It seems unlikely that Stanford will get to the Rose Bowl. Too bad. I think Wisconsin v. Stanford would be a great pairing - and in keeping with the PAC 10 - Big 10 tradition. Instead, Stanford is more likely to end up playing Oklahoma or Nebraska in the Fiesta. (Orange Bowl v. Virginia Tech is also an outside possibility.) Stanford matches up well against Wisconsin, being strongest defensively against the run and with an offense the likes of which Wisconsin has not seen all year. A-little-better-than-mediocre Iowa most resembles Stanford's style, and they played Wisconsin dead even. Either way, Stanford has an exciting array of possible marquee match ups (unless they get stuck with Connecticut in the Orange Bowl!)
Assuming Oregon plays Auburn for the national championship, I'm picking Oregon to lose. Studying their game stats this year, I'm convinced the green smurfs are vulnerable - I just don't think they've got the requisite toughness on either side of the ball. Their offense was essentially shut down against Arizona State. The one time I was impressed with their defense was the second half v. Stanford. But even then they had help from mistake-prone Stanford.
Speaking of Arizona State, they must be the best five win team in the country. They've been close in just about every game they've played. Wisconsin beat them with a blocked PAT. They out gained Oregon by a wide margin (but had seven turnovers, two directly for touchdowns). They played Stanford very, very close. The Sun Devils could easily be 9-2 right now. It just underscores how volatile a college football season can be. I understand they have most of their team back next year. Look out.
Northwestern is a poster child for scheduling your way into a bowl game. Yeah, they have seven wins, but just 3-5 in their conference. Not just to pick on the Big 10, but I think any team that can't win half it's conference games doesn't deserve a post season celebration. Teams should not be rewarded for loading up on out-of-conference patsies.
I read a good analysis from a San Jose blog. The writer cited some stats regarding how the PAC-10's full round robin scheduling hurts the conference. The observations:
- The SEC, Big 12 and Big 10 play four out-of-conference games: one BCS opponent, two mid-majors and one FCS. The PAC-10 plays three out-of-conference games, including more BCS conference teams than anyone else, plus one more in-conference (BCS) game. That translates essentially to one more loss for half the PAC-10 teams compared to the other major conferences. It affects rankings, it affects bowl bids.
- Jeff Sagarin, the oldest and most respect rating system, ranks the PAC-10 as #1.
- The PAC-10 has a higher win percentage in the BCS era than any other conference in BCS head to head out of conference games and against BCS top 25 teams.
- This year the PAC-10 has the strongest out of conference performance, including the toughest out of conference schedule. The PAC-10 has 9 teams ranked in the top 15 in terms of strength of schedule.