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The way I see the conference, particularly Utah

You could call this a “very coarse” power ratings… although that term is so abused.  When I think of power ratings, I think of how the teams are playing right now, whereas the term seems to have morphed over time to speak to how the teams have performed over time.

I think the conference has 3 good teams: Washington, Colorado and USC.  Outside of USC making the wrong QB decision to start the season, none of these three teams have lost to anybody outside their group.  They’re the best.

Next up are WSU and Stanford.  I’m tempted to put WSU above Stanford, but WSU has had a very soft Pac-12 schedule thus far and didn’t look that good against Colorado.  Yes, they beat Stanford, but Stanford has gotten meaningfully better since then and I’m not so sure the result would be the same now.  But nevertheless, these two teams are good and beat everyone below them.  But they’re not in the top tier either.

Then comes Utah, which if one just went by record, would be in a group by themselves.  But I actually think they SUCK far more than people think and belong with the next group.  So let me put Utah aside right now and talk about the next group…

“The Muck” are the rest of us, with the exception of Arizona (who is below the Muck and winless and conference play).  Cal, UCLA, ASU, Oregon, Oregon State are all 2-6 in conference.  These teams have lost every game to the top-5 teams above.  The wins come from each other (and Arizona), with two exceptions.  Those two exceptions are Cal over Utah and Oregon over Utah.  And that’s why I think Utah belongs in The Muck.  All their victories are over Muck teams, with 1 exception, and they’ve lost to 2 of The Muck.  The only thing positive they’ve got going is a victory over USC, but that was the pre-QB switch USC and can safely be discounted.  And once you discount that, you’re looking at a team that had a Muck heavy schedule and competed reasonably among the Muck, but as the two losses indicate, are not meaningfully better than the rest in The Muck.

So what does that mean for this weekend games?  It means that Cal has a real shot at UCLA, another Muck team.  It also means that I’m expected Colorado to kick the crud out of a WAAAAY over appreciated Utah team.

Who says Cal can’t win the Pac-12 north?

Maybe it’s just that I’m letting last Saturday’s exciting win go to my head, but I’m starting to feel like there’s an opportunity this year that Cal has never had: to win the division title.

Said another way, who’s left on the schedule that Cal can’t beat this year? UW is looking to be the strongest team in the North… but Cal beat them on the road last year and I don’t see anything fundamentally different about the two teams that says Cal can win that game at home.

Going through the rest (traditionally most troublesome first):

  • USC has had Cal’s number and get’s Cal at home.  But they look awful vulnerable.  Perhaps this is the year fortunes change?
  • Stanford too has had Cal’s number.  But Cal was REALLY close last year, painfully close, and the Bears gets the trees at home and Stanford is looking FAR more vulnerable than last year.
  • Oregon is in a free-fall and Cal gets them at home.
  • UCLA has been beatable in Berkeley.
  • Cal has 2 game winning streak over WSU (although heading to the Pallouse in November is troublesome).
  • I’m practically inviting disaster on Saturday against OSU, but other than that, it should be a winnable game.

The best case scenario has Cal beating a reeling Oregon after the bye, to pump the team up to new heights as they head to LA to face USC.  That results in the team’s best performance of the season.  After that, the team will have the confidence to win against both the Washington schools back-to-back, just like they did last year.  At that point, you’ve got a 7-2 and highly ranked Bears team hosting Stanford ready to unleash a highly cathartic torrent of points, before sealing the Pac-12 north against UCLA.

OK, it’s a long shot, but don’t tell me it’s not possible.  Frankly, to me it feels pretty reasonable until the trip to USC.  If they can against all odds deliver on that very elusive goal (history note… last win @USC: 2000 under Holmoe), it feels like the momentum and recent history could carry them the rest of the way.

Or it could all fall apart in Corvallis.

Thoughts on last week’s games

I had meant to get to this on Tuesday or Wednesday, but the week has got away from me…

The most scary result from last weekend has to be Michigan 63, Hawaii 3.  Ouch!  That doesn’t speak well for Cal’s 51-31 victory over Hawaii.  Now, of course, Hawaii had a very hard week, having to travel from Australia to Hawaii to Michigan and somewhere in there they had to prepare for Michigan.  If you’re looking for a sliver lining, that’s about all you’ve got, and it’s not a lot to hold onto.

If that’s scary as for what it says about the whole upcoming season, two other results are at least somewhat scary for the upcoming couple of games.  In the somewhat troubling category is the 31-0 victory SDSU had over New Hampshire.  While the ’31’ doesn’t say much considering the opponent, the ‘0’ almost always says something.  SDSU’s defense is no slouch, even if the shutout only comes against a weak FCS team.

But the truly terrifying result is the 50-47 Texas victory over Notre Dame.  There’s no doubt that Texas is markedly improved on offense.  The only way the Bears will win that game is if they can win a shootout, as there’s no way Cal’s defense is as good as Notre Dame’s.  The good news is that perhaps the Texas defense is susceptible to giving up a lot of points themselves.

Looking forward to the conference games, the Pac-12 doesn’t look all that formidable and suggests there will be room for Cal to win a number of games:

  • ASU didn’t look bad in their victory over Northern Arizona, but who wouldn’t?
  • Utah looks very formidable on defense, shutting out Southern Utah.  One must fear that this year’s Utah game will be a bit like last years game, but if Cal can get the offense rolling, it’s a winnable game.
  • Oregon State actually handled themselves well against Minnesota in a loss.  They probably won’t be as much as a pushover as we’d hope but still very beatable
  • Oregon looked almost as mediocre as Cal did in their 53-28 victory over UC Davis.  This could be the year against them.
  • USC had the conferences largest faceplant, but it was against Alabama.  Nevertheless, this team is very beatable.
  • It’s hard to know if Washington is the real deal, but their victory over Rutgers probably helps their resume enough to propose that they might be pretty good.  Let’s wait a couple more games before we write that in stone though.
  • WSU showed they are just as beatable as last year in losing a shootout to Eastern Washington.  Somebody needs to tell them they’re allowed to practice before their 1st game.
  • Stanford looked like their old self.  Frustratingly hard to beat for such a vanilla offense.  The defense gives them so many opportunities to win the game.
  • UCLA played a suspect, but still upper-half power-5 conference team (Texas A&M) pretty close, but again, demonstrated they’re vulnerable to a good team.

So to sum that all up, lots of vulnerable teams if Cal can get its act together and play some defense.  If Cal can show me something more inspiring on Saturday than they did in Australia, I might be willing to be pretty optimistic about our chances in the conference.

Who are we rooting for in the title game?

Let’s see, if Stanford wins, our arch-rival gets another trip to the Rose Bowl and with luck a trip to the playoff.  That’s bad.

