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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

October 23, 2013 at 9:44 PM

More on the pursuit of the best football year in Pac-12 history . . .

In Wednesday’s Times, I detailed my attempt to come up with the best year for Pac-12/10/8 football in history, given that this season seems that it might be squarely in the running for such a distinction.

I nominated 1982 as the best year, 1997 as the second-best and 2007 as No. 3, along with three others that I gave honorable mention.

Naturally, that elicited some dissent. A couple of those responding have lobbied for the 2000 season, and indeed, that one merits a close look. That was the best year of Northwest football, when Oregon, Oregon State and Washington were tri-champions, handing each other their only league losses. And then they went out and proved it in the post-season, as Washington won the Rose Bowl, Oregon State the Fiesta and Oregon the Holiday.

One problem: In a 10-team league, those were the only ones with a winning record. My conclusion was that the league was hugely top-heavy, and when that happens, the ratings — Washington third, OSU fourth and Oregon seventh — may be artificially enhanced because there aren’t serious week-to-week challenges like there are this year. That’s not to minimize what those teams did, but as I wrote in the piece, I put a big premium on the depth of a league, not just the high-end stuff, and that’s why I didn’t think more highly of the 2000 season.

The Pac-10 finished 3-2 in bowl games that year (UCLA and Arizona State lost theirs) and had a very nice 23-8 (.742) non-conference record. But in another metric I used — the next NFL draft — it didn’t do so well. There were only eight picks in the first three rounds of the 2001 draft, and that’s a number that was among the lowest of the years I examined.

It”s worth pointing out that there is no one element that rules in such a measurement; that’s why I used several different ones, hoping to parlay them into a cohesive conclusion. Final rankings are one, and so are bowl results, non-league records and NFL talent. There are also flaws in each of those, so one can’t be taken as gospel without considering the rest of the factors.

Another reader mentioned the 1967 season, and it was also a good one. Oregon State had the “Giant Killers,” O.J. Simpson led USC to the national title, and UCLA was right there, tied with OSU at 7-2-1 for second behind USC’s 10-1 (overall). Again, though, it was top-heavy, as there were five teams with .500 or lesser records, and although USC finished No. 1 and OSU No. 7 (when the rankings consisted of only 10 teams), I didn’t see that year as equal to the three I picked (but it could certainly have merited honorable mention).

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