USC won the most highly anticipated non-conference game of the year in stunning fashion, pasting Ohio State 35-3. However, that would be about the only thing that went right for the conference. It’s time to prepare for talk of the Big One and Little Nine to commence once more.
It all began Friday night with Baylor pounding Washington State 45-17. Sure, the Cougars are dealing with a lot right now between their new coach and some APR-related scholarship losses. Yes, the game was moved thanks to Hurricane Ike too. It’s still Baylor we’re talking about here, and it was still a 28-point loss.
Cal continued the madness by losing to Maryland, a team that lost to Middle Tennessee State by 10 last weekend. The Bears made an effort to come back and almost won, but they fell short. Again: Cal lost to an ACC team that lost to MTSU.
Stanford’s game with TCU was also affected by Hurricane Ike, but it didn’t change days like Wazzou’s did. TCU is generally one of the best non-BCS teams every year, and it showed with the Horned Frogs taking home a 31-14 win.
After those early games were over, the set at 3:30 began. One was UCLA visiting BYU, a team it split two close games with last season. Instead of making it three tight ones in a row, the Bruins dropped a stink bomb of epic proportions, losing to the Cougars 59-0. As ESPN’s crawl told us all night, it was UCLA’s worst loss since 1929.
Oregon faced off with Purdue, a mid-range Big Ten team, at the same time. Looking to make a statement on the road, the Ducks promptly fell behind 20-3 in the first half. Oregon’s defense locked down the Boilers as the offense crawled its way back, and the superior Ducks team finally won out in double overtime 32-26.
Back west, Oregon State welcomed depleted Hawai’i to town on the Warriors’ paycheck tour. Despite an early UH touchdown, the Beavers won a laugher 45-7 and showed that they might possess a defense after all. Then again no one is sure that Hawai’i possesses an offense, having scored just 17 points in its two games against I-A competition.
Prime time then rolled around. The conference had two drastically different teams on national TV with two drastically different results. Washington got rolled by the merciless Oklahoma Sooners 55-14 while USC effectively ended Ohio State’s season, 35-3.
The late games were two contests the conference probably hopes no one was paying attention to. The Mountain West Conference took a pair of contests from its regional BCS overlord as New Mexico defeated Arizona 36-28 and UNLV upset Arizona State 23-20 in overtime.
Teams not named USC went 2-7 against a slate of all non-conference opponents. The two wins were a blowout over what is no better than the fourth-best team in the WAC and a double overtime squeaker by one of the top three Pac-10 teams over a middle of the road Big Ten team. The league went 0-4 against the MWC, and 0-2 against the Big 12. The final loss was by a top-tier Pac-10 team to an ACC team that, let me say it again, lost to MTSU by two scores.
It was perhaps just a scheduling quirk that all of these games happened on the same weekend. Six of them were on the road, too.
Still, if the conference wants to be seen as a deep league and not USC and the Nine Dwarves, Cal cannot lose to Maryland. Arizona State cannot lose to UNLV. Oregon cannot go to double overtime against Purdue. Oregon State beating Hawai’i cannot be the conference’s third-best game, especially when the Beavers already have been hammered by Penn State. Up-and-comer Arizona cannot lose to New Mexico two straight years. Wazzou, Stanford, and UCLA were not favored to win, but they were not competitive either.
The Pac-10 certainly will see better weekends ahead. However, the non-USC folk are now just 3-10 against opponents from BCS leagues or the MWC (the best of the non-BCS leagues). It appears for now that USC’s hegemony will inevitably extend for another year, with there being precious little the rest of the conference can do about it.