…the Pac-10 picture:
1) Oregon vs Oregon State. The nastiest rivalry in the Pac-10 has become the Pac-10 title game – winner goes to the Rose Bowl (OSU would have the head-to-head win with an identical record and give Stanford 2nd place on the tiebreak, while an Oregon win would give them sole possession of the championship) and send the Beavers for a Holiday in San Diego – and probably a wholesale disemboweling of whatever scrub from the “Big” 12* shows up.
2) Everything else is a complete clusterfuck. There are four teams with three losses – USC and Arizona have to play each other as well as their main rivals, Cal still has to go to Seattle and deal with Washington, and Stanford can do nothing but try to look good against Notre Dame and see how the tiebreakers shake out. Cal has the tiebreak advantage on all of those but USC, and it’s entirely possible that Cal, USC and Arizona could all end up 5-4 in the conference. At that point, it would depend on who beat who, and since USC beat Cal beat Arizona, if ‘Zona beats USC things officially go pear-shaped. If Arizona and UCLA BOTH beat the Trojans, they could fall clean into the Poinsettia Bowl.
If I had to guess, this is how I see it going:
1) Arizona runs the table, pounding a truly terrible Arizona State squad for the Territorial Cup before narrowly edging USC.
2) USC, surprising no one, puts the beatdown on UCLA.
3) The Huskies complete the defenestration of Wazzu in the Apple Cup, getting revenge for last year and turning the tables on their rivals as the most awful team in major college football.
4) Cal gets a narrow win at UW, thanks to two weeks to prepare and maybe a cameo trick play to backup RB Jahvid Best.
5) Stanford, their bowl destiny out of their hands and with no Roses to play for, mails it in against Notre Dame and scores a sloppy and uninspiring win. Talk of Harbaugh in South Bend drops to church mouse levels.
6) Oregon rides the sheer intimidation of Autzen Stadium to a close-fought win over the Beavers, and punches their ticket to take on that other OSU in Pasadena on New Years Day.
Which leaves us with:
1) Oregon (8-1) – ROSE
2) Oregon State (6-3, tiebreak over Cal and Stanford but not Arizona)- HOLIDAY
3) Cal (6-3, tiebreak over Stanford & Arizona but not Oregon State) – SUN
4) Arizona (6-3, tiebreak over Stanford but not Cal or Oregon State) – LAS VEGAS
5) Stanford (6-3, no tiebreaks) – EMERALD
6) USC (5-4) – POINSETTIA
I don’t know the tiebreaks up and down, but that’s my best guess. Do the math – that’s Oregon on 10-2 overall, followed by four – FOUR – teams with IDENTICAL records of 6-3 in the conference. And USC, darling of the media this last decade, winds up behind them all with a record of 8-4 but 5-4 in the conference, and finishes up in the lesser of the San Diego bowls.
The thing that has to make the Cardinal crazy – aside from losing the Ax for the seventh time in eight years – is that they are done. They have no more Pac-10 games left to play. Their conference season is through – and they could still wind up anywhere from second to fifth place, and they won’t know for two weeks.
If you don’t think the Pac-10 has swooped in and nicked the SEC’s title as toughest top-to-bottom conference in the country…you better Ax somebody.
* That conference is Tex-ass** and a bunch of spastics. When one of your divisions may not have a single team bowl eligible, you are a suck-tastic conference.
** Mack Brown can talk his way into a title game, but on the field, I haven’t seen anything to suggest that the Florida or Bama defenses wouldn’t eat the Horns alive.