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Pac-10 Race Makes Middle Of The Road Look Like Fast Lane

Upon further review, the dessert menu for the Pacific-10 Conference is not so much tapioca as it is a parfait.

Which is to say those lovable Dangerfields from Washington State are closer to a bowl game than anyone might think.

All you need is one win, Rodney.

Really.

Well, probably.

Yes, yes - we know what month this is and the position of the stars and the damnable history and that what just moments ago appeared to be tee-ball has suddenly turned into a nasty curve for the Cougs. Exhibits A through D, so noted.

But we have also done our math:

1) Four bowls have dedicated spots to Pac-10 teams.

2) A team can’t go to a bowl unless it has a winning record - six wins for most teams, seven for USC since the Trojans were roped into the playing a 12th game.

3) So far, only Rose Bowl-bound Arizona State, Washington (Cotton or Holiday) and Cal have the requisite victories.

4) And among the rest, only Washington State is one win away.

Get as giddy, then, as you dare.

There are, obviously, layers to the mush that is the middle of the standings, the goo from which the final two Pac-10 bowl reps - to the Sun and Aloha - will emerge. And though it finds itself in a four-way tie for third place, Wazzu pretty much is the second layer.

The Cougars lose both their remaining games and the discussion is over. A sweep by Stanford or UCLA or USC or Arizona or any combination thereof - and the politicking begins. No good can come of that.

Heck, you don’t have to stretch the hypotheticals much to put Oregon in a bowl game - and the Ducks were long ago given up for dead. All they need is a sweep, a Wazzu swoon and a split by all other parties and they’ll be hanging tinsel on palm trees.

Finally, there is the worst-case scenario - two losses for Wazzu and a split for all the rest - that leaves the Pac-10 short of fulfilling its commitments.

But if the Cougs should beat Stanford on Saturday - an outcome, the standings suggest, more likely than a win over Washington a week later - they’ll have eliminated the Cardinal. The UCLA-Arizona game will eliminate one of those teams. Notre Dame will off USC if the Bruins don’t.

Geez. Oregon might be Wazzu’s real rival, after all.

And to think, some prefer the tedium of a playoff.

Of course, once that whoopee is over, debate can begin on the supposedly deeper question of whether a 6-5 Wazzu team deserves to go to a bowl game.

Speaking of nonsense.

Hey, if someone’s going to go to the trouble of printing up tickets and reserving a stadium and rolling over for corporate money, then certainly the Cougs - or any team - deserve to go. If the get-a-lifers want to get riled about who actually deserves the destiny of the Aloha Bowl, they’re welcome to their illness.

No, a 6-5 Cougar team - if that’s how they wind up - would hardly be the most decorated delegate to December. If that sixth victim happens to be Stanford and the Ducks don’t win out, then Wazzu will have beaten exactly one team with a record over .500.

We’ve seen worse pedigrees in the postseason.

Besides, the Pac-10 will have trouble finding anyone much better. Stanford’s victims are 15-19 this season, USC’s 18-23, Arizona’s 10-22.

And it’s not as if the Pac-10 is alone in its desperation. The Big 12 is having a hell of a time filling half of its six bowl berths. The SEC may be short, too.

It’s a built-in bug. Not counting the bottom feeders of Division I - the Big West, the MAC, assorted stragglers - 88 teams make up the big time. Half will finish over .500. And there are 34 bowl slots to fill.

Too many bowls? For sure. That isn’t stopping visionaries from dreaming up new ones, or don’t you remember the late, lamented Haka Bowl?

But that’s the beauty of the bowls. Everybody’s a winner, like U-10 soccer without the minivans and postgame snacks.

Grant the Cougars one more win and they’ll be happy to argue the merits.

, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact John Blanchette by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5509.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review

You can contact John Blanchette by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5509.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review


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