No National Championship for PAC10...


Sep 23, 2002
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Mesa, AZ some other musings from Artie:

GIGANTINO: Unpredictable Pac-10 costly in long run
FOX Sports Net
Sep. 30, 2003 12:42 p.m.

1. Wow, the Pac-10 went from being a top-heavy conference to the most unpredictable BCS conference of them all. Not only did USC go down to Cal, but the Oregon Ducks, last week's Cinderella team didn't just get beat by Wazzu, they got pounded. First, let's look at the Men of Troy. Cal beat them with a field goal in an emotional triple-overtime game in which they ran and passed the ball almost at will against one of the nation's best defensive football teams. Cal even tried to lose the game by turning it over to the Trojans four times and getting two field goal attempts blocked. USC looked stunned in the first half, woke up in the second half, but still lost in triple overtime. The win puts the Bears at 3-3 with victories over Southern Miss, Illinois and now USC. In fact, their last four games have all been decided in the last two minutes of play. USC is just another example of how hard it is for teams to play and win after having a bye. The Trojans had been rolling along nicely with a 3-0 record and a No. 3 spot in both polls. The bye obviously affected them because they were just plain flat. This week, USC goes to Tempe to play a disappointing ASU team, while Cal hosts red-hot Oregon State.
2. After demolishing big, tough Michigan two weeks ago, the Oregon Ducks were the talk of college football. The uniforms went from downright ugly to cute. The two-quarterback system went from being indecisive to genius. The funny Ducks mascot went from a quacker to a growler. A national weekly sports magazine put them on the cover and called them dazzling. Life was good in the world of Eugene, Ore. for seven days. Then, faster than you can say Animal House and the Ghost of John Belushi (Animal House was filmed on the Oregon campus, many moons ago]), Washington State showed up and ruined it all. Somehow, some way, the slipper fell off Cinderella and before the Ducks knew it, they were behind 38-2 at the intermission. The final score was WSU 55, Oregon 16, and it wasn't even that close. The Cougs forced nine turnovers and blocked two Duck punts. Other than that, most of the stats were equal. But who cares about that nonsense when one team has 39 more points than the other does. Washington State, under first-year coach Bill Doba, is 4-1, and should be 5-0. They blew a 19-3 halftime lead against Notre Dame earlier in the year. Quietly, Doba has done a marvelous job taking over for the departed Mike Price, while signal-caller Matt Kegel has been super in following Jason Gesser's shadow. This weekend, the Cougars host Arizona, then take a week off and travel to the Farm. Looks like 6-1 is on the horizon and so is another Rose Bowl berth.

3. For the record, I called this upset. Washington State is a good team and the Ducks were primed for a letdown. Speaking of letdowns, it now looks like the Pac-10 will again fail to place a team in the national championship game. With five games left, the conference is 23-12 vs. non-conference teams. Every team in the league has won a game and lost a game. Preseason favorites USC, Oregon and ASU have already lost in conference. In fact, Stanford almost upset Washington in Seattle. The Pac-10 is the only BCS conference without at least one unbeaten team and has no teams that lead the nation in any team categories. This is a balanced conference whose winner, in the end, might have two conference losses. Of course, if the Pac-10 office would wake up and see the writing on the wall, they would be secretly negotiating with Utah and BYU about becoming the 11th and 12th team, then we could have a championship game and settle it all on the field. That might be too 'footballishc' for the high-browed Pac-10.

4. Washington was the last Pac-10 school to win the national championship and that was in 1991. Since the birth of the BCS, the Pac-10 is the only BCS conference not to have a team in the championship game.

5. Fourteen Division I-A teams remain unbeaten. With conference play heating up and some natural rivals playing in the next few weeks, this number is sure to be cut in half in the very near future. OU, Nebraska, LSU, Arkansas, the Vols, the 'Noles, the 'Canes, the Hokies, Ohio State, Minnesota, Louisville, Northern Illinois, TCU and Air Force have yet to lose. On the flip side of the coin, North Carolina (ugh), Mississippi State, Temple, Buffalo, Army, East Carolina, Rice and SMU are winless. The Sun Belt conference leads the nation with three winless teams in Idaho, and the Louisiana sisters, Lafayette and Monroe. In a small amount of fairness, these schools played non-conference games way above their heads for a simple reason -- money and money alone.

