What about Pac-10 defenses?

When folks debate the merits of teams and conferences, there's typically an agenda.

So, Pac-10 fans, feel free to suspect that gadflies in other parts of the country crowing about the Pac-10's dreadful 2-5 bowl record thought less of the importance of bowl games when the conference went 9-2 over the previous two seasons.

Still, the Pac-10, other than USC and UCLA, got poleaxed in the bowls.

You can even quantify it. And the numbers won't do much to quiet the critics of Pac-10 defenses.

Only USC beat its defensive season averages in yards and points allowed in its bowl game. UCLA eclipsed its season average in yards allowed and matched its points number (21).

Oregon State only allowed 308 yards in its loss to BYU, but that misleading number is trenched by the 44 points the Cougars scored, 21 more than the Beavers had been surrendering in 2009.

Even worse were the offensive numbers, which obviously also speak to the efficacy of Pac-10 defenses.

Not only was USC the only team to eclipse is season average in total yards, it was the only Pac-10 bowl team out of seven to gain more than 314 yards. The ninth-worst offense in the Pac-10 during the regular season, woeful Arizona State, averaged 334 yards this season.

So Pac-10 defenses and offenses were worse across the board in the bowl games.

Here's an issue to think about going forward.

The biggest reason for Pac-10 fans to have high expectations heading into 2010 is the return of eight starting quarterbacks as well as a number of marquee running backs. The offense should be strong next fall.

But defenses will get hit hard by graduation, particularly at the "star" level. Only five of 22 members of the All-Pac-10 first and second team defenses are scheduled to return in 2010.

Only Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State have eight or more starters coming back on defense.

The Pac-10 should find itself back in the mythical "best conference' debate next fall. But to stay in it, it's going to have to get defensive.