With the football season now officially over for the teams I follow, I've given each a grade and a brief statement on what next year may bring.
Oregon Ducks....GRADE: A-
The Duckies had a very good season in which they achieved more than they were expected to. If you remember back to last summer, USC was tabbed as the favorite to win the Pac-10 with any combination of Cal, ASU or even Arizona cited as contenders to the throne and the following spots in the pecking order. It was generally presumed that Oregon had too much to replace on the offensive line and key spots on defense, as well as a rookie head coach, to mount a serious challenge.
And what did Oregon go out and do? They went 8-1 in the conference, beating all conference teams except Stanford. Throw in a couple nice non-conference wins vs. a ranked Utah team and Purdue and that's very solid business.
Any year you win the league and get to the Rose Bowl is a "A" season for sure. I deduct some from the grade for a) the really poor showing in the first game vs. Boise State and b) not winning the Rose Bowl.
Outlook for next season: Very good. I truly believe the Ducks will be in serious contention to repeat as Pac-10 champion. I think another 10 win season is very possible.
Iowa Hawkeyes...GRADE: A
Iowa had a great and unexpected season and were one game away from winning the Big 10. They lost for the first time late in the season when their starting QB went down with an injury vs. Northwestern and then lost the next week vs. Ohio State in a close one despite not having their top QB in the game. Ironically, if they had somehow won one of those games they would have lined up against my Ducks in the Rose Bowl. While this would have presented some conflicts for me considering my allegiance to Iowa (I was born at the university, parents graduated from there) - in hindsight - I think the Hawkeyes would have been a MUCH better match up for the Ducks than Ohio State proved to be. Oh, the irony.
The Hawkeyes earn a straight "A" for overachieving to go 10-2 in the season, reaching the Orange Bowl and then winning it as the underdog vs. Georgia Tech. Iowa does not earn an A+ because they did lose those two league games and, therefore, did not win the Big 10. What could have been deducts a little.
Outlook for next season: Good. Perhaps not Big-10 champs, but 8-9 wins and top three in the league is likely.
Washington Huskies...GRADE: B-
While I am not a Husky fan (how could I be as an Oregon alum), I do keep up on their progress as a longtime Seattle resident and Pac-10 fan. And, you know, it's good to know how good - or bad - one of your arch rivals is.
Winning only five games would not normally earn a "B" grade of any kind, but going from zero wins in 2008 to five in 2009 is a very good progress - especially when you consider the UW were in position and could have won at least two more games (Notre Dame and ASU). So, give the a "B" for upping their game significantly. Deduct points for finding ways to lose two very close ones and then not even showing up to their game against Oregon State.
Outlook for next season: A lot to look forward to for Dawg fans. I predict seven wins (but one of them will not be vs. the Ducks) and a bowl game.
Seattle Seahawks...GRADE: D
The Seahawks were horrible. They appeared unprepared and unmotivated and only beat teams just as bad as they were. The only reason I don't give them a straight out "F" is that they actually won more games this season (5) than last (4). The team is broke and an overall re-building is in order.
Outlook for next season: More of the same. I won't believe a turnaround until I actually see it. I predict 4-6 wins and missing the playoffs again.
And now, it's on to Pac-10 basketball and the Winter Olympics, and then the World Cup early this summer. And after that? Well, before you know it, it'll be football season again!