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Pac 10 again has everything but national respect

Jul 23, 2002 5:04 AM

The Pac 10 isn’t getting much respect at the top, but then this conference seldom does.

The name is appropriate since the league always seems to be packed with great talent from top to bottom. The problem is finding a breakout team the national media would embrace.

"We know that California isn’t going to win the conference, but who’s to say that in the next few years they won’t be at the top," said John Avello, noted race and sports director at Bally’s/Paris Las Vegas.

Cal was just 1-10 SU (2-9 ATS) last year, which led to the hiring of Jeff Tedford the offensive coordinator under Mike Bellotti at Oregon. On paper it’s a good choice, considering Oregon won the Pac 10 the past two seasons and was ranked No. 2 last year behind national champion Miami.

"The teams in the league go up and down from year to year," Avello said. "It’s not like Nebraska, Miami and Florida State, which are constant. In defense of the Pac 10, the schools are all fighting for the same talent. That makes it easier for new teams to jump to the top."

Las Vegas Sports Consultants does not rank a Pac 10 team among the Top 10. The highest is Washington, rated 12th at odds of 25-1 to win the BCS Championship, which will be played at the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3, 2003. However, LVSC has five Pac 10 teams between 12th and 18th, testimony to the competitiveness and uncertainty that typifies the league.

This is a coaches conference. Five of the 10 have been at their respective institutions at least four years. Two that haven’t, (Arizona’s John Mackovic and USC’s Pete Carroll), coached previously in the NFL.

The league loses its most recognized player, Oregon’s All-American QB Joey Harrington, who finished fourth in the Heisman voting to Nebraska QB Eric Crouch. Yet the Ducks, along with Washington and Washington State are the three top candidates to win the league title.

The most talented team in the Pac 10 could be Carroll’s Trojans. Southern Cal won its last four regular-season games, including a stunning 27-0 victory over archrival UCLA. USC also boasts arguably the league’s top defensive player in All-American safety Troy Polamalu.

In past years, Oregon State and Oregon have risen from the bottom to contend for the national championship. This year’s candidate from past "have-not status" is Washington State. The Cougars made waves last year by finishing tied for second in the league and No. 10 nationally.

Head coach Mike Price returns 45 players from that team including senior QB Jason Gesser, who led the Pac 10 in passing (248.1 YPG). The Cougars get archrival Washington at home in Pullman on Nov. 23.

As for Washington, there’s an early wakeup call Aug. 31 against Michigan in Ann Arbor. The outcome won’t have a bearing on the Pac 10 race, but could determine whether the Huskies will be in the national title picture.

The biggest surprise during the off-season was Tyrone Willingham leaving what seemed a cushy situation at Stanford for the pressure cooker at Notre Dame. Buddy Teevens, an assistant under Steve Spurrier at Florida, takes over the Cardinal.

Both Arizona and Arizona State are looking to improve on disappointing seasons, but neither is expected to contend for the title. But, as Avello says, these are the teams that are the most dangerous in the conference.

Next week: the ACC.

LVSC RATINGS

college  

 odds  

 rank

Washington  

 25-1  

 12

Wash State  

 30-1  

 T-13

Oregon  

 30-1  

 T-13

USC  

 40-1  

 T-18

Oregon State  

 40-1  

 T-18

UCLA  

 40-1  

 T-18

Stanford  

 75-1  

 T-36

Field (all others)*  

 40-1  

 ””

*””Arizona, Arizona State, California.