By Jon Wilner | email@example.com | Bay Area News Group
The Pac-12 Hotline newsletter is published each Monday-Wednesday-Friday during the college sports season (and twice-a-week in the summer). This edition, from Sept.11, has been made available in archived form.
As part of its rollout of content connected to the 150th anniversary celebration of college football, ESPN has ranked the 150 greatest teams.
A panel of 150 media members, athletic administrators and former players and coaches selected the teams from a master list (200+) created by ESPN Stats and Information.
The 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers, led by legendary all-purpose back Johnny Rodgers, are No. 1.
Seven different Pac-12 programs made the list: USC, UCLA, Washington, Stanford, Cal, Arizona State (from its WAC years) and Colorado (Big Eight tenure).
One Pac-12 school made it 10 times.
If there is any question about USC's blue blood status -- not today, not this month, but over the sweep of college football's life on the planet -- let that doubt end here.
The Trojans singlehandedly account for 10 of the 150 greatest teams in the sport's history.
Here are the Pac-12 entries with their overall ranking and comment (from ESPN's summary).
2. USC 2004Record: 13-0ESPN: "The Trojans won their second straight national championship, remaining No. 1 from wire to wire, capping it off by stunning No. 2 Oklahoma 55-19 for the BCS title in the Orange Bowl. Quarterback Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy. All-purpose star Reggie Bush, linebacker Matt Grootegoed and defensive linemen Shaun Cody joined Leinart as consensus All-Americans. The Trojans won three of their four Pac-10 road games by eight points or fewer but still had an average margin of victory of 38-13."
3. USC 1972Record: 12-0ESPN: "The Trojans won their third national title in 11 seasons under (John) McKay with a performance memorable for its dominance. They zoomed from No. 8 to No. 1 with an opening 31-10 win versus No. 4 Arkansas. And they never left the top spot. USC won every game by at least nine points. They beat six ranked opponents. They scored at least 30 points in 10 games. And they crushed No. 3 Ohio State 42-17 in the Rose Bowl."
23. Washington 1991Record: 12-0ESPN: "The coaches voted the Huskies national champions, the second consecutive year in which the coaches disagreed with the media vote, because Washington beat 11 of its 12 opponents by at least 11 points and because their three wins over ranked teams came away from home. In fact, they beat two top-10 teams on the road, not to mention the 34-14 rout of No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl."
30. USC 1979 Record: 11-0-1ESPN: "Beat No. 20 LSU, No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 15 Washington, and No. 1 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Arguably the best team to not win a national championship, USC's only blemish in 1979 was a 21-21 tie against Stanford. The Trojans beat four ranked opponents by an average of eight points, and White won the Heisman Trophy by running for 2,050 yards."
49. USC 1978Record: 12-1ESPN: "The 1978 USC squad, which shared a national title with Alabama, might have arguably been its most talented team under Robinson. More than three dozen players from the 1978 roster, including Charles White, Marcus Allen, Anthony Munoz and Ronnie Lott, played in the NFL. The Trojans upset No. 1 Alabama 24-14 at Legion Field, and knocked off defending national champion Notre Dame 27-25 at the Coliseum."
52. USC 2005Record: 12-1ESPN: "The explosive Trojans scored 50+ points seven times and went 5-1 vs. ranked opponents. USC rallied for a 34-31 win at Notre Dame in the "Bush Push" game. The Trojans lost to No. 2 Texas 41-38 at the Rose Bowl in the BCS title game, ending USC's 34-game win streak and bid for a third straight national title."
54. USC 2003Record: 12-1ESPN: "The Trojans beat three Top-10 teams by combined 94-30. USC lost Week 4 at Cal 34-31. Team had eight All-Pac-12 and three All-Americans. USC finished third in the BCS standings behind Oklahoma and LSU. USC beat Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl to claim a share of the national championship."
56. USC 1962Record: 11-0ESPN: "The Trojans beat three top-10 opponents (Duke, Washington Wisconsin). USC held off a frantic rally from No. 2 Wisconsin in a classic Rose Bowl for a 42-37 win to claim its first national championship of the John McKay era.
