KC Joyner considered which teams he believes have a good shot at regressing in 2011, and he includes one Pac-12 team among his five candidates: Washington.
Not sure if we agree, but his general theme did get us to thinking, which is often dangerous.
At least one of the five Pac-10 teams that posted a winning record in 2010 likely will conclude its first season of Pac-12 play with disappointment. In other words, it will regress.
But who? No really, we're asking you.
There's only one way Oregon can progress: Win the national title. So, if the Ducks end up winning the first Pac-12 championship and then the Rose Bowl, is that a regression? No. To be fair, a Ducks regression would have to include failing to win a third consecutive conference title, as they are favored to do. How have things changed in Eugene? A 9-3 finish would be considered a major disappointment.
Not unlike Oregon, Stanford doesn't have a lot of options for a progression after a 12-1 finish that was capped by a dominant victory over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. Progress would either be a Rose Bowl or a national championship. So what is regression? Much like Oregon, times have changed in Palo Alto, particularly with Andrew Luck still in town. Stanford fans likely would be disappointed with any more than two defeats. That's not an easy situation for new coach David Shaw to inherit.
The issue with USC is different than Oregon and Stanford. In 2010, the Trojans were up and down, which wasn't unexpected seeing they were playing with the knowledge there would be no postseason prize in year one under Lane Kiffin. How did an 8-5 finish fit within the Trojans typically over-sized expectations and their atypically challenging circumstances? Maybe a notch below where it should have been. Heading into 2011, the question seems to be whether USC spirals or if it fights back on a weekly basis. There figure to be at least one or two games when they don't show up with their best -- and one or two in which their best might not be good enough anyway -- but will there be four or five? Regression seems to start at another five-loss season, though this time with 12 regular season games.
For the Huskies, a program still trying to reclaim its past luster, regression is fairly simple: A losing, bowl-less season. With quarterback Jake Locker gone, and being just three years removed from a winless season, another 7-6 finish couldn't really be termed a regression, though Huskies fans would be irritated with a lack of progress.
The Wildcats will be tested early. Perhaps as much as any team in the nation with games against Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC on four consecutive weeks from Sept. 8 through Oct. 1. Last fall, they started fast and then folded, though that fold could be explained, at least in part, by a considerable increase in schedule difficulty. This fall, it's the opposite. If the Wildcats hold together against a rugged early slate -- and maybe steal a win or two -- the second half of the season sets up nicely. Another seven-win regular season couldn't be termed a disappointment. The key indicator of progress, however, would be a bowl victory. Regression would be no bowl at all.