With out of conference games scheduled against national juggernauts like LSU, Wisconsin, Notre Dame and Ohio State in 2012, (most) teams in the Pac-12 can't be accused of hiding from big time schools outside of the conference. While the number of quality out of conference games has started to shrink in recent years , the Pac-12 has long had a solid reputation for showing up in early season games against the nation's best and it has always been a good way to justify why the conference is just as strong as the other BCS conferences most years.
With USC carrying the torch, the conference has racked up some seriously impressive wins outside of the conference in recent years, with nine of the 10 wins featured in this list coming against a team that was ranked in the top ten nationally when the contest took place.
1. USC at Auburn, 2003
USC was coming off of their breakout season under Pete Carroll but many were still skeptical if they could maintain momentum, particularly with the graduation of Carson Palmer and the venue couldn't have been any more hostile in Auburn with the Tigers being ranked sixth in the country. The win serves as one of the most impressive overall performances by a Pac-12 team in recent history, as the Trojans shut out the Tigers in a 23-0 win led by Matt Leinart who was getting his first snaps ever as a starter. Winning on the road against one of the powers of the SEC in a season opener is impressive enough, but to do it with a new quarterback made it just that much more amazing.
2. USC at Notre Dame, 2005
Led by senior quarterback Brady Quinn and first year coach Charlie Weiss, the Irish got USC in South Bend in 2005 and were confident that it would be the year that they got the Trojans back after three straight embarrassing defeats. Playing on a field that had intentionally been left uncut and long in an attempt to slow the boys from LA down, the Trojans pulled off a last minute fourth quarter drive to just sneak by the Irish in a game, that up until the final moments, seemed like the Irish were destined to win. The game may be remembered for the infamous "Bush Push," but a huge fourth down conversion earlier in the game-winning drive on a pass from Leinart to Dwayne Jarrett probably actually made difference in one of the most thrilling games ever played in the series.
3. USC at Ohio State, 2009
Another impressive road win for the Trojans in a daunting venue, true freshman Matt Barkley led the Trojans on a game winning drive with just minutes left in Columbus in front of a frenzied crowd. The game may have been a defensive struggle, but Barkley played through a number of small injuries and instantly earned the label as the next great Trojan quarterback as he outplayed Buckeye QB Terrell Pryor. The last epic win of the Pete Carroll era at USC, the win capped Carroll's career as one of the best big game coaches in the history of college football.
4. Ohio State at USC, 2008
The Trojans impressively dismantled the fifth ranked Buckeyes, who were fresh off a national title game appearance and in the peak of the Jim Tressel era. The game was never in doubt as the Trojans put a serious beating on the boys from the Big 10, winning 35-3.
5. Michigan at Oregon, 2003
The Wolverines came into Autzen Stadium ranked third in the country and regarded as one of the best teams in the country after blasting a highly rated Notre Dame team the week before. Their trip to Eugene would start out poorly though with the Ducks running out to a 21-6 lead and shutting down the Wolverines running game. Michigan managed a furious comeback to almost pull out the game in the end, but the Ducks held on for their biggest non-conference win ever.
6. Notre Dame at USC, 2006
Pete Carroll absolutely owned Charlie Weiss during his tenure at Notre Dame and despite being ranked sixth in the country and fueled by revenge, the Irish were unable to even keep this one competitive, as the Trojans rolled to a 20 point victory that was never really in question. Carroll would only lose to Notre Dame once while at USC and no Irish team was ranked higher when he beat them than the 2006 edition.
7. Notre Dame at USC, 2002
Carroll's first win over Notre Dame was a rout, with the Trojans destroying the Irish in a 44-13 victory that would be a harbinger of things to come in the series as the Trojans offense passing game bombed the Irish and the Irish quarterback struggled. Notre Dame actually came into the game ranked higher than the Trojans at #9, but looked completely outclassed on the field and unable to compete with the Trojans athletically.
8. UCLA at Texas, 2010
This was one of those scores that you saw scroll across the bottom of the ticker on the screen and you had to second guess if it was actually the real score, as the unheralded Bruins went into Austin and beat the seventh ranked Longhorns 34-12. While the game may have ended up been more of a statement of how bad Texas was in 2010, going into Austin and beating a Top 10 Longhorn team, let alone by 22 points, is a feat that has to be recognized.
9. Iowa at Arizona, 2010
The peak of the Mike Stoops era in Tucson, the Wildcats held on against the tenth ranked Hawkeyes in a wild night game. The Wildcats jumped out to a 27-7 lead, but gave up 20 unanswered before a late touchdown pass from Nic Foles sealed the deal and gave the Wildcats one of the biggest non-conference wins in the history of the program.
10. Oklahoma at Oregon, 2006
The Ducks were greatly aided by benefiting from a controversial call on a last second onside kick that was awarded to the Ducks when it should have been given to the Sooners as they led 33-27 in the waning seconds. However, the win over the #11 Sooners is still a strong one, with the Ducks coming back from 13 points down with just over a minute to go in the game.