"Measuring Stick Saturday" (and Friday night), when nine of ten Pac-10 teams played opponents that are coming off bowl appearances or are BCS automatic qualifier conference members, if not both, and all on nationally available television, is over, so how did the Pac measure up? Only fairly well.
The Pac won five of them, including a couple of unexpected breakthrus, and six overall, but the losses really hurt. And some of them will for a while.
Arizona measured up big time. And Nick Foles moved up to a strong number two in the running for best QB in the Pac. The Wildcats, now ranked 14 in the AP poll (16 in the Sports Information Directors poll*), clad in their bright red jump suits, jumped ahead of then top-10 (now #18) Iowa by 20 points in the first half.
(* The Coaches' poll, completed primarily by Sports Information Directors)
The heat, over 100 degrees at the 8 PM kickoff in Tucson, was expected to wear down the Hawkeyes, but it was Iowa that rallied for 20 consecutive points to tie the game. Then everything changed.
Arizona blocked the extra point, Foles completed five of six passes to drive the Wildcats 72 yards for the winning touchdown, and the defense closed the game with four consecutive sacks. One was wiped out by a penalty, but it only meant the Desert Swarm got one more shot at Ricky Stanzi.
UCLA was on the verge of disaster, having taken two losses, and with Texas coming up, but surprised everyone with their 31-13 win over Houston, and it wasn't that close.
Footnote: 2011 member Utah blasted New Mexico 56-14 as well, to move up from 14 to 13 in the polls. That was supposed to happen, but as has already been shown this season, these things don't always happen, and the Utes did what they were supposed to do.
Came Close, But The Jury Is Still Out
Oregon St.'s 35-28 win over Louisville was closer than was widely expected, and until more is known about the Cardinals, it's hard to know how big of a red flag about the defense this should be. The #24th ranked Beavers are a game down to most teams in terms of experience, and the showing Saturday in Boise against the #3 Broncos will answer a lot more questions.
Stanford measured up in that they bombed Wake Forest 68-24, and going 3-0 to start the season for the first time in 9 years. But the win was so dominant that it raises questions about whether Wake may actually be a cupcake. The Cardinal, ranked 16th. by the AP, and 17th. by the SIDs, face Notre Dame and Oregon on the road the next two weeks, and then host USC. Those will be the measuring sticks for the Cardinal. If Andrew Luck, who threw for four touchdowns Saturday night, and ran for another, is really the best quarterback in the conference, as he now appears to be, the 16th. Cardinal could measure up to a top 5 or 10 ranking by the time they take a mid-October break.
Oregon, the only team not playing a FBS opponent, bombed Big Sky Portland St., and as such, the Ducks measured up well enough to be the #5/#6 ranked team in the land. The jury is still out only because Oregon hasn't encountered any real opposition yet, though their win the week before at Tennessee was more of a measuring up game than this one could be. This week's trip to Tempe, and the visit from Stanford, will address the doubts that nothing the Ducks could have done Saturday could.
Speaking of Arizona St., the heavy underdog Sun Devils did everything except win at Wisconsin. A 95 yard kickoff return by Kyle Middlebrooks right before halftime comes up a yard short, at the one yard line, and time runs out. What would have been the tieing extra point gets blocked. And the #11/10 Badgers escape with a 20-19 win. Was this a sign that the Sun Devils are for real, or their one big effort? Again, check back after Saturday night, after the Duck come to call.
USC's 32-21 win at Minnesota kept the Trojans unbeaten, and would qualify as measuring up if they hadn't been so shaky in prior games, and if the Gophers weren't also so shaky. For these reasons, despite winning on the road, SC dropped from #18 to #20, proving, just as the Oregon win did, that style points matter more than ever. The next two games against the Washington's may not clear things up much either.
Colorado, coming to the Pac in a couple of years, rebounded from their disaster at Cal with a 31-13 win over Hawaii. The Buffs are still a major question mark, but they are 2-1, and this was about as good as could be expected just at the moment.
Cal fell out of any chance of being ranked for a while Friday night when the Nevada Wolfpack Pistol-whipped the Golden Bears 52-31 in Reno. Going into the weekend, there was hope that some Bear fans would show up at Stanford (since the Cardinal don't draw) to support the conference on a big weekend.
Turns out there were a lot of Cal fans on the Oakland Bay Bridge, but it was unclear how many were there to jump, and how many were there to throw Jeff Tedford off the bridge.
And speaking of jumping in the water, Washington fans might be jumping into the sound after Nebraska thrashed the Huskies 56-21. If they do, they might find what's left of the Jake Locker Heisman campaign, which was thrown away on a 4 of 20 passing performance.
And Washington St. lost 35-21 to SMU, the only team they beat last season. The Cougars now face four games against ranked teams plus a trip to suddenly resurgent UCLA in the next 5 weeks.