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Conference Check-Up

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The Pac-10 came into the 2010 football season as an unknown. 

Perennial top dog USC was under the cloud of sanctions with a new head coach, who inherited a 9-4 team after a decade of dominance.

Oregon unseated the Trojans last year to earn a Rose Bowl berth, while Jim Harbaugh's Stanford was obviously a team on the rise.  After that, Oregon St. (Jacquizz Rodgers) and Washington (Jake Locker) had great players, but were they going to be great teams?

The early returns have been excellent for the conference often regarded as a West Coast afterthought. 

Coming into the season, the Pac-10 had just three teams ranked in the AP top 25 poll (#11 Oregon, #14 USC and #24 Oregon State).  Just two weeks in, the number has increased to five (#5 Oregon, #18 USC, #19 Stanford, #24 Arizona and #25 Oregon State) plus Cal is ranked #24 in the Coaches' Poll.

USA Today's Jeff Sagarin ranks the conferences through a complex computer formula:

1.) SEC - 79.75
2.) Pac-10 - 78.46
3.) Big 12 - 77.54
4.) Big Ten - 76.30
5.) ACC - 75.72
6.) Big East - 71.64

Scheduling and quarterbacks have made all the difference. 

Pac-10 teams consistently challenge themselves in the non-league portion of their schedule, but they are winning some of those top games thanks to experience at the quarterback position.

The conference boasts four of the top 12 QB rating leaders in the nation led by Cal's Kevin Riley (#3), Stanford's Andrew Luck (#7), Arizona's Nick Foles (#11) and USC's Matt Barkley (#12).

This weekend, the battle for conference supremacy continues with a slate of headline games.

#18 USC at Minnesota
#8 Nebraska at Washington
Arizona St. at #11 Wisconsin
Louisville at #25 Oregon St.
#9 Iowa at #24 Arizona
#23 Houston at UCLA
Wake Forest at #19 Stanford

While the Trojans do not have a bowl game on the horizon this season, they can still win a Pac-10 title, which given the level of competition in 2010, would be a momentous achievement.

Matt Barkley's 7 TDs without an INT is tied for tops in the nation with Cal's Kevin Riley.
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