So Much For The Nine Dwarfs

Posted by: Tony on Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Tonight’s massive upset of U$C by the Beavers was huge not because it was shocking, but rather because it was so predictable.  How predictable?  So predictable that, if not for the demands of my day job, I would have written this post before today’s game even started.  How predictable?  So predictable that my U$C buddy sent me this email last night:

I’m a big believer in patterns in sports.  During this current era of great teams, here is how USC [sic] has fared in Pac-10 road openers.

2002: Lost to Washington State in overtime.
2003: Lost to Cal in overtime.
2004: Trailed a terrible Stanford [sic] team by 11 at the half, did not take the lead until six minutes remained and held on for a three point victory.
2005:  Fell behind 13-0, and still trailed at the half (before pulling ahead for what was eventually a comfortable win over Oregon).
2006:  Needed to bat down a pass at the goal line in the final minute to hang on for a six point win over a terrible Washington State team.
2007:  Played a game so turnover-filled, penalty-filled, and mistake-riddled against a terrible Washington team that we fell from # 1 to # 2 in the rankings, even with a (three point) victory.
So, I’m already getting angry thinking about the mistake-filled and subpar effort against crappy Oregon State tomorrow night.  Give USC [sic] a highly-ranked out of conference foe and we’re golden.  A terrible Pac-10 team on the road?  That spells trouble.

Aside from the obvious effects it has on the Pac-10 race, tonight’s upset was especially welcome for the damage it does to the mythology of U$C and the Nine Dwarfs.  It is true that U$C has won or shared six straight conference championships.  But I think any fan who follows the Pac-10 closely realizes that the story is more complicated than that.  Indeed, U$C only really “dominated” the conference in 2004 and 2005 — when U$C arguably dominated all of college football. 

In 2002, U$C failed to make the Rose Bowl after losing to WSU and needing a massive comeback to beat Cal at home.  In 2003, U$C won a share of the national championship, but fell to Cal in a game that was not as close as the score (or overtime result) would indicate.  In 2006, U$C lost to both OSU and UCLA, shared the conference title with Cal, and would have missed the Rose Bowl had Cal not choked against Arizona.  In 2007, U$C lost at home to a bad Stanfurd team, lost on the road to Oregon, and again split the Pac-10 title and only made the Rose Bowl due to the late-season collapses of the other contenders.

U$C is still probably the cream of the conference.  But the program has been in decline since losing to Texas in the 2005 championship game and now tends to drop a couple in conference play each season.  That may be a mixed bag as far as national perception of our conference goes, but I’d rather see some parity in our league — both in terms of performance and perception.

In the meantime, this gives the dwarfs an opening.  Let’s hope it’s the Bears that step into it.

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