miserable Saturday afternoons for opposing tackles. I love Jody Sears and Chris Ball as co-coordinators, and they are already saying to get ready for eight in the box and a commitment to stopping the run, but the lack of depth at tackle could be a huge problem that could trickle-down to all areas of the defense.

The schedule isn’t too bad. Okie State is going to be a headache offensively, very much resembling Oregon from last year in terms of scheme and balance in throwing and running the ball. But defensively they were pretty bad, finishing a whopping 101st in the nation in total defense last year. After hosting Cal in week two, we go to Baylor, a team widely picked at the bottom of the Big 12. Then it’s home for Portland State before Oregon comes to town on 9/27. That first month is going to be an adventure, as there are so many unknowns at this point.

I know this is all worst-case-scenario, and it’s a gloomy outlook. Who knows, maybe everything comes together on offense and Rogers-to-Gibson will be a weekly headline. Maybe the running game comes together behind four O-line starters from 2007. Maybe the defense improves like we believe it will under the new direction of Ball and Sears. And maybe we stay healthy and the dreaded “d” word – depth – doesn’t become as issue. And yeah, that’s why the play the games, after all, and we will always have hope. But this is how I see it.

10 – Stanford – 2008 might not be quite as bad as last year, but it could still be a big-time struggle on offense. QB Tavita Pritchard didn’t have a stellar spring, and even though he started seven games last year, beat USC and is on top of the depth chart after practice sessions, it still sounds as though the job is open. Jason Forcier, a transfer from Michigan, will be in the mix to at least compete for the backup job, if not get some snaps with the 1’s. WR Richard Sherman looks like the top returning offensive weapon. Sherman had a team-high 651 receiving yards, averaging a strong 16.7 yards per catch to go with 4 TD’s. Sherman has really good quickness and size for the position (6-3, 190). WR’s Mark Bradford and Evan Moore combined for 90 catches last year, but both have finally moved on. Yet Sherman should still be a weapon to be accounted for on every snap.

Stanford has nine starters back on defense, the most among Pac-10 teams for 2008. That includes their three best defensive linemen and their entire starting LB corps. LB Clinton Snyder is the top guy on D. The senior is huge at 6-4, 241, and had 96 tackles last year, averaging 8 per game. He also had eight sacks, showing his all-around versatility. But they lost their d-coordinator Scott Shafer to Michigan. Shafer is though of as a defensive guru with a very bright future. But that said, it might be time for a new voice. Stanford finished 107th against the pass, and 98th in total defense, so maybe a new DC isn’t the worst thing in the world. You could also put some blame on the lackluster D towards the feeble offense. Nothing deflates a defense more than constantly having to come back on the field after yet another three-and-out by the offense. If the O can at least inch closer to average this year, the defense should benefit tremendously.

Stanford’s schedule is a little odd. They play their first two games against Pac-1o foes, opening at home vs. the Beavers on a Thursday night, August 28th game before heading to Tempe to take on the Sun Devils on September 6th. They don’t play out of conference until at TCU on the 13th, their third game of the season. But they play a total of seven road games, and that will be their undoing. While they are headed in the right direction, 2008 will still be tough. Losing their WR depth will hurt, and the QB situation still looks unsettled. Combine all that with the idea that they have seven road games next season, including at ASU, at Oregon and at Cal, it’s not a stretch to see a 10th place finish. But I will say this – this could be the last year in a while that we see them down here. Times are changing at Palo Alto, and Harbaugh has things headed in the right direction. Stanford is great in so many other sports, and I have a feeling that football isn’t going to languish much longer.

So there you have it. My thoughts on the conference, 2008-style. Look for more this week from Brinkhater, Hooty and Rooster as they share their 2K8 opinions on the Pac-10. Most of all, HAVE A GREAT WEEK!

Say it ain’t so, Handsome Pete!

January 10, 2008

Am I the only one outside of Compton who is absolutely horrified by the idea of Pete Carroll bolting Troy to become the latest in the long line of head coaches who have moved between the NCAA and NFL; only to fail in spectacular fashion?

This phenomenon of the coaching world, which is neither confined to the sport of football, nor limited to moving “up” from the minors to the pros, demands further investigation. Is it for the ego; or the bank account? What on God’s green earth would compel a man to leave a position in which he were revered as a KING, for the unknown that awaits? Regardless of whether he wears the crown as King of LA in the media capital of the west coast; or the King of Poop Island in the home of the National Lentil Festival; I will never understand why a man would give up the keys to a new Cadillac for what’s behind door #3.
I don’t want to even imagine a Pac-10 without Pete Carroll at USC. When you really despise a team in college football, you despise the history more than you do the current roster. In baseball on the other hand, you hate the way the Yankees dominated the field for so long but you also grew to detest Steinbrenner, Jeter, O’Neill, Knoblauch, Brosius, and the like. You really spread the hate around. It’s healthy.
You really need at least one face to hate. With the ever-shrinking tenure of the average college football player, it’s practically impossible to develop a healthy hatred for one. I tried like hell to hate Reggie Bush but failed miserably. Before him, I tried hating a long line of former Trojan players but I just didn’t get a chance to know them. I guess I briefly hated Todd Marinovich after the Dad’s Day comeback in ’89, so I suppose there are exceptions. But occasional fleeting hatred aside, we need Pete Carroll (and Ken Norton for that matter) at USC so our hatred will be complete. With USC, I suppose we’ll always hate the perpetual loop of their fight song during every game and the constant “V’ sign from fans and players – but we need more than that!
Pete Carroll is the face of USC football and the face we love to hate. I actually look forward to every opportunity I get to watch him. There is simply nothing better than watching him work a game. He’s on the field more than USC’s long-snapper, constantly working the refs – buttering them up early so they’ll be in his hip pocket if the game gets close at the end. I take that back. The only thing better than that is watching his facial expressions during the ups and downs of a game. 98% of the time he just has that pompous look of arrogance that shames you into upgrading your trailer to a double-wide; but the other 2% of the time when things aren’t going right for his team – is absolutely priceless. He seems to maintain the arrogance through a look of disbelief and astonishment.

This is the look that says “How the hell did these idiots manage to fuck up my flawless game plan?!” With Pete at the helm, nobody really beats USC, they just get lucky. Just ask him.
So on top of this ice-cream sundae of hate, the proverbial cherry on top is none other than Rick Neuheisel. I can honestly say that I have never hated anything about UCLA and probably won’t until we face them for the first time with Slick Rick on the sideline. But if I hate Pete Carroll – I super-hate Rick Neuheisel. If Carroll were to leave USC for the Atlanta Falcons now, the inevitable speculation would be that on top of all that “nothing left to accomplish here” nonsense, would be that Pete felt at least a little threatened by the new coach at the rival school across town. I’d REALLY hate to see Slick Rick become the new King of LA by default.
I’m sure that by the time I finish breakfast in the morning Pete will come to his senses and announce that he’s staying “home” at USC and for that, the entire Pac-10 says “Hate On!”