Pac-10 More Than Just USC

    There are no longer any links analyzing week five of the college football season on ESPN’s Web site. No more glorious stories about the Oregon State Beavers toppling the No. 1 ranked perennial powerhouse USC. Nothing but news and analysis of week six, because that is the nature of college football — it continues whether you want it to or not. Every week there’s a new story about underdogs taking down giants and more analysis done than necessary or thought possible. If I could, I’d like to regress to that fateful Thursday (not just because I’m a diehard Beaver fan), because I truly believe there are lessons to be learned.

    Of all the talk going into the show down, most of it was about how the Pacific-10 Conference was weak and how USC was the only team worth mentioning. While it may be true that USC was the lone team representing the Pac-10 in the top 25 in the fifth week as compared to six teams from the Southeastern Conference and four each from the Big 12 and Big 10 Conferences, rankings early in the season mean nothing. At the end of that week, nine ranked teams had fallen, including six teams taken down by unranked nobodies. The losers included the SEC’s No. 3 Georgia and No. 4 Florida.

    Some would go on to point out that Georgia lost to No. 8 Alabama, and Florida was put down by Ole Miss, both SEC opponents. Many analysts would claim that the SEC is just so deep and talented that any team can take down any other team. Yet isn’t that what happened with USC? Oregon State, counted out by almost everyone, challenged and beat a team that many still regard as the most talented in college football this year. The Beavs stifled the offensive attack of the Trojan monster and pushed past, through and around USC’s defensive line to dominate the game.

    The Pac-10 has talent outside of Southern California, but many people overlook that fact. The sometimes dubbed “Pac-One” gets no credit, with the growing trend of football analysts adopting the SEC and Big 10 Conferences as the best in college football.

    On Saturday, another upset involving an SEC team enfolded as No. 13 Auburn University lost to No. 18 Vanderbilt University. These SEC upsets don’t show the depth of the conference, but rather the inflated rankings of these teams. No matter how you look at it, losses are losses, whether it’s to a pee-wee third-grade team or to Louisiana State University. When all is said and done, both the Pac-10 and the Southeastern conferences had all but two teams win their bowl games last year, showing that as a whole, both conferences were equally successful.

    Let’s allow past seasons to be history and examine the current season beginning with the start of fall camp. I’m not one to look into preseason rankings, but the Beavers were predicted to finish sixth in the conference. The reason I don’t usually look at these rankings is because they are based on complete speculation, though I did casually glance at them this year. As expected, the rankings by the head coaches predicted USC to have a plethora of talent. From what everyone has seen from USC destroying Ohio State University, the University of Virginia and the University of Oregon — the other Oregon team — the predictions about the Trojans’ talent were accurate. USC is talented, but if the sixth-best team of the conference can take down the undisputed number one, it reveals that there is a wealth of talent within the Pac-10 that goes unnoticed.

    In fact, USC has lost three times to Oregon State since 2000, and for the last two years has lost two games a year — only to Pac-10 teams. During these years, the Trojans finished third and fourth in the final seasons’ rankings after dismantling their nonconference opponents in their bowl games.

    From this precedent, it’s hard to argue the Pac-10 is weak, but the glaring stat this year is its dismal 1-6 record versus the Midwestern Conference. Here are the facts: the Pac-10 has dealt with injuries to key players; many of its losses came on the road; and, i’ll admit it, the MWC is improving. Despite its poor record versus the MWC, the entirety of the Pac-10 has dealt losses to Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue University and the SEC’s own University of Tennessee — and it wasn’t just the Trojans who won these games.

    Like I said before, there are lessons to be learned from Oregon State. A lesson that in this day and age, any team has a chance and rankings don’t mean a thing until late in the year. We can talk and analyze all we want about who has the best conference and team, and we will continue to do so, but we won’t know until the season is over. Talk is just talk, and though it adds to the splendor of college football, builds rivalries and adds to the fun of being a fan, it really means nothing — unless of course it’s your team that is doing the winning.

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