The state of Oregon is the center of the college football universe. Or, at least, the Pac-10 universe.
So pack the Birkenstocks.
No. 1 and seven through 10 stay the same and USC again mans the middle — still feels odd typing that — but there was lots of movement in the top half.
By the way, welcome back Cal.
1. Oregon: The Ducks have won with flash. And they’ve won with grit. They’ll need both to beat Oregon State on Dec. 3 and earn the program’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since the 1994 season.
2. Oregon State: You again! The Beavers are like the Tortoise in Aesop’s Fables. While the Hares hop about and make a lot of noise, the Tortoise just does its thing, slow, steady and relentless. The Beavers need only beat the Ducks to earn their first Rose Bowl berth since 1965.
3. California: In 2007, the Bears fell apart when they fell off their lofty perch. In 2009, the Bears showed character after their fall. An optimist might cogitate over that and conclude that this disappointing season could be a springboard to, perhaps, the “next step.”
4. Stanford: Was “hubris” Stanford’s undoing in the Big Game, as coach Jim Harbaugh worried about last week? A good way to feel better, Cardinal, is to take out frustrations on a limping Notre Dame team that — oh my — struggles against the run.
5. USC: By not playing, USC had a good week. With Stanford’s loss, the Trojans now seem primed to earn a Holiday Bowl berth. That is, if they can beat UCLA and Arizona.
6. Arizona: This will be a season of what-might-have-beens for the Wildcats. Two losses due on unusual deflections. Another in double overtime. And toss in a fourth in which they used the wrong starting quarterback (at Iowa). I’m pretty hard-boiled about things, but watching stricken senior safety Cam Nelson fight to maintain his composure — successfully, by the way — during postgame interviews Saturday night stood as a reminder about how much these games mean to these guys. The Wildcats’ resolve will be tested over the next two weeks on the road at Arizona State and at USC.
7. UCLA: After five consecutive conference losses, the Bruins have won three in a row and are now bowl eligible. Things are much happier in Westwood these days.
8. Arizona State: The loss at UCLA insured the Sun Devils will suffer consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1946-47. A win over rival Arizona on Saturday might partially salve those wounds. A loss will make for a loooong offseason.
9. Washington: The Huskies are coming off a bye. Want to know how to ruin many of the positives from Steve Sarkisian’s first season? Lose the Apple Cup at home to woeful, injury-riddled Washington State.
10. Washington State: Want to know how to spin a miserable season forward in a positive way? Post an Apple Cup victory in Husky Stadium.