|USC Legends News|
Even at SEC event, Pac-10 draws notice
The Pacific-10 Conference, however, will be in the air. Arkansas quarterback Mitch Mustain transferred from Arkansas to USC after last season amid a controversy of Ozark Mountains proportions that overshadowed the Razorbacks’ SEC West title.
Arkansas coach Houston Nutt and Heisman Trophy favorite tailback Darren McFadden will kick off the three-day information festival today along with Auburn, South Carolina and Kentucky at the Wynfrey Hotel.
LSU coach Les Miles, meanwhile, has been ridiculing the Pac-10’s and USC’s schedules compared to those of SEC teams. He will take the pulpit on Friday. On Thursday, defending national champion Florida coach Urban Meyer, who got into the BCS title game after UCLA upset USC, will speak as will new Alabama coach Nick Saban.
Miles has said he’d love to meet USC for the BCS national title on Jan. 7 in New Orleans. Both teams are expected to be in the top two or three when the major polls come out in August.
“I would like nothing better than to play USC for the title,” Miles said recently. “I can tell you they have a much easier road to travel. They’re going to play real knockdown dragouts with UCLA and Cal-Berkeley, Stanford — some real juggernauts there. They’ve got it good out there. I would like that path for us. The SEC provides much stiffer competition.”
Pac-10 teams, though, routinely play better non-conference opponents than the SEC. UCLA finished 7-6 last season but it did have the nation’s No. 7 toughest schedule, according to the final Sagarin rankings, and it upset USC in the regular season finale. That upset provided the path for Florida to reach the BCS title game.
Cal finished 10-3 with the No. 9 toughest schedule, including a loss to Tennessee, which was 5-6 in 2005 with a win at LSU. Stanford did finish 1-11 against Sagarin’s No. 1 toughest schedule.
The Pac-10 had eight of its teams finish in Sagarin’s top 10 for strength of overall schedule with USC at No. 2, Arizona at No. 3, Washington at No. 5, Oregon at No. 6 and Washington State at No. 10 in addition to the three above. The SEC had the other two with Tennessee at No. 4 and Florida at No. 8. LSU’s schedule, which included Tulane and Fresno State, was the 20th toughest in the nation.
Miles bashed on Monday at a gathering of fans and media in New Orleans and will likely be asked to do so again on Friday.
“You want me to say it again,” he said. “I think the SEC is the best conference in college football. I think they (the Pac-10) have got a great conference, I really do. They’re very talented. But without question, they’ve got an easier path. They do not play a conference championship game.”
Miles also has said he doesn’t favor playing strong non-conference teams like a USC or a Virginia Tech, which LSU hosts on Sept. 8 in a game scheduled prior to Miles’ arrival. Miles has blocked similar scheduling for future years as he said he prefers a schedule with the difficult games late in the season. Most major non-conference games, such as the one USC will play next season against Ohio State, occur early in the season.
Miles’ Pac-10 and USC commentary has traveled around the country.
“He’s really taking a shot at all the other schools we play,” USC coach Pete Carroll said on Los Angeles Daily News writer Scott Wolf’s blog recently. “Maybe the comments should come from the coaches at the other schools, including Charlie (Weis) at Notre Dame. He didn’t slam us. He slammed all the other schools we play.”
Carroll, whose team has ESPN.com’s fifth-toughest schedule this season with trips to Nebraska and Notre Dame out of conference and begins a home-and-home series with Ohio State next season, was clearly not as upset as many USC and Pac-10 fans.
“USC also has to play every team in the conference, and conference teams always play each other tougher,” e-mailed Michael George, an accountant in Seattle. LSU, for example, does not play Georgia or Tennessee this season. Its schedule, which includes Middle Tennessee, Tulane and Louisiana Tech, did not make ESPN.com’s top 10.
“While I appreciate the success that LSU and other football programs in the SEC have had, I found Miles’ comments regarding USC’s scheduling hypocritical at best given his own schedule,” wrote Peter Leftwich, a real estate agent in Pasadena, Calif. “If he wants to put USC’s schedule to task, schedule them.”
Joe Maynard, a business man in Lake Forest, Calif., agreed that the SEC is the best league in the country but added a team needs strong out-of-conference scheduling to reach the BCS championship.
“I am always shocked at the number of SEC fans that don’t grasp playing Div 1-AA OOC games will not get you into the BCS Championship game — no matter how difficult your conference is,” Maynard said. “You would think Auburn (in 2004) would have been enough to get a clue. Let me just make this clear as a USC fan: I feel the SEC is a very good conference, but it is not head and shoulders above the rest.”
CBS college football host Tim Brando said the SEC is clearly the best league in the nation, but SEC teams still need to schedule strong non-conference games to make sure another Auburn situation does not happen. Auburn went undefeated in 2004 but did not make the BCS title game largely because of a weak non-conference schedule.
“Les Miles had every right to speak his mind about the Pac-10 and USC, but it’s a good thing he has Virginia Tech on the schedule this year,” Brando said. “If not, he would’ve been universally lampooned for those statements.”
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti did not react to Miles’ comments with criticism but did point out that he continues to schedule extremely tough non-conference games, including Oklahoma last season, Michigan this season and Tennessee and Georgia in the future.
“I don’t worry about what other coaches say,” Bellotti said. “They were interesting comments, but I don’t know that what he said is true. Every league has its quirks. The SEC plays a championship game, but it doesn’t play every team in its league. We do. I think the top three or four from any of the major conferences like ours can play with anybody. On a one-game basis, I think the Pac-10 can hold its own with anyone.”
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