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Pac-10 Roundtable Week #1

Many of the best Pac-10 blogs around the college football blogosphere are going to be getting together once a week to have a roundtable about what's going on around the conference. For those of you familiar with the BlogPoll roundtable, it will work very similar.

One blog will host each week, with the other blogs posting their response sometime thereafter. ATQ has the honor of hosting the first week.

Due to the void of Stanford and Arizona blogs on the Internet, we have eight blogs representing different schools participating: Oregon State will be represented by Building the Dam. The Washington schools chime in with The WSU Football Blog and our newest SBN blog, UW Dawg Pound. California Golden Blogs checks in to represent the Bears, and Conquest Chronicles and What's Bruin, Dawg? corner the SoCal market. Finally, Pitchfork Nation comes to us from the hot state of Arizona.

Major Hat tip to Dave over at ATQ for getting this going.

Here are this week's questions:

1. Not a lot of people predicted UCLA's upset of Tennessee. UCLA was something terrible last year, and with major losses to graduation and a very unresolved quarterback situation, it wasn't unreasonable to expect them to hover in the bottom half of the conference. While the offense had its problems (only 29 yards rushing and four picks), the defense was phenomenal, holding the Vols to a smidge over 300 yards, picking up two turnovers, and blocking a punt for a touchdown. Is UCLA for real? And can they be in the mix with ASU, USC, Oregon, and Cal for one of the top four spots in the conference?

Too early to tell…

Anyone who took the time to read up on the game you would have found that UT was going to have a very tough time winning this game comfortably, if at all. There were just too many little things adding up that made this a difficult game for UT.

- New offensive coordinator…bringing in a new system

- New QB…playing in a new system

- On the road…against very good defense, hyped up crowd, prodigal son returns etc. etc.

I have no idea why everyone thought this was going to be a UT blow out. The guys in Vegas set the line was at 7 and seeing that they kind of do this for a living they seem to get it right most of the time. All this talk about a double digit win was way over blown. I mean did ucla’s defense suddenly become impotent because they had to play a bunch of freshmen? We obviously know a little something about playing freshmen at SC so it really shouldn’t shock anyone that the ucla D was going to be well coached and did a pretty good job, though from what I read it looked like they wanted to give the game away.

UT picked off 4 passes, one a pick-6. That they came away empty handed from the majority of the turnovers shows me one of two things,

1) The ucla defense was stout or…

2) The UT offense still has some growing to do within the new system.

How they handle the other games in their non-conference schedule will answer that question better but not until then.

2. Meanwhile, its same old same old for the Washington Huskies. Washington was walloped by Oregon for the fifth year in a row and, with BYU and Oklahoma coming up for their next two games, it’s hard to see where a win will come any time soon. I don't see any games on the schedule that they should win and, other than WSU and Notre Dame, there aren't a lot that I'm even convinced that they could win. The defense is Swiss cheese, and, other than Jake Locker, there isn't even any real talent on the offensive side of the ball either.

Less than a decade ago, Washington was a prominent national contender. Now, they may have less talent than any other team in the conference. We're all aware of the rich tradition of Husky football, the question is how did things fall so far so fast, and how does UW get back to its customary winning ways?

I just don’t see Ty as being dynamic enough for these sorts of positions. I just don’t see the fire there. He did OK at Stanford and average at Notre Dame. Some years he recruits good other years he doesn’t. I really can’t put my finger on it. He had SC on the ropes last year, though nearly half their offense was actually because of USC penalties, but he couldn’t seal the deal.

As for talent, Ty flipped top USC recruit Chris Polk with the promise of a lot playing time instead of competing at USC. So he can get the talent the question is can he coach them up?

3. The team that beat Washington, Oregon, looked amazingly good, especially on defense. Moreover, after last year's implosion following the Dixon injury, it was a third string quarterback who did most of the damage offensively. Oregon is talented and deep, but can finally live up to their promise and challenge USC for that conference title?

Depends on the defense. They have a great secondary so you are going to have to earn it up front. I picked UO as my sleeper this year. I think they will be better than most think. A lot of people thought it was all about Dixon last year. I think the teams drop off at the end was more about shell shock than anything else, as they lit the scoreboard up in their bowl game against a pretty good South Florida team for 50-plus points.

If the defense can get some take-a-ways and make it a short field on a consistent basis the Ducks have enough firepower to make a run and challenge USC but its going to be tough for that offense when they go up against the toughest defense in the conference and probably the country.

4. California started off strong, exercising some of last year's demons with their 38-31 home win over Michigan State. The quarterback controversy appears to be solved, as Kevin Riley clearly outplayed Nate Longshore. However, 31 points is a lot to give up to a middle of the road Big Ten team, and other than Jahvid Best, there isn't a lot in the way of proven talent at the skill positions. Many Pac-10 observers have Cal ranked in the top four of the conference. Is that ranking justified given the collapse of last season and lack of returning starters offensively, or did Cal benefit from their reputation?

They deserve to be in the top 4 no question. They always seem to give up a lot of points but they always score a lot of point too. Once their receivers settle in, now that the QB situation is settled, it could make for interesting games against Oregon and USC. Best really is fun to watch and Riley provides a spark for that team, you could almost sense a sigh of relief when replaced Longshore.

5. Oregon State has a perception problem. Their long list of early season losses (Cincinnati, Louisville, LSU, Boise State, Fresno State, etc.) was followed up this year with an opening game loss at Stanford. A road game at Penn State this weekend has many pundits predicting an 0-2 start for the Beavers. However, in spite of their usually awful starts, the Beavers almost always turn their season around to finish in the upper echelon of the conference.

This causes a talk radio debate to rage in the state of Oregon. The Oregon Ducks are seen nationally as the more relevant program, mainly due to their very high highs (a legitimate late season national title contender twice in this decade). However, Beaver fans point out Oregon's semi-regular late season swoons, the fact that Oregon State tends to come back late in the season, and the fact that both teams have similar overall records over the last few seasons to make the point that Oregon State should be on equal footing with the Ducks, if not seen as the more dominant program based on two consecutive Civil War victories. Who is the more relevant program nationally, and do Oregon State's bad starts contribute to your perceptions?

Short of conference titles or national championships relevancy will only come if you’re always in the national conversation. Anything can happen in a rivalry game, see 13-9, so while Oregon St. is dominant over Oregon for bragging rights that hasn’t done much to change the perception of who they are nationally.

Oregon State's upset over USC 2 years ago got them a lot attention just like it did for ucla but other than that neither team got a sniff of positive recognition for the season as a whole. Oregon on the other hand, as was mentioned above, was in the BCS Title chase with QB who was almost sure to win the Heisman had he not gone down with an injury. An old salesman saying comes to mind…"if you can’t be #1 then position yourself to be #2 because sooner or later #1 loses its position when it makes a mistake".