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Which Team Was the Best in Pac-10 History?

The Pac-10 officially became the Pac-12 yesterday which brought the close to the conference’s run with 10 teams from 1978-2010.

Yesterday I was doing a show with former Washington QB Brock Huard and Matt Pittman on 790 ESPN in Seattle and they asked the question which was the greatest team during the Pac-10 era? I immediately thought of the 1991 Washington Huskies which won a shared national title with Miami, Fl. Other teams that came to mind were the 1978-79 USC Trojans and the dominating USC teams of 2003-2005.

After the show I began wondering which teams really were the best in Pac-10 history? I first went back and looked at every single Pac-10 team that finished in the AP Top 5 from 1978-2010.  If you’re familiar with my magazine, you know that I love numbers and formulas so I began punching in data on each team.

I started with the team’s AP Finish and overall record while also taking a look at the number of close games they played. Then I analyzed their ppg and ypg averages for offense and defense. Finally I took a look at the number of Top 25 teams they beat during the season.

After I finished putting in my data I devised a formula that weighed six different categories and let the computer decide which teams were the best. Here are my computer’s results.

Computer Rankings of Best Teams in Pac-10 History

Rank Team
Year
AP Finish
Record
Close Games
PPG Diff
YPG Diff
Top 25 Wins
Total Points
1
Washington
1991
#2 #1 UPI
12-0
1
31.7
229
3
660
2
USC
2005
#2
12-1
2
26.3
219
5
560.5
3
USC
2004
#1
13-0
3
25.2
170
3
541
4
USC
2008
#3
12-1
2
28.5
233
3
540.5
5
Oregon
2010
#3
12-1
2
28.3
185
3
491.5
6
USC
2003
#1 #2 BCS
12-1
1
22.7
112
3
448
7
USC
1979
#2
11-0-1
4
18.2
138
4
414
8
Stanford
2010
#4
12-1
2
22.9
149
2
393.5
9
Arizona St
1996
#4
11-1
3
22.7
168
1
381.5
10
USC
1978
#2 #1 UPI
12-1
4
12.7
107
4
343
11
USC
2002
#4
11-2
4
17.3
164
7
340.5
12
Washington
1984
#2
11-1
1
17.2
51
2
337
13
Oregon St
2000
#4
11-1
3
15.6
113
4
321
14
USC
2007
#3
11-2
5
16.6
162
4
310
15
Arizona
1998
#4
12-1
3
15.6
100
3
298
16
Arizona St
1986
#4
10-1-1
4
17.7
109
4
282.5
17
Washington
1990
#5
10-2
4
21.3
104
4
245.5
18
USC
2006
#4
11-2
5
15.3
96
5
222.5
19
Oregon
2001
#2
11-1
6
13
36
4
221
20
UCLA
1982
#5
10-1-1
5
14
98
4
208
21
UCLA
1997
#5
10-2
4
19.2
78
3
199
22
Washington
2000
#3
11-1
8
9.8
58
3
152

The formula first evaluates their AP finish. Teams that finished #1 in the AP received the most points while teams finishing #5 received the least.  The 1991 Huskies, 2003 Trojans and 1978 Trojans were given an avg of 1.5 since they shared the national title. Next up each team was penalized for the number of losses they had (.5 pt given to ties) and surprisingly only two Pac-10 teams during that era were able to run the table undefeated and untied (1991 Washington and 2004 USC).

The third factor penalized each team on the number of close games they had. For example the 1991 Washington Huskies only had 1 close game all year so they were penalized the least along with the 1984 Huskies and 2003 Trojans. Next the formula evaluated the offensive and defensive ppg averages and the bigger the difference, the more points you received. Again the 1991 Huskies came out on top with a 31.7 ppg difference while the 2000 Huskies outscored their opponents by only 9.8 ppg. The next factor that was weighed involved the ypg average difference. The 2008 USC Trojans outgained their opponents by an avg of 455-222 (+233 ypg) and received the most points while the 2001 Oregon Ducks outgained their opponents by just a 436-400 (+36 ypg) clip.

