Clardy's Corner: Pac-10 Pride

UCLA shocked a lot of people, not least of all Troy Clardy, against the big, bad SEC's Tennessee. "The Corner" says that it's the first step for the Pac-10 if it wants to achieve the national profile of America's most respected football conference. Plus, does Clardy think Washington State has a shot against cal Saturday?

It only took one week, but there was a change at the top of the college football polls. Top-ranked Georgia punished Georgia Southern, while Ohio State coasted over Youngstown. But neither of those performances were as impressive as U$C's 52-7 shredding of Virginia. That's why, in a peaceful coup, the Trojans took command the top spot in college football this week.

Now, you long-time readers of these Corners know there's no love between me and U$CFan (you would think a guy named Troy would be received a little better on Figueroa!). And every chance they get, after every impressive non-conference win their team racks up, they always ask me the same thing: "Troy, don't you realize that when U$C looks good, the Pac-10 looks good too?"

Every time I get that question, I roll my eyes and give the same answer: it doesn't make the Pac-10 look good when U$C is the only team that is winning big. It only makes U$C look good. And trust me, they don't need to look any better than they did last Saturday. My God. They ran through the Cavaliers like a glass of Mexican water.

The Pac-10 looks good as a whole only if other teams are picking up the slack and getting it done. The strength of an entire conference doesn't rest on its best team alone. It rests on all the teams, from top to bottom.

Stanford was picked to finish near the bottom of the Pac-10. Yet they beat Oregon State, a team picked by some as a potential dark horse. That result makes the Pac-10 look good because it suggests that this conference has depth.

As much as I hate to admit this, the Big-10 has a higher national profile than the Pac-10. Heck, they even have their own TV network, available in four homes nationwide (and mine just happens to be one of them…thanks, Comcast!). That's why a cal win over Michigan State makes the Pac-10 look good. Nate Longshore doesn't make the Bears look good, but that's a different story.

Then, of course, there's UCLA beating Tennessee.

I'll be honest. I sat down on my couch Monday evening expecting to watch the Bruins get soundly beaten by an unspeakable margin. I prepared to hear "Rocky Top" over and over and over again. I was fully expecting to see everything I needed to see about that game by 9:00 p.m. so I could watch "Two And A Half Men" uninterrupted.

Heck, I even had this week's Corner already mapped out. Last week, I pointed out how tough the SEC should be this year, and how little sleep every coach in that conference must be getting. Tongue-in-cheek or not, someone on the BootBoard Plus accused me of being "converted to an SEC lover too", and that I had been his "last hope for fighting the good fight on the national level."

I was ready to respond by pointing out that part of fighting the good fight is knowing when to pick your battles. Do I think the Pac-10 gets the respect it deserves nationwide? No. But can I make the case that the Pac-10 is a better overall conference than the SEC right now? Honestly? No. And trust me, I'd love nothing more than to be able to do so.

Let's face it; if I made a list of the eight truly elite programs in college football right now, the SEC would have at least three of them (Georgia, Florida, and LSU, if you're wondering). The Big XII would have Texas and Oklahoma (sorry, Missouri, maintain this pace for another five years and we'll talk). The Big-10 would have Ohio State and, now that Michigan appears to be in real-live rebuilding mode, maybe Wisconsin.

Notre Dame? No. And please, Notre Dame fans, don't start making plans to give me the Hyman-Roth-at-the-airport treatment when my plane lands in South Bend next month.

The ACC? Get real. After what I saw last week, I'm wondering if "ACC" stands for "A Crappy Conference." Oh, man. You can see the stink lines from here. Look, I like Wake Forest. I root for Wake Forest to succeed (that is, until Stanford plays them in 2009 and 2010). They have the most underrated fight song in the country. But when Wake Forest is your conference's brightest football star — and that conference includes Miami and Florida State — that's not good at all.

The Pac-10? Oregon is on the fringe, but U$C is the only 100%, no-doubt-about-it, book-their-BCS-Bowl-tickets-now elite program in the conference right now, on and off the field.

Meanwhile, the SEC is tough and nasty from top to bottom, even outside of the elite teams. Watch an SEC interleague game sometime, and you'll see just how nasty it is. Maybe I'm sipping the SEC Kool-Aid here, but when that Kool-Aid tastes like Dom Perignon, what am I supposed to do?

(By the way, judging from the mammoth TV deal the SEC recently signed with the network I work for, that Dom Perignon is going to be flowing all over the place for years to come…)

So, as kickoff approached Monday evening, that was the Corner I had planned for the week. Of course, by now we all know what happened. Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow ate their Wheaties at halftime (can I make the case that the Pac-10 has better coaches and assistants than the SEC? Yes, actually, I can). UCLA actually proved it had a pass rush. And Kevin Craft, who looked like McLoud Bethel-Thompson in the first half, played like Troy Aikman the rest of the way.

