This won’t go down as a post-season to remember for the Pac-10, which got a record-tying seven teams into bowl games but saw just two of them win — UCLA, which needed a few big breaks to get past Temple; and USC, which got a methodical, if not all that impressive, victory over Boston College.
The other five lost pretty decisively, capped by Oregon’s defeat at the hands of Ohio State today in the Rose Bowl. Oregon’s loss also means every Pac-10 team suffered at least three defeats this season, the first time that’s happened since 1999, a year generally regarded as one of the worst in the history of the conference.
That wasn’t the case this year, when the Pac-10 instead was devoid of a really great team but filled with a lot of pretty good ones (though the bowl results give a lot of ammunition to detractors to say the conference might have been overrated).
Now it’s on to 2010 and one Husky fan today sent me a note pointing out that UW won the conference each of the last three years that ended in zero — 1980, 1990 and 2000.
UW won’t be picked by many not wearing purple and gold to do that again next year, though hopes will obviously be higher than they’ve been since 2002 with the return of Jake Locker and the manner in which the team played at the end of the season.
So with that in mind, here’s one admittedly way-too-early 2010 forecast (and because this is so early, I reserve the right to change this dozens of times between now and next September):
1, Oregon — Ducks return all but four starters off the team that played today. It’s interesting that the teams that seemed to defend Oregon’s offense best this season were all out of the conference — you figure all the Pac-10 coaches will be studying those films intently to see what teams like Ohio State and Boise State figured out that they couldn’t. But the Ducks look like the prohibitive favorite.
2, USC — Lots of unknowns heading into the off-season that could change what we’ll think of the Trojans by the time the fall rolls around. But just based on the talent level on paper, the Trojans should be right back to contending for the conference title.
3, Oregon State — Beavers will have a big question mark at QB but they return most of the rest of their key players, including the Rodgers brothers, whose presence should ease the transition at QB.
4, Arizona — Bowl game disaster raises a little bit of a question about just how much progress the Wildcats really have made. But this is another team that returns the bulk of its key players and seems ready to turn that corner to consistent winner.
5, Stanford — Hard to gauge how much of this team’s success was tied to Toby Gerhart. It’s possible this will be too high for the Cardinal if they can’t replace him adequately. But Jim Harbaugh seems to have Stanford positioned to stay in the upper half.
6, Washington — Too low for the Huskies? The offense could be among the top 3-4 in the conference. But the defense, despite its play the last two weeks, still has lots to prove before moving the Huskies up too high. Winning at least two of the non-conference games will be the key to getting back to a bowl game.
7, Cal — Most enigmatic team in the conference. Talent will be there to finish higher, and Jeff Tedford has already shown he’s willing to make changes on his coaching staff to shake things up. But the way UW beat the Bears in the season finale seems enough to place the Huskies above them right now.
8, UCLA — Bruins have a lot of young talent. But they also lose most of their best defensive players, and the offense still has huge question marks. Feels like a team that may have to wait to 2011 to really break through.
9, Arizona State — ASU is still trying to hire a new offensive coordinator, and that could change the perception of this team a little bit. But Devils didn’t make any progress this year in the third season under Dennis Erickson and lose enough to make you think the fourth year could be just as bad, which will put Erickson in as sticky a situation as he’s ever been outside the NFL.
10, Washington State — It’ll be shocking if the Cougars aren’t a consensus pick for last heading into the season. Paul Wulff may need a bowl game to save his job, but there’s no realistic reason to think it will happen.