Just How Good Has the Pac-10 Been This Season?
(published the week of Nov. 19, 2000)
As poll voters struggle with their atlases in an attempt to determine
whether there is in fact life west of Lincoln, Nebraska, the Pac-10 is
enjoying by far the finest season of any college football conference in
In recent years, the Pac-10 has surely had its struggles. Last
season, the Anderson & Hester/Seattle Times Rankings ranked the Pac-10
as only the 5th-best conference in the country. But in this season
in which the Southeastern and Big Ten conferences are experiencing somewhat
down years, the Pac-10 has ascended to the top, where it sits, largely
unchallenged, going into the bowls.
The Pac-10’s top-to-bottom quality this season has been tremendous.
Its top-3 teams, Washington, Oregon State, and Oregon, have combined to
go an amazing 26-1 when not playing each other. Among these 27
wins is Washington’s victory over otherwise-undefeated Miami. Arizona
was in the running for the conference title for a while before losing heartbreakers
at Oregon and Washington. A good Stanford team beat otherwise-8-1
Texas. A good Arizona State team beat otherwise-9-1 Colorado State.
A good UCLA team beat otherwise-8-2 Michigan, and the Bruins also beat
an Alabama team that never recovered from that loss. USC and Washington
State have both been above-average teams in comparison to those across
the nation. That leaves only one Pac-10 team, Cal, that has been
below-average—and the Bears have been the 66th-best team in the country,
sandwiched in between #65 BYU and #67 Alabama, which is hardly terrible.
In truth, Cal has been better than 49 other Division 1-A teams.
Not surprisingly, these ten teams have performed extremely well against
those from across the nation. The Pac-10 has posted a 23-7 won-lost
record (a .767 winning percentage) in non-conference play, despite having
played a much tougher non-conference schedule than all but one of the other
five conferences whose champions receive automatic BCS invitations. Among
those conferences, only the Big Ten’s non-conference schedule has been
comparable to the Pac-10’s, and the Big Ten has suffered 6 more non-conference
losses while posting 1 less win than the Pac-10.
Yes, there is life west of Lincoln, in the part of the country where
Mike Garrett, Gary Beban, Jim Plunkett, Charles White, Marcus Allen, and
Steve Emtman once roamed. The West is where it’s at in college football
this season—whether or not the poll voters can locate the region on their