But at the same time, if Stanford gets into the playoff (somewhat of a long shot) and the Rose Bowl takes Oregon (I would expect it), we likely get to go to a better bowl, perhaps even the Foster Farms at Levi Stadium.  That’s good.

As for USC, when do we ever want them dominant in the league?  They get enough of the best recruits as it is.

So are we rooting for the Spoiled Children/Evil Empire or are we rooting for the Trees?

Unbalanced schedules could hurt Bears

With the collapse of Oregon, the Pac-12 North appears to be a battle between Cal and Stanford.  While it’s not guaranteed, as Cal could lose some games they shouldn’t based on what we know so far, at this point any results-based analysis suggests it should come down to the Bears and the Cardinal.

Thus the question becomes, what will it take for the Bears to finish ahead of Stanford?

The simplest answer of course is the Bears need to beat Stanford in the Big Game and then do no more than 1 game worse in the rest of conference play than the Cardinal.  So, if Cal beats Stanford, we can afford to lose one game to someone else that Stanford does not.  Cal could lose to USC even though Stanford beat them and still be OK.

But here’s where it could get unfair…

Stanford doesn’t have to play Utah.  They get to play Colorado instead.  There goes our one-game buffer, as one has to expect Stanford to beat lowly Colorado.  But to make matters even worse, the other swap isn’t exactly fair either.  Stanford gets Arizona, whereas Cal gets ASU.

So, for those of you Old Blues out there, here’s your worst case scenario:

Cal runs the table in the conference, including beating Stanford, and beats every team that Stanford beats, but Cal still loses the division, because Cal loses to ASU in the final game of the season (in addition to already losing to Utah) whereas Stanford beats up on Colorado and Arizona.

Wouldn’t that stink?

Thoughts on Big Game officiating

Now that I’ve been able to see video of all of the controversial plays at the Big Game, including the ones that occurred after I had left the game, it’s time for a post on the officiating…

One of the benefits of being the Cal Bears longest standing blogger is that I have a plethora of documented evidence of how I’ve reacted to various events over the years.  So I can say with confidence and have evidence to back it up, that I’m fairly charitable to the refs, knowing how difficult a job it is.  You won’t find many posts in my 10 seasons of Cal of blogging (My first post was 8/19/2005, albeit two years before I separated my personal/Catholic blog from my Cal blog) where I berate the refs.

Yes, there has been the occasional call that I disagree with, or even the game where I thought they did a worse than usual job, but overall I’ve held my tongue when I’ve disliked their calls and have supported them.

But this year is different.  They have been HORRIBLE!

I’ve never had a SINGLE game before where I have booed and yelled at them like I have at them at MULTIPLE games this year.  There have been so many really, really, really bad calls, it’s just not excusable.

And I’ll be the first to admit, it’s not just a Cal thing.  They’ve been horrible in general.  While it sure feels like Cal is getting the worst end of it, I’ve seen plenty of pretty ridiculous calls against other teams.  USC got a couple of pretty bad ones when Cal played them two weeks ago.

But the Big Game takes the cake and it was ALL one-sided.  I’ll admit that when watching the slow motion replay of the play that got Lowe ejected, it was worse than it appeared from the stands.  Definitely a penalty.  And maybe by the strict interpretation of the rules, it should have been an ejection (in which case my objection transfers from the refs to the rule makers… there’s nothing about that play that deserves an ejection).  But the other plays that I saw live, that had me coming unglued, were just as bad if not worse than they appeared live and at speed.

Here are the categories where I find the officiating horrible:

  • It’s ridiculous the penalties Cal has been getting for late hits out of bounds.  Defenses can not assume that players are going to run out of bounds.  They HAVE to play as if the player will try to stay in bounds and get more yards.  Thus a defensive player shouldn’t have to pull up/slow down until the offensive player has ACTUALLY stepped out of bounds.  (Of course, once that moment has occurred, they need to do everything in their power to minimize/avoid contact.)  And that’s not been what’s happening.  The refs have been calling it like the defense should assume they’re going out of bounds.  And BTW, it should NOT matter if the player is the QB.  Once they’re out of the pocket and running with the ball, I don’t care if it’s Mariota, Hogan or concrete for shoes Nate Longshore, if they don’t want to risk getting hit, get out of bounds sooner or slide feet first.
  • The inconsistency of what the criteria are for instant replay to overturn a call has been baffling.  In fairness to the Big Game replay ref, he was willing to overturn everything on the slimmest of evidence.  He gave Stanford a TD that was called down on pretty marginal evidence.  And he took THREE touchdowns away from Cal on not only marginal evidence, at least two of them there was clear evidence to the support the ruling on the field.  I’m OK with hearing a lot of “the play stands as called” after reviews.  Really I am.  But it better be CONSISTENT!  I don’t want to see some calls overturned on marginal evidence and others let stand because there’s not enough evidence for their hobbled eyes.
  • Also an inconsistency issues, the “completed catch” stuff has been atrocious.  Part of this I blame on the rules and interpretation committees.  They keep mucking with it and adding interpretations on top of interpretations to the degree it is a muddled mess of confusion.  And for whatever reason, there’s been a ton of it in Cal games.  Fumbles called incomplete.  Incompletions called fumbles. Interceptions that don’t seem to have completed the catch that stand.  Touchdowns taken back.  It’s been all over the map and VERY inconsistent.  And for some reason, Cal has been on the losing end of all but a couple of them.
  • Holding penalties.  This has gotten less attention, but I think there has been REAL inconsistency in calling holding.  What appears to be happening is the refs are trying to keep the flag in their pocket when the holds don’t affect the outcome of the play.  They also appear to be giving warnings on marginal calls.  However, the result of those two things combined have been a scenario where holds away from the play are being called at times (because they’ve been warned) and holds that affect the play are not (because the player in question has been pretty clean up to that point).  It’s just creating a big mess.  Here’s a radical idea: A hold is a hold is a hold.  I don’t care where it happens or who did it or whether there have been warnings.  Call it consistently every play.  Yes, at first you’ll get more flags.  But over time, the players will adjust and play the game cleaning knowing exactly what will and will not be called.  Said another way, consistency, even if it is a strict consistency, will eventually result in fewer penalties being called.
  • Protecting the QB seems like a great thing to do.  But I get the strong feeling that how protected they are is directly related to how prominent a QB they are (and to a lesser degree upper class men).  Goff hasn’t been getting much in the way of protection, whereas Mariota and Hundley are getting quite a bit of protection, despite the fact that they’re running QB’s.  To a lesser degree I think this same thing is happening with receivers.
  • The interruption of the flow of the game has been bad.  They’ve been conferencing and talking to coaches and going back and forth WAY too much.  It would be one thing if these extra discussions were resulting it well called games, but obviously this is not the case.  I harken back to a much better day in officiating when Dan Fouts was besides himself at the end of the 2007 Cal Oregon game as the refs were conferencing (“How can we have a review if the refs haven’t made a decision!?!” he said).  But in that case, they talked for ~20 seconds and then made the right call.  The review booth took an extraordinary amount of time to review the call, but again, they made the right call.  So I guess my message is, I’m OK with taking time to make the right call, but if you’re making a bunch of horrible calls, at least keep the game moving.

