Forget Bowl Games: Pac-10 Is Losing Its Roundhouse Punch

MC CLATCHY NEWS SERVICE

Upset mania seized the Pacific 10 Conference over the weekend. The result? Remove bowl games from several winter agendas and admit that the conference has lost some power.

Twelve players on last year's all-conference team were seniors. Twelve more seniors were second-team selections. Quarterbacks Rodney Peete, Timm Rosenbach and Troy Aikman stepped into the NFL.

And the Pac-10 has felt the impact. Although conference teams knocking one another off could represent a deep field, it just as easily could represent a temporary drop-off. Consider:

--UCLA (3-6) has its worst team this decade. The Bruins played terribly in Saturday's loss at Stanford, guaranteeing themselves a losing season. Thus, their streak of seven consecutive bowl victories will end.

--Arizona, which gained respect with an early win over Oklahoma, stumbled at the worst of times. The Wildcats lost to Cal, previously winless in conference play, seriously damaging their Rose Bowl hopes.

--Oregon and Washington, once with legitimate postseason designs, reached the dreaded four-loss level. The Ducks allowed 609 yards of total offense in falling at BYU, and the Huskies committed six turnovers in losing to Arizona State.

Washington Athletic Director Mike Lude essentially provided the Pac-10 bowl line after Saturday's loss.

"We'd have to win our last two games and then wait until after everybody has selected teams," Lude said. "And if someone doesn't find one and they need one, they might say, 'Oh, maybe we ought to take a look at the Huskies.' "

The way it looks now, two and probably three conference teams should get bowl bids. USC (7-2) is closing in on its third straight Rose Bowl berth, Washington State (6-3) has a chance at a bowl, maybe the Freedom or Sun, and the new Copper Bowl, in Tucson, Ariz., may take the winner of the Nov. 25 game between intrastate rivals Arizona (6-3) and ASU (5-3-1).

STANFORD SURGE--Stanford, the conference's worst rushing team, ran effectively in its 17-14 victory over fading UCLA. The Cardinals had a simple plan--run left, behind guard Chuck Gillingham and monstrous tackle Bob Whitfield.

Gillingham, who moved over from center only two games ago, has a clear understanding of the game plan. He merely glances to his left, where Whitfield aligns his 6-foot-7, 290-pound body.

"I can't get anybody bigger on my left," Gillingham said.

Still, Stanford's running game will not regain its most important asset until next season. Jon Volpe, who gained 1,027 yards last year, has been sidelined since Sept. 19 because of a sprained knee.

He had hoped to play against UCLA but never got on the field, and Coach Dennis Green said he does not expect Volpe to play in Stanford's final two games.

"We may have to start pointing to next year and not do any more damage," Green said.

UCLA LOOKS AHEAD--UCLA Coach Terry Donahue also peered into the future during Saturday's game, shuttling quarterbacks Bret Johnson and Jimmy Bonds with little rhyme or reason. Johnson, a freshman and the starter all year, completed just six of 15 passes for 101 yards. Bonds, a sophomore, was seven of eight for 77 yards.

"We wanted to take a look at Jimmy before the season was over," Donahue said. "We decided before the game to play both kids. I didn't want to end the season without any information on how Bonds played in game situations."

HEY MICK, WHAT'S UP?--According to Cal co-captain Tony Smith, the Bears had some impressive company at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley on Friday. Cal usually stays at a hotel the night before home games.

The Rolling Stones, in town for their two shows at the Oakland Coliseum, also stayed at the Claremont.

"The hotel was buzzing," Smith said. "(Guitarist) Keith Richard came in and watched films with us. That's probably why we won."

Smith was joking.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
67°