62. UCLA 1954Record: 9-0ESPN: "The Bruins allowed only one opponent to score more than seven points, posted five shutouts and outscored teams 367-40 on the road to the national championship. UCLA beat No. 6 Maryland 12-7 and No. 7 USC 34-0. The conference's no-repeat rule kept the Bruins out of a bowl game."
69. USC 1967Record: 10-1ESPN: "The Trojans beat No. 1 UCLA on a classic TD run by OJ Simpson in the fourth quarter. USC beat four Top-5 teams and won three games by four points or less, The Trojans lost at Oregon State 3-0, but had wins over Texas and Notre Dame in the regular season. USC defeated Indiana 14-3 in the Rose Bowl."
70. USC 1974Record: 10-1-1ESPN: "Beat No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 3 Ohio State in its final two games. USC trailed the Irish 24-0 before rallying for a classic 55-24 win and scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion with 2:03 left to beat the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl."
82. USC 1932Record: 10-0ESPN: "The Trojans outscored opponents 201-13 and tallied eight wins via shutout, including a 13-0 blanking of Notre Dame. USC topped unbeaten Pitt 35-0 in the Rose Bowl. USC won 13-0 at Stanford and 9-6 at Washington in its only two road games."
101. Stanford 1940Record: 10-0ESPN: "A year after finishing 1-7-1, the "Wow Boys" finished undefeated under first-year coach (Clark) Shaughnessy, who reintroduced the T-formation, which had largely been discarded in college football. Stanford defeated five ranked opponents, including a 21-13 win over No. 7 Nebraska in the Rose Bowl."
110. Arizona State 1975Record: 12-0ESPN: "The Sun Devils were still in the WAC and didn't get much respect until they came from behind to upset No. 6 Nebraska 17-14 in the Fiesta Bowl. They finished No. 2 in the AP and coaches' poll, their highest finish ever. Arizona State jumped to the Pac-10 three years later."
122. Colorado 1990Record: 10-1-1ESPN: "The Buffaloes tied Tennessee 31-31 in their opener and lost at Illinois 23-22 in their third game. But then they won 10 straight games, including victories over No. 22 Texas, No. 12 Washington, No. 22 Oklahoma and No. 3 Nebraska (and escaped Missouri with the help of an infamous fifth down). They defeated No. 5 Notre Dame 10-9 in the Orange Bowl to earn a share of the national championship."
139. Cal 1920Record: 9-0ESPN: "The greatest of the Bears' "Wonder Teams" of the post-World War I era shut out seven opponents, averaged 56 point, gave up only 14 points all season, and blanked Ohio State 28-0 in the Rose Bowl. That season launched a five-season unbeaten streak in which Cal won 44 games and tied four."
We hesitate to compare across eras. But in our opinion, the 1979 Trojans (White, Allen, Munoz, Budde and Lott, Matthews, Banks, Smith, Browner) would be the last team standing in a single-elimination tournament of the 16 teams listed above. -- Jon Wilner.
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* Not long after publication of the Monday newsletter, USC announced the resignation of athletic director Lynn Swann. Of course we had a list of potential candidate in mind. But there's one no-brainer choice, and he works in the Pac-12.
* It's not often Washington coach Chris Petersen and Stanford's David Shaw face scrutiny from the national media, much less at the same time. But both were called out after bad losses. We looked at the national narrative -- and it's not just Petersen and Shaw under fire in the season's first fortnight.
* USC's stellar performance against Stanford prompted adjustments to our latest bowl projections, which include a detailed breakdown of the correlation between non-conference performance and bowl eligibility. In terms of qualifying for the postseason, the difference between a 1-2 non-conference mark and 2-1 is much greater than between 2-1 and 3-0.
* Our multi-part examination of Pac-12 football scheduling with Duane Lindberg, the associate commissioner for TV, began Wednesday morning with a look at the number of night games played by each program over the years. Arizona fans believe they've carried the load, and they're righ.
* ICYMI: The Monday newsletter featured an update on the kickoff times for games on Sept. 21. Previous editions of the newsletter are available in archived form
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* Lynn Swann was USC's athletic director for three years; it only felt like 13. The L.A. Times' Ryan Kartje spoke to new university president Carol Folt about the move. "He felt that this was the professional thing to do, to resign and allow me to build my team," Folt said. "That really is the gist of it." ... Among those unaware: Clay Helton, who learned of the move just before the news went public.
