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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 3, 2010

CFB: Grading the Pac-10 in bowl games


By Bud Withers
The Seattle Times

SEATTLE ó I donít believe performance in bowl games is necessarily a good way to judge the strength of a league. There are too many variables, too many circumstances that play a part in the outcome to assign significant weight to them.

A year ago, the Pac-10 was 5-0 in bowls, but it was illusory stuff, a lot of programs benefiting from favorable sites and lesser opponents. So the leagueís 2-5 record this season doesnít mean it wasnít among the top two conferences in 2009.
Having said that, a word about the collective postseason showing by the league:
Ye-e-e-e-ch.
Letís review: Oregon got schooled by Ohio State, Arizona got shamed by Nebraska. Cal played like, well, like Cal played most of the year. It was left to the L.A. schools to salvage some honor in games that were really more about avoiding embarrassment than winning acclaim.
Suddenly, the league turned soft, which is the national perception. Aside from Oregon and Stanford, nobody rushed for 100 yards. Remarkably, the only offense of the seven bowl teams to crack the 315-yard mark was USC (438) against Boston College.
Six of the seven teams were favored, if slightly. So if youíd played the underdog across the board, instead of reading this column, you could be lazing on a Mexican beach this morning with sunscreen in one hand and a Negra Modelo in the other.
The grades, then, in descending order of the gamesí import:
Oregon: D
What did Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli mean when he said, ďWe didnít really open up the playbook regarding the air attack. I donít know why. I wasnít calling the plays.Ē?
Maybe this: Jeff Maehl, Masoliís favorite receiver, had one catch for 10 yards. Ed Dickson, a tight end bound for the NFL, didnít have one.
Defensively, the Ducks turned Terrelle Pryor into the uber-spread-option quarterback everybody once thought heíd be.
Then there was coach Chip Kellyís dubious decision to try a 44-yard field goal on fourth-and-one, down 26-17 with five minutes left. Essentially, that boils down to: Which is easier to convert? The field goal missed and the game was effectively over.
Arizona: F
The most putrid game by a Pac-10 team since BYU punked Oregon 38-8 in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2006.
Some are questioning Arizonaís decision to arrive in San Diego eight days before the Holiday Bowl. Others are wondering whether the Wildcats ever did get there. That was the 101st-ranked offense that rung up 396 yards for Nebraska against a heretofore respected defense.
Stanford: B-minus
I thought the Cardinal acquitted itself as well as any Pac-10 team, a heavy underdog to Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl. If Andrew Luck had been healthy at quarterback, Stanford wins.
Oregon State: C-minus
Yeah, the Beavers were lousy in fiercely windy conditions against BYU in Las Vegas. But they get a bit of a pass here for the natural letdown of a near-miss in the Civil War that would have sent them to the Rose Bowl.
USC: B
A heavy favorite, USC came through against Boston College in the Emerald Bowl, helped by a couple of puzzling replay decisions. The Trojans thus get a positive vibe in their attempted rebound from a sobering season.
Cal: D
The Bears got up 14-0 on Utah in the Poinsettia and then hibernated, losing by 10. It used to be said of Jeff Tedford that he could coach up college quarterbacks, but they didnít pan out in the NFL. Now he hasnít had a good one at this level since Aaron Rodgers, and itís getting late for Kevin Riley.
UCLA: B
A little incongruous, was it, seeing the Bruins shivering in wintry conditions in Washington, D.C., playing Temple in the EagleBank Bowl? They benefited from an injury to All-MAC rusher Bernard Pierce, coming from two touchdowns back, and they had to have another sensational play from linebacker Akeem Ayers, who specializes in the point-blank interception.
Itís a win nobody will remember. But it would have been a loss nobody would forget, a little of what theyíre feeling today around Oregon and Arizona.