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Second Half Of Season Starts With Blowouts

The Pac-10 has started the second half of the season, fresh off being the center of attention after announcing plans for next year's expansion. Given that the next order of business is maximizing the size of the media pie that will soon be divided equally, the results were not exactly what the conference might have hoped for. All four games were blowouts, with fans leaving or switching off early, meaning the last quarter of the advertising window had very few customers looking thru it.

Even Pac-10/12 Commissioner Larry Scott can't spin that positively when proposing a price for television rights. Meanwhile, the Big 10/12, Big XII/X, and SEC all put on multiple compelling contests. Next week, the Pac has 4 of 5 games televised nationally, and none late at night. The conference could help themselves by putting on some good shows.

The bright spot was that Oregon, who obliterated UCLA 60-13 in front of a nationwide ESPN audience on Thursday night, will still be #1 in the polls nationally, and draw ESPN Gameday, as well as a national audience, to LA next week when they face USC. Too bad the revenue for that one won't be shared equally.

Everyone will want to see if a #1 team on the road will lose for the fourth week in a row, extending an unprecedented historic run of apparent upsets. And while Oregon has the most dynamic offense in football, don't think it couldn't happen. USC is rested, and while the Trojans are 5-2, remember that back to back losses by a total of three points came when field goals sailed thru the uprights after the game clock reached :00. Saturday night could easily be a showdown of unbeatens.

At least most Duck fans stuck out their success Thursday night, pending traffic problems on a work night not withstanding.

Rainy weather in California is not a formula for crowd retention, and both Cal and Stanford had their games put out of reach early (Washington St. actually came closer than any of the losing teams, but the Cardinal's 38-28 margin of victory hides the fact that the Cougars were down at one point by 24 points), but it was still shocking to see most of the seats at both games empty from halftime on. Even ‘Furd fans (there actually are a few) it would seem would celebrate Stanford's best start in 40 years, since they were the Indians, not the Cardinal, and Jim Plunkett was leading the first of back to back Rose Bowl winning campaigns.

You would expect fans of the mercurial Cal program to party pretty hardy down the stretch of their 50-17 blowout of Arizona St. Beaver fans certainly hope the Bears continue their apparent practice of sending some bunch of imposters in Cal uniforms to road games, as there is no chance the guys that have won four home games by a total of 155 points are the same ones that winless so far away from Berzerkley.

(I have to wonder what the Cougars' beleaguered Jeff Tuel could do at Cal.)

More shocking was seeing an initially sold out Arizona stadium, and a fan base celebrating their 125th. Homecoming, also mostly empty out well before the game ended, even given the Wildcats' 44-14 win over up and down Washington, in the other conference game that garnered ESPN coverage.

This was the surprise of the week, at least as far as margin goes, given that starting quarterback Nick Foles was carrying a clipboard for Arizona, with Matt Scott filling in, and Washington was coming off an upset of Oregon St. The fact that Husky quarterback Jake Locker was playing with a broken rib, not disclosed in the days following the win over the Beavers, helps explain what happened, but the fact that Arizona defense is much tougher than Washington's had more to do with it.

If Cal is a Jekyl and Hyde team, at least Bears coach Jeff Tedford can point to the fact they are Golden at home, and fools' gold on the road. It may not be a good reason, but at least it is one.

Washington coach Steve Sarkesian continues to try to figure out a team that has played alternatingly well and terrible each game all season, regardless of the location or time of day, or quality of opponent. Which could be bad news for 6-1 Stanford, who is set to visit Seattle next, when the Huskies are scheduled to play well again. At lest Washington, and Versus, hope so.

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com