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Growing Pains: A Critical Look at the Slow Start by the Pac-12

Posted By Rob Parness On Sep 20 2011 @ 4:23 pm In Pac-10 | No Comments

To the delight of SEC and Big-10 fans everywhere, the Pac-12 has been unimpressive and disappointing early in the season.

Many proud west coast fans were expecting this season to be an opportunity for their conference to prove itself as the second best in the nation behind the SEC.

However, after #10 Oregon’s loss to LSU in week one, teams like Arizona, UCLA, Oregon State and Washington also lost their non-conference games against ranked opponents.

The Ducks have a ton of talent but are very young and thin at some key positions.

Oregon was handled against the Tigers, but they will not have to face another team as physical as LSU this season and the offensive stars for the Ducks have already rebounded and begun putting up big numbers. Expect the Ducks to remain powerful and enter the Stanford game firmly positioned to clinch a spot in the conference championship game.

As far as the uniforms for the Ducks, they seem to be determined to lead the nation in offense as well as newly adopted school colors. Let us all hope Oregon draws a line before Chip Kelly’s squad takes the field looking like they stole curtains from a local 60’s themed bar and made them into jerseys.

Arizona State got a big win at home against Missouri, but followed that up with a loss to Illinois.

In related news Sun Devil quarterback Brock Osweiler got a tattoo on his bicep reading “Live life to its fullest.” This turns out to be a bad decision because it confirms suspicions that Osweiler has been stealing motivational quotes from his grandmother’s crocheted decorative pillows.

Arizona has lost twice to teams ranked in the top-10 (Oklahoma State and Stanford) and the Wildcats see #10 Oregon on the horizon this week. The wildcats have the talent and experience on offense to do damage in conference play, but the defense will remain an issue throughout the season.

If Arizona cannot improve Head Coach Mike Stoops will be embarrassed to show up at the Stoops family reunion. Brothers Bob and Mark will tell stories of successes at Oklahoma and Florida State between wet willies and locking Mike in the hall closet.

BREAKING: Washington State doesn’t stink (yet)! Granted they may not be ready to take on the All-Madden team, but the Cougars have a winning record (2-1).

With three of their four upcoming games against the bottom-dwellers of the Pac-12 in Colorado, UCLA and Oregon State, the Cougars could finally begin their long awaited climb to respectability.

That is no small feat for a team that has not been relevant during the lifetime of most of the students enrolled in Pullman.

The Washington Huskies are currently 2-1, with their only loss coming against #11 Nebraska. However, they were challenged against Eastern Washington and Hawaii, beating the two by a total of 11 points.

The Huskies have talent and competed well in Lincoln, keeping the game close for a large part of the game.

But after an attempted kickoff return which two deep-men for Washington fought over the ball like toddlers tussling over Legos at daycare (before eventually losing possession to the Huskers on the one-yard line), the Pups from Seattle need to win a few more before they climb off of the “Not Top-10” list.

Cal and Stanford are both undefeated through three weeks but have not faced challenging schedules to date.

The #5 Cardinal beat Arizona easily this week but suffered serious injuries, including losing their defensive star Shayne Skov for the season. Unless quarterback Andrew Luck can play linebacker, which would alarm every Stanford fan that gasps every time Luck has a hangnail, the Cardinal have holes to fill.

Cal had to go to overtime before beating Colorado, a team the Bears should have handled easily.

Head Coach Jeff Tedford needs to use the talent on his roster to compete for a championship this season or he may be sleeping in the trees along with the other environmentalists on the Berkeley campus.

USC is also undefeated on the season, but were tested by inferior opponents in Minnesota and Utah at home.

The Trojans may be the most talented team in the conference and have potential to steal meaningful wins from Oregon and Stanford (assuming USC do not buy their way into more NCAA violations prior to those showdowns).

Utah and Colorado have gotten their first tastes of Pac-12 play, and it may have been a bit sour. Both teams have lost their first conference games, to USC and Cal respectively.

Fans should try to be patient with the mountain teams; they are probably still confused by trying to figure out how the Utes and Buffalos are in the PACIFIC Athletic Conference. Nothing says “Pacific” like Utah and Colorado.

Combined with the potential additions of schools from Texas and Oklahoma, clearly geography is a dying practice in this country.

Then there is Oregon State. Poor, poor Oregon State.

The Beavers have been decimated by injuries and appear to have lost their swagger after seeing their star Jacquizz Rodgers go to the NFL. Without a player with the name Jacquizz, it is understandable that the Beavers would suffer from a loss of street cred.

But when Oregon State lost to Sacramento State in the opening game of the season there is not much the Beavers can do but peel themselves off of rock bottom and rebuild.

For those interested in Sacramento State, and there must be dozens, the Hornets followed up their performance in Corvallis by getting blown out by Southern Utah and Weber State. As if Oregon State needed to feel worse.

There is a bright side for Beaver fans; they did not lose this week! They didn’t have a game, but consider this a glass-half-full article.

There is still a lot of football left and storylines that have yet to be written, but to say there is room for improvement in the conference is an understatement.  

The Pac-12 may have to wait until bowl season to prove their worth to the rest of the nation, but teams like Stanford and Oregon will be able to keep the conference in the national spotlight until the rest can catch up.

Prediction of inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game:

Arizona State: 20 Oregon: 45


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