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College

Parity Hurting Pac-10’s Postseason Plans

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California linebacker D.J. Holt (3) recovers a fumble against Washington, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010. (AP Photo)

California linebacker D.J. Holt (3) recovers a fumble against Washington, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010. (AP Photo)

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BERKELEY (AP) – Oregon and Stanford appear to be headed to BCS bowl games, which, any other year, would be a huge boost to the respect-hungry Pac-10.

The fall off after the Cardinal and Ducks dims that perception.

Thanks to a tightly packed bunch of similarly talented teams and a tough nonconference schedule, the Pac-10 is struggling to fill its bowl allotment and more than half the conference could end up with losing records.

This year of parity in the Pac-10 may have ruined the postseason party.

“The bowl picture is concerning for the Pac-10 because of everybody knocking each other off,” Cal coach Jeff Tedford said.

The Pac-10 has just four teams with winning records and only Oregon, Stanford and Arizona are currently bowl eligible. USC has seven wins, but sanctions prohibit the Trojans from playing in a postseason bowl.

There’s a chance the conference will have just four bowl teams, which would put it well behind power conferences like the Southeastern (10), Atlantic Coast (nine), Big 12 and Big Ten (eight each). The Pac-10 is even behind in the count to smaller conferences like Conference USA and Mid-American.

A down year in the Pac-10? Maybe in terms of postseason results.

An argument also could be made that the conference was too good for its own good.

The Pac-10 is the only conference to play nine league games, leaving just three chances to pad the record for a sixth win.

And even with that nine-game gauntlet awaiting, the conference’s teams don’t hold back in nonconference, often scheduling powerhouses instead of patsies.

The Pac-10 played the toughest nonconference schedule among the BCS conferences, with six games against teams in the Top 20 of the BCS standings, four of those on the road or at neutral sits.

Seven teams played at least six road games and USC had seven, though this weekend’s finale against rival UCLA is practically a home game.

The result hasn’t looked good in the win/loss column, but it’s certainly hardened the Pac-10; the Sagarin ratings rank the conference as the toughest in the nation.

“This is pretty staggering when you look at the Pac-10 teams,” Arizona coach Mike Stoops said of the conference’s rating. “That speaks more of the competition in the conference. It’s about more than quantity. It’s about the totality of your schedule.”

The Pac-10’s fight-it-out schedule could leave it with just three bowl teams, though.

Top-ranked Oregon needs to beat rival Oregon State in Saturday’s Civil War to play for its first national championship. Stanford appears to be a lock for another BCS bid, fourth in the standings and well enough ahead of No. 5 Wisconsin, even with its season over.

Arizona has been bowl eligible for nearly a month now. The problem for the Wildcats is that they’ve lost three straight headed into Thursday’s game against rival Arizona State. They won’t get passed over for a bowl because there’s so few eligible teams, but the quality of their postseason appearance might depend on what happens in the desert.

Washington seems to have the best chance of becoming the conference’s fourth bowl team, thanks to a gutsy fourth-down call in its last-second win over Cal last week. The Huskies can play into a bowl for the first time since 2002 with a win over Washington State in the Apple Cup on Saturday.

Getting five bowl-eligible teams or the full tie-in allotment of six gets dicey after that.

Oregon State, despite playing Boise State and TCU close, needs to beat Oregon to become bowl eligible. The Beavers lost a chance at the Rose Bowl in last year’s Civil War and would like to return the favor by spoiling the Ducks’ national-title bid, but no one has been close to Oregon all season.

Arizona State needs to beat Arizona and get a waiver from the NCAA to get into the postseason because two of its wins were against FCS teams.

Everyone else is already done, including UCLA, which beat ranked teams Houston and Texas in consecutive weeks, leaving the Pac-10 in a precarious spot headed into bowl-selection Sunday.

“It’s really weird how teams match up and I think that was evidenced through the year,” Tedford said. “You never knew what was going to happen week to week. The matchups are so different, there’s a lot of competition in the league, a lot of parity of the league, and as you go through the course of a season, things go up and down.”

And more highs and lows could still be on the way.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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