UCLA beating Tennessee on national TV in a thrilling contest makes the Pac-10 as a whole look good. Not U$C beating Virginia like they stole something. Not Arizona picking on Idaho. And certainly not Washington State dropping a stinkbomb to Oklahoma State.

You know what else makes the Pac-10 look good? Oregon State making a good showing in Happy Valley this week. Washington finding a way against BYU, the early favorite for the "BCS Buster" crown. Stanford beating Notre Dame in South Bend. Arizona State knocking off current SEC favorite Georgia. And, because it's this year's Game of The Century, U$C beating Ohio State. Those results make the Pac-10 as a whole look good.

Now, just because the Bruins beat the Vols, that doesn't mean I'm backing away from my thoughts on the SEC. It's still, until further notice, the deepest, most competitive conference in college football. But the good news is that Pac-10 has plenty of opportunities to close that gap in the coming weeks. And if all works out well, maybe everyone will be downing the Pac-10 Kool-Aid by season's end.


RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS

The day after Stanford's win over Oregon State, one of my buddies left this voicemail on my cell phone: "I don't know how good we are yet, but I do know this… we don't suck." Couldn't have said it any better myself. We don't suck, but we still have a ways to go. Hopefully we don't find out just how far we have to go this Saturday…

I was very concerned when I heard the TV announcers say that FB Owen Marecic had suffered a concussion. I was very relieved when I heard Jim Harbaugh say it wasn't a concussion at all, and that Marecic will be good to go in Tempe…

Take a bow, David Green. That's a heck of a job of punting by you last week. Keep it going…and hopefully we don't have to see too much of you this year…

I'm putting this Saturday's game on Stanford's front seven. Arizona State's running game looked unimpressive at best without Keegan Herring, and their tackles had never started a collegiate game on offense before last week. Even if Herring returns from his hamstring injury, can the Card take advantage?

The good news for Nate Longshore: every pass he threw on Saturday was caught. The bad news: two of those passes were caught by the other team, one for a pick-six. The worse news for Longshore: after those heinous interceptions, now comes word that he might not get any playing time at all this week…

If football games were only 45 minutes long, the Washington Huskies would probably have a much better record. But since games are 60 minutes long, they just don't have the talent, depth, or experience right now to stay in ballgames through the fourth quarter or close people out…

Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli's jaw-dropping arm strength reminds me of Mark Sanchez's arm in 2006. You don't know where the ball is going, but you know it's going to get there in a hurry. I could have sworn I saw vapor trails on some of Masoli's on FSN's X-Mo replays…

Speaking of Sanchez, he looked magnificent against Virginia. He rolled out, he scrambled, and he made pinpoint throws on the run. Wasn't that the same guy who dislocated his kneecap last month? Didn't look like it to me…

Every time I looked up at that Oklahoma State-Washington State game, I saw a Cougar dropping a ball. Or missing a block. Or missing a tackle. Or blowing an assignment. Yuck. It's going to be a long, long year for Washington State…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but…if I had to pick one guy whom I really wouldn't want to be right now, it's Tommy Bowden…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but…Dave Wannstedt might not be far behind on that list…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but…our Quote of The Week comes from Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops, who was asked by a TV reporter at halftime if QB Sam Bradford would play in the second half of their game against Chattanooga. Stoops' response: "Yes, Sam will play…we need to start the second half by establishing momentum." Why is this the Quote of The Week? Because the Sooners were ahead 50-0 at the time. 50-0! And Stoops still felt the need to "establish momentum"? Unbelievable…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but…the ranks of Stanford people in Bristol have thinned, as ESPN anchor and Stanford alum Scott Reiss has left the Worldwide Leader. But I have a feeling Cardinalmaniacs will still be seeing even more of Reiss in the future. Good luck to you, Scott! Don't forget about us this winter while we're shoveling out from under another snowstorm…

 

CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

Agree with this Corner? Disagree? Got something else on your mind? Either way, I want to hear from you. Your opinions help make these Corners go. Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com. The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!

 

PAC-10 PICKS

cal @ Washington State: I'm trying to find a reason to pick the Cougs here. But after what I saw from them last week, I'm not trying that hard! Unless the Bears' team buses get lost deep in the jungles of the Palouse, I like cal by 18.

Last week and this year: 1-0 (straight up and ATS).
Last year: 26-10 (straight-up), 20-15-1 (ATS).

Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 7:30p on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station KTRB (860 AM) in San Francisco. Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com.


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