What's the Pac-10's biggest problem? Tennessee. You remember what Tennessee (5-1, 1-1 SEC) did to then-No. 9 Cal in the ballyhooed season opener on national television. Cal was never in that game. The Volunteers jumped out to a 35-0 lead and cruised to a 35-18 win. And it wasn't that close.
That ugly display not only got Cal kicked out of the Top 20, it made many ask, "This is the second-best team in the Pac-10?" That led to the reasoning that while USC is worthy of respect, the rest of the Pac-10 stinks. Some even ridiculed the Pac-10 as "USC and the Nine Dwarfs."
But hope came to the Pac-10 in the form of the Oregon Ducks (4-1, 2-1 Pac-10). After Cal had been banished from the national scene, Oregon stepped into the limelight with a tainted win over Oklahoma that left the Ducks with an undefeated record at the time. Thus, USC and Oregon gave the Pac-10 two teams worthy of carrying the conference flag on the national stage. USC and Oregon presented two undefeated teams with "street cred" in light of wins over Arkansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.