Friday, September 3, 2010

2010 Pac-10 Preview and Predictions

By Kshell

This upcoming Pac-10 season appears to be wide open. For the first time in a long time there are seven teams who have a shot at the Rosebowl. The three teams who most people don't think have a shot are USC who is ineligible because the Reggie Bush scandal finally got resolved(Apparently players can't buy their parents houses in college who knew right?), ASU who is coached by Dennis Erickson who wins everywhere he goes and lastly WSU who is well rebuilding under Wulff. This conference features four quarterbacks who could potentially be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. Even more amazing is none of those teams are the favorite to win the conference. I'll attempt to break down each school in one or two paragraphs then proceed with the predictions made by several contributors. I'll start in alphabetical order to not give away my predictions.

Arizona: The Wildcats return eight starters on offense and just four starters on defense from a team that finished last year 8-5 and took 2nd place in the conference. The Wildcats are led by one of the big four quarterbacks Nick Foles. Foles last season completed 63.4% of his passes for 2,485 yards(207.1 per game) while throwing for 19 touchdowns to just 9 interceptions. The Wildcats also return both leading rushers from last year Keola Antolin who ran for 638 yards and 5.6 YPC and Nic Grigsby 567 yards with a 7.2 YPC average.

Arizona last year suffered heartbreak in two losses last season. In fact during the regular season the Wildcats biggest loss of the year came at Iowa 27-17(A game Nick Foles didn't start). The Wildcats had Washington beat 33-28 up in Husky Stadium when Foles threw a pass to Delashaun Dean but it bounced off his foot which Mason Foster pick it up and ran it back for the game winning interception. Normally that would be the most heartbreaking loss of the season. The biggest loss by far was to Oregon.

The Oregon game was featured on ESPN and had its first every ESPN game day crew at its home stadium. The winner of this game was most likely going to the Rose bowl. For the Wildcats they have never been to the Rose bowl in their history. This was the biggest game in school history. Arizona led Oregon late in the 4th quarter 31-24 before Jeremiah Masoli capped an 80 yard drive which featured two 4th down conversations when he hit tight end Ed Dickson in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown. The crowd was about to storm the field instead they watched Oregon celebrate 44-41 in double overtime.

The Wildcats this year must learn to win those close games. They return alot on offense but they lost 7 starters from a quality defense last year. Mike Stoops has this program in the right direction having gone to a bowl game the past two seasons. The expectations in Tuscan this year is another bowl game.

Arizona State: Arizona State returns the least amount of starters amongst any team in the Pac-10 this 2010 season. The Sun Devils return just three starters on offense and four on defense. The Sun Devils are coming off back to back losing seasons. ASU started last season off 4-2 but ended the year in a tail spin losing six games in a row dropping their record to 4-8. The year before in 2008 also featured a six game losing streak in a disappointing 5-7 season.

Times have been rough for Dennis Erickson in his first three seasons in Tempe. Erickson began his career at ASU winning his first eight games and went 10-3 but now in year four he finds himself on the hot seat. Given that ASU has little experience and is just one of three teams breaking in a new quarterback this year look for them to struggle. The former two time national championship coach could find himself unemployed by seasons end.

Cal: Quick question which active Pac-10 quarterback is the leader in wins, games played and touchdown passes? Jake Locker you say? nope. Andrew Luck? To young. Its California quarterback Kevin Riley. California returns eight starters on offense including the senior Riley and six starters on defense. Riley last year completed only 54.7% of his passes for 2,850 yards(219.2 YPG) with 18 Touchdowns to just 8 interceptions.

California had a typical year under Jeff Tedford going 8-5. In fact this is a weird year for Tedford's Bears as they aren't ranked in the AP top 25 polls. Typically Cal is the preseason darling and is often ranked as high as 4th like last season then nose dives at some point during the year. One thing is certain Cal always has talent on its roster which will always make facing the Golden Bears under Jeff Tedford a very dangerous team.

Stanford: First of all I know I said alphabetical order but I'm also pairing the rivals together as well. Stanford is that program that everyone seems to like and why not? They return eight starters on offense including potential top 5 pick in the NFL draft quarterback Andrew Luck along with seven starters on defense. The team is led by Jim Harbaugh who despite being a former quarterback has turned Stanford into a smash mouth football team. Stanford last season went 8-5 and earned a trip to the Sun Bowl. The Cardinals are a bit in transition from last year.

