We enter another decade of Pacific-12 Conference football in this version of Pac-12 Fridays, and it’s a decade of dominance for the Conference of Champions, mostly led by one school you may remember. Yet it’s also another decade where the league expanded: from 8 teams in the 1970 to 10 teams by 1978, with the addition of the Arizona schools.
As it looks more and more iffy for the 2020 season, enjoy this trip down memory lane …
Honorable Mention: 1975 UCLA Bruins (9-2-1)
This was the team that thrust Dick Vermeil into the upper echelon of football coaches in America. The Bruins lost to Ohio State in early October at home, and then UCLA won 7 of its last 8 games to claim the Pac-8 title by virtue of its win over California. A rematch against the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl went the Bruins’ way, and the rest is history.
10. 1977 Washington Huskies (8-4)
Led by quarterback Warren Moon, this UW team lost three of its first four games before righting the shipping and rolling to the Pac-8 title. In the last four victories of the season—including three against ranked teams and the fourth in the Apple Cup—the Huskies scored an average of 35 points per game and won the Rose Bowl over No. 4 Michigan.
9. 1976 UCLA Bruins (9-2-1)
Despite losing the Liberty Bowl to Alabama, this squad rates out better than the aforementioned ’75 conference champs, mostly because of a road win over No. 3 Arizona State and a road tie against No. 8 Ohio State. Losing to No. 3 USC in the regular-season finale cost the Bruins a shot at returning to the Rose Bowl.
8. 1973 UCLA Bruins (9-2)
This team’s only two losses were against No. 4 Nebraska on the road and No. 9 USC on the road. In between, the Bruins rattled off nine straight victories by an average margin of 34.2 points per win. QB Mark Harmon—yes, that same guy—shared starting duties while compiling a 138.9 QB rating and rushing for 532 yards and 7 touchdowns.
7. 1973 USC Trojans (9-2-1)
The Trojans lost the Rose Bowl to No. 4 Ohio State, but the schedule overall was brutal. USC tied No. 8 Oklahoma and then later lost to then-No. 8 Notre Dame, while beating the Harmon-led Bruins (ranked No. 8 at the time, as well). The Trojans began the season No. 1 and went 7-0 in conference play, beating league rivals by a combined 240-124 score.
6. 1974 USC Trojans (10-1-1)
After losing the opening game on the road to a ranked Arkansas team, USC rolled through the rest of its schedule, with only a weird 15-15 tie against Cal leaving a mark. The highlights came at the end of the season, with the infamous 55-24 trouncing of No. 5 Notre Dame and the epic 18-17 win over No. 3 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl.
5. 1970 Stanford Indians (9-3)
Don’t let the record fool you. Stanford won the Rose Bowl over No. 2 Ohio State, with Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett at QB. The team also had wins over No. 4 Arkansas on the road and then-No. 4 USC at home. A road victory over No. 16 UCLA also boosted the schedule strength before Stanford upset the Buckeyes in Pasadena.
Note the trend here: This decade belonged to USC. After somehow losing the opener at home to Missouri by 21 points, the Trojans went on an 11-game ride through the rest of the schedule. USC closed with wins over No. 2 UCLA (see above), No. 13 Notre Dame, and No. 2 Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Each of those games was decided by 10 points or less.
3. 1979 USC Trojans (11-0-1)
Other than an inexplicable tie against Stanford in the middle of the regular season, the Trojans dominated the schedule. USC beat three ranked teams on the road (LSU, Notre Dame, Washington), while also beating Texas Tech on the road. Another epic Rose Bowl win over No. 1 Ohio State capped off the season—and the decade—for the Trojans.
2. 1978 USC Trojans (12-1)
This USC team suffered the Arizona State heat during the early part of the season, dropping a 20-7 road game to the Sun Devils in their first year in the conference. Otherwise, the Trojans kicked butt, beating No. 1 Alabama on the road by double digits and beating five ranked teams overall, including No. 5 Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
1. 1972 USC Trojans (12-0)
This may be one of the greatest college footballs teams ever, as the Trojans beat six ranked teams by an average margin of almost three TDs each. Three of those victories came on the road, and USC capped off the season with a 42-17 win in the Rose Bowl over Ohio State. The last three wins, all over ranked teams, produced a 111-47 scoring margin.