Those are the big categorical problems that have been bugging me this year.  It’s been a horrible year for officiating, worse than I’ve ever seen.  And Larry Scott, it’s time to do something about it.

ASU v. Notre Dame

Anybody else think ASU was going to pull a Cal (shades of Arizona earlier this year) and let Notre Dame win that game?

Perception problems

Have you noticed that in certain corners of the Pac-12 commentator world, every team that loses to Cal “is in real trouble” or “a mess” or “under performing”?  It seems there are certain people who assume the Bears are bad and when they win, it can’t mean they might be good, but that the team they beat must be even worse.

Pac-12 review (9th week edition)

Clarity in the north is pretty strong at this point.  In the South, there are a lot of question marks with three 1-loss teams.

  1. Oregon 59 – Cal 41: (Oregon entry) Oregon’s defense leaves something to be desired, but at the same time, they’re still winning all their games by big margins, so it’s hard not to put them on top.
  2. Arizona State 24 – Washington 10: (ASU entry) ASU is asserting itself pretty strongly right now.  One has to be pretty impressed with how solidly they dispatched both Stanford and UW.  All of a sudden their blowout loss to UCLA is looking more and more like an anomaly brought on by having to start the backup QB in his 1st meaningful action.
  3. Arizona 59 – Washington State 37: (UA entry) If I was taking the overall schedule view of things, it would be tempting to put Utah above Arizona, but two things prevent that: Arizona beat Oregon and Utah lost to WSU.
  4. Utah 24 – USC 21: (Utah entry) Call me surprised.  I really didn’t think Utah had it in them.  USC fans are even admitting that Utah is pretty good.  They’ve still got a lot more games against top opponents to go, so I’m a long way from jumping on their bandwagon.  Nevertheless knocking off both USC and UCLA is impressive.
  5. Stanford 38 – Oregon State 14: (Stanford entry) Stanford seems to have FINALLY figured out they needed to do something radical to inject some life into their offense.  What they did really caught the Beavers off guard.  When combined with their stout defense, Stanford was able to fiddle around with lots of creative schemes and ideas.  However, don’t get too high on the Stanford offense.  The next opponent won’t be so caught off guard.
  6. Utah 24 – USC 21: (USC entry) Was their loss to Utah because USC continues to be erratic or was it because Utah is pretty good?  Hard to say, but my best guess is it is more about Utah than USC pulling a Boston College.
  7. UCLA 40 – Colorado 37: (UCLA entry) Seriously, is this the team that was a trendy pick to win the Pac-12 and go to the playoff?  That all looks pretty stupid now.  They could only beat Colorado by 3!?!  When you’re Cal, you’re happy with that.  Not when you’re hoping to win the division.
  8. Arizona State 24 – Washington 10: (UW entry) It ticks me off to no end that the Bears put up such a bad effort against such a weak team.  How could this be the only game this year that the Bears were blown out?  Washington is looking pretty weak.  If they don’t win on their trip to Colorado, they could seriously go into a tailspin and not get bowl eligible.  At the same time, it’s not impossible to think this team could win every one of their remaining games.  Such is life in the middle of the Pac-12 when all your remaining opponents are in the middle of the muck with you.
  9. Stanford 38 – Oregon State 14: (OSU entry) I keep OSU above the Bears because their path to bowl eligibility is a lot more friendly than the Bears.  They can lose Saturday and still have 3 reasonable shots to win two.  (Eh, maybe ASU is out of reach, so maybe it’s only 2 reasonable shots.)
  10. Oregon 59 – Cal 41 (Cal entry) You can have one of the top 3 offenses in the conference, but if you’ve got the worst defense, you don’t end up in the middle.  You end up closer to the bottom.  The Bears better be hungry this weekend, particularly on defense, because they need to stop the slide both for bowl eligibility reasons and to gain some confidence back.
  11. UCLA 40 – Colorado 37: (CU entry) Congrats CU, you’re out of the basement.  WSU’s freefall continues, but you guys gave yet another team a scare.  It’s been longer since WSU did that, thus you guys get the nod.  It feels like you’re hungry and might just deliver at some point on my recently abandoned prediction you’d upset someone.
  12. Arizona 59 – Washington State 37: I feel sorry for WSU.  This team is better than their record.  But the ball just keeps bouncing the wrong way.  But at this point the losses are piling up and the margin of losing is getting worse as the games continue.  The upset of Utah is looking more and more like an anomaly (for both teams) and must be feeling very distant to the Cougars.  Has this team lost hope?

Another full slate of 6 conference games this weekend and ALL of them are on Saturday.  No wonder the Bears don’t start until 7:30 PM.

Pac-12 review (8th week edition)

More Pac-12 games means more clarity. With only Arizona and WSU idle last weekend we learned quite a bit more. It appears normalcy is returning.