Last season the Cardinals were led by senior running back Toby Gerhart who ran for 1,871 yards and 28 Touchdowns and finished 2nd in the closest ever Heisman race. The Cardinals leading rusher who returns is actually quarterback Andrew Luck who ran 354 yards(29.4 YPG). The team is fortunate as they return all five starting offensive lineman and Luck is a year older. Luck last season completed 56.2% of his passes for 2,575 yards(214.6 YPG) with 13 Touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. Many believe that this could be the year Stanford goes back to the Rosebowl. If the Cardinals have a big season look for Andrew Luck to leave early and if he does Jim Harbaugh could take the Michigan job if things fall as expected.

Oregon: Oregon fresh off its first Rosebowl appearance in 15 seasons returns nine guys on offense and eight guys on defense. Of course the big loss was first team all Pac-10 quarterback Jeremiah Masoli who was dismissed from the team for stealing a labtop amongst other things. Don't let Masoli absense fool you there is still plenty of talent on this team that went 10-3 a year ago. Darren Thomas will be asked to fill the shoes of Masoli. Thomas has only really seen action in mop up duty vs Boise State in 2008 where he looked pretty good. In a highly contested quarterback battle he beat out 5th year senior Nathan Costa.

The running game is the true strength of this spread attack. Thomas gives them a dimension they had back when Dennis Dixon was the quarterback back in 2007. Make no mistake about it had Dixon not gotton hurt in 2007 he would have won the Heisman trophy. LeMichael James is the star of this team. During his freshman year last year due to Lagarette Blount losing his temper in the first game of the year he was inserted into the starting role. James responded by rushing for 1,546 yards with 14 Touchdowns and a 6.7 YPC average. His backup Barner averaged 6.0 YPC last season. Teams in the Pac-10 have yet to figure out how to stop this spread rushing attack the past three seasons.

Oregon has a rough schedule this year having to go at USC, at California and at Oregon State. The Ducks return the most talent of any team in the conference. Can this finally be the year they break that 94 year streak of not winning a Rose Bowl? Its one thing to go to the Grand Daddy of them all but its another thing to win the game.

Oregon State: Growing up some things were always certain in life. Waking up going to school, watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and watching the Beavers suffer through another losing season. The Beavers went from 1971-1998 without a winning season. Those days are long gone as Mike Riley has turned this program around. Dennis Erickson was the head coach during the first winning season and Fiesta Bowl win but don't forget who recruited those players and that was Mike Riley. Riley has been very successful in his 2nd stint with the Beavers. This team returns eight starters on offense and seven starters on defense from a team that went 8-5 last year.

Riley is in the Jeff Tedford zone at Oregon State. He made a school that nobody noticed or cared about and made them something. Like Tedford he has also had a tough time getting them to that elite level. The Beavers have been knocking on the door the past two seasons needing just to beat hated rival Oregon to advance to the Rosebowl. Both times they lost to Oregon including last year blowing a double digit lead at Autzen Stadium. The Beavers lost first team all Pac-10 quarterback Sean Canfield but like Oregon don't let that fool you. Both Rodger brothers are back which makes Oregon State still dangerous.

Lets start with Jacquizz Rodgers who ran for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 78 passes for 522 yards. In a bigger market or on a team who was in the national spotlight he'd be the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy award. His brother James Rodgers last year had 91 receptions for 1,034 yards and 9 touchdowns and he also ran for 303 yards. Both Rodger brothers can beat with their rushing or their receiving. They are very versatile and make defensive coordinators across the Pac-10 lose sleep.

The Beavers typically have a strong defense every year and also struggle out of the gate. This year will be no different seeing how they play at #6 TCU then two weeks later player at #3 Boise State. Don't let the Beavers slow start trick you into thinking this is finally the year Oregon State hits the wall. As long as Riley is coach you know this team will be playing and most likely winning its bowl game come December. Just don't expect that bowl game to be in January.

