Out of the Pac

What do you get when you miss a pick by missing the pick? That's what I just have done, I'm afraid. The Civil War edition of "Out of the Pac" did not include a discussion or prognostication with regard to last Saturday's Notre Dame vs. USC football game. The answer to that opening question would perhaps be "pick2", but in truth I feel worse about the two picks I really missed – ASU/UA and the Civil War.

I hope it would not stretch credibility to state I not have been calling for any upset in that pairing, I will not include it in the season record, which was 17-3 coming in to Rivalry Week and now stands at 19-5 with California @ Southern Mississippi and USC at UCLA to be played this weekend.

On to the review:

California 41 - Stanford 6 (Pick: Cal 45-10)

The surprising part of this contest was not the score – that followed pretty much to form. Since the game, however, the conversation has turned to how Texas – who has finished their season, narrowed the gap between themselves and Cal for the #4 BCS slot. In truth the underlying logic of the numerical gymnastics behind the BCS calculation is reasonably sound. Its usage isn't necessarily appropriate, but the mathematics isn't faulty. This discussion will expand in a future "Quick Quacks" – but for the purposes of this point, that information is a "non-item" and to my thinking at least, was over-reported. Unless California losses to Southern Mississippi, Texas will be hoping to find a team they can beat, instead of Oklahoma, waiting for them in the Cotton Bowl.

Oregon State 50 - Oregon 21 (Pick: Oregon 31-21)

This one hurt. All the worst of the Ducks, and all the best of the Beavers. Considering "the best of the Beavers" was pretty much limited to Derek Anderson and Mike Hass, "all the worst of the Ducks" had to be substantial. It was. Defensive breakdowns the entire game, ineffective offense in the second half, turnovers, penalties… brutal performance by the Ducks. And one that should have been foreseen, given the previous pattern of behavior each of the teams had provided for view. Still, I thought Oregon would have more depth and better talent on the field, and that those would be deciding elements in the game. Shoulda gone with heart, instead. Anderson and Hass had plenty… the Ducks didn't play a single down with any. The final score rightfully painted the picture. So does the season record of 5-6. A more detailed review of the 2004 Ducks can be found in the December 2 edition of "Quick Quacks"

Washington State 28 - Washington 25 (Pick: WSU 28-12)

After seven years of "Cougin it" in the Apple Cup, Washington State finally was able to beat the Huskies that annual intra-state clash. A dubious accomplishment at best; after all the Huskie's won only a single game all season, none in conference play, yet made the final score look respectable after being down at halftime 21 –10. If there were any celebrating on the Palouse, I would expect it was muted.

Washington's comeback began when QB Casey Paus was benched in favor of back-up QB Isaiah Stanback. These two signal callers are oil and water to that offense, and for the whole of the season now ex-head coach Keith Gilbertson tried to install Paus as the incumbent, while Paus did everything he could do to make Gilbertson change his mind in the third quarter. Not a good way to run a football team.

Given the crossed polarity of those two options, next season's version of the Huskies will be an entertaining subject as a new head coach is hired. It is certainly true a football team can appear to be better than it really is – and I will side-step any opportunities to make a reference to the Ducks as an example – but, it would be best to keep in mind that it is also true a football team can appear to be worse than it really is. Next season will be a pivotal one on the shores of Lake Washington.

Arizona 34 - Arizona State 27 (Nov. 26) (Pick: Sun Devils 45-17)

The one true upset of the weekend. Perhaps the one true upset of the conference schedule – and thus the real secret of that 19-5 record I quoted above. Arizona found a whole bunch of offense somewhere. I don't think they will get to keep it – I'm still not convinced their personnel can be reliably counted upon to get points – but it surely did show up at a handy time for the Wildcats.

The season ending injury to Arizona State quarterback Andrew Walter could have precluded a rally at the game's end for a victory, though back-up QB Sam Keller, a redshirt sophomore, came in to replace Walter with the Sun Devils trailing 34-20 in the fourth quarter, and promptly drove for a touchdown to narrow the margin to seven.

A fourth down pass as time ran out in the game, however, fell incomplete, stalling a subsequent drive for the tying score.

Walter's shoulder separation will keep him from appearing in the Sun Bowl, a cruel end to a fabulous career. Softening the blow somewhat is that all of the pre-bowl practices can be now devoted to Keller, who demonstrated both poise and savvy in his unexpected appearance. Dividends will be realized next year as well as Keller will have a more significant than anticipated head start going into the spring and fall camps and the 2005 season. Sometimes, when you fall out of a tree you are able to land on your feet. ASU may have done just that…

Notre Dame @ USC (Nov 27) (Pick: wrong pick2)

Been there, done that. Again. Notre Dame did force the issue initially, but the outcome really was never in doubt. Clearly the major story to develop in the days following this game was the dismissal of Notre Dame head coach Tyrone Willingham. Once again, a future edition of Quick Quacks is the better forum for that discussion. The point here is what it has been all season long; USC has an uncanny knack of playing a bit casually and in the process appear perhaps vulnerable, only to identify exactly when in the game to impose their will upon the outcome and then very effectively do so. They are quite a football team to behold and I will be very surprised if either Oklahoma or Auburn proves to be capable of forcing any material change to that process. Stated another way, Oklahoma and Auburn have both played their best games of the season. USC hasn't yet, but is planning to do so on Jan 4.

A quick recap of this weekend's games from the last edition of "Out of the Pac" has us on record of favoring USC against UCLA (35-17) and California over Southern Mississippi to join the Trojans in the BCS merrymaking over the New Year holiday.

Until a review of spring practices and then again when fall camps get underway, this will be the last "Out of the Pac" posting. A quick review of these two contests will be included in that frequently referred to "future edition of Quick Quacks".

Till then.

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