I managed a 3-1 record for rivalry week with my picks, giving me a 57-19 record on the year heading into the bowls. The only one I missed was the Zona-Zona State game, which in retrospect should have been predictable.
Since only four Pac-10 teams made it to bowls this season - Oregon, Stanford, Arizona, and Washington - I'm going to round out this bowl preview with a some Pac-12 (!) action. First up, the Utes, who join the best league in the land next season, followed by the rest in date order.
Las Vegas Bowl
Utah. v. Boise State
You have to feel for the Broncos. One kick away from the Rose Bowl - they would have been ahead of TCU - and they miss. Twice. Utah is a good team and they will be competitive in the Pac-12, but they aren't on the same level as these boys in blue.
Pick: Boise State
Oklahoma State v. Arizona
Normally I like to give Pac-10 teams the benefit of the doubt, but Zona finished the season losing four in a row (albeit to Oregon, Stanford, USC, and the rivalry game). Early on they looked tough and confident, but by the end of the year they simply couldn't stop anyone. And the Cowboys have one of the nation's best offenses. Ouch.
Pick: Oklahoma State
Nebraska v. Washington
When these two matched up back in September, in Seattle, I picked the Huskies to pull the upset - I won't make that mistake again. Remember last season when making the Holiday Bowl meant you were the second-best team in the conference? This year it's the Huskies. Yikes.
Stanford v. Virginia Tech
These Cardinal have been consistently strong in every game they have played. They have the nation's best quarterback - better than Kellen Moore or Cam Newton - who will be the top pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (unless he inexplicably stays in school), a balanced attack, and fantastic defense. Va Tech is good too, just not as good. Should be a very good game, very close, but my money - metaphorically - is on the Cardinal.
National Championship Game
Oregon v. Auburn
If I could be objective about this matchup (I can't) I'd give Auburn more credit. They have a fantastic offense that ran roughshod over a SEC normally known for bruising defense. In fact, if you check the offensive numbers for Oregon and Auburn they are cumulatively very, very, very close. The difference in this game will be who can actually make some stops. The first team to punt or settle for a field goal is going to lose - and Oregon has a better defense.
Sera says Ducks...the rest of the house besides her and I will be cheering for the Tigers and wearing blue.
It may have been a generally down year for the conference as a whole, but the top of it was pretty damn good. That truth will be realized out by the time the clock runs out January 10th.