6. Are the stats correct? Is Kansas really 4-1 after having a disastrous 2-10 season in 2002? This past weekend, they soundly beat ranked Mizzou 35-14 behind QB Bill Whittemore, who ran for two scores and led the Jayhawks to 22 fourth quarter points. This was a major upset. Not only in the Big 12, but in the nation as well. In recent years, Kansas has been all about hoops. Nice guy grid coach Terry Allen was dumped two years ago and rotund tough guy Mark Mangino was selected from the land of Barry Switzer and the Sooners to right the ship. After a year of getting acclimated to Mangino's style, the Jayhawks are on the way to a bowl game. After a bye this weekend, KU travels to Colorado then hosts Baylor. Right now, Whittemore is fifth nationally in passing efficiency with an impressive 163.7 rating. Kansas, like Alabama and Washington, had its share of off-season drama. Athletic director Al Bohl was run out of town because of an open conflict with ex-hoop coach Roy Williams. Mangino survived the change and now has everyone singing "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk", whatever the hell that means.

7. The "Really Big Ten" is having an impressive first part of the season. Not only are six teams ranked in the AP top 25, three teams (Ohio State, Michigan State and Purdue) are ranked 1-2-3 nationally in run defense. The Associated Press lists Ohio State No. 3, Michigan No. 9, Minnesota No. 21, Purdue No. 22, Iowa No. 23 and Michigan State No. 25. The Buckeyes and Gophers are unbeaten. Michigan has one loss, that butt-kicking in Eugene. Purdue, who is playing as well as anyone in the country, stubbed its toe in the opener to Bowling Green. Iowa forgot to show up in East Lansing last week for their only blemish and surprising Michigan State has only a one-point loss to Louisiana Tech. You know, that traditional powerhouse from the Bayou? (Be nice, Artie). All in all, every team but the "'I Brothers", Illinois and Indiana, have at least two wins and Joe Pa's boys and Barry's bunch can beat anyone on any given Saturday. Now, do I think the Big Ten will repeat as national champions? No, not at all. But they are playing well overall as a conference. The Big Ten is 6-3 vs. top 25 teams, 15-8 vs. other BCS conferences and 30-14 overall in non-league play. Last year, this group had 33 non-conference wins plus five bowl wins for a total of 38 victories. Not bad for a conference with no great QBs, conservative coaches, no speed and a grumpy disposition about everything. PS: Go get a 12th team so you can also have a championship game.

8. In spite of my cynical comments, the Big Ten knows how to get people in the seats. Last weekend 517,588 fans attended six conference home games. That averages out to 86,265 per game. Of course, they have some of the nation's largest venues in the Big House, the Horseshoe and Beaver Stadium. I could say there is nothing else to do in Big Ten cities because there are no beaches and the weather always sucks, but I won't. I will assume the good people of the Midwest just love their football.

9. Look for the Big East to add Cincy and Louisville to their football roster. In all reality, this is a no-brainier. Not only do they fulfill a football need, they bring obvious hoop respectability to the Big East. But since this column is about the pigskin and not the court, we will stick to the 100-yard game. Louisville is presently unbeaten and the Bearcats have steadily rebuilt under no nonsense coach Rick Minter. The Big East needs to brace itself for one more defection to the ACC. While the Notre Dame rumors are starting to fade away, the ACC still needs one more member. What about the Gamecocks? What about Boston College? Nobody knows what will happen; however we can all be assured something will. The Irish would be very interesting. Somehow they don't fit in the ACC, but after all, this is Notre Dame of which we speak. If they were to join the ACC it would be for reasons that involve other sports beyond football. The Irish have the sweetest of all TV deals with their own network in NBC. Of course the Peacock can't be too excited about the fact the Golden Domers are 1-3 for the fourth time in the last seven years. The Irish on Tobacco Road just doesn't sound right.

10. This is also the time for the WAC and Mountain West to make a move. Rumors have TCU, Tulane and Houston being considered for the WAC. They need to go get four more teams and get to a total of 12 football playing schools. This would give them a chance at a championship game and more national respect. The loser in all this is Conference USA, which will go down the tubes when Cincy and the Louisville sluggers split. The best program of all of them might be TCU. If I were the Frogs, I would think about the Mountain West Conference if invited to that dance.

