As we get closer and closer to kickoff, we’ll be looking across the nation at other (read ‘inferior’) conferences. This way, you’ll have just enough information to justify watching every single game that comes across the telly. First up- the fellers on the Left Coast.
Where does the conference fall in the national rankings- how likely are they to have a team in the Title game?
This is a tough one to assess… the conference is pretty top-heavy, but that top looks really really good. Feel free to make a “Los Angeles plastic surgery” joke right about here.
In terms of conference strength, I’d say that the PAC is about average: Overall not better than the SEC, certainly better than the Big lEast and ACC. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if their best team this season, the Southern Cal Trojans, didn’t lock down one of the slots in the national title game. Pending, that is, an all too familiar letdown against Oregon State or something.
Who’s the best team in the conference? Who will play for in the conference title game (if there is one)?
Well, I’ve already tipped my hand on this one- the Trojans are back. I have no idea how they managed to come through sanctions AND are starting their tenure of reduced scholarships and still remaining national contenders, but that’s certainly the case. Having Matt Barkley return did wonders, to be sure… although it’s yet to be seen if his return will be similar to Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow in effectiveness.
Oh, wait- I do know how they’re back… They are the only program of note in one of the most talent laded areas of the country. Right.
Representing the North Division will be the Oregon Ducks, in my opinion; and this will be a heck of a championship game. The North will be significantly more competitive than the South, as Washington is on the rise and Stanford will be looking to maintain excellence without much Luck (see what I did there?).
Who’s the worst team(s) in the conference?
As mentioned, they’re all in the South. While the ‘Cougs might fall into this category, there’s an X factor (see below) that keeps them in the hunt. Nope, the newbies win this award- Colorado’s Buffalos will be improved over last season’s 3-10 record under Coach Embree, but not enough to make a difference in conference. Utah managed an 8-5 record, but was only 4-5 in conference.
And, because this is an Ohio State site, I’m also putting Rich Rodriguez’ Arizona Wildcats in this category just to be petty.
Conference offensive/Defensive MVP?
If Matt Barkley doesn’t win the offensive MVP (and possibly the Heisman) this year, I will be really surprised. He’s a good kid (with poor college choice) and runs the Trojan offense the way it was meant to be run; and his work will only get easier now that they’ve poached brought former PSU star Silas Redd into the backfield to keep the running game moving. In fact, Redd may actually hurt Barkley’s numbers, but not his ability to get the Men of Troy into the endzone.
Stanford’s Chase Thomas (LB) or Southern Cal’s Nickell Robey could easily win the DMVP, but I’m suggesting you keep an eye out for Oregon’s John Boyett, who led the Ducks in tackles last season and still hasn’t been blocked by Wisconsin (as far as you know).
“Kirk Ferentz Coach Of The Year” award winner?
If you want drama, then the PAC Coaches Meeting is for you! Not only do you have the unlikable Lane Kiffin, you’ve also got the soon to be sanctioned Chip Kelly. There’s the in-conference traitor in Seattle, and the host of new coaches: Dr. Profane, the Waffler, and Mr. Defense Optional.
However, since Coach Ferentz seems to have won the award on the “does the most with the least” criterion, my vote for PAC CotY is none other than the Cap’n Pirate himself, Mike Leach.
Not only will he be looking to dig the ‘Cougs out of the historic hole they’ve been in since Mike Price went Alabama lap-dancing, but he’ll also be in a “win-win” situation. He inherits a team that has a history of aerial proficiency, but also comes into a program that’s so used to losing that any positive step will seem as if he’s personally discovered the Higgs Boson.
Plus, who’s not looking forward to the Rodriguez/Leach matchups, other than the scoreboard operators?
Unlike the B1G and the SEC, the PAC has a really diverse cultural base. Seattle is different than LA (thank God), Pullman and Tempe are as diverse as they come.
That being said, for the most part PAC fans are categorized as “bandwagon” folks, predominantly due to the LA team(s). And, given my experience in the Pacific North-wet and SoCal, I’d have to say that this is pretty accurate. There are your diehard folks, the people who truck the WSU flag all across the country for Gameday and the like, but most of the folks who support PAC teams either are recent converts or have some sort of memory loss. No one seems to recall what USC was like before Carroll… or what Oregon was like prior to Belotti/Knight… or that UW’s best teams have had NCAA issues… or that Cal even had a team until the Stanford game.
My thought on this is that most of these folks are transplants, and that there’s other things to do on the Left Coast in the fall/winter. We midwesterners spend our cold Novembers through March thinking and talking football and basketball; PAC folks can still surf, ski, hike, and do whatever they do in Arizona when they’re not partying. Oh, and they could also be stuck in traffic. There’s always that.
Thursday, the ACC tries to convince us that they still have a conference.