|Pac-10 has logjam at top of standings|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 22 October 2008 13:00|
Five of the 10 teams have only one loss, promising a wide-open race to the finish.
``I'm never surprised by the competitiveness of the conference or the parity in the conference,'' said Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, who has one of the one-loss teams. ``I'm not a great historian so I can't tell you the last time the conference champion was undefeated but I think it's been more normal that there's been a loss or two losses. It's just that competitive.''
USC was the last team to go undefeated in the Pac-10, doing it in both 2004 and '05. But only one other time in the last 11 years, has a team gone through the conference unbeaten. In the past two seasons, a pair of two-loss teams tied for the Pac-10 title.
The Trojans, who have won at least a share of the title for seven straight seasons, are part of a four-way tie at 3-1 with Oregon, Arizona and Oregon State. California is a half-game back at 2-1.
The big game this week features Arizona hosting USC.
USC is sitting up there and they are probably without question the most talented team week in and week out,'' Wildcats coach Mike Stoops said. ``We certainly understand the importance of the game because a win would put us a game up with a win over USC.''
Oregon State already has a win over USC, which could be a determining factor if the teams end up tied at the end of the season. But coach Mike Riley says that doesn't make the Beavers the favorite.
``It's too early to be a front-runner,'' he said. ``I think it's all jumbled up and it's just a matter of now getting better and playing consistently every week.''
If there's any favorite, it would be No. 6 USC, which is the only conference team ranked in the Top 25 this week and the only Pac-10 team yet to lose a nonconference game.
``I think everybody understands that SC has been at the top of the conference,'' Cal coach Jeff Tedford said. ``But as we all see in college football anything can happen. I would guess that they are still the favorites for sure to be at the top of the conference, but there's a lot of football left.''
FUMBLED CHANCES: A fumble sent Arizona starting running back Nic Grigsby to the bench after one carry last week and almost got UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft pulled as well.
The decision to bench Grigsby and stick with Craft ended up paying off for both the Wildcats and Bruins.
ulled Grigsby after his first-quarter fumble led to a California touchdown. Grigsby also lost fumbles in a 36-28 loss at New Mexico and in a 31-10 victory at UCLA.
``This is becoming habit forming and I think there has to be consequences at some point,'' Stoops said. ``I know it's part of the game but it's happening way too frequently for us right now. Those type of messages are ones that we need on this football team.''
Freshman Keola Antolin took advantage of the opportunity, running for 149 yards and three touchdowns in the 42-27 win over Cal. Grigsby will start again this week against USC.
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel nearly benched Craft after an early fumble but was talked into keeping him in the game by offensive coordinator Norm Chow.
Craft engineered a drive at the end of the first half for a field goal and then threw a 7-yard touchdown with 10 seconds remaining to lift UCLA to a 23-20 victory over Stanford.
``I rarely do it. I can probably count on one hand in my time as head coach where I even considered it,'' Neuheisel said of pulling a player for fumbling. ``Calmer heads prevailed and I think it was the wise move to keep him in there as was proved on that 2-minute drill right before the end of the half.''
GOING BOWLING: The Pac-10's struggles this season could end up helping out the WAC.
m to the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.
Just past the midway point of the season it looks like it might be difficult to fill that spot as there might not be seven teams with the required six wins to become bowl eligible.
Washington State is already ineligible for a bowl with seven losses and Washington could join the Cougars with a loss this week to Notre Dame. With three other teams having four losses already, there's a good possibility that the Pac-10 won't be able to have seven six-win teams.
Sensing that possibility, Poinsettia Bowl officials announced an agreement this week to give the Pac-10's spot in the bowl to a team from the WAC if it remains open. That would give the WAC a fourth bowl tie-in. The other team in the bowl on Dec. 23 will be the second choice from the Mountain West Conference.
``We are very enthused about the possibility of putting a team in the Poinsettia Bowl this year,'' WAC commissioner Karl Benson said. ``We're also optimistic that this will lead to a future relationship with the Poinsettia Bowl.''
The WAC participated in 18 of the first 20 Holiday Bowls, which is run by the same group as the Poinsettia Bowl.