Yesterday my Dad and I drove up to Springfield, Massachusetts and checked out the National Basketball Hall of Fame. My Dad marveled at the Hall's display for his idol, Walt Frazier. I was stunned to see Toby Bailey's jersey hanging in a display dedicated to UCLA. We were both surprised to learn that the Human Highlight Film's full name is Jacques Dominique Wilkins... and that he was born in Paris, France!
We passed the display containing memorabilia from UConn's 1999 national title team, complete with a monitor replaying that year's "One Shining Moment" that CBS does at the end of the title game. And since then, "One Shining Moment" has been stuck in my head.
When it comes to Pac-10 football, just about every school has had at least one shining moment this year. For the purposes of this column, we'll call them Crowning Moments. And, since this year in college football has been wackier than most, just about every Pac-10 squad has had some clowning moments, too. With those two things in mind, it's time to get into this year's...
Crowning Moment: Does being down 28-21 after three quarters at Wisconsin count?
Clowning Moment: Plenty to choose from. I won't bore you with any of them here.
Outlook: Grim. Poor Bill Doba.
Crowning Moment: Dropping 48 points on Washington State. Nothing else even comes close.
Clowning Moment: Where do I start? Which stupid penalty do I pick? Which inexplicable mistake? Which questionable coaching decision? The Wildcats give games away like a department store Santa Claus.
Outlook: There's no other way to spin this: this program just doesn't know how to win right now.
Crowning Moment: Things started off great, with an impressively easy win over Syracuse and an eye-opening victory over Boise State, last year's BCS Cinderella. Jake Locker is growing into a superstar at quarterback.
Clowning Moment: The defense has allowed too many big plays to keep them in the last five ballgames – last week, they couldn't stop Oregon with air brakes. And Locker is still learning how to be a consistent passer, which will really dictate when he takes the next step.
Outlook: They're competitive. Heck, they're outright feisty. And they have the most exciting singular quarterback to watch in the Pac-10. But when your defense allows teams to march right through you like the Germans down the Champs Elysses, it's tough to win. And it will get even tougher if their superstar QB takes one big hit too many.
Crowning Moment: Knocking off the soon-to-be-#1 Golden Bears in Berkeley. And anytime Yvenson Bernard carries the rock. He and Oregon's Jonathan Stewart are NFL-ready right now.
Clowning Moment: Six interceptions and an inept offensive performance against the speedier Cincinnati Bearcats. And a complete special-teams disaster in the fourth quarter in a home loss to UCLA.
Outlook: When the Beavers take care of the ball, they're a very competitive team. But when they don't, look out!
Grade: C+. How much better would this team be with Sammie Stroughter wreaking havoc on offense and special teams?
Crowning Moment: Gee, I don't know... it might be that time the 41-point underdog Cardinal went into the Coliseum and knocked off the mighty Trojans, putting and end to their six-year home-game winning streak and blowing up the entire college football world in the process. Maybe. I don't know.
Clowning Moment: The second half of the Arizona State game, when the offense seriously regressed, and the defense seriously collapsed. Then we heard about T.C. Ostrander's seizure the next day. Not good times.
Outlook: Does coaching make a difference? You bet. Now the Card have to keep making progress during the "easier" half of their schedule. By the way, is there anyone left who can run the ball?
Grade: C+... but anytime you beat top-ranked U$C, your grade gets kicked up a notch. B-
Crowning Moment: When Alterraun Verner sealed the deal against cal with that pick-six with 1:33 left. That victory has kept the people of Karl Dorrell's back... this week, anyway. It's also put them at 4-0 in the Pac-10.
Clowning Moment: Yes, McLeod Bethel-Thompson was calling signals for most of that game, but how the hell did these guys lose to impotent Notre Dame? Don't forget their head-scratching collapse at Utah, either.
Outlook: They should start Pac-10 play at 6-0 (at Washington State this week, at Arizona next week), but after that they finish with the Pac-10's other heavyweights this year: Arizona State and Oregon at home, and U$C down in South Central. But which UCLA squad will show up for any of those games?
Crowning Moment: Time will tell on this, but the Trojans may have gained their swagger back by bullying poor Notre Dame last week. Their dominating win over Nebraska looks less impressive now, but it still indicates how good this team can be.
Clowning Moment: Yes, Stanford came in and handed them one of their most devastating losses ever. Ever. But their near-miss against Arizona the following week was almost as damning.
Outlook: For all their warts, they're still 6-1. And if they take care of Oregon (this week), cal (November 10), and Arizona State (November 22), watching them walk into the Superdome on January 7 still isn't out of the realm of possibility.
Grade: B+. But if I was grading this team based on their preseason expectations and perceptions, their mark would be much lower.
Crowning Moment: Their win over Oregon at Autzen in the biggest Pac-10 game so far. Their defense, which had been suspect most of the year to that point, forced Oregon's video-game offense to short-circuit at some critical moments, and DeSean Jackson blew up like his website said he would.