UCLA: This is former UCLA quarterback and Rose Bowl MVP Rick Neuheisal third year with the Bruins. In two seaons with the team he has gone 4-8 in his first season but last year went 7-6 with a bowl win. UCLA returns seven guys on offense but just five guys on defense.

Under former Rose Bowl winning Head Coach Rick Neuheisal and National Championship Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow people expected plenty of offense from UCLA. That hasn't happened in two years. UCLA leading rusher last year ran for just 566 yards and their quarterback Kevin Prince threw for 8 Touchdown to 8 interceptions and just 186.4 YPG. Defensively they return the conference best player Rahim Moore who had 10 interceptions last season.

UCLA appears to be a year away and given Neuheisal is alumni UCLA will probably give him another season. UCLA should be worried though as Neuheisal in his previous two stops produced more in his first two seasons and he did his last two seasons. If Slick Rick's best two seasons just happened then yikes!

USC USC last year lost to a team who had gone 0-12 the previous year yet fans would gladly relive that day over and over compared to what their offseason looked like. USC lost long time head coach Pete Carroll to the Seattle Seahawks. They were also hit hard with sanctions going on probation and receiving a two year bowl ban. If that wasn't ban enough they hired Lane Kiffin as well(I'm just teasing Lane no need to frown at me man). USC is hard team to project because they have no motivation at all and there a team who has proven in the past needs to be motivated. On the other hand there is still plenty of four and five star recruits on this roster.

The Trojans return six guys on offense and six guys on defense from a team who had a "disasterous" 9-4 season last year. The team returns freshman sensation Matt Barkley. Barkley last season completed 59.9 % of his passes but had 15 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. In a sign that Barkley has improved he began this season throwing for five touchdowns and 78% of his passes in a win over Hawaii.

The Trojans still have plenty of talent left on the roster. They are no longer the clearcut favorites to win the Pac-10 this year. With Matt Barkley apparently maturing as a college quarterback and legendary defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin running the defense you'd have to think USC is still going to be a force.

Washington: Jake Locker is awsome. Read my 2010 Washington Huskies season preview if you want to read about the Huskies. The Huskies return more starters out of anyone in the conference. Okay I'm moving on now.

Washington State: Good news Cougar fans you return 18 starters from last season! Now the bad news comes in when I have to tell you that group went 1-11 last season. Paul Wulff the former WSU football player has found himself on the top of the coaches on the hot seat list. Wulff has gone 3-22 in his first two seasons at WSU. He has won two of those three games in overtime(Having never led in either game) and his other win was against Portland State. WSU has been scored upon more times than Britney Spears has in the past two seasons.

Now the only bright spot on Wazzu's roster is Jeff Tuel. He became the first Cougar true freshman to start a game since former #1 pick overall Drew Bledsoe did back in 1990. Tuel last season completed 58.7% of his passes for 6 Touchdowns and 5 interceptions. The Cougars must find a way to keep Tuel healthy to have any chance.

Looking at the Cougars schedule this is going to be another long year for them. When Wulff took over the program he inherited nothing and didn't stand a chance. He brought in a top 40 recruiting class this past offseason. Hope is on the horizen for the Cougs its just a matter of will Cougar fans want to sit through another year or two of horrible football.

Now its time for predictions. Before I reveal everyone's predictions I'll post up the official Pac-10 media predictions.

Pac-10 media predictions:

1. Oregon (15) ...................314
2. USC (12) .......................311
3. Oregon State (3) ............262
4. Stanford (1) ...................233
5. Arizona (2) ....................222
6. Washington (1) ..............209
7. California .......................175
8. UCLA (1) .......................134
9. Arizona State ...................81
10. Washington State .............39

Here is an interesting stat on the Pac-10 media polls predictions. On the left is who the media had predicted and what they had finished.On the right is what the Pac-10 champion was predicted to finish.

