The latest from my preseason media day tour...
USC’s long road back. How long will it take? How painful will it be? USC is just beginning what promises to be one of the darkest periods in its history. It might get through the crippling NCAA penalties in as few as five years. We’re talking 2015 being the first year to be able to have enough talent to compete for a Pac-10 title again. But it won’t be easy. Oklahoma suffered similar penalties and was dead for 10 years. It took Alabama eight years to win a national championship after similar penalties in 2002. Watching Lane and the boys negotiate the loss of 30 scholarships and two postseasons will be the key thing. I’m sure Kiffin has a plan – he always does – but the program has to bottom out first. The embarrassment isn’t over in regards to Bush’s Heisman and the 2004 title. Both might still be taken away. After that, the 2010 Trojans could win the league have to watch the Rose Bowl on TV. It was one of the best dynasties in the history of college football and now it’s gone. For how long, we don’t know.
The winner. Oregon might have been the favorite to defend its title until Jeremiah Masoli got stupid. USC might have been the favorite until Reggie Bush was stupid. What about Arizona, a program that has never been to the Rose Bowl? It has five of the nine conference games at home, including USC, Washington and Cal. Mike Stoops has to break through at some point. After consecutive eight-win seasons, it might be time for the Wildcats to break through.
East Coast bias. Don’t blame the media this time. There was an East Coast bias on the part of the players. This is back to being the year of the quarterback in the league. The Pac-10 took its top four quarterbacks to New York for an unprecedented media day on the East Coast – Andrew Luck, Jake Locker, Matt Barkley and Nic Foles. However, only Barkley and Foles made it to L.A. for the traditional Pac-10 media day. I don’t want to hear any griping from Stanford and Washington about national honors for their quarterbacks at the end of the season. Guys, you’ve got to take care of your local media first.
Divisional alignment. It seems to be a conversation piece around here as the league decides how to divide into two six-team divisions in 2011. There is the “zipper” alignment. Example: travel partners Oregon-Oregon State, Cal-Stanford ,USC-UCLA, Arizona-Arizona State and Washington-Washington State are split into separate divisions. There is my North-South alignment: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, Stanford vs. Colorado, Utah, USC, UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State. Whatever the plan, everyone wants to play in L.A. because of recruiting. And with USC on probation, there are going to be plenty of players available in Southern California.
Hot seat. Paul Wulff at Washington State and Dennis Erickson at Arizona State. It's almost a hopeless case at Wazoo. Erickson has to win seven just to go to a bowl. ASU is playing two I-AAs. The wolves will be out if there is not significant improvement at each school.