The final category took into consideration how many Top 25 teams each team beat during the course of the season (ranking when game was played). The 2002 USC Trojans beat an incredible 7 teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at the time of the game and received the most points while the 1996 Arizona St Sun Devils only beat one team although it was #1 two-time defending national champ Nebraska and received the least.

Here is each team broken down.

#1 1991 Washington Huskies. This team clearly was head and shoulders above the others with 660 total points. They went unbeaten with their only close game all year coming in a 24-17 win over #7 California. They won every other game by 11+ pts and outscored their opponents by a 41-10 avg which was the best in the Pac-10 era. Their Rush D gave up an avg of 67 ypg (1.9) led by DL Steve Emtman who won the Outland and Lombardi Awards and they placed 8 players on the All-P10 team.

#2 2005 USC Trojans. This team came within :30 of challenging the Huskies for the #1 spot but also a Bush Push away against the Irish from being farther down. The team was, of course, led by their dynamic offensive stars QB Leinart, RB’s Bush and White and WR Jarrett and they would average a Pac-10 era best 49.1 ppg and 580 ypg. They also beat five Top 25 teams and ranked ahead of the 2004 USC Trojans in several categories.

#3 2004 USC Trojans. While their BCS Championship would be later taken away from them we all remember how dominant this team was. Holding them back was their 3 close wins even though they still went wire to wire as the #1 team and trounced Oklahoma 55-19 in the National Title Game.

#4 2008 USC Trojans. Many people tend to forget this team since they did not play for the National Title like the 2003-2005 Trojans but they did field one of the best defenses in Pac-10 history allowing only 9 ppg, while outgaining their opponents by a Pac-10 record 455-222!

#5 2010 Oregon Ducks. The Ducks fielded one of the most explosive offenses in Pac-10 history averaging 47 ppg and 531 ypg. They only had 2 close games all year and lost the National Title on the final play to Auburn. They beat our #8 best Pac-10 team Stanford 52-31 and RB James won the Doak Walker award while finishing #3 in the Heisman.

#6 2003 USC Trojans. The most impressive stat about this team was that they had only one close game all year, a 34-31 3OT loss at Cal winning all 12 of their games by 14+. They did “only” outgain their opp’s by 112 ypg which put them behind some of the other great Trojan teams of the era but still captured the AP Title.

#7 1979 USC Trojans. Coming off the split title vs Alabama in 1978, this team’s only blemish was a 21-21 tie against Stanford. They did have 4 close games but the team featured four Hall of Famers led by Heisman Winner RB Charles White. They capped off their season with a 17-16 win over #1 Ohio St in the Rose Bowl.

#8 2010 Stanford Cardinal. Arguably one of the greatest Cardinal teams in history. Their only blemish was to Oregon (see above) and they only had two close games all year. Led by QB Lucks who finished #2 in the Heisman, they crushed a Virginia Tech team that had 11 straight wins by a 40-12 margin in the Orange Bowl.

#9 1996 Arizona St Sun Devils. One of the more memorable teams of the era that came within one minute of winning the national title (20-17 loss to #4 OSU in Rose Bowl). They were led by QB Jake Plummer and went a perfect 11-0 in the regular season highlighted by a 19-0 win over #1 Nebraska. They did have 3 close games and only beat 1 team in the Top 25.

#10 1978 USC Trojans. The Trojans won a share of the national title despite beating co-champ Alabama 24-14 on the road! They were led by RB Charles White and beat four teams in the Top 25. Four close games held them back including a controversial 27-25 win over Notre Dame.

#11 2002 USC Trojans. The first great team of the Pete Carroll era got off to a slow start with early close losses to Kansas St and Washington St but would go on to win an incredible 7 games over Top 25 teams capped off by a 38-17 win over #3 Iowa in the Orange Bowl while QB Carson Palmer was fantastic winning the Heisman.

#12 1984 Washington Huskies. This team had only one close game all season, a 17-10 win over Oregon (lost to #5 USC on the road 16-7). They finished the season with a 28-17 win over #2 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, which gave BYU the National Title. Lots of people will argue that this Huskies team was much better than BYU but they did just outgain their opp’s by a 328-277 avg.