  1. Oregon 45 – Washington 20: (Oregon entry) Another year passes and yet another beat-down of Washington by Oregon. It’s only surprising in how consistent it is. Oregon is continuing to reassert itself after the Arizona game.
  2. Arizona State 26 – Stanford 10: (ASU entry) I wouldn’t put too much into ASU beating Stanford so solidly. They did have the benefit of a bye that their opponent didn’t have. Plus, it’s clear that Stanford is not the team they were in the past. It’s a lot more difficult to have a top-notch team when you can’t score and you can’t even hold on to the ball to give your defense some rest.
  3. USC 56 – Colorado 28 (USC entry) USC seems to be settling back in as well and is putting their loss to ASU behind them. If they had beat just about anyone else in the conference by this much, they leapfrog ASU.
  4. Arizona (bye): Things get a lot tougher for Arizona moving forward. They’ve still got to play ASU and UCLA. But for now, their soft front schedule combined with the win over Oregon keep them high up the list.
  5. Utah 29 – Oregon State 23: (Utah entry) If Utah keeps winning games, they’ll start leapfrogging some of the teams in front of them. All of a sudden their loss to WSU is looking like the anomaly. But just like Arizona, I’m not quite ready to buy into the hype. Their tough games are still in front of them: USC, ASU, Stanford, Arizona. And with their win over UCLA looking less and less impressive each week, they could fall quickly if the losses start to come.
  6. UCLA 36 – Cal 34: (UCLA entry) UCLA escaped Berkeley with a win and stops the bleeding. The road ahead is not without it’s perils and they need to re-group and start winning more convincingly if they are going to rise up the list.
  7. Arizona State 26 – Stanford 10: (Stanford entry) After having their way against WSU, Stanford is right back into disaster recovery mode. Never have I seen a team regress so thoroughly offensively in a season. This team could lose a lot more if they don’t fix the problems. Even some of the weaker teams that will struggle with Stanford’s defense might eek out a win just by default by getting on the scoreboard more than once.
  8. Oregon 45 – Washington 20: (UW entry) I hope UW enjoyed beating up on the Bears last week, because there was little to be excited about after Saturday. They’ve got 3 more measuring games and they’re all in the next 4 weeks. Win most of them and UW can salvage the impression their a team on the rise. Lose and despite likely getting bowl eligible, this will be a team that is regressing.
  9. Utah 29 – Oregon State 23: (OSU entry) That was a tough loss for the Beavers to take. It was a very winnable game against a team one could argue they should have beat. They’re sitting in a similar spot as Cal. The resume isn’t that strong, the front half was too soft (frankly worse than the Bears) and the back half is full of games they won’t be favored in. It might just be that the winner of the Cal-OSU game is the only one of the two who will be bowl eligible.
  10. UCLA 36 – Cal 34 (Cal entry) Speaking of painful losses that were tough to swallow, the Bears now need to find at least one win from Oregon, OSU, USC, and Stanford. Not exactly a promising list, particularly considering they play OSU on the road.
  11. Washington State (bye): It’s going to take a couple of big wins for WSU to get out of the bottom two. At this point, there’s a pretty big gap between the middle and the bottom and it’s officially between #10 and #11.
  12. USC 56 – Colorado 28: (CU entry) OUCH! Colorado is in big-time collapse mode. You want to know why their coach was so upset as things fell apart in Berkeley? Because he knew the whole season hinged on that game. They needed the confidence going into OSU and they needed those wins to be able to believe they could win any of the remaining games on the schedule. I used to think they might pull off an upset or two. Now I think they’re the 2014 version of the Bears and things are going to get ugly quick.

A full slate of 6 conference games this weekend to look forward to! (Perhaps the chaos returns this weekend?)

Pac-12 review (7th week edition)

After a week of huge upsets some of the recently slain re-asserted themselves. A power ranking is tough because you don’t want to have it swing overly strongly while reflecting properly who’s feeling in a good position and who’s reeling. I was more conservative last week than others and it shows this week in that my positions won’t change as radically as others despite the turn-arounds. To the list:

  1. Oregon 42 – UCLA 30: (Oregon entry) After last Saturday it’s looking more like Arizona is the cryptonite to Oregon’s program. They mostly returned to form in dispatching UCLA. While it’s not inconceivable to think they might lose again, they have to be the favorite to win the conference championship at this point.
  2. Arizona State (bye): ASU was sitting on the sideline this weekend, but none of what went down hurts the perception of ASU, so they hold their #2 spot even if who’s in front of them changes.
  3. USC 28 – Arizona 26 (USC entry) Will the real USC please stand up? Yet again USC defies expectation, but this time in the positive direction. I toyed with putting them in the #2 spot, and with time I might, but the ASU loss is just too recent to put them above ASU.
  4. USC 28 – Arizona 26 (UA entry) Just as Cal learned, you can only play with fire so long before you get burned. They should have lost to Cal, instead they get their karma comeuppance against USC, a team they should have beat.
  5. Utah (bye): Utah also holds serve during their bye, although their win over UCLA lost a bit of luster after Oregon soundly beat UCLA.
  6. Stanford 34 – Washington State 17: (Stanford entry) Stanford answered the question that was on all ‘raid’ offenses minds. Can they be stopped even by the best defenses? Sadly for fans of ‘raid’ teams, the answer is a resounding yes. Stanford could easily go rocketing up this list if their offense could ever get in gear. However, if they continue to struggle on that side of the ball, they’ll continue to lose too many very winnable games, particularly against the elite in the conference.
  7. Washington 31 – Cal 7: (UW entry) I’m not going to give UW too much credit for their win, but if they keep winning, they too will rise up the list quickly. Nothing I saw in Berkeley last Saturday leads me to believe that is going to happen.
  8. Oregon 42 – UCLA 30: (UCLA entry) UCLA is officially reeling after the Oregon loss. Losing two in a row after being undefeated REALLY hurts. However, other than Stanford and UW, those who were below them didn’t do much better to rise up the list.
  9. Oregon State (bye): Oregon State hopefully used their bye week to work on incremental improvements all over the field. One gets the sense that the team is complete enough to have no glaring holes, but also not overwhelming enough in any category to be very scary. When you’re in that spot, perfection is the key to success.
  10. Washington 31 – Cal 7 (Cal entry) Cal is hurt both by it’s own loss, but also by its two active opponents not looking as good as would be needed to suggest Cal had played the best in the conference.
  11. Stanford 34 – Washington State 17: (WSU entry) While their effort against Stanford was stronger than Cal’s against UW (and Stanford having already dispatched UW) it’s tempting to put WSU above Cal, but head-to-head matters more and Cal keeps it’s lead for now. But another stinker in Berkeley could change all that.
  12. Colorado (bye): Colorado is closer to a conference victory than their record suggests. If they spent their bye week wisely, it may just what they need to pull off a couple of upsets. I doubt it comes on Saturday at USC, but in the weeks to come there are some winnable games.

A nearly full slate of conference games this weekend will bring even more clarity to the conference.

Pac-12 review (6th week edition)

I challenge anyone to find a Pac-12/10/8 weekend in the history of the conference that was more chaotic than last weekend. Another Hail Mary to win it. A missed field goal to lose it. One major upset in the South. And one HUUUGE upset of what was supposedly the best team in the conference. Plus Stanford blows an upset opportunity in the 4th quarter in South Bend. What else could have happened? To the rankings (as always in Power ranking format):