1961 UCLA 1st UCLA 1st
1962 Washington 2nd USC 2nd
1963 USC 2nd Washington 2nd
1964 Washington 3rd Oregon State 6th
1965 USC 2nd UCLA 7th
1966 USC 1st USC 1st
1967 USC 1st USC 1st
1968 USC 1st USC 1st
1969 USC 1st USC 1st
1970 USC 6th Stanford 2nd
1971 USC 2nd Stanford 2nd
1972 USC 1st USC 1st
1973 USC 1st USC 1st
1974 USC 1st USC 1st
1975 USC 5th UCLA 3rd
1976 USC 1st USC 1st
1977 USC 2nd Washington 3rd
1978 USC 1st USC 1st
1979 USC 1st USC 1st
1980 USC 3rd Washington 3rd
1981 USC 2nd Washington 4th
1982 USC 3rd UCLA 3rd
1983 Arizona 5th UCLA 5th
1984 UCLA 3rd USC 3rd
1985 USC 4th UCLA 5th
1986 UCLA 2nd Arizona State 4th
1987 UCLA 2nd USC 4th
1988 UCLA 2nd USC 2nd
1989 USC 1st USC 1st
1990 Washington 1st Washington 1st
1991 Washington 1st Washington 1st
1992 Washington 1st Washington 1st
1993 Washington 4th UCLA 6th
1994 Arizona 2nd Oregon 8th
1995 USC 1st USC 1st
1996 USC 5th Arizona State 2nd
1997 Washington 4th Washington State 7th
1998 UCLA 1st UCLA 1st
1999 Arizona 6th Stanford 8th
2000 Washington 1st Washington 1st
2001 Oregon 1st Oregon 1st
2002 Washington State 1st Washington State 1st
2003 USC 1st USC 1st
2004 USC 1st USC 1st
2005 USC 1st USC 1st
2006 USC 1st USC 1st
2007 USC 1st USC 1st
2008 USC 1st USC 1st
2009 USC 5th Oregon 3rd

Now onto the predictions.....

Isaac Rope from 1080 the Fan

The Pac-10 Media poll is out and to give you an idea of how wide open it is, seven teams received at least one first place vote. This is by far the toughest season to predict. I rank based on four criteria: #1. schedule #2. experience at QB #3. returning starters #4. coach. Here’s my poll:

1. Stanford - I’m on a limb, I know. 16 returning starters from the Pac-10’s second-place team a year ago. I love Jim Harbaugh and Andrew Luck is the best QB in the league. Key to the Rose Bowl will be road games at Oregon and Cal.

2. Oregon - Schedule doesn’t set up as nice this year and the QB situation, particularly with Nate Costa’s history of injuries, scares me. I keep going back to Costa’s performance at UCLA a year ago. Still one of most talented teams in the league and I love Chip Kelly’s ability to scheme. They’ll be in the hunt.

3. California - Watch out! No one’s talking about em’ but they won 8 games a year ago and the schedule sets up perfectly. The offense is balanced with experienced QB Kevin Riley and junior RB Shane Vereen. The defense will be much improved under new D Coordinator Clancy Pendergrast. Sleeper to make the Rose Bowl.

4. Oregon State - Very few holes to fill off a team that was sniffing the Rose Bowl. Ryan Katz is a dynamite QB but the Beavers chances rest on his ability to grow and get better. The schedule is extremely difficult but 17 starters are back. I fully expect another strong end product with a few bumps along the way.

5. UCLA - Converting to the “pistol” offense says it all. Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow don’t have faith in QB Kevin Prince. This way, they’ll run more and take pressure off him. Schedule is solid and the defense is as experienced and talented as any in the league. They’ll be in alot of ball games.

6. Washington - I love Jake Locker and the Huskies dynamic offense. They are bowl bound in 2010 but I don’t see them winning a ton of road games and they have tough ones @ BYU, USC, Arizona, Oregon and Cal.

7. USC - Going through the motions due to probation. Just 5-4 in the Pac-10 last year. I don’t buy the new coach and keep in mind the Trojans have the fewest returning starters in the Pac-10. Back to reality for USC.

8. Arizona - Everybody loves em’ and I see why. The schedule sets up wonderfully. However, Mike Stoops scares me and they are only return 4 starters on defense. If any team will burn me it’ll be the Cats but somebody has to be eighth, right?

