Pac-12 Notebook: Conference better than SEC from top to bottom?


USC sophomore defensive end Leonard Williams leads a group of accomplished Trojans defenders this season. USC’s defense has made up for the Trojans’ noticeable deficiencies on offense. They rank No. 1 in the Pac-12 in total defense (230.5 yards per game) and rushing defense (59.2). Williams finished with a team-high eight tackles, including three tackles for loss, in USC’s 17-14 victory over visiting Utah State last Saturday. Williams leads the Trojans with six tackles for lost yardage. He is one of eight USC defenders with at least 15 tackles through four games.

Prolific-passing Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff goes from playing against Ohio State to trying to defeat Oregon at Autzen Stadium on Saturday. The Bears lead the league, and are second in the FBS, with 438.7 yards passing per game. Goff tops the FBS with 435.3 yards per game. Cal, however, is also last in the league with 12 sacks allowed. Chances are it will be a very long day for Goff in Eugene.

ESPN’s Colin Cowherd grilled the network’s college football expert, Kirk Herbstreit, on SportsCenter Tuesday night about whether the Pac-12 is better than the vaunted SEC from top to bottom.

Cowherd tried to prove his point by mentioning that the Pac-12 has four unbeaten ranked teams — No. 2 Oregon, No. 5 Stanford, No. 13 UCLA and No. 16 Washington — while Rutgers defeated the SEC’s Arkansas Razorbacks last week.

Herbstreit responded by saying that was an unfair comparison because the SEC’s power teams were not mentioned.

“You still have Alabama, LSU, South Carolina …” answered Herbstreit, who then sided with Cowherd about the Pac-12. “It’s about time you give the Pac-12 some love. They do play football out there.”

The Pac-12 went 5-0 against FBS non-conference opponents last week to improve to 21-3 (winning percentage of .875) this season. That ranks the best out of the BCS conferences. The others are SEC 21-7 (.750), Big Ten 25-10 (.714), ACC 17-7 (.708) and Big 12 13-6 (.684).

When compared head to head, the SEC presently looks better than the Pac-12. Here’s a comparison of the teams in their pecking order in the respective league standings:

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Some clarifications as to why the SEC is 9-2-1 against the Pac-12:

— Alabama and LSU get the early nod over Oregon and Stanford because of the level of competition played. The two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide have won at Texas A&M and LSU has beaten TCU and an upstart Auburn team. Oregon’s best win is against a Tennessee team that along with Kentucky is at the bottom of the SEC. Stanford’s best win is against an unproven ASU team.

— Georgia is even with UCLA because each team has a quality win. The Bruins went into Lincoln, Neb., and pummeled Nebraska 41-21, while Georgia has defeated No. 12 South Carolina. The Bulldogs also took No. 3 Clemson to the wire on the road.

— Texas A&M, South Carolina, Florida and Ole Miss rate better than Washington, ASU, Arizona and Oregon State, respectively, because of a tougher schedule and quality of victories. This SEC foursome is 5-3 against BCS teams while the Pac-12 group here is 3-1.

— USC gets the nod over Missouri because of the Trojans’ defense — ranks third nationally — and the Tigers have not been tested to date.
— Auburn gets a slight nod over Utah because of schedule difficulty having lost to LSU after beating decent competition in Washington State and Mississippi State at home. The Utes are coming off an impressive win at BYU but they fell short against Oregon State at home.

— Wazzu tops Vandy because it almost defeated Auburn on the road before winning at USC. The Commodores have not posted an impressive win yet.

— Finally, Arkansas and Mississippi State are picked over Colorado and Cal mostly because the current state of the programs. In a couple of years, after Mike MacIntyre and Sonny Dykes get the Buffaloes and Bears going, respectively, it will be a much different story.

[table “” not found /] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, and


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