  1. Arizona 31 – Oregon 24: (UA entry) There’s two reasons to put Arizona up here: 1. They’re the only undefeated team left. 2. They just beat the #2 team in the country on their home turf. While Arizona firmly deserves this spot and I think is a real contender at this point in the south, my cautionary note is to not make too much of this. Arizona went 7-5 last year, but soundly beat Oregon. They clearly have Oregon’s number. My gut is that this upset will still be a head-scratcher at season’s end.
  2. Arizona State 38 – USC 34: (ASU entry) While it’s not hard to pick #1 this week, #2 is a real head-scratcher. ASU won on a Hail Mary, normally something that wouldn’t sit well with me, but since they’re 2-1 in conference and already have both UCLA and USC behind them, they’re sitting in a good spot. Plus, a Hail Mary finish quickly erases in their mind the disaster against UCLA.
  3. Utah 30 – UCLA 28 (Utah entry) Utah didn’t need a last minute heroics to beat the top-dog in the South. That makes them rise dramatically up the rankings. However, the loss to WSU and that they still have USC, ASU and Arizona in front of them makes it hard to lift them above #3.
  4. Arizona 31 – Oregon 24: (Oregon entry) Many have dropped Oregon further, but let’s not completely forget their resume up until now. They were #2 for a reason. And if you look at it with the fresh eyes of Arizona being the conference’s top dog (at least for the moment) then losing to them isn’t so bad.
  5. Utah 30 – UCLA 28: (UCLA entry) Really hard to know where to put UCLA. Again, don’t want to drop them too low considering how they played the week before, but this one hurts. It feels like they took Utah for granted looking forward to Oregon.
  6. Cal 60 – Washington State 59: (Cal entry) It wasn’t the prettiest victory ever and the defense better figure a few things out soon, but Cal is looking like a team that will fight hard and win some games. (yes, that’s exactly what I said last week, but it was so appropriate I figured why change it?)
  7. Arizona State 38 – USC 34 (USC entry) Will the real USC please stand up? Is it the team that went into Stanford Stadium and won a defensive battle or is it the team that lost to both BC and ASU? Maybe it’s a little of both, but in any case, one can’t put them too high in the ranking but one shouldn’t also put them too low as they are 2-1 in conference.
  8. Notre Dame 17 – Stanford 14: Something doesn’t quite feel right about putting Stanford this low for losing to #9 ND, but with 2 losses at this point and the bulk of their schedule still in front of them, one wonders if they don’t fall even further. They’re exactly the opposite of Cal. Cal must ask itself just how many points it has to score to win and Stanford has to ask itself how few it can give up.
  9. Washington (bye): Not much new for Washington but with some low teams rising strongly UW ends up falling. It’s gut check time in Seattle. If they lose to Cal on Saturday they’ll be trending towards the bottom.
  10. Oregon State 36 – Colorado 31: (OSU entry) As Cal learned last year, it is harder to go up to Boulder and win than most people realize. As such one shouldn’t overlook the value of last Saturday’s win. It keeps OSU in the middle of the Pac and reminds everyone that no team can be taken lightly.
  11. Cal 60 – Washington State 59: (WSU entry) The fact that WSU is way down here says a lot about the conference. They’re no slouch, but their 2-4 record just can’t justify putting them any higher. Mark my words, WSU is going to deliver a couple more upsets before the season is done.
  12. Oregon State 36 – Colorado 31: (CU entry) Colorado is vastly improved over last year. Unfortunately for them, so is everyone else who was on the bottom of the conference last year. I’m not so sure they will pull any upsets this year, but if someone overlooks a trip to Boulder it could happen. Unfortunately for them, they could be the best 3-9 team in the country by season’s end.

Lots of bye’s this weekend with only 4 games. Friday night’s game (WSU @ Stanford) will be very telling. Heck, all 4 games will be telling/revealing.

Pac-12 review (5th week edition)

The 1st full week of conference play was revealing as it is every year. Only Oregon and Arizona were on a bye (in preparation for their upcoming Thursday night game). Let’s get straight into the rankings:

  1. Oregon (bye): Nothing happened this week that lowers Oregon’s position in the conference. If anything, WSU’s strong road performance against Utah minimizes the slight hit Oregon took when they won a close one in Pullman.
  2. UCLA 62 – Arizona State 27: (UCLA entry) UCLA really exposed ASU on Thursday. They really destroyed what was supposed to be one of the top contenders to topple UCLA in the south division. UCLA is for real and has to be considered the top challenger to Oregon at this point.
  3. USC 35 – Oregon St. 10 (USC entry) USC let Oregon State hang around for a little while, but eventually their raw talent was just too much for the Beavers. The way I see things, there’s just no explaining how USC got man-handled at Boston College (a team that just lost to Colorado State I must add), so I’m going to just discount it at this point. However, if USC hadn’t beat Stanford, the position of them and Stanford at this point would be flopped.
  4. Stanford 20 – Washington 13: (Stanford entry) Stanford’s wins aren’t exactly pretty but they keep winning. At some point one has to accept where they belong. Until proven otherwise (by another in-conference loss) Stanford is the contender to Oregon in the north.
  5. Arizona (bye): Arizona benefits in ranking by sitting on the sideline as UW and ASU go tumbling. There are only 3 undefeated teams in the conference and you just can’t put one of them below more than a couple conference teams with losses that stain their resume.
  6. Stanford 20 – Washington 13: (UW entry) Washington had looked like they were putting things together, but now they just look inconsistent. They had their opportunities against Stanford and failed miserably. Overall, you can’t knock them too much having lost to the #2 team in the North, which prevents them from falling further.
  7. Cal 59 – Colorado 56: (Cal entry) It wasn’t the prettiest victory ever and the defense better figure a few things out soon, but Cal is looking like a team that will fight hard and win some games.
  8. Washington State 28 – Utah 27 (WSU entry) Speaking of teams that appear to be clicking finally, we left WSU for dead after they lost to Nevada. Since then they’ve won 2 of 3 and have looked pretty good doing so. Their dominance over what was supposed to be a pretty good Utah team in the 2nd half was striking and impressive.
  9. UCLA 62 – Arizona State 27: (ASU entry) The only mitigating factor in ASU’s humiliation on Thursday was that they were without their starting quarterback. However, who really thinks that would have changed the outcome? Yes, ASU may have been more competitive, but they still would have lost. It looks like it is going to be another year of under-delivering on their promise in Tempe.
  10. Washington State 28 – Utah 27: (Utah entry) As I suggested, Utah wasn’t able to hold onto their high spot very long in the power rankings. They fell even more quickly than I expected. While it’s great for WSU to rise up out of the cellar, Utah lost to a team that is coming up out of the muck. Maybe in a few weeks with WSU continuing to roll this loss won’t look so bad. However, I saw their incompetence down the stretch and here’s guessing their are more losses coming. One thought: How bad must Michigan be?
  11. USC 35 – Oregon State 10: (OSU entry) Oregon State had a pretty wimpy non-conference schedule and they looked somewhat overwhelmed against USC. That’s how a 3-1 team ends up this low on the list.
  12. Cal 59 – Colorado 21 – Hawaii 12: (CU entry) The buffs were on the bottom of the list last week and while their loss was entertaining, it does little to boost their ranking. Cal is not exactly the top contender in the conference. If it were, then perhaps CU could use that loss to gain some ground.

