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Introducing Pac Ten Week: The State of the League, or We For One Welcome Our Los Angelean Overlords

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Rather than the usual parody, I thought it might be interesting to kick off Pac Ten Week with a look at the actual state of the conference under merciless Trojan rule. 2003 was USC's first outright conference title under Pete Carroll and the freshman campaign of this fall's fifth-year seniors (well, except Herschel Dennis):

Pac Ten Since 2003
Pac 10 Win % Avg. Margin Avg. PS#*
Southern Cal .909 + 21.2 16.9
California .697 + 13.7 81.3
Oregon .606 + 2.8 76.9
UCLA .576 – 0.2 66.4
Oregon State .546 + 0.7 100.1
Arizona State .455 – 2.7 79.9
Wash. State .424 – 2.9 152.0
Arizona .273 – 10.7 77.8
Stanford .273 – 12.9 93.7
Washington .242 – 9.9 150.6

* - Starters only, according to the ratings and depth charts of Phil Steele. There are ambiguities and discrepancies in this number, and they are not significant.
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The initial goal of this post was to ask whether anyone had a shot at catching USC, but that's a boring exercise on a direct path to hyperbole (the answer, of course, is a decisive no: aside from the routine three-touchdown beatings and the outrageous advantage in the crucial right hand column above, the Trojans have finished #1, #1, #2 and #4 in the AP poll in the relevant seasons and return more game experience than in any of Carroll's first six years). Southern Cal is the king and will remain the king, hail, hail, etc.

But the parity through the middle of the league is more interesting: Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon State and even Washington State, so indistinguishable to the rest of the country, really are indistinguishable year to year, so much so that the "average" conference game for each is decided by a field goal or less.


Everybody gets a turn.
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When you add Arizona (6-6 overall last year) and perpetually "improving" Washington to that group, you may be starting to get behind the initially mystifying regard for Pac Ten schedules, which steadily rank as the toughest in the country: about 80 percent of the league looks like a potential seven-game winner almost every year. Seven of Jeff Sagarin's top ten schedules at the end of last season were in the Pac Ten (all ten teams were in his top 15) and Steele's schedule rankings for the upcoming season list Pac Ten teams in the first six spots and all ten teams in the top twelve.

This is generally credited to the addition of a ninth conference game when the other power conferences are scrambling to take on I-AA fodder (only Arizona is dipping into the lower division in the Pac Ten this year, to play Northern Arizona), but those results don't begin to hold up according to opponents' win percentage, where the SEC rules without peer.

But consider that the Pac Ten hasn't put a second team in the BCS since 2002, evidence in itself of consistent intra-league sniping, and in that five-year span has sent four different runners-up to the Holiday Bowl, six different third place teams in six years to the Sun Bowl, four different programs in five years to the Las Vegas Bowl, etc. The class divisions beneath the king are too fluid for that.

Hence: no coup, no revolution. Just fighting for what you can get.