Archive for the ‘Pac-10’ Category

Should ‘SC Tank 2009?

August 17, 2009

If you could tear yourself away from the interminable coverage of “unanimous-gate” a few weeks back, the Pac-10’s publicity campaign during its media days provided one of the more interesting stories of the offseason.
Coach after coach stepped to the dais and proclaimed the conference the best in the country. On its face, it may seem like typical posturing. However, the offensive on the part of the West Coasters clearly reflected a well-coordinated plan to boost the conference’s profile nationwide.

Why now?

Well, the question of whether or not USC should have been snubbed from the BCS title game the past few years has been debated ad nauseam. The Trojans keep on rolling out-of-conference opponents and churning out NFL draft picks. However, if you’re looking for the main reason why the Trojans end up on the short end of the stick, it’s undoubtedly the company they keep.

Fair or not, there’s no denying the national perception that the Big 12 and SEC are a cut above the Pac-10. Last year, the fact that the upstart Mountain West Conference owned the conference in non-conference games certainly supported that idea. A more persistent problem would be the conference’s crappy TV contract putting its teams behind the eight ball.
Most importantly, though, Homerism suspects USC’s seemingly permanent place atop the conference standings is perpetuating the notion that the Trojans’ conference mates are closer to the Big East than the Big 12. Every conference has its elite programs, but none have put the league title in the same kind of stranglehold as ‘SC, winner of seven straight championships. Some may interpret that streak as a sign of just how great of a run Pete Carroll’s team is on. The flip side: the rest of the conference is watered-down. Thus, when USC drops a game to Oregon State or UCLA, it’s a major black mark on the resum√©.
(Columnist George Schroeder has put forth a similar argument. Dr. Saturday contends that the Pac-10’s monolith simply needs a foil, a la Oklahoma and Texas. If the esteemed Doc’s assessment is correct, though, it seems logical that another team winning the conference would be a good place to start.)
As unappealing as this may seem to the “win forever” crowd, a conference championship for a team like Oregon actually could go a long way raising the national opinion of the Pac-10. And what better time for the Trojans to tank than now? After all, USC is breaking in a brand new quarterback, re-stocking almost its entire defense and facing a brutal schedule. As talented as Carroll’s players are, the odds of a national championship this season are stacked against them. If the ultimate goal is unattainable, why not let another school in on the action for once?
Tanking or not, the Trojans’ run of Pac-10 titles is in jeopardy. California looks particularly strong, and the Ducks could give USC a real push. Plus, programs like Arizona, Stanford and UCLA appear to be in an up cycle and should be a stiffer test than they’ve been in the past.
We’ve heard that line before, though. Despite any misgivings about the Trojans, USC still remains the consensus favorite for the Pac-10 crown with good reason. Those slivers of doubt do open the door for a plausible hiccup, though.
Maybe winning forever actually involves losing every once in a while.

On the Spot: Jeff Tedford

June 18, 2009

It has been a while, so Homerism’s younger set of loyal followers may not remember this. But California head coach Jeff Tedford was once the Next Big Thing.

Tedford first garnered attention for his success in coaching up quarterbacks as offensive coordinator at Fresno State and Oregon. In 2001, Cal brought Tedford in to replace Tom Holmoe–he of the 12-43 record as papa of the Golden Bears. It didn’t take long for Tedford to get the program turned in the right direction. Cal improved from 1-10 in Holmoe’s final season to 7-5 in 2002. Following five straight losing seasons prior to his arrival, the Bears have yet to finish under .500 since Tedford took over. Cal even finished in the top 10 of the major polls in 2004 after compiling a 10-2 record.
When you have that kind of success in the traditional college football deathtrap that is Berkeley, the football establishment takes notice. (Ask Steve Mariucci.) Aside from being reviled as a cro-magnon conformist by the local intelligentsia, you’re going heads up with UCLA and USC for the top talent in your home state. NFL franchises and name schools like Notre Dame began bandying the Cal w√ľnderkind’s name about when searching for a new head coach.
Yet, Tedford passed on fame and fortune and opted to keep building at Cal. (Sometimes that’s a good idea; ask Steve Mariucci.) Count Homerism among the hordes of observers who expected Tedford to position his cubs as perennial contenders for the Pac-10 crown.
And, yet, Cal hasn’t really made the leap. The Bears tied USC for the conference title in 2006, but it wasn’t enough to put them in a BCS bowl game. The next year, Cal went 3-8 in Pac-10 play, good for seventh in the final standings. True, the Bears sport a respectable 59-30 overall record under Tedford.
Still, I get the feeling that the window for Tedford and his program is all but closed. They had the misfortune of timing their emergence with the Trojans’ re-emergence. Tedford’s stock certainly has slipped–when was the last time he was mentioned as a serious candidate for a big-time job?
If there is still hope for the Bears to paw their way to the next level, this would appear to be the time to capitalize. The Trojans sustained major losses to the NFL in the offseason and will be starting but a callow freshman at quarterback in 2009. Cal gets ‘SC at home and returns a talented squad that hung with Pete Carroll’s bunch last year.
We can’t all be champs. (Ask Steve Mariucci.) It could be that Tedford and Cal have maxed out.