So the picture is getting clearer in both divisions. It’s UCLA with USC challenging in the south and Oregon with Stanford challenging in the north. Below that, there are a lot of teams that are pretty close together and it’s very hard to tell who will win on any given Saturday. Expect a lot of unpredictable results in the weeks to come.

Pac-12 review (4th week edition)

The number of games was small this weekend due to a bunch of byes and more conference play (two games anyway). That also means we’ll be able to start to have meaningful games to compare against each other as conference play gets underway in earnest. In a few weeks, the picture will be a lot clearer. As for the non-conference games, the conference went 4-0, which will be all for the good in conference perception as the year goes on.

Here’s the team-by-team breakdown (in power ranking order):

  1. Oregon 38 – Washington St. 31: (Oregon entry) This is the sort of win that would cost you positions in the ranking. WSU hasn’t shown us anything yet to justify why they’d hang with the best team in the conference. However, Oregon has such a commanding lead, that they keep their spot despite the underwhelming performance.
  2. UCLA (bye) We’ll know a lot more about the top of the conference after Thursday’s game between UCLA and ASU.
  3. Arizona State (bye): Same story as UCLA. I considered moving Washington above ASU, but in the end decided to leave things as they are due to the bye.
  4. Washington 45 – Georgia State: After two weak performances to start the season UW has started to click the last two weeks. The seem to be moving toward the top of the conference. They play Stanford next week, so we’ll have a good idea of who will be the challenger to Oregon in the north in short order.
  5. Utah 26 – Michigan 10: Hold onto your horses, Utah is 3-0 and has a “marque” non-conference victory under their belt. I put that in quotes because this is not your father’s Michigan team. Nevertheless, going into the Big House and winning convincingly, particularly when you loose your starting QB for a quarter, is pretty impressive no matter how down Michigan is. So they rise a few spots. I wouldn’t bet too hard on them holding this spot though.
  6. Stanford (bye): Stanford’s opponents aren’t looking very strong as they play more games. The lone positive related game was Boston College whipping Maine 40-10, which suggests their victory over USC was not as bad as it may seem (thus Stanford’s loss to USC not as bad).
  7. Arizona 49 – Cal 45: (UA entry) What do you do with a team you think got extremely lucky in winning against a team that has sat on the lower half of the power rankings? Minus the Utah rise, I left them about where they were. You’ve got to give them props for their determination and a win like that is something that builds confidence and resolve.
  8. USC (bye) USC finds itself surprisingly low on the list, but that’s what happens when you lay and egg and then have a bye. They need to take care of business against Oregon State this weekend to get back on solid footing. Then they have a chance to rise back up the list with ASU coming to town in 2 weeks.
  9. Oregon State 28 – San Diego State 7: Oregon State has sure had a weak non-conference schedule thus far. And some of their victories weren’t all that inspiring. That includes this week’s victory over SDSU, which can most generously be called “workman like”. In any case, that’s how a 3-0 team ends up this low on the list. Never fear OSU fans, they’ve got plenty of games in short order than can send the team rising up the list quite quickly.
  10. Arizona 49 – Cal 45: (Cal entry) Cal better wins some games soon or they’re going to find themselves quickly on the bottom of the list. Seeing as their next two games are against the bottom of the list, they won’t be rising too far on the list, even with victories.
  11. Oregon 38 – Washington State 31: (WSU entry) Considered leap-frogging Cal with such a strong performance against the top team in the conference. But seeing as how WSU never meaningful led the game and basically held with Oregon and then wilted when the chips were down, it’s hard to give them too much credit. However, if they put up some victories in the near future, this Oregon loss will not count much against them.
  12. Colorado 21 – Hawaii 12: Colorado seems to have the same disease Cal does. They were pretty dominant early in this one but then stalled for the rest of the game. Luckily for them Hawaii didn’t have the horsepower to make a comeback, but this wasn’t exactly a compelling win.

The list didn’t change a lot this week, but expect a lot of changes next week as the conference games take their toll.

Pac-12 review (3rd week edition)

It could have been a GREAT week for the conference if it weren’t for USC who dropped a bomb so stinky one wonders how long it will be before they can play games again at that stadium. Straight to the review today (again in power ranking order):

  1. Oregon 48 – Wyoming 14: Not exactly the same level of opponent as the prior week, but Oregon did what they needed to do and remain the top team in the conference. I’d say the conference championship goes through Eugene except for the fact that the conference championship game will be played at Levi stadium.
  2. UCLA 20 – Texas 17: UCLA has to be riding a lot of confidence after that game. To have the backup QB come in and win the game for them was a huge confidence boost after two shaky wins the prior weeks. If there were someone else who was playing at a high level, UCLA wouldn’t be in the #2 spot, but with the problems below UCLA, they get the #2 spot by default.
  3. Arizona State 38 – Colorado 24: (ASU entry) I’d probably put ASU in the #2 spot if it weren’t for the fact their only proven QB went down last week with a foot injury and won’t make it back for their next game, a key match up against UCLA. Add the fact that they have yet to play anyone any good and it’s a leap too far for me to put them so high up.
  4. Washington 44 – Illinois 19: UW showed they’ve got resolve in their crushing win over the Illini. This feels like a team that wasn’t quite in rhythm the 1st two weeks but is now hitting their stride. We shouldn’t over value this one, but UW raises a long way up the list.
  5. Stanford 35 – Army 0: A very convincing win by Stanford. It sure looks like their defense is for real giving up 13 points in 3 games. However, they can’t go too much higher on the list, because they lost to the team that laid the stink bomb. I think Stanford is going to have a tough time winning games against good defenses.
  6. Arizona 35 – Nevada 28: It’s really hard to read Nevada this year. They’re obviously not terrible, but this is not a great Nevada team. Thus Arizona gets a bump up in the rankings because they are 3-0 and are starting to look a little less shaky than in the 1st two weeks.
  7. Utah (bye): Utah slips a bit on the bye due to Arizona, UW and UCLA surging.
  8. Boston College 37 – USC 31 What in tarnations is going on at USC? The only explanation I have for USC is that Stanford must not be that good when faced with a team with some defense. That’s the only thing that makes what happened on Saturday even remotely believable.
  9. Cal (bye): Couldn’t quite bring myself to put Cal above USC and thus Cal slips from the surge of UW and Arizona.
  10. Oregon State (bye): A surprising number of teams with a bye in the 3rd week, huh? Nothing changes with OSU’s resume while on the bye, so they still sit fairly low due to their less than impressive 1st two weeks. If there’s a team that might be too low, this is it.
  11. Arizona State 38 – Colorado 24: (Colorado entry) What’s more impressive, a road win over UMass or a home win over Portland state? I think it has to be UMass, and that’s why Colorado keeps its spot above WSU. Also, the lose to ASU wasn’t a blowout, which should give hope to the program they might be able to compete in some Pac-12 games this year.
  12. Washington State 59 – Portland State 21: Congras Wougs, you’ve got one in the win column. And it was not a bad showing even. However, with Nevada losing to Arizona, that loss continues to look worse and Rutgers isn’t tearing it up either. So while they’ve closed the gap, WSU still is on the bottom of the totem pole.

