It was just four years ago that Spain won the World Cup and the vuvuzela migrained its way into whatever cortex of the brain that controls the shut-the-heck-up reaction.
Here we are four years later, and what has your American college football team done during that stretch? In honor of the World Cup, the Pac-12 blog is looking back over the last four years of Pac-10/12 football to pick the best wins and worst losses of each team over the last four seasons.
Of course, picking bests and worsts are subjective, and you might have an opinion that differs with mine. Feel free to share of few of them with me here and later this week I might run a few of them in a post.
We’ll start today with the best wins, breaking it up by North and South. On Tuesday, we’ll look at the toughest losses.
First up, the best wins for the North.
The Bears haven’t had a lot of quality victories between World Cups. They went 0-4 against rival Stanford and failed to beat an FBS team in 2013. In fact, they’ve lost 16 straight games to FBS squads. Their last win was on Oct. 13, 2012, when they topped Washington State 31-17. The week before, however, they shocked a surging UCLA team, 43-17, behind a 25-of-30 passing performance by Zach Maynard, who threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns.
When you’ve won as many games as Oregon over the last four years, there are lots to choose from. The Wisconsin win in the 2012 Rose Bowl (2011 season) got them over the BCS hump. They’ve gone 4-0 in the Civil War and owned Washington. But one of the most impressive victories I’ve seen in person was the 53-30 win at No. 4 Stanford in 2011. LaMichael James was electric with 146 yards and three touchdowns and the defense forced five Stanford turnovers. The win put Oregon back in the national title hunt (at least for a week, then that whole USC thing happened) and snapped Stanford’s 17-game winning streak.
It’s been an up-and-down four years for the Beavers, who have looked brilliant at times and stunted at others. But in 2010, in the midst of a sub-.500 season, the Beavers shocked No. 20 USC in Corvallis behind 128 yards and a touchdown from Jacquizz Rodgers and a pick-six from an up-and-coming defensive back named Jordan Poyer. Though the Trojans eventually went on to break the Corvallis curse a few years later, it was the Beavers' third straight win over USC at home. Even though Oregon State finished 5-7 in 2010, it was their second win of the season over a top-20 team, having beaten No. 9 Arizona 29-27 earlier in the year in Tucson.
The thrashing of Virginia Tech in the 2011 (2010 season) Orange Bowl was Stanford’s announcement to college football that it was for real. The Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin solidified it as an elite, physical program. But that Rose Bowl game never would have happened if the Cardinal hadn’t gone into Autzen in 2012 with a green quarterback making his first road start and simply smothered the No. 2 Ducks in a 17-14 win. With that victory, the Cardinal solved their Oregon problem, went on to win back-to-back conference titles (by beating Oregon again in 2013) and established themselves as a consummate top-10 team.
One of the most thrilling games I’ve ever watched live was Washington’s 17-13 win over Stanford at CenturyLink in 2012. Phenomenal game. One of my all-time favorites. Remember, we’re looking at games between World Cups, so the 2009 win over USC isn’t applicable – though the 2010 win over the Trojans was pretty darn good, too. But I get the sense Washington fans really enjoyed the Stanford win for several reasons. For starters, the Huskies avenged a brutal beatdown the year before. Also, the offensive line was already decimated and pundits like Ted Miller (fine, me too), questioned how the Huskies would be able to move the ball against a vicious Stanford defensive front. That game was also the coming-out party for Bishop Sankey, who went on to have a brilliant career. It was just one of two victories over top-10 teams for Washington during the four-year stretch.
There weren’t many to choose from in 2010 and 2011. Last season, the Cougs’ defense pulled out a 10-7 win over No. 25 USC at the Coliseum. But the crown jewel of the Mike Leach era to date has to be the 31-28 overtime Apple Cup victory over Washington in 2012. The Cougars had won just two games heading into the finale – one against an FCS team -- and they were riding an eight-game losing streak. Washington was bowl-bound and looking for an eighth win. Washington State was still caught up in the Marquess Wilson drama and struggling to find its Air Raid identity. Yet it was three Carl Winston touchdown runs and some clutch kicking from Andrew Furney that helped the Cougars erase a 28-10 deficit heading into the fourth quarter and pick up their first conference victory in more than a year.