9. Arizona State - Fewest returning starters and they brought their kicker to Media Day. Enough said.

10. Washington State - 18 returning starters but the talent still isn’t there.

Ben Zimmerman Sports Editor of the Longview Daily News
1. Stanford
2. Oregon
3. Oregon St.
4. Washington
5. California
7. USC
8. Arizona
9. Arizona State
10. Washington State

Marc Hewitt High School Referee and Former Highschool Football/Basketball coach

1. Oregon Ducks- There Defense has just about everyone coming back, James-Burner in the back field will be hard to stop.
2. Stanford- Luck is the best QB in the league, it's hard to believe there not ranked in the top 25, there still a good team without Gearhart.
3. Oregon State- Rogers brothers are tough to stop, if katz plays well they can win it.
4. USC- There defense will struggle but there offense is good. They will be in alot of shoot outgames this year.
5. Arizona- Love there defense and Foles will be a good quarterback.
6. Washington- Locker will be good, but Defense/special teams I do not believe in.
7. California- Should be interesting who replaces best.
8. ASU- Erickson needs to retire and get a place in Courtside for his retirement.
9. UCLA- Prince will keep them in some games.
10. WSU- Slowly getting better.

Tyler Keefe of the Mean Green Report
Oregon 10-2
USC* 10-3
Washington 9-3
Oregon State 7-5
Arizona 7-5
Stanford 6-6
California 5-7
UCLA 4-8
Arizona State 4-8
Washington State 1-11

Christian Caple of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News and formerly Sports Editor of UW's the Daily

1. Oregon: Too much offensive firepower for anyone else in the conference to handle. People might forget Jeremiah Masoli ever played for them by the end of the season.

2. Stanford: If not for Jake Locker, Andrew Luck would be the most hyped player in this conference. Losing Toby Gerhart hurts, but this team is going to be tough despite that fact. Luck could go down as one of Stanford greats.

3. Arizona: Wildcats really look like a solid team in all aspects. Only question is if they can find the extra boost to separate themselves from the conference's elite.

4. USC: The Trojans will win in spite of Lane Kiffin, who only seems comfortable when everyone else hates him. Postseason ban doesn't impact USC's athleticism, of which it still has plenty.

5. Oregon State: Jacquizz and James Rodgers are still the big weapons, but don't be surprised if Ryan Katz is the next OSU quarterback to put up big numbers. As long as nobody gets arrested, the Beavers could compete for the Pac-10 title.

6. Washington: Probably the best example of how high the parity rate in the Pac-10 is this season. Nobody would be surprised to see them finish here, and I don't think too many people would be stunned to see them finish as high as third, either. It hinges on Locker, obviously, and whether they can keep him and Chris Polk healthy all season. More speed and strength on defense is going to have to be apparent for the Huskies to really make the kind of statement they want to this season.

7. California: Tough to pick the Bears this low, but just don't see a reason for putting them higher. Of course, that means they'll probably win the conference. First season in a while there haven't been lofty expectations in Berkeley.

8. UCLA: Bruins probably at least a year away from seeing Slick Rick's offensive prowess really come to fruition. If Kevin Prince comes back healthy, they might surprise some people. But that offense has been too weak the past two seasons to put any faith behind.

9. Arizona State: Might have the best defense in the conference, but no offense to speak of at this point. Though isn't it hard to imagine a Dennis Erickson-coached team having two poor offensive seasons in a row? His job might be in jeopardy if that's what happens.

10. Washington State: Cougars could be most improved team in the conference and still finish 1-11. That's how bad things have been for them recently. Only sure thing is Montana State, and it'd be asking a lot for WSU to beat anyone in this year's Pac-10. Best case scenario is Jeff Tuel stays healthy, has a decent season, and Paul Wulff can point to promise for next year as justification for keeping his job.

SeattleHawk94 contributer to the Seattle Sports Blog

1. Yucks
2. University of Spoiled Children
3. Crudinal
4. Wildkittens
5. Ugly Caucasians Living with Asians
6. Fuskies
7. Calistan
8. Beavos
9. AzzU
10. Wulffgang Suck

Patton Richard contributer to the Seattle Sports Blog

1.) Oregon St
The last 2 years they have played for the conference title in the last game of the season. I think they have a stronger squad this year (After not losing much) and will win the Pac-10

2.) Oregon
Is tough to figure out, they have a lot of speed everywhere and multiple scary running backs, however they are starting Darron Thomas at QB and although he's a pretty good fit for the system they run, he's not a very good qb.

3.) Washington
And hopefully going to the Holiday Bowl!

