When Jason White passed the Oklahoma Sooners down the field to a quick 7-0 lead in Tuesday night's Orange Bowl, I immediately called my buddy Jeremy and left four words on his voicemail: "Dude, this game's over." After that, I immediately turned off the TV and hit the road to Maples Pavilion for a little women's hoops action.
By the time I got across the Dumbarton Bridge, U$C was up 28-7. And, of course, the rout was on. The Californians just mistreated, abused, and embarrased the Oklahomans. That wasn't a football game; that was a Steinbeck novel.
During halftime of the women's game, Ted Leland dropped by the media room. As we both stood there checking out the Orange Bowl in all its plasma-screen glory, we exchanged disbelief that the game had spun out of control as quickly as it had. We also agreed that at least the Pac-10 critics could all shut up now.
But as I was driving home, I started to think about it a little more. Could the Pac-10 apologists, such as myself, really spend the off-season crowing to everyone else?
Yes. And no.
Obviously, if anyone can crow right now, it's U$Cfan. The Trojans' win spoke volumes about how far that program has come in just four years. They've claimed back-to-back national championships. They've produced two of the last three Heisman Trophy winners. They have the most electrifying "amateur" football player in Reggie Bush. They played in front of 90,000 folks every week at the Coliseum; that's never happened before in the history of that program. You probably can't drive 20 feet in Los Angeles right now without seeing some U$C license plate frame.
But deep down, I think that U$C's wipeout win says more about the Trojans than it does about the Pac-10.
This isn't to take away from Oregon State and Arizona State. After all, they each held up their ends of the deal. But what did the Trojans' win say about the conference as a whole? It doesn't change the fact that the Pac-10 couldn't fill all of its bowl berths. It doesn't change the fact that UCLA (how tough must it be to be a Bruin fan in LA right now?) lost to Wyoming in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Worst of all, it doesn't change the fact that cal laid a huge egg in the Holiday Bowl. I'll admit it: I bought into all the smack that Bearfan talked during the regular season. I bought all the crying they did about getting dissed by the BCS. I didn't appreciate it, but I bought it. Plus, they legitimately had a fine squad and a fine coach.
The Bears were supposed to be the team that proved the Pac-10's depth. The Bears were supposed to be the team that proved the Pac-10 had room for two major powers. The Bears were supposed to be this year's reason why the BCS is a failure. Based upon all that, I thought coming into Bowl Week that the bulk of the Pac-10's reputation would rest upon cal's performance in San Diego.
And, as it turned out, it did. When cal failed, I think any major shred of credibility that the Pac-10 could claim as one whole conference went out the window. The Bears had to prove that they belonged among the BCS's big boys. They didn't. And even worse for cal fans, Texas did. In the world of sports, the truth always has a funny way of coming out.
All of this is why I blame the Bears for giving the national experts a reason to spend most of their pre-Orange Bowl time assassinating the Pac-10's character. Did the Bears' offense go into that game at full strength? No. Did the Bears' defense match up well with Texas Tech? No. But they still had to find a way to win a bowl game they didn't necessarily want to play in. Auburn did it. Why couldn't cal?
When cal lost, that's when you started hearing all the usual suspects going out of their way to crack the Pac-10. Some of those folks have since backtracked and said that, well, maybe the Pac-10 isn't so soft after all. Honestly, I'd be able to accept that conclusion if the Bears hadn't crashed and burned against the Red Raiders.
As a Pac-10 apologist, I have to say that it's nice to have college football's undisputed champion (Auburn fans, don't fool yourselves) residing here on the West Coast. I have to say that it's nice to hear some of the conference's biggest critics change their tunes and say nice things about what we do in the Pac-10. But to me, honestly, the Orange Bowl's result confirmed my deepest, darkest fear: the Pac-10 this year was U$C and Everybody Else.
It's a sobering realization for all of us sane college football fans on the West Coast, but right now, the Pac-10 is no different from the rest of college football. It's U$C's world, and we're all just living in it.
RANDOM BOWL THOUGHTS
After Pittsburgh's disappointing performance in the Fiesta Bowl, some folks are already writing off the Walt Harris Era. Given that, and knowing the way today's college football fan acts, how much do you want to bet that some idiot Sooner fan is feverishly working on some "Fire Bob Stoops"-style website right now?
Walt Harris has said that he will find an offense to fit his talent, something he has consistently done through his coaching career. Pitt's strengths and weaknesses aren't necessarily the same as Stanford's. This is why I wasn't trying to read a whole lot into the Panthers, and why I wasn't trying to find ways to apply what I saw to what Stanford could look like in 2005. I will say that the Panthers' offense played pretty well fundamentally, and I understood the playcalling. I was also pleased that the offense committed no penalties until late in the fourth quarter. Things might have gone better if Pitt's O-line was healthy, and Utah's defense is better than I thought. But there were some good things I saw. Granted, it's way, way too early to be making any generalizations about what we might see this spring and fall on The Farm…
Even after Matt Leinart's stellar performance against Oklahoma, I still don't think he should have won the Heisman Trophy. If I had a vote, it would have gone to Reggie Bush. No one altered the course of more college football games this year than that young man. My second-place vote would have gone to Alex Smith of Utah. He was the best quarterback this year. Better than Leinart, better than White…
Speaking of quarterbacks, if Vince Young figures out how to become a passer, he's going to be invited to a few Heisman ceremonies before his career his done…
I don't like the fact that the Rose Bowl hasn't been a traditional matchup in back-to-back years since Stanford-Wisconsin was followed by Washington-Purdue. But if we get more Rose Bowls like the one we got this year, tradition might have to be damned…
Great finish for the Rose Bowl, obviously. But don't forget the exciting results in the Capital One Bowl (unreal), Sun Bowl, and Liberty Bowl. I can't quite remember a bowl season that had this many edge-of-your-seat finishes…
Did I see this right during the Emerald Bowl? Navy had a 26-play, 94-yard, 14-minute drive? Holy smoke…
I feel horribly for Mark Bradley, the young man who made that colossal special teams error for Oklahoma. That's something that, sadly, he'll have to deal with for the rest of his life…
The other day I had a chance to spend some quality time with Dick Tomey, the new head coach at San Jose State. While talking to him, I kept having flashbacks of Rob Waldrop and Tedy Bruschi chasing Steve Stenstrom all over Stanford Stadium. Obviously the Spartans have a long way to go before it reaches those levels, but I'm very interested to see what Tomey might be able to do down in the 408…
Not a bowl thought, but… let's do a little role-play here. You are Pete Carroll. You are now the King of Los Angeles. Heck, you're bigger than Kobe Bryant. You are in complete control of a national championship program. You can do just about anything you want down at U$C. You have the best players, and will continue to get them. Why in the world would you want to become the San Francisco 49ers next head coach? John York might go after him, but if I'm Carroll, I don't go anywhere near 4949 Centennial Boulevard. I'm perfectly happy right where I am on Figueroa…
Not a bowl thought, but… this, in all likelihood, will be the final Clardy's Corner for a while (please, hold your applause), at least until Spring Ball. But I do want to say thank you again for continuing to make doing this fun! I'll definitely be around Maples a lot, so if we cross paths, please say hello. All the best to you and yours in 2005!
-- Got a thought on this column or on Stanford sports? E-mail me at email@example.com! The ones I like best will end up in next week's E-Mailbag.
Troy Clardy is a reporter for the Stanford Cardinal Farm Report, which airs Saturday mornings on Fox Sports Net Bay Area. Clardy hosts "Stanford Sports Weekly", which airs Wednesday evenings at 8:00 PM on KNTS (1220 AM) in San Francisco.
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