1. Oregon (12-0, 9-0)Last Week: 1
The Ducks showed up each week and used their superior conditioning to outlast opponents and score points at a phenomenal pace. Chip Kelly won the National Coach of the Year award because his schemes were far superior and novel compared to anything in the game today. Down the stretch, Oregon struggled in the first half of games, but they seem to have a whole different gear for the second half. Their defense will be at a physical mismatch against Auburn size-wise, but it has been nearly as good as the offense.
2. Stanford (11-1, 8-1)Last Week: 2
Stanford has already presented Jim Harbaugh with an extension, and the coach appears he will accept. Harbaugh led Stanford to perhaps its greatest season ever, and the team didn’t miss a beat without Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart. Andrew Luck carved up defenses week in and week out, and he may be the top pick in the draft if he chooses to leave. The Cardinal turnaround is unbelievable considering they were 1-11 before Harbaugh took over. Unfortunately, the most frustrating part about watching Stanford succeed is that USC was on the brink of beating them in Palo Alto. A clock debacle and a questionable personal foul penalty on the final drive set Stanford up to kick a field goal in the waning seconds.
3. Oregon State (5-7, 4-5)
4. USC (8-5, 5-4)Last Week: 5
By USC standards, 2010 was not a very successful season. However, the NCAA sanctions, coaching change, and depth issues contributed a great deal to the record. In the offseason, Lane Kiffin needs to work on finding the swagger that the Men of Troy used to possess. USC led in the second half of 12 of their 13 games, but only won 8. Kiffin needs to make it clear to the players that once a lead is taken, the game should be over. The defense needs to clamp down in the final seconds. Trojan fans should be optimistic though. Unlike when Rick Neuheisel says it, I am inclined to believe Kiffin when he says this will never happen again.
5. Arizona State (6-6, 4-5)Last Week: 6
Are you shocked Arizona State fell one win short of bowl eligibilty? Being close sums up their entire season. The Sun Devils lost by 1 at Wisconsin in a game where they missed a PAT and fell one yard short of a kickoff return to end the first half. Then, they lost by 11 to Oregon despite turning the ball over 7 times and leading for much of the game. The Sun Devils came so close in so many games, but ended up on the wrong end of most. If Dennis Erickson sticks around, Arizona State will be good in 2011. They have a young core that is promising.
6. Washington (6-6, 5-4)Last Week: 7
Congratulations to Washington for making a bowl game in Steve Sarkisian’s second season. The Huskies showed some fight as they won the final three games to become bowl eligible. Jake Locker led his team by making big time throws, and reached his stated goal for coming back by going bowling. Before the celebration begins and the hype for Washington in 2011 heats up, its important to keep the season in perspective. The Huskies won their final three games to become bowl eligibile, but they beat UCLA (4-8), Cal (5-7), and Washington State (2-10).
7. Arizona (7-5, 4-5)Last Week: 3
There may not be a bowl-eligible team in America in more disarray than Arizona. The Wildcats have lost four in a row after rolling through their early preseason schedule. When the big teams showed up, Arizona didn’t appear up to the challenge. Nick Foles and Juron Criner were a good combination, but it wasn’t enough on offense. Losing to your rival on two missed PATs has to feel awful, and going up against the offense that gains the most yards in the country for the bowl game isn’t going to make things better. Perhaps this isn’t the way Mike Stoops wanted to end the season.
8. California (5-7, 3-6)Last Week: 8
Same thoughts as last week: For the first time in the Jeff Tedford era, Cal won’t be going to a bowl game. After extended progress, the Bears seem to be sliding back. Have they topped out? It’s easy to forget that Cal was awful and irrelevant before Tedford arrived, but the last two years haven’t been particularly great. Over that span, Cal has experienced a number of embarrassing blowout losses. The routs have led Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News to suggest their is a systematic failure holding Cal back. The upside? The Bears facilities, which Tedford pushed for, will help with recruiting. As it stands, Cal has the worst football facilities in the conference. It’s amazing Tedford is able to bring anyone in given the lack of luxuries.
9. UCLA (4-8, 2-7)Last Week: 9
Rick Neuheisel has recorded just eight Pac-10 wins in his three year tenure. Despite signing a top-15 recruiting class all three years, UCLA seems to be stuck in neutral. Their offense is extremely shaky, and they may just abandon the Pistol after switching to it this season. Richard Brehaut threw the ball decently against USC, but the Bruins inability to take care of the ball did them in.
10. Washington State (2-10, 1-8)Last Week: 10
Paul Wulff will return to Pullman, and that had to give Cougar fans some hope. The coach only led Washington State to two wins, but the progress from 2009 to 2010 was huge. Jeff Tuel matured as a quarterback, and the young squad will be back even better in 2011. Instead of getting blown out week in and week out, the Cougars rose to the challenge and played a lot of teams tough. In fact, they completely dismantled Oregon State. It would be interesting to see Washington State and UCLA play on a neutral field today.