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The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

January 2, 2009 at 7:40 PM

Ranking the Pac one last time

The season is finally over for the Pac-10 after its most successful bowl season ever.
The best previous showing without a loss was 4-0 in 1989 and 1978. The only other time the Pac-10 won five bowl games was 1997 when the conference went 5-1, the only loss by Washington State to Michigan in the Rose Bowl (UW beat Michigan State in the Aloha Bowl that season).
All of which puts the conference’s play this season in a better light — hey, at least when UW went winless it was in a strong year, right?
Anyway, with the end of the season comes one last reason to rank the Pac-10:
1, USC — And maybe the Trojans should be No. 1 in the country, as well. Trojans will lose a lot of key players, especially on defense, but if Mark Sanchez returns, they’ll still be the pick to win it again next season.
2, Oregon — Like the Ducks or not — and I know most of you don’t — going 10-3 and playing most of the way with a QB who signed in May is pretty darn impressive. They also lose some really good players — Max Unger, Patrick Chung, Jeremiah Johnson — but this should still be an upper-division team next season.
3, Oregon State — Got a lot of defensive redemption with the Sun Bowl shutout. Starting to deserve the benefit of the doubt that they will simply reload rather than having to rebuild, so should also be a top five pick in the conference heading into next season.
4, Arizona — Win over BYU gave a lot of validity to the rebuilding being done by Mike Stoops. But with the loss of so many key offensive players — starting with QB Willie Tuitama — Wildcats may slip a bit next season.
5, Cal — Bowl win also helped salve the wounds of a few disappointing regular-season moments. But should Cal ever really be disappointed by a 9-4 season? Will have the best returning player in the conference, RB Jahvid Best, to build around next season.
6, Stanford — Anybody else think Jim Harbaugh is getting an awful lot of play out of a 5-7 season? Cardinal’s getting better, but takes some significant graduation hits on defense and even getting to a bowl game next season will again be a major achievement.
7, Arizona State — Most disappointing team in the conference this season and with Rudy Carpenter gradauating, hard to tell how much improvement the Devils will make next year. Feeling in Tempe, however, is that Dennis Erickson is improving the talent base and the long-term prospects remain bright.
8, UCLA — Injuries hurt quite a bit, but 4-8 still has to be a little disappointing. And now the Bruins have lost defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker. The days of endiing USC’s dominance seem as far away now as they did when Rick Neuheisel was hired.
9, Washington State — But they need to do more than just eke out a home win against the worst team in the conference next year to show that some progress is being made.
10, Washington — Only one way to go, right? Another tough schedule, however, won’t help.

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