Clowning Moment: In the immortal words of Joe Starkey, "HE DIDN'T THROW THE BALL!!!... UNBELIEVABLE MISTAKE BY KEVIN RILEY AT QUARTERBACK!!!" Plus, the defense is still suspect.
Outlook: Should we just go ahead and rename the Holiday Bowl as the Golden Bear Booby Prize Bowl and be done with it once and for all?
Crowning Moment: Their three road wins are impressive in their own ways. Stanford and Washington were game, but the Ducks withstood their best punches, then connected with deathblows of their own. And of course, they pole-axed the Wolverines and put themselves on the national map.
Clowning Moment: The turnovers that doomed them against cal. And the awful all-white unis they broke out last week against Washington.
Outlook: They'll miss Jeremiah Johnson, but in all likelihood that just means bigger numbers for Jonathan Stewart (ask the Huskies for their thoughts on this). If their defense was anywhere near as dominant as their offense is, Oregon would be the best team in the country. We'll know for sure when they host U$C this week and Arizona State next week.
Crowning Moment: Well, they survived Pullman and that furious finish up there. And they racked up 296 yards on the ground against Washington. But it's hard to pick a crowning moment for this squad. All these guys do is beat the other team, and wait for everyone else around them to lose. Next thing you know, they're the only undefeated team in the Pac-10, and they're fourth in the BCS standings.
Clowning Moment: Losing RB Ryan Torain for the year could be costly.
Outlook: Their destiny is in their hands the next four weeks: against cal, at Oregon, at UCLA, and against U$C. By November 22, we'll know for sure whether it's time to crown the Sun Devils or clown them.
RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS
One surefire way to tell if a team is well-coached is to watch how they run a two-minute drill and manage the clock. Stanford did a brilliant job in both of those aspects at the end of both halves. About the only thing Stanford did wrong was not to have Tavita Pritchard keep backing up until the clock said "0:00" and then take a knee...
One surefire way to tell if a team wants to win is to watch how they do in critical short yardage situations (third or fourth down with two or fewer yards to go). Arizona started off well, converting their first two critical short-yardage situations with two big Nicolas Grigsby runs. After that, here's what they did:
|3-2||A44||Willie Tuitama's pass intercepted by Nick Sanchez. Stanford scored touchdown on next possession.|
|4-2||S48||Tuitama pass incomplete to Mike Thomas. Stanford scored touchdown on next possession.|
|3-2||S8||Nicolas Grigsby loses 4 yards, tackled by Bo McNally. Arizona misses 29-yard chip shot field goal on next play.|
|3-1||A32||Grigsby tackled for 3-yard loss by Sanchez. Arizona punts, and Stanford scores go-ahead touchdown on next possession.|
|4-1||S43||Tuitama stopped short on QB sneak by Chris Horn and Clinton Snyder.|
In all, Arizona was 2-of-7 in critical short yardage situations, failing on their last five chances. Stanford, by the way, went 3-of-4 in their critical short yardage situations (going 3-for-3 after Nick Sanchez's game-changing interception). Who wants it more? In football, that question is often answered by how teams fare in critical short yardage.
Since I watched the game at the office, I got a chance to watch the raw feed of the game. No commercials. Announcers talking during the breaks. Cameramen scoping out hot chicks in the stands. It's like getting the director's cut of the game while it's happening. Anyway, what you probably didn't see on the broadcast was some moron running onto the field, eluding one security guy, almost losing his shorts, getting blasted by three security guards, and immediately getting cuffed by one of Tucson's finest. Oh, the things you see on the raw feeds...
Not a Pac-10 thought, but... go Rockies, go!
Not a Pac-10 thought, but... I'm sure I speak for all of us on The Bootleg when I send all the best hopes, wishes, and prayers to our friends in Southern California who are affected by the wildfires.
I just didn't have the guts to pick UCLA to beat cal last week. Dangit...
U$C @ Oregon. Judgment Day in the Pac-10 begins here. U$C may have their swagger back, as I mentioned earlier, but I'm not convinced they have a way to stop Dennis Dixon and that offense. I like Oregon by 13.
Arizona @ Washington. Somebody has to win this game. And even though I don't like the Huskies' defense, I don't dislike them enough to count them out against the Wildcats. This should be a shootout, but watch the Wildcats do something stupid to lose the game. Again. I like Washington by 10.
UCLA @ Washington State. There will be better days in Pullman, but this won't be one of them. Unless the Coug defense shows up, Toby Bailey could play quarterback for UCLA and it wouldn't matter. I like UCLA by 9.
cal @ Arizona State. A huge test for both teams. The Bears got stung again last week, while the Sun Devils will try to prove they're for real. Arizona State will be too much for the Bears at home. I like Arizona State by 12.
Last week: 1-1 (straight-up), 1-1 (ATS).
This year: 12-4 (straight-up), 9-6-1 (ATS).
Last year: 21-15 (straight-up), 17-19 (ATS).
Got a thought on this column, on Stanford sports, or anything else in general? Have a different set of expectations for Stanford Football this year? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!
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