* Where should the Trojans turn? The Daily News' Mark Whicker believes COO Steve Lopes is the best option. The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke takes the opposite view: The Trojans need new blood.
* The national view: Yahoo columnist Pat Forde believes the 'University of Self Congratulation' has the chance "to get over itself and make a capable hire from outside the family." ... CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd thinks Lopes is the best choice.
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* Our top stories comes from the Bay Area, in particular the left side of the Bay Area offensive lines: Stanford quarterback K.J. Costello returns this week in time for the trip to UCF, but the Cardinal will be without All-American tackle Walker Little for the rest of the season; he needs knee surgery ... Over in Berkeley, Cal coach Justin Wlcox announced his left tackle, Will Craig, will also miss the rest of 2019 with a lower-body injury.
* UCLA held a players-only meeting after the loss to San Diego State in order to make sure the focus remains on football, not external criticism. Probably a smart move: Somebody needed to do something in Westwood before the season is lost for good. Meanwhile, Chip Kelly said the Bruins had poor practices before the SDSU game.
* Washington State coach Mike Leach will match wits with a disciple this week: Houston coach Dana Holgorsen "wasn't there for the birth of the Air Raid offense, but he was as close as one could get," writes the Spokesman-Review's Theo Lawson.
* The opening line of Arizona beat writer Michael Lev's look at the pressure on Wildcats defensive coordinator Marcel Yates says so much: "If they defended their opponents as fervently as they defend their coordinator, the Arizona Wildcats might not be in this predicament."
* The power is missing thus far in Oregon's power football, and the Ducks want to find their running game sooner rather than later.
* Colorado coach Mel Tucker is defending against a letdown after the pulsating win over Nebraska.
* UW coach Chris Petersen addressed questions about clock management at the end of the Cal game. Should he have let the Bears score? "It's something we're analyzing," he said. "I think a lot of people might say that (they should have let them score). Some others would say no."
* Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith suspended two players, each for one half against Cal Poly, for throwing punches last weekend. (One punch was directed at a teammate.) Did Smith get the punishments right? Oregonlive's John Canzano isn't sure.
* Utah's revamped line had trouble with Northern Illinois' defense in short-yardage situations. That problem had best get fixed before Sept. 20, when the Utes head to the Coliseum.
* Speaking of OLs ... With two freshmen up front, Arizona State's running game will need time to coalesce.
* On the other hand, USC's line has improved rapidly under new position coach Tim Drevno. (We can"t wait for 9/20.)
* If you turned on UCLA's loss to San Diego State, you probably noticed the empty seats in the Rose Bowl. The situation is dire enough that the Bruins are offering free tickets to the Oklahoma game Saturday to season ticket holders. The offer was framed as an appreciate for attending last weekend "on such a hot day." But clearly, UCLA is expecting a sparse turnout for a primetime broadcast on FOX.
* The California State Assembly, as expected, has passed Senate Bill 206, which allows college athletes in the state to receive compensation for the use of their Name, Image and Likeness. One step remains before the bill goes to Governor Gavin Newsom (and he will sign it). SB 206 won't be implemented for several years, giving the NCAA time to adjust its rules and avoid a showdown.
* Predictably, the NCAA rattled its saber in response to the passage, calling the bill "unconstitutional."
* Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann weighs in: "California colleges would face a stark choice: follow California law and break NCAA rules, or break California law and follow NCAA rules. Given that the consequences of breaking the law are far more consequential than breaking a not-for-profit's membership policies, the school would presumably follow the law."
What's coming on the Pac-12 Hotline:
* Picks of the week (against the spread) are scheduled for Thursday, along with my weekly mini-podcast conversation with handicapper Raphael Esparza. The final week of full non-conference play is critical for the Pac-12; we have plenty of games to discuss.
* A two-for-one on football scheduling: My hour-long podcast with associate commissioner Duane Lindberg and an accompanying column on night games -- the Pac-12's cash grab resulted in some unintended consequences. The column includes comments from commissioner Larry Scott, who has heard the fan frustration, loud and clear.
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