By Ted Miller, Special to CNNSI.com
Before we explore the Pac-10 bowl games, what do you say we take a few pot shots at the southern end of the conference, a.k.a., the rear end? Pete Carroll? John Mackovic? Dirk Koetter? This is the best USC, Arizona and Arizona State, respectively, could do?
Let’s see: Washington has Rick Neuheisel. Oregon has Mike Bellotti. Oregon State has Dennis Erickson. Stanford has Tyrone Willingham.
Where are the best coaches in the Pac-10?
OK, we’ll admit that Koetter did a fantastic job at Boise State and certainly is one of the hot coaching prospects on the West Coast. He’s one of the nation’s top offensive minds. Still, he’s an insider’s guy who doesn’t figure to immediately thrill Sun Devils fans in the short term into actually attending games.
But USC going with Carroll -- after being dissed by Erickson and Bellotti and failing to work out a deal to yank Mike Riley away from the Chargers -- is completely baffling. Almost as much as Arizona tapping Mackovic, who couldn’t build a consistent winner at Texas.
How can anybody not win at Texas?
Carroll hasn’t coached at the college level in 17 years. He flopped with the Jets and Patriots. The initial buzz was so bad that just before Carroll became the official choice, USC officials orchestrated a public relations campaign and pleaded with reporters to be gentle in their assessments.
It didn’t work. Not in L.A.; not here.
Mackovic has bounced around with fair-to-middling results in both the college game and the NFL. His college career has been marked by inconsistency. Under him, Wake Forest went 8-4 in 1979 but slipped to 5-6 the following season, and he bolted for the NFL.
He went 10-2 at Illinois in 1989, but slipped to 6-5 in 1991 and bolted for Texas. He led the Longhorns to a 10-2-1 season in 1995, but was fired after a 4-7 season in 1997 and took a television job.
Perhaps he will fit in with the sun-tanned, Chardonnay set better than he did with the good-old boys in Austin. Fine. But can he win consistently and not lose interest when things don’t go well?
Washington, Oregon and Oregon State are clearly on the upswing. It doesn’t appear the conference teams that made coaching changes did much to keep up.
Ah, let’s just go bowling
Arizona State vs. Boston College, Aloha Bowl, Dec. 25: Classy Bruce Snyder’s final game should be an easy victory over a B.C. team with no business in a bowl game. The game itself is a bit of a joke, matching a pair of 6-5 also-rans, but, shoot, they’ve got to fill 25 bowls with somebody. Arizona State, 28-17.
UCLA vs. Wisconsin, Sun Bowl, Dec. 29: A poor-man’s Rose Bowl, matching two teams that once had high expectations. This one will turn on which UCLA team shows up, the one that beat Michigan or the one that lost to Paul Hackett. The Badgers must avoid any sneaky shoe deals. Wisconsin, 30-24.
Oregon vs. Texas, Holiday Bowl, Dec. 29: The Ducks will be healthy physically, but they also must shake off the disappointment of blowing their Rose Bowl opportunity by getting drubbed by Oregon State in the Civil War. Texas looked like a national title contender at one point -- before they started playing. Texas, 24-21.
Oregon State vs. Notre Dame, Fiesta Bowl, Jan. 1: What a miraculous turnaround for OSU. Just think: Some silly Pac-10 writer picked the Beavers to finish eighth in the conference. What a bonehead. A Notre Dame scribe blathered that playing the Beavers was beneath the Irish. Piffle. The imposters here will sport gold helmets, lots of tradition and little substance. Oregon State, 35-20. Washington vs. Purdue, Rose Bowl, Jan. 1: A matchup of prime-time quarterbacks between Purdue’s Drew Brees and Washington’s Marques Tuiasosopo. The Boilermaker defense is very young, with five freshmen and two sophomore starters. The Huskies offensive line is huge, experienced and dominated late in the season. The UW should be able to run and keep the ball away from Brees and his high-flying attack. Washington, 30-28.
Worth notingDespite salary increases for Bellotti and Erickson and an initial contract for Carroll that could earn each $1 million a year -- thereby joining Neuheisel at that benchmark -- no Pac-10 coach is ranked among the top 10 nationally in annual pay. … The Pac-10 finished the regular season with a 22-8 non-conference record, the best mark among the six BCS conferences. … The conference’s Pacific Northwest teams finished 1-2-3 in the league for the first time since 1941. … Oregon State finished first in the league in scoring offense (32.6 ppg) and scoring defense (18.5 ppg). …Washington is 6-1-1 all-time vs. Purdue. … Oregon State and Notre Dame have never played, nor have Arizona State and Boston College. … Oregon is 0-4 against Texas. … UCLA is 7-3 against Wisconsin.
Ted Miller covers the Pac-10 for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.