11. Every year, the firing process begins earlier and earlier. Arizona might have set a NCAA record this week in dumping embattled coach John Mackovic after five games and before the calendar hit October. We all know the story of how Mackovic left the TV studio and returned to coaching vowing to bring the 'Cats to the promised land. It didn't work and now, after two years and five games, he is out. Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood, who performed the deed just last week, gave Mackovic the dreaded vote of confidence. Then, after a close loss to TCU on Saturday night, turns around and fires the coach. My question here is why put yourself up for public ridicule by backing the coach and then changing your mind? By all accounts, Livengood is a solid person and able administrator. But we all know the vote of confidence always comes back to bite you in the ass. Mackovic, with numerous other head coaching stops on his resume, was 10-18 in Tucson, with a majority of those losses at home. The rumor mill has this job eventually going to ousted 'Bama coach Mike Price, who was Livengood's head coach at Washington State. But, this week Arizona school president Peter Likins came out and said Mike Price would most definitely not be a candidate for the job because of the problems that led to his dismissal in the "Land of the Bear". With that in mind, I wonder what day in November the press conference to announce the hiring of Price will be?

12. Free advice to Arizona: You should strongly consider Mike Price for several reasons. First, he is a proven coach that will bring an offensive system to Tucson that will put points on the board and people in the seats. Secondly, sure, he made a mistake in Alabama. He has admitted it, has been punished, suffered emotionally and financially. It is time to move on. None of this can erase the success he had at Wazzu. After all, he did not commit a crime against humanity nor did he break the law, so let's get off our high horses here. Third, he knows the conference. Mackovic admitted one of his problems in his first two years was that he wasn't familiar with the Pac-10. Last and not least, he is available. Arizona needs a coach in place sooner than later. Hire Price by mid-November, allow him to be around the team for a few weeks and then when December rolls around hit the ground running when recruiting starts. One of the issues in hiring a new coach is they always lose a year in recruiting because of the late date in which they are hired. If Coach Price's resume does not satisfy the powers that be in the Cactus State, how about Rick Neuheisel, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach, or Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops? Feel free to call me at any time for any other recommendations.

13. Last off-season, there were 18 new head coaches hired in college football. Their combined records, as we approach the midpoint of the season, are 43-37. Only Louisville, under new boss Bobby Petrino, is unbeaten at 4-0. Seven programs, Bowling Green, Houston, Michigan State, Oregon State, Utah, Washington and Washington State have only one loss. East Carolina, under energized coach John Thompson, is the only one with zero wins, while Wyoming has but one victory. In the big picture, most of these changes have been positive. Bill Doba at Washington State, in all likelihood, has the best team while Mike Shula at 'Bama and Karl Dorrell at UCLA are under the most heat to win and win right now.

14. This coming weekend is just another weekend in college football. There are no real sexy, must-see games. USC journeys to Tempe to get the winning streak going again. Tennessee goes to overrated Auburn. Michigan visits Iowa, after they lost to Michigan State and the Dawgs and UGA host the Crimson Tide. The best game might be the Kansas State-Texas game in Austin. Both programs have one loss and this will be a barometer game for both teams. Texas can not look ahead to their Oct. 11 showdown with the Sooners. K-State, coming off a bye, must rebound from a tough loss to MAC opponent Marshall. QB Ell Roberson must be healthy for the Wildcats to win this one.

15. Although the weekend of Oct. 4 might be a dud, look for something to happen in terms of an upset or a triple-overtime game to rock the football world. Hopefully, it will keep all the fans on edge in anticipation for the weekend of Oct. 11. This has all the earmarks of some great games with potential upsets that could shape the BCS and national championship picture. As a teaser (As they say in TV and radio), here are some of the games next week. Miami at Florida State, Oklahoma vs. Texas at the State Fair, The Ohio State at Wisconsin, Tennessee at Georgia, Florida at LSU's Death Valley and Michigan at Minnesota on a Friday night. Overall, this might be the best college football weekend of the year other than rivalry weekend in November. Let's all just try and get through this weekend's schedule first.

If you have questions, comments or Quick Hits of your own, you can reach Artie Gigantino at his e-mail address: [email protected].

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