Little things mean a lot
By Richard Linde--6 August 2001

What do Cade McNown, Todd Husak and Marques Tuiososopo have in common? They were Pac-10 seniors that led their teams to the Rose Bowl in the past three years. In the six of the last seven years, a senior quarterback has led the conference winner, and in as many years,  seven different Pac-10 teams have appeared in the Rose Bowl.

In addition to having a senior quarterback, little things make a big difference in the Parity-10--like having a veteran coaching staff, a plethora of returning starters, a favorable road schedule and a distinct home-field advantage.

Since Oregon has most of these ingredients, look for it to win the Pac-10 conference title. Oregon has only one tough game on the road, which is against UCLA, while the rest of its toughies are at home, where it has a distinct advantage playing in its din of inequity, Autzen Stadium. They don’t measure fan noise in decibels at Autzen Stadium, they measure it on the Richter Scale. Oregon has won 20 straight games at home.

Optimism runs so high in Eugene that they are hyping Senior quarterback Joey Harrington for the Heisman Trophy.

Oregon has had seven consecutive winning seasons, the best in the Pac-10. They return 8 starters on offense, but only 4 on defense. It’s on defense, where their title hopes could crumble.

Since Oregon is our clear-cut favorite to win the Pac-10, how do we rate the conference as a whole? We've constructed a table and rated all the teams based on "little things data," such as the year in school of the starting quarterback, the number of returning starters, home-field advantage, the road schedule and the coach’s record in the conference.

Forget about all those blue chippers that UCLA and USC have corralled over the past several years. Since parity prevails in this conference from top to bottom, quality doesn’t count and size doesn’t matter. Little things mean a lot more.

We constructed two “little things” tables, which are shown below, describing the factors we deem important in determining a conference champion.  

In Table 1, we list the parameters that feed into Table 2, which rates the teams from top to bottom. For example, in Table 1, Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti has won 69% of his games in the Pac-10, Oregon has a home-field advantage of 13 points, has one tough road game and returns 12 starters. Quarterback Joey Harrington is a senior. In Table 2, we give Oregon 10 points for having a senior quarterback, subtract a point for its one tough road game against UCLA, give it 13 points for its home-field advantage, 12 points for its returning starters and 3 points for having a veteran, winning coaching staff in the Pac-10--all of which totals 37 points. 

The field, "Returning Starters," also includes the punter and kicker. Table 3 lists the road games for which we feel each team could easily lose. The team schedules for the Pac-10 follow.

In Table 2, we give zero points for experience to the new coaches in the Pac-10 (Pete Carroll, John Mackovic and Dirk Koetter). The winning percentages listed relate to their past coaching experience. 

Of course, this doesn't mean you can't construct your own tables or just plain guess to determine a conference champion. This is our best guess, which doesn't mean squat. Have fun. 

Since we're going out on a limb, we might as well completely saw it off with our picks for freshmen of the year in the Pac-10:

Nic Costa, QB, Arizona 
Reggie Williams, wide receiver, Washington

Table 1. Little Things Table

School QB Yr Coach Rec HFA RG RS
Oregon Harrington Sr Bellotti .69 13 1 12
UCLA Paus Jr Toledo .60 7 2 17
Stanford Fasani Sr Willingham .51 5 3 18
UW Pickett So Neuheisel .75 10 4 12
Cal Boller Jr Holmoe .34 5 4 17
OSU Smith Sr Erickson .75 7 3 10
WSU Gesser Jr Price .47 4 3 19
USC Palmer Jr Carroll .52 6 2 16
ASU Krohn So Koetter .72 7 4 16
UA Johnson Jr Mackovic .56 5 4 16

Legend: QB-Quarterback; Yr-Year in School; Coach-Head Coach;
Rec-Head Coach's record; HFA-Home Field Advantage; RG-Road games where team could easily lose; RS-Returning Starters

Table 2. Little Things Mean a Lot More Table

School QB TRG HFA RS CS Total
Oregon 10 -1 13 12 3 37
UCLA 9 -2 7 17 3 34
Stanford 10 -3 5 18 2 32
UW 8 -4 10 12 5 31
WSU 9 -3 4 19 1 30
OSU 11 -3 7 10 4 29
USC 9 -2 6 16 0 29
Cal 9 -4 5 17 1 28
ASU 8 -4 7 16 0 27
AU 9 -4 5 16 0 26

Legend: QB-Quarterback, TRG-Tough Road games, HFA-home field advantage, RS-returning starters, CS-successful coaching experience in the Pac-10, and the Total Points. 

Table 3. Toughies on the road

Team Road Killas
Oregon At UCLA
USC At Washington, Oregon
Washington At OSU, Cal, UCLA, ASU
OSU At ASU, Oregon, USC
WSU At Stanford, ASU, Washington
Stanford At USC, Oregon, Wash
Arizona At OSU, Washington, Cal, ASU
ASU At UCLA, Stanford, USC, Oregon
California At UCLA, OSU, Stanford, WSU

 Table 4. 2001 Pac-10 Football Schedule  

September 1

September 8

Illinois at California Idaho at Arizona
Wisconsin at Oregon San Diego State at ASU
Idaho at Washington State BYU at California
San Jose State at USC Utah at Oregon
UCLA at Alabama  North Texas at Oregon State
Oregon State at Fresno State Boston College at Stanford
Arizona at San Diego State Kansas State at USC
Michigan at Washington
UCLA at Kansas
Washington State at Boise State
September 15 September 22
ASU at UCLA ASU at Stanford
Montana State at Oregon State Idaho at Washington 
Colorado at Washington State Cal at WSU
Washington at Miami   USC at Oregon
Stanford at San Jose State UNLV at Arizona
California at Rutgers Ohio State at UCLA
September 29 October 6
Washington at Cal Oregon at Arizona
WSU at Arizona USC at Washington
UCLA at Oregon State OSU at WSU
Stanford at USC Louisiana-Lafayette at ASU  
San Jose State at Arizona State  
Oregon at Utah State  
October 13 October 20
Washington at UCLA   Arizona at Washington
Arizona at OSU OSU at ASU
ASU at USC Cal at UCLA
Oregon at California Stanford at Oregon
  USC at Notre Dame
October 27 November 3
Washington at ASU Stanford at Washington
USC at Arizona Arizona at Cal
Cal at OSU ASU at Oregon
Oregon at WSU OSU at USC
UCLA at Stanford UCLA at WSU
November 10 November 17
Stanford at Arizona WSU at Washington
Washington at Oregon State Cal at Stanford
USC at Cal  
Oregon at UCLA  
November 23 November 24
Arizona at ASU  Notre Dame at Stanford
December 1
OSU at Oregon

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