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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Parity prevails in Pac-10

    Oh, how the times have changed.

    While the Pacific 10 Conference has been dominated by USC in recent years, parity has been the talk for six teams at the halfway point of 2007.

    An unfamiliar name has surfaced as the Pac-10 leader in the Bowl Championship Series standings, one that certainly may draw some surprise and ire from Arizona football fans.

    It’s ASU, the team that essentially ruined the Wildcats’ hopes of making a bowl game in 2006, the same team that fired its coach, Dirk Koetter, after a 7-6 record and an appearance in the Hawaii Bowl that apparently wasn’t good enough.

    The Sun Devils (7-0, 4-0) are ranked No. 8 in the BCS, which ultimately determines placement in the national championship game, and sit atop the conference standings.

    “”We went in not knowing anything about what we were going to do,”” said ASU’s head coach Dennis Erickson. “”We’re very realistic about where we’ve been.

    “”It’s nice to be recognized a little bit and it’s nice to win seven games, but we also know that the next five are going to be a son of a gun for us.””

    ASU has been the only top-tier team in the conference that has yet to be upset. USC (5-1, 3-1), California (5-1, 2-1) and Oregon (5-1, 2-1) have all lost games to unranked teams.

    This conference will really test you from top to bottom. There are some awfully good football teams. Stanford doesn’t go in and beat USC unless they’re doing things right.

    Mike Stoops, UA head coach

    Clearly the most surprising was Stanford’s 24-23 win over USC two weeks ago, but Oregon State’s upset over No. 2 California on Saturday is showing that the Pac-10 might be seeing a shift of power. Or it might be showing that it has power all around.

    “”There is parity from top to bottom,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”I think that the gaps have been closed. We’ve seen it week in and week out. That’s the thing that’s very unique. …Any given Saturday, somebody’s good enough to get you if you’re not ready.””

    He added that much of seeming parity can be attributed to the fact that the Pac-10 is an experienced conference. The teams average 16.5 of 24 possible returning starters from last season.

    “”I don’t think it’s a shock to anybody what’s going on in this league,”” Stoops said. “”I think everybody realized going into this season that it was going to be as competitive as it’s ever been.

    “”This conference will really test you from top to bottom. There are some awfully good football teams. Stanford doesn’t go in and beat USC unless they’re doing things right.””

    Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti said he thinks that because players are now bigger, faster and stronger, parity occurs throughout college football because the athletes all have to compete at the same level.

    The BCS currently has four ranked Pac-10 teams. Oregon is No. 10, California, No. 12 and USC, No. 14.

    The latest Associated Press poll shuffles the teams. Oregon leads at No. 7, California is at No. 10, ASU at No. 12, and USC No. 13.

    “”It’s different from years in the past,”” said UA linebacker Spencer Larsen. “”It’s always been USC, Cal and Oregon. Oregon’s still up there, Cal’s still up there, but it’s only one game that separates all those guys.””

    Larsen said that because of all the upsets, teams have to prepare like they’re going against the best team in the conference every week.

    “”It’s a fun conference to play in that way because any day if you don’t show up and you don’t prepare the way you’re supposed to, you can get beat, and we’ve seen that over and over again,”” he said.

    From a coach’s perspective, Erickson is one who doesn’t like parity in college football.

    “”It makes it a lot more interesting to the fans on Saturdays,”” Erickson said. “”Parity is fun and that’s what college football is all about. …As a fan, I really like that, but obviously as a coach it’s not all that much fun.””

    Oregon State head coach Mike Riley said in the Pac-10 there are no upsets anymore because nothing is a surprise to him.

    After starting conference play 0-2, the Beavers pulled off a dominating victory over Arizona on Oct. 6, then a week later upset the Golden Bears.

    “”Wins are hard to come by in our league,”” Riley said. “”I would think this is extreme. If you look locally in our league, we’ve all seen the table set very high by USC the last few years. What I think it’s done is the level of all the teams have risen.””

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