Who is the best bet in the Pac-10?

The hottest topic on the West Coast this past week has been the unprecedented Pac-10 race at hand. Five top ranked teams, all with just one loss, all with a serious shot at the Fiesta Bowl... or more. To help handicap the race, the finest publishers in the conference have checked in with their thoughts and analysis on the Fab Five Frontrunners.

They are the West's Fab Five. All sport a lone loss. All are ranked in TheInsiders.com's Top 15. And all are poised for a run at the Pac-10 championship. They are No. 8 Oregon, No. 10 Stanford, No. 11 UCLA, No. 13 Washington and No. 15 Washington State. Which will win? TheInsiders.com's Pac-10 publishers weigh in.


No. 8 OREGON

Head Coach Mike Bellotti

7-1 overall | 4-1 in Pac-10


By Steve Summers of eDuck.com

Oregon has an excellent chance of winning the Pac-10 because they have two remaining home games (ASU and OSU), and will face UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Oregon has two running backs that have an excellent chance of rushing for 1,000 yards each for the season. Onterrio Smith had a break out game against Washington State and ended up with 285 yards of rushing and three touchdowns. Meanwhile starter Maurice Morris is well on track to be the first Oregon running back to have consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons. One other reason the Ducks are in the driver's seat in the Pac-10 race is quarterback Joey Harrington. The subject of the 80 foot billboard is still in the Heisman race. If directing eight come-from-behind wins isn't enough reason to believe that Captain Comeback can make it happen, what else could?



No. 10 STANFORD

Head Coach Tyrone Willingham

5-1 overall | 4-1 in Pac-10


By ME-97 of TheBootleg.com

To ask the question if Stanford will win the Pac-10 is really to ask whether Stanford will beat the Huskies in Seattle this weekend. Given that Stanford has just played the top three teams in the conference the past three weeks, the remaining competition after Saturday won't be so imposing. In fact, the Card will face the two losingest teams in the conference in its final two Pac-10 games in the form of Arizona and Cal. The Cats haven't won a conference game in a full year, while the Bad News Bears haven't won any games in a full year.

Getting to the Xs and Os of why Stanford is best suited to run the table, look no further than the trenches. Stanford is sporting the best offensive line in the conference, and is coming together as a unit. Against a UCLA front seven that includes Kenyon Coleman and Robert Thomas - players headed for Sundays - the Card were able to run for over 200 yards and at one stretch complete 12 straight passes. Stanford also is making a name with its defense, which is a very hard statement to swallow for Pac-10 fans. Playing through injuries, this veteran crew is stuffing the run and holding some of the nation's best runners to just half their yards. All of these accomplishments have come against the toughest schedule in the country, to date.



No. 11 UCLA

Head Coach Bob Toledo

6-1 overall | 3-1 in Pac-10


By Tracy Pierson of BruinOnlineReport.com

Whichever teams wins the Pac-10 will have to win the remaining games on their schedule. UCLA's toughest challenge to accomplish that will be when they travel to Pullman to take on Washington State on Saturday. After that, UCLA is at home for two of its three remaining games (Oregon, ASU) and take only a 13-mile road trip to USC. UCLA has played extremely well at home this season and looks unbeatable in L.A. But UCLA, if it wins out, needs Stanford to lose once, and the best bet for the Cardinal to lose is this weekend when it goes to Seattle to take on Washington in tough Husky Stadium. If Stanford wins at Washington, the Cardinal is in the driver's seat to win the Pac-10. If not, UCLA probably takes over the wheel since it would then play contender Oregon in the Rose Bowl, while Washington still would have to travel to Oregon State and also play Washington State.



No. 13 WASHINGTON

Head Coach Rick Neuheisel

6-1 overall | 4-1 in Pac-10


By Chris Fetters of Dawgman.com

Let's face it, the Huskies know how to win. Whether it's the residue of good coaching, preparation, or having the right blend of athletes and chemistry, they seemingly have what it takes to get the job done. Another piece of the puzzle in their favor is scheduling. Of the final three remaining conference games, the two toughest matchups (Stanford and Washington State) are at home. Husky Stadium provides (with the arguable exception of Autzen Stadium) the biggest homefield advantage for any team in the Pac-10. Washington also is getting healthier by the week. Adding in key pieces like Jerramy Stevens can only help the Dawgs' cause.

Inconsistency will be the culprit if the Huskies don't win. At times, the Dawgs have been rolled (UCLA). At other times they have been torched through the air (Cal, ASU). If any coach in the Pac-10 can outthink Rick Neuheisel, it's Ty Willingham. Stanford could come up and pull the plug on Washington's chances right away. Moreover, what team can keep pulling the rabbit out of the hat time and time again? The odds of it continuing are almost too much to contemplate. And if Cody Pickett's shoulder can't go for even one of the remaining three league games, their chances go from decent to nil.



No. 15 WASHINGTON STATE

Head Coach Mike Price

7-1 overall | 4-1 in Pac-10


By Greg Witter of CougFan.com

The Cougars, traditionally weak in November as the injuries start to pile up, are perhaps in the worst position of any of the Big 5 for two primary reasons: The remaining schedule and the Pac-10's tie-breaking formula. Granted, they have UCLA at home this weekend but they must hit the road for their final two games against teams that play very tough at home: Arizona State and Washington. Moreover, under the tie-breaking formula, WSU's victory over Division I-A Montana State counts as only half a win.


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