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Pac-10 measures up on important Saturday

The measuring stick was out this weekend with the Pac-10: nine FBS nonconference games. Four versus ranked opponents. Four on the road. All nine foes certifiably respectable. The Pac-10 was the underdog in five.

It doesn't matter that no other conference is bold enough to schedule such a slate. Perhaps it should, but the Pac-10 doesn't get the free pass on waltzing through a list of four pansies before hitting the conference schedule, as many other teams -- and some entire conferences -- do.

So what's the tally? 5-4, with Arizona leading the charge after a 34-27 win against No. 9 Iowa.

USC beat Minnesota 32-21. Oregon State beat Louisville 35-28. Stanford crushed Wake Forest 68-24. UCLA upset No. 23 Houston 31-13.

Not all was good, of course. California, the only upset victim, went down hard at Nevada 52-31. Washington got walloped at home by Nebraska 56-21. SMU handed Washington State its 11th consecutive loss versus FBS opponents.

But even one of the defeats sent a message about the depth of the Pac-10. Arizona State went to No. 11 Wisconsin as the pick to finish ninth in the Pac-10 and heads back as a 20-19 loser, but clearly good enough to compete with just about anyone.

That performance, paired with UCLA's victory, shows that the bottom of the conference is not pushover territory.

And the top? Well, Oregon looks like an elite team, but it's possible that Arizona, Stanford and even USC are, too. That's four 3-0 teams that figure to be ranked in the top half of the polls. And don't forget about No. 25 Oregon State, which is 1-1 and heads to Boise State on Saturday with every AQ conference rooting for it to humble the Broncos.

Bottom line: The measuring stick came out this past weekend, and the Pac-10 ended up looking pretty darn tall. That could matter late in the year if the conference finds itself battling for position in the BCS standings.