Pac-10 postseason picture shaping up

By Arlie Rahn

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Pacific 10 Conference bowl story is on its final chapter as, barring a major upset, the four alliance bowl teams have all but been determined.

The only sure thing is that Southern Cal will be traveling to Pasadena, Calif., for the Rose Bowl. After that, it looks like Washington has a spot in Dallas in the Cotton Bowl. The Sun Bowl (formerly the John Hancock Bowl, which was formerly the Sun Bowl) in El Paso, Texas, would then probably choose the Oregon Ducks and Stanford will spend its holiday in Hawaii for the Aloha Bowl.

The one game that might throw the entire Pac-10 bowl scene in turmoil will be Saturday's UCLA-USC matchup at the Los Angeles Coliseum. At 3-4 in the conference, the Bruins would need to be 4-4 to have a shot at one of the top four bowl spots, and a win against the 11th-ranked Trojans might be enough to send UCLA to either the Sun or Aloha bowls.

"This will be the college football game of the year for us," UCLA coach Terry Donahue said. "We have to establish ourselves as a solid team and a win against USC would do that."

The one final hope for teams such as Arizona State could be the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. But the Sun Devils would need a win over Arizona to have a chance at that bid.

UCLA will likely have to face its toughest opponent of the year without its steadiest performer. As of Wednesday, Bruin tailback Karim Adbul-Jabbar, the conference's top rusher, will be absent from the Bruins' starting roster when they face USC Saturday.

"I don't expect Karim to play," Donahue said. "He probably could play, but I don't think he will play if he is not able to perform as his best level."

Abdul-Jabbar went down with a severe ankle injury in the Bruins' first play from scrimmage last week against Washington. Not only did his injury put a halt to his string of three straight 200-yard rushing games, but it also might cause him to miss the biggest game of his career.

"We have three solid backs that we feel can do the job, but no one can replace Karim and what he means to this team," Donahue said.

While the Abdul-Jabbar situation is a concern, the real illness for the Bruins in the last two games has been their concentration.

"The biggest challenge for our team will be to get our guys up mentally and not get discouraged about our last couple of games," Donahue said. "We have to change some things like our horrible turnover ratio that have been contrary to everything we've done previously this season.

"Basically, our team has a lot of work ahead of them just to hang in with them. But I think we will be fired up for this game."

Perhaps the one thing going for UCLA might be that it is facing the Trojans in its last game and that the emotion will be running high.

"I think that the fact that it is our last game for the seniors might mean more than the fact that we are playing USC," Donahue said. "But facing a tough opponent like the Trojans does make it a little easier to be mentally prepared."

Three big names in the Pac-10 this season were put on the final list for two major awards. Arizona defensive end Tedy Bruschi and UCLA offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden are among the four finalists for the Lombardi Award. Ohio State offensive tackle Orlando Pace and linebacker Simeon Rice of Illinois are the other two finalists.

Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham also was nominated for postseason honors. He has been named one of 10 finalists for Football News' national coach of the year.

Bruschi and Ogden are on opposite sides of the spectrum. While Bruschi leads the league in quarterback sacks with 12, Ogden has yet to allow a sack all year. Willingham has brought a dying Stanford program back into contention with a 6-3-1 record, good for fourth in the conference.

Read Next Article