#13 2000 Oregon St Beavers. One of the greatest Beavers teams of all time led by WR’s Chad Johnson, TJ Houshmandzadeh and RB Ken Simonton. While they did lose to another team on this list head-to-head, their resume was much more impressive with 4 wins over Top 25 teams including a 41-9 slaughtering of Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

#14 2007 USC Trojans. Not as good as some of the other dominant Trojans teams of the Carroll era with 5 close games, they finished the season with 5 straight wins including a 49-17 crushing defeat of Illinois and many argued that they were the best team in the country at the end of the year.

#15 1998 Arizona Wildcats. One of the best teams in Arizona history finished 12-1 but did not get a Rose Bowl berth because of a 52-28 loss to UCLA. They did feature a 2-QB system and had a dynamic CB in Chris McAlister.

#16 1986 Arizona St Sun Devils. The Sun Devils featured one of the best defenses in the country allowing just 13.9 ppg. They did lose to #14 Arizona 34-17 in the regular season finale but made up for it with a 22-15 win over #4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl.

#17 1990 Washington Huskies. These Huskies were a prelude of what was to follow the next season as they avg’d 36.7 ppg on offense and beat four Top 25 Teams including a 46-34 win over #17 Iowa in the Rose Bowl. Holding them back were close wins over San Jose St and Purdue.

#18 2006 USC Trojans. The least impressive team of the 7 Trojans teams who finished in the Top 5 from 2002-2008. They had 5 close games and outgained their opp’s by “only” 96 ypg. A 13-9 loss to UCLA in the season finale kept them out of the National Title Game.

#19 2001 Oregon Ducks. This may come as a surprise to many as lots of people argued for the Ducks to be playing Miami for the National Title. Factors holding them back here were 6 close games and only a ypg difference of 436-400. Their only blemish was a 49-42 loss to Stanford and they crushed #3 Colorado 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl.

#20 1982 UCLA Bruins. This Bruin team had to beat Michigan twice once on the road in the regular season 31-27 and 24-14 in the Rose Bowl. They did have 5 close games and finished “only” #5 in the AP poll due to a 10-7 loss to Washington and a 24-24 tie vs Arizona.

#21 1997 UCLA Bruins. After starting the season 0-2 with close losses to Washington St and #3 Tennessee, the Bruins would explode for 10 straight wins including a 29-24 win over #20 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. They were led by a powerful offense that avg’d 39.8 ppg.

#22 2000 Washington Huskies. Many people might be surprised to find them ranked below a team they beat but several factors weighed this team down, most notably 8 close games! They also only outscored their opp’s by 9.8 ppg and outgained them by 58 ypg. Still it was tough putting them here with their wins over Oregon St and Miami, Fl who would finish #2.

Only 60 DAYS LEFT UNTIL THE FIRST COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME!!

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  • Mrstone

    I would like to see the results of putting all top five teams nationwide for the past 60 years! Who would come out on top and where would your favorite team land!

  • Mrstone

    I would like to see the results of putting all top five teams nationwide for the past 60 years! Who would come out on top and where would your favorite team land!

  • http://twitter.com/scurryn Steve Curry

    Something must be slightly wrong if none of Mike Price’s Wazzu teams didn’t make it.  I get that they lost their Rose Bowls so didn’t end up highly ranked, but still.

  • http://twitter.com/scurryn Steve Curry

    Something must be slightly wrong if none of Mike Price’s Wazzu teams didn’t make it.  I get that they lost their Rose Bowls so didn’t end up highly ranked, but still.

  • http://twitter.com/scurryn Steve Curry

    Something must be slightly wrong if none of Mike Price’s Wazzu teams didn’t make it.  I get that they lost their Rose Bowls so didn’t end up highly ranked, but still.

  • http://www.philsteele.com Phil Steele

    The first qualifier was that they had to finish in the top AP Top 5 and you’re correct losses in the Rose Bowl hurt their stock. The 1997 team was very close and had they beaten an undefeated Michigan team in the Rose Bowl, they would have been ranked among the top 10 Pac-10 teams of the era! Thanks, Phil

  • Beccaohmer

    Those Wazzu teams all lost at least 2 games

  • GoCougs

    Cant argue with that