But overall, only one non-conference loss this week, which is generally good. However, the USC loss really hurts. The conference needs those sorts of games in the win column, particularly if USC does well in conference.

Pac-12 review (2nd week edition)

Got back from my weekend away a couple hours ago. The game is downloading as we speak. Hopefully I’ll be able to watch it later tonight. But in the meantime, here’s a review of the other games around the Pac-12.

The conference only lost one non-conference game (WSU to Nevada) but there were a lot of underwhelming performances against weak teams that still ended up in the win column. The lone conference game was a defensive nail biter. Here’s a review (in power ranking order):

  1. Oregon 46 – Michigan State 27: Oregon started the game strong, but MSU game roaring back in the 2nd quarter for a 24-18 halftime lead, which they extended to 27-18 early in the 3rd. However, it was all Oregon from that point out and they scored the game’s final 4 touchdowns to win 46-27. It’s by far the most impressive win of the conference so far this season and solidifies their position on top.
  2. USC 13 – Stanford 10: (USC’s entry) USC broke the tie with 2:36 left in the game, but Stanford managed to get down the field to the USC 22, at which point the USC defense took over, sacking Hogan on two consecutive plays and forcing a fumble on the 2nd, which USC recovered. Thus USC takes the #2 spot, leapfrogging Stanford.
  3. Arizona State 58 – New Mexico 23: ASU keeps beating up on weak opponents, which would incline me to put them lower. But a power ranking includes momentum, and this team is well positioned for a strong run in the next few weeks.
  4. USC 13 – Stanford 10: (Stanford’s entry) Logically, if the #2 team barely lost to the #3 team, they should just fall one spot to #3. However, early in the season it’s not that simple and the confidence blow costs them a spot. It would have been more spots if what lies below wasn’t so mediocre.
  5. Utah 59 – Fresno State 27: My gut tells me Utah won’t keep this spot, but when they beat Fresno State as convincingly as the #2 team in the power ranking, they deserve a bump up, particularly when other teams are under performing so much.
  6. UCLA 42 – Memphis 35: UCLA came into the season as a pundit favorite to win the Pac-12. So far they haven’t shown they’re worthy of the praise. I was tempted to drop them lower, but the bar below is pretty low.
  7. Cal 55 – Sac State 14: Beating up on an FCS team shouldn’t be over stated, but Cal did so quite convincingly. Frankly, if Northwestern hadn’t lost to Northern Illinois, confirming that NW is a mess of a team (and thus Cal’s win not that impressive), I might have been tempted to put them above UCLA. As of now, Cal sits at the bottom of the “both wins were solid” pile with UCLA sneaking in above them based on pre-season seeding.
  8. Arizona 26 – UTSA 23: Arizona take a big fall after struggling with UTSA. Now admittedly, UTSA is better this year than normal, having soundly beaten Houston the week before. But this is still no great team and the struggles put Arizona below the teams that don’t have a eyebrow raising (in a negative way) game.
  9. Oregon State 38 – Hawaii 30: The Pac-12 better hope that Hawaii is vastly improved from last year, because thus far they’ve been giving surprisingly good teams (or so we think) fits. As of right now, OSU and Washington have similar resume’s, but I give OSU the edge due to what appears to be a better defense.
  10. Washington 59 – Eastern Washington 52: The supposedly strong Huskies are stinking it up thus far about as bad as a team can and still be undefeated and thus at the bottom of the 2-0 pile.
  11. Colorado 41 – UMass 38: Colorado is out of the doghouse but just *BARELY*. I can’t imaging a more pathetic 1-1 resume. In fact, there are a number or 0-2 teams I would put in front of them. But considering what’s below, a weak 1-1 still gets them out of the cellar.
  12. Nevada 24 – Washington State 13: The wheels are falling off the bus in Pullman. While in fairness, the two teams they’ve played are better than a fair number of other opponents around the league, they’re still not exactly overwhelming opponents and WSU should have beaten both of them if they expect to be competitive in the conference.

At this point, there’s only 4 teams who’s results coupled with pre-season expectations would suggests the Bears couldn’t hang with them (Oregon, USC, ASU and Stanford). Since Cal doesn’t have to play ASU, one has to think that if the team can deliver on the promise they’ve shown thus far, a winning record (and not just barely 6-6) seems well within reach.

Pac-12 review (1st week edition)

The 1st week is in the books and the conference went 10-2. The only two losses were Colorado to Colorado State, quite surprising, and WSU to Rutgers, a mild surprise. Here’s breaking down each game/team (in power ranking order):

