Thursday, September 02, 2010
PAC-10 FOOTBALL PREVIEW*
If you were calling the plays for USC, why wouldn't you go for 2 after every touchdown, never punt, and frequently onside kick? What do you have to lose? The Trojans can win the Pac-10, but can't play in the postseason. But I suspect they'll play a role in determining who gets to the Rose Bowl.
1. OREGON DUCKS
Losing QB Jeremiah Masoli hurts. But all 5 o-linemen return. And RB LaMichael James will be back after a 1,546 yard, 14 TD freshman campaign. The defense is this team's strength. Excellent LBs, small but quick d-line, and adept DBs. They didn't lose at home last year, and haven't lost in Eugene since September of '08. Unfortunately for them, they play USC and Oregon State on the road.
10/30 @ USC
12/4 @ Oregon State
Prediction: 10-2, Pac-10 Champions
2. OREGON STATE BEAVERS
There'll have to be a new QB in Corvallis, but the star will be RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who ran for 1,440 yards, 21 TDs, and also had 522 receiving yards. 4/5 of the o-line returns, and the Beavers will likely improve what was the 26th highest scoring offense in the country last year. However, the defense will ultimately bar them from the Rose Bowl. They have no pass rush, and the LBs are weak. I'll give them credit for a ballsy non-conference schedule. And in something that might be deemed karma, they get to play USC and Oregon at home.
9/4 vs. TCU (in Arlington, TX)
9/25 @ Boise State
11/20 vs. USC
12/4 vs. Oregon
3. SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TROJANS
I'm not sold on Matt Barkley. His 15 TD, 14 INT campaign was pretty bad. The Trojans were in unfamiliar territory in '09. They were 69th in scoring offense, and 55th in total offense. But their defense was even worse. They allowed 55, 47, and 36 points to Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State, respectively. But they return their front 7 pretty much intact, so they should be older and wiser. The secondary is brand new. But a manageable non-conference schedule, and the mediocrity of the Pac-10 will inflate USC's win total. But they won't beat either team from Oregon.
10/30 vs. Oregon
11/20 @ Oregon State
The rest of the conference is listed alphabetically...
QB Nick Foles leads the way. He threw for 2,486 yards last year and was a pleasant surprise in Tucson. They return some solid WRs for him to play catch with. The Wildcats have some excellent pass-rushing ends, but there are major holes at LB. That being said, Arizona will build on their back-to-back bowl seasons and continue to progress.
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS:
ASU features an awful offense, that was 91st in scoring last year. On the bright side, they only return 3 starters. They do have quality kickoff and return units. And the defense is outstanding. They led the Pac-10 in rushing, passing, and total defense. They were 2nd in scoring. Four of the Front 7 return, although the secondary will be quite vulnerable.
CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
Don't expect much from Cal. They're definitely #2 in the Bay Area, and might be #4 in all of California. Although RB Shane Vereen will be fun to watch (almost as fun as saying his name out loud). He ran for 952 yards and 12 scores despite only starting 4 games last year. They desperately need receivers, and their defense is a mess. Particularly the defensive backs.
I think losing Gerhart hurts a lot more than people think. It's the Pac-10, so with a competetive offense, and a forgettable defense, Stanford will still contend. But against the likes of USC or the Oregon teams, Stanford will be blown away.
"Progress" is the word for UCLA. And they need a lot more of that on offense, especially with the ground attack. The Bruins were 97th in rushing last year. That must change. They had a good 2009 campaign, but lost some vital defensive leaders. Then again, they have good DBs, and a few key guys remain.
NFL prospect Jake Locker returns for his final attempt to get Washington to a bowl game. He threw for 2,800 yards and 21 scores last year, and holds almost every quarterbacking record at the school. He's surrounded by talent on offense, with 9 returning starters, including RB Chris Polk who ran for 1,113 yards his freshman season. The defense, however, is shaky. The d-line is weak. But the secondary might be a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, Locker's college career will end with the regular season finale at Washington State, and not in a bowl game.
WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
Last alphabetically, and last in the Pac-10. The Huskies haven't won a game played outside of Washington since October of 2006. They were outscored by an average of 38.5 to 12 last year. Their only win of '09 was a 30-27 victory over SMU, who they'll play on the road in 2010. Montana State should help double their win total to 2.