4.) USC
I'm one of the few people who thinks Lane Kiffin can actually coach, I also think the staff around him can as well. Tennessee was not a good team last year and he played most teams tough.

5.) Stanford
I like Andrew Luck as an NFL QB, I don't like him to carry the Cardinal,

6.) Cal
Could be much better if Shane Vereen goes crazy and launches himself onto the heisman scene.

7.) Arizona
Nick Foles is the 2nd best QB in the Pac-10, but they have no one for him to throw the ball to.

8.) UCLA
Still a year away from all the talent doing anything

9.) Arizona St
Needs more talent, everywhere except wherever Burfinct is.

10.) WSU
Will not be good. But they will lose a lot closer this year opposed to last.

misanthropicsportsfan contributer of the Seattle Sports Blog

Umm, college football, not really my strong point. I know, I know, I'm supposed to be all excited about the love of the game. But being a student at a university where half the members of the student body aren't even aware you have a football team tends to reduce one's pure love of the game. Still, the Pac 10, lots of feeder talent for REAL football. So how will it all play out this year, welp, here's my guesses based on minimal logic and a whole lot of hearsay.

1. Oregon - My inside source (okay, an Oregon fan I know) swears that Nate Costa won't make it past the first half of the first game before he gets shown the bench for the new super athletic young black QB that Chip Kelly has recruited. I can't wait to read about his upcoming arrest for domestic violence...what, too soon?

Addendum: So I've learned that in fact Costa couldn't even make it to the regular season. Sorry kid. But hey, you're just two serious arrests away from getting another shot at the job. Keep up your hope.

2. USC - Until proven otherwise, I pencil them in here. Shame it won't get them post season play. Oh well, that's the breaks when you get caught with yer hand in the cookie jar as my momma always said.

3. Oregon State - Only because we will blow at least one or two games early in the schedule against teams we're better than (Yes, I'm a Beavers fan. No, I don't need your pity. I'll take my 8-9 wins and a bowl game every year, thankyouverymuch).

4. UCLA - Because I need more Slick Rick in my life.

5. Washington - Because top flight QBs are worth at least two to three wins you don't deserve.

6. Stanford - See Washington, but more like one to two 'cause there's really only one Jake Locker.

7. Cal - Jeff Tedford continues to tread water. Berkley continues to not care. But hey, at least we were all wrong about his ability to produce NFL QB's.

8. Arizona - Because they're not Arizona State.

9. Arizona State - Because they're not Washington State.

10. Washington State - Because sometimes, it's just a rough few years.

Pinnin4gold contributer and co-manager of the Seattle Sports Blog

1. Oregon
2. USC
3. Oregon State
4. Stanford
5. Washington
6. Arizona
7. California
9. Arizona State
10. WSU

Kshell the coach, gm and owner of the Seattle Sports Blog

This pains me but my predictions are

1. Oregon- They will win the conference with two losses including one at home
2. USC- Still very talented and explosive. The program is on the decline
3. Oregon State- Same ole Beavers, good team who finishes in the top half but doesn't win the conference
4. Stanford- Losing a guy who finishes 2nd in the Heisman hurts. Having a quarterback drafted in the top 5 sure helps though.
5. UW- Huskies have a brutal road schedule this year which isn't good for a team who hasn't won a road game since 2007. Jake Locker and plenty of talent should be enough though.
6. Arizona- Arizona is going in the right direction and Nick Foles is a future NFL quarterback
7. Cal- They doesn't feel right but Cal doesn't have that big time game changer this year unlike years past.
8. UCLA- Funny putting the only Rosebowl winning coach 8th but the offense just isn't there.
9. ASU- Returns few talent, the only National Championship coach in this conference is about to lose his job.
10. Washington State- After this year Wulff's record will be 4-33. I guess theres always cow tipping season for the Cougs.

I put them in tiers. I think in the first tier is Oregon, USC and Oregon State. Then Next tier is Stanford, UW and Arizona. The following tier is Cal. The next tier is UCLA and ASU and then the final tier is Wazzu.

If you have finished reading this entire column then more power to you. The great thing about predictions is they don't matter. We'll find out on the field this up coming year so if your favorite team was picked low on here just remember this Pac-10 race is wide open.

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