Posted: 8:01 a.m. Friday, Jan. 31, 2014
By Jack Follman
USC and put together the bulk of the conference's best teams the past 15 years.
With the BCS era now officially over, we thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the best of the era during the off-season. We will regularly be publishing posts taking a look back at the best of the conference from 1998 to 2013.
Note that for these features, we are only considering teams as they played in the Pac-10 prior to becoming the Pac-12.
1. 2004 USC
Forget about the vacated wins. This is probably the best team to ever play in the Pac-12 and one of the best ever in college football. The last Pac-12 team to win the national championship, and the only one to win it outright since the Trojans did it in the 70s, just check out this team's roster and you need no further explanation of why they are the top BCS era team. I would probably only put them behind 2001 Miami when ranking the nation's best BCS era teams. Their domination of a very good Oklahoma team in the BCS Championship Game was one of the most impressive performances in college football history.
2. 2003 USC
The Trojans only got the AP national championship, but that's because they got screwed out of being in the BCS Championship Game by Oklahoma and I believe they would have beaten LSU had they gotten there. Outside of a three-overtime loss at Cal that derailed their outright national championship, the Trojans best every team that they played by at least two touchdowns and easily beat a good Michigan team in the Rose Bowl.
3. 2005 USC
Ah, the one that got so close to an incredible three-peat, the 2005 Trojans were a little bit young at linebacker and an epic performance by Vince Young narrowly prevented them from another title. Still, they were as devastating to opponents as a Pac-12 team ever has been when they were on and took every team's best shot along the way to an undefeated regular season.
4. 2010 Oregon
The best of the Chip Kelly era Ducks team put on a phenomenal defensive performance in the BCS Championship Game and just about won their first national championship after running the table in the regular season. Other than their strange near loss at Cal, no Pac-12 team seemed to have the ability to even slow down the Ducks' offense. Also, like the 02 Trojans, I feel like this Ducks team had a little bit more edge and hunger than some of the Duck teams that have followed that put them over the edge.
5. 2008 USC
This team was the best of the second half of the Pete Carroll era at USC and was just one heartbreaking upset at Oregon State from getting another shot at the national championship. Led by Mark Sanchez, they had some really great pieces on offense, but were most impressive at linebacker where their starters were Clay Matthews, Brian Cushing and Rey Maualuga - all seniors. Other than the upset in Corvallis and a challenging game at Arizona, they controlled every game they played in, including a win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
6. 2012 Oregon
Another Kelly Duck team that came up just short of a national championship, the 2012 Ducks were probably even more talented than the 2010 version and finally had the perfect quarterback in Marcus Mariota, but an overtime loss against Stanford kept them from getting another shot at the title. Outside of that loss, the Ducks pretty much rolled everyone else that they played and put together one of the most purely dominate seasons in conference history.
7. 2002 USC
This team took a while to get going and had two hiccups in the early season, including an overtime loss at Washington State, but at the end of the season, I would have put them up against any team in college football history. The team was overflowing with NFL talent headlined by Carson Palmer and Troy Polamalu and most importantly, I feel like they had the hunger and edge that Carroll's later USC teams lost. They finished the season by destroying three-straight ranked teams, including Iowa in the Orange Bowl.
8. 2010 Stanford
The first, and probably the best of the Jim Harbaugh/David Shaw teams that reached national success was led by Andrew Luck and had just one loss at Oregon. They blew out a lot of teams along the way to Stanford's best season in modern history, including a big win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
9. 2001 Oregon
The Ducks had won the Pac-10 in 1994, but this was their biggest breakout season under Mike Belloti as they go to, and won a BCS bowl with a blowout of Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. These Joey Harrington-led Ducks weren't nearly as dominant as the Kelly-led editions, but lost only one game in a close one to Stanford or they would have been playing for the national championship.
10. 2000 Washington
Far from the most talented team on this list, but maybe the one with the most heart as these Marques Tuiasosopo-led Huskies seemed to come back in every game and controlled games with their option attack and massive offensive line. Even bigger than winning the Rose Bowl for the Huskies though might have actually been beating an incredibly talented Miami team and they would have played for the national championship had they not suffered a loss at Oregon early in the season.
11. 2000 Oregon State
I was tempted to put this team higher, as at the end of the season, they may have been the scariest team in the entire country after demolishing Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl a week after beating a very good Oregon team convincingly. The Beavers lost just a single game in a tight one in Seattle, early in the season before they were truly rolling and with a receiver duo of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzadeh, they very, very scary when rolling.
12. 2006 USC
A great team, but the one that started to show that the Trojans weren't invincible as they lost two games that they shouldn't. They were really talented and when on, could be deadly, evident in that they closed by easily beating ranked teams in four of their final five games, but they did lose two and nearly lost a few more as they were having a bit of a transition year in talent and experience. However, don't get me wrong, this was a really, really good team that was a lot better than any team in the Pac-12 this season and they handled a really good Michigan team in the Rose Bowl.