Who's the Pac-10 coach of the year?

We could cut through all the pre-decision hype and just say that the Pac-10 Coach of the Year will be the guy leading the eventual conference champion.

That's probably how it will be, particularly with Washington's recent slide.

Still, it's worthwhile to take the temperature and see where things stand.

(Note: The "official" Coach of the Year -- as well as the All-Pac-10 team -- is voted on by conference coaches. Obviously, the Pac-10 blog also will have a post-season honor roll that involves a panel of one).

Jim Harbaugh, Stanford

Case for: Stanford went 1-11 in 2006. Three years later -- and with many of the same players -- it's in the Rose Bowl hunt. Even if it falls short, Harbaugh's late-season wins over Oregon and USC probably will be the most impressive accomplishments on any candidate's résumé (unless Mike Stoops gets 'em, too). Harbaugh has transformed the most academically elite BCS program into a physical team that plays with a nasty streak.

Issues: Some may raise an eyebrow over the rub-their-noses-in-it two-point play against the Trojans. Losing either the Big Game or to Notre Dame might dampen the momentum of his candidacy.

Chip Kelly, Oregon

Case for: The opener at Boise State was a disaster on and off the field, but Kelly kept his players together, repaired the damage and constructed a team that is clearly well-coached in all three phases. A Rose Bowl berth for a first-year head coach would merit recognition.

Issues: Kelly inherited a healthy program, one that finished ranked in the top 10 a year ago and was expected to finish in the top-third of the conference, so he could lose out to a "rebuilder." And maybe some could see the horrible performance at Boise State and the Blount incident as negatives.

Mike Riley, Oregon State

Case for: If the Beavers advance to their first Rose Bowl since 1965, he'll win it.

Issues: Really none. Some might feel like, having won it last year, it's someone else's turn. Of course, he probably won't win it if he falls to his rival in the Civil War season-finale.

Mike Stoops, Arizona

Case for: If Arizona earns its first Rose Bowl berth, he'll win it. He might even get some consideration if the Wildcats finish at 8-4 and fall short. More than a few folks will tell you it's harder to build a winner at Arizona than it is at Stanford, which has won or shared 12 Pac-10 titles vs. one shared title for Arizona (1993).

Issues: He likely needs to win at least two of three down the stretch to make enough of a statement, and even then the Pac-10 champ's coach likely beats him out.