  1. Oregon 62 – South Dakota 13: Oregon starts the season in the pole position and their easy win over South Dakota doesn’t change anything. It’s a little bit disconcerting that Oregon gave up 370 yards to such a weak team, but at some point one is straining at gnats trying to find weaknesses. We’ll find out next week when they host Michigan State if they really deserve their spot at the top.
  2. Stanford 45 – UC Davis 0: Any shutout is impressive, even when it is UC Davis. I’m not sure Stanford will keep the #2 spot, but amongst the others who would contend for that spot, Stanford made the easiest work of their weak 1st week opponent.
  3. USC 52 – Fresno State 13: I watched part of this game and USC definitely has strong talent. They were a little bit sloppy and they most definitely lack depth, but this is a team that appears to be on the rise. They leap frog ASU and UCLA to take the #3 spot.
  4. Arizona State 45 – Weber State 14: Don’t let the 14 points fool you. It was 38-0 and then ASU clearly went into 2nd string mode. But Weber State might just have been the weakest team on the week 1 schedule for the Pac-12, so it excludes ASU from the top of the list.
  5. UCLA 28 – Virginia 20: UCLA didn’t live up to their hype in week 1, but let’s go a little easy on them. Cal fans know how tough it is to make the cross country trip for a 9 AM East Coast game. Nevertheless, the uninspiring offensive performance knocks them out of contention for the top spots in the power rankings after week 1. They’ll have a shot at redemption in weeks 3 and 4 when traveling to Texas and ASU in back-to-back weeks.
  6. Arizona 58 – UNLV 13: How good is UNLV? I mean, we know they’re not GOOD, but are they truly terrible, or are they middling enough that a 58-13 win for Arizona is something to be impressed with? Well, it’s hard to say, but it’s good enough for me to move Arizona up in the power rankings significantly. However, it won’t take much evidence for me to bump them down significantly if Arizona doesn’t perform strongly in the coming weeks.
  7. Oregon State 29 – Portland State 14: Oregon State under impressed me this weekend, particularly considering PSU was leading at halftime, 14-13. OSU keeps itself half way up the list based on pre-season expectations and a stronger 2nd half that helped them win the game.
  8. Cal 31 – Northwestern 24: Cal would have been a couple spots higher if they hadn’t let NW back into the game in the late 3rd quarter. However, despite starting the season at the bottom of the list, considering the quality of the opponent and the win coming on the road, Cal leap-frogs a number of teams after that win.
  9. Utah 56 – Idaho State 14:Utah didn’t do anything overly impressive against ISU, although one shouldn’t overlook the yards and points they put up. Nevertheless, there’s not much here that changes what one would think of the Utes. So they pretty much stay where they were, above the worst teams, but not quite in the middle. True, the worst teams now include UW and WSU and the middle for the pack includes Arizona and Cal, but overall the Utes more or less hold position.
  10. Washington 17 – Hawaii 16: A squeaker against a HORRIBLE Hawaii team? Not something that builds confidence. Washington thus tumbles more than any team and finds itself of the bottom of the list of teams that won their game. Not much of a chance for redemption until they host Stanford at the end of the month. Although if they keep playing the way they did on Saturday, they could lose one before then.
  11. Rutgers 41 – Washington State 38: Don’t under appreciate Rutgers. They have more talent and can play a better game than people give them credit for. Nevertheless, the late cross country game on Thursday for Rutgers put them in a pretty big hole and for WSU to be unable to find any meaningful defense is disconcerting. Thus this WSU team also goes tumbling in my estimation and here’s hoping they are as beatable as they looked in week 1 when the Bears make the trip to Pullman in early October.
  12. Colorado State 31 – Colorado 17: While I wasn’t expecting great things from Colorado this season, I was expecting more than a lost to CSU. In fairness, CU was leading late in the 3rd quarter and then the wheels came off the bus. Don’t completely write Colorado off yet, but this was not the start they were looking for and they FOR SURE are now looking up at the rest of the conference, particularly as long as Cal and Utah keep winning.

Overall, I think every team from Arizona down is beatable by Cal at this point. Not that Cal will win them all, but in all of them, based on the 1st week’s play, Cal has the talent and the team to win with a good effort.

Tie-breakers are ordered wrong

Tie-breakers are always something that cause controversy when they’re used but get little attention elsewhere. Nevertheless, I was looking at the Pac-12 division title tie-breakers and I think they’ve got them in a bad order:

  1. Head to head (in case of multiple teams, record against all the tied teams)
  2. Record in the division
  3. Record against the next highest team in the division (so 3rd place in 2-way tie, 4th place in 3-way, etc.) and then iterate down the list from the highest to lowest until the tie is broken
  4. Record in common conference games
  5. BCS standing

All of it seems reasonable except #3 and #4, which should be swapped. The problem with #3 is that for it to break the tie you have to ask yourself a difficult question.

See, for it to matter all the tied teams must have the same division record (see tie-breaker #2) and must have lost to someone outside the tied teams. A common example would be teams A, B and C each are 7-2 in conference. They have a circle in head to head (A beat B, B beat C, C beat A). But they each lost one other divisional game. So let’s say A lost to the team in 4th place, B lost to 5th place and C lost to 6th place.

So what’s “worse” or said another way, what should eliminate you from the tie-breaker? Is team C beating #4 a big positive, but their losing to team #6 not much a negative… or is it the other way around? Is the fact that you lost to a really bad team worse than the fact that you beat a higher team? It’s a difficult question without an objective answer. The Pac 12 decided beating the higher team is more important, which is fine, but arguable as to whether it’s the right choice. Thus it should be as low a tie-breaker as possible.

Tie-breaker #4 however is a great/important one in our divisional, highly unbalanced schedules. A new scenario: Teams A, B and C are 7-2 in conference and 5-1 in division. The only division loss is the circle of loses to each other. But team B has two conference losses because they’re the only ones who played Oregon and the other two got lucky, schedule wise. They instead lost to Washington State. Assuming team B also played WSU (and won), they should win the tie-breaker, right?

So, the way to make that happen is by looking at all common opponents, since that would eliminate a games against tough teams only one team had to play. It doesn’t always work (the other teams could have lost to non-common opponents as well), but when it does, it’s the most even judge and a very important factor in each team’s conference record. Eliminate the games that aren’t in common and then see how it turns out. It’s an objectively good way to judge the teams.

Thus, in my opinion, the conference needs to swap tie-breakers #3 and #4.

(BTW, unlike this will come into play this year. Any potential tie-breakers should be solved by head-to-head this time out (3-ways are unlikely (most likely: ASU loses to both UCLA and Oregon State, UCLA loses to USC, USC loses to Stanford and they all have a 6-3 conference record. Tie breaker would be BCS standing unless ASU loses to Arizona instead of Oregon State in which case it would be divisional record and USC goes to title game.)).)

I thought Cal fans were bad

Stanford fans are FREAKING OUT today.

It continues to amaze me how binary sports fans are in their emotions… at least that’s the way it seems online. The team is either great or horrible, there’s very little in between.

Stanford is a rebuilding team this year, who could have not known that? Who could have not realized that the win over USC did not instantly change reality? When you’ve got a young QB, he’s going to struggle. He’ll struggle both in the odd game you don’t expect and he’ll struggle on the road. This is just a fact of life.

Even Andrew Luck went 5-7 in his first year. Err… looks like he went 8-4 (and lost the bowl game, 8-5) in his first year. It was 2008 when Stanford went 5-7.

So today it is Washington’s turn to act triumphant and invincible. They have finally arrived, having beaten #8. They’re a north division contender, don’t you know. That is of course until 8 days from now when they travel to Oregon.

If my reading of the tea-leaves is any good (and I thought that Washington was going to give Stanford a good game, so I’m not entirely off), Oregon will win that one solidly. At that point there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in Seattle.

And so the roller coaster goes.

Thanks UCLA

The first Pac-12 championship game could have been an absolute disgrace of a game, but it wasn’t. UCLA was out-matched, but fought hard and at a few moments (tied 7-7, only down 24-35 in the 3rd quarter) looked to have a shot at pulling off the upset. Oregon quickly put an end to those delusions, but it was nice to see a game that wasn’t a joke.

People will walk away from watching that game thinking it was entertaining, not disgraceful.

So, thank you UCLA for coming to play with heart in a game where you could have given up before the kickoff. It’s not easy to deal with losing your head coach and being a 32-point underdog and viewed as a joke in the title game. They played their hearts out anyway. Thanks! (Now go make us proud in the former-Nut bowl.)