Last week I managed a 2-1 record - a Joe Halahuni drop away from 3-0 - to push my season record to 35-11 (76%). Just for fun, last year at this point in the season I was 22-7 (started late) - 76%. Nothing like consistency.
With the Oregon Ducks now the number one team in the nation - though not in the BCS - halfway through the season it's time to start thinking about what it takes to go undefeated. And to talk national championship Oregon must go undefeated - if they lose a game they will have no chance.
For one, it takes talent on both sides of the ball. You have to be able to score points and stop the other team from scoring as many - simple as that.
A team also has to have a ton of luck as well. For one, they have to have a favorable schedule. True, Oregon played weak non-conference games, but when they scheduled Tennessee who predicted the Volunteers would be bottom-feeders? That was scheduling in an attempt to get a tough game in, but the Ducks got some luck in playing Tennessee in a down year. They also managed to get Stanford and Arizona - the two other ranked Pac-10 teams - at home. Still, they do have road trips to USC, Cal, and Corvallis still - nothing to turn up your nose at.
A team also must get lucky with injuries. So far the Ducks have avoided major injuries to star players. They will be without top reserve running back Kenjon Barner (concussion), but the starters are still healthy. Quarterback Darren Thomas tweaked his shoulder against Washington State, but he's now being labeled just fine.
And it's not just the team's injuries - it's opponent's injuries as well. For example, this week Oregon will visit UCLA without it's first-string quarterback. That's nothing new to UCLA, but if the backup was better he'd be starting, so there will be a dropoff in talent.
The Ducks still have a very long ways to go and some very tough matchups, but if they do the inexplicable and finish undefeated it won't be simply because they are talented - it takes luck to get there.
Tier 1 - Oregon
Tier 2 - Stanford
Tier 3 - Arizona, USC, California, UCLA, Washington, Oregon State, Arizona State
Tier 50 - Washington State
These new tiers reflect my new feelings about the Pac-10. Oregon is at the top - they will be favored in every game the rest of the way, at least until Civil War depending on how the Beavers play in their next five games.
Stanford should also be favored the rest of the way, but they already lost to Oregon, so they have to be second.
The third tier, consisting of the seven remaining teams not residing in Pullman, can beat each other on any given weekend and no one would bat an eye. This is normally referred to as parity and the reason the Pac-10 has traditionally lost luster in the eyes of the rest of the nation, but it should more accurately be referred to as depth. These are not also-rans fighting each other like in the ACC or the Big 10 - these teams are still very good, just slightly flawed.
And Wazzu? Yep, they are coming closer to the pack. I don't think they get to the third tier by the end of the season, but they were competitive again last week. Nice improvement.
On to this week's schedule. As always, all game times are Pacific time, followed by the network and the pick. Also, the network and whether or not it's on TV is for Portland - some games may be televised regionally, so if you live in a home market, check your local listings. Rankings are in parentheses (AP, USA Today).
6pm - UCLA at Oregon (1, 1), ESPN - Oregon
12:30pm - Arizona State at California, Fox Sports Northwest - California
2pm - Washington State at Stanford (12, 14), Fox College Sports Pacific - Stanford
7:15pm - Washington (37t, NR) at Arizona (15, 18), ESPN - Washington
Oregon State (34, NR) and USC (26, *) are off this week.
* USC is not eligible for the USA Today Coaches Poll because of NCAA sanctions
Surprised by the Washington pick? Don't be. They are better than some think and Arizona really struggled without quarterback Nick Foles last week. If the Huskies play defense like they did against Oregon State it will be a long day for the Wildcats.
Then again, most Pac-10 teams are all over the place, so I might be just as likely to pick right using a dart board for that one (and the ASU-Cal game).
With Oregon State off this week Misaki is being nice and cheering for Dad's school.
At least, I think that's what she's doing...
Maybe I'm wrong. I'll believe what I want to believe...