Wednesday, August 20, 2008

College Football 2008 Conference Preview: Pac 10

It's our turn to break-down the Pac 10.

Predicted Order of Finish:
1. USC
When was the last time USC was not the favorite to win the Pac 10? For the first time it seems like the Trojans will have a more dominant defense than offense. 11 starters return in all, 7 on defense on and 4 on offense. QB John David Booty is gone and now it is Mark Sanchez's turn to take over. The stable of running backs is still very deep and they have 6 capable backs who can play at any time; Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight are the two leading candidates there. Sanchez should have a superb group of wide-outs to throw to in Vidal Hazelton, Patrick Turner, and Arkansas transfer Damian Williams. Expect this group to be much improved from last season. The defense is arguably the best in the nation. The LB corps is loaded with Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing. The defensive line will be excellent with Everson Griffen leading the way. The secondary returns all 4 starters and it will be hard to pass on this bunch.

2. Arizona St.
ASU will once again have a lot of pressure on them to perform from the loyal fan base and program. This year could be their year as they return a solid offense. QB Rudy Carpenter is a great player but he needs his line to protect him, as they gave up 55 sacks last season; but they've been working hard with their OL all of spring and summer. The RB core is nice with some beefy runners and the WRs will be stellar with Mike Jones (Who?) and Chris McGaha back. The defense looks to be improved with many starters in-tact on this side of the ball as well. This side of the ball returns 7 starters.

3. Oregon
5th year senior Justin Roper looks to be the QB to take the helms of Dennis Dixon after throwing for 4 TD in last seasons Sun Bowl. 12 starters are back in all including 5 on the offensive side. If Roper can put up some consistent numbers that come somewhat close to what Dixon put up, the Ducks could be a big threat in the Pac 10. Jermiah Johnson is an underrated RB and could be one of the best backs in the conference. They have some capable pass-catchers but they need someone to step up as a clear No. 1. The O-Line should be a strong suit. The defense should be pretty good with a solid LB corps and one of the best secondaries in the nation.

4. Oregon St.
The Beavers return 10 starters but there's no reason to believe they cannot finish in the top 4 of the league. QB Lyle Moevao was 4-0 as a starter last season and should excel as a full-time starter this season. The Beavers have always relied on a premier RB but this year there are some unknowns, look for Ryan McCants to carry the load. The WR Department has amazing depth and the O-Line has some promising bigs'. The defense should be the bread and butter of the team. The D-Line returns some key contributors who put a lot of pressure on opposing QBs. Looks for some transfers to step up as well. The LB group could experience some growing pains trying to replace all 3 starters. The secondary is loaded as all 4 starters have combined for 98 starts among them.

5. California
Cal looked like a Rose Bowl and even a BCS Championship contender in the first half of 2007. But in the 2nd half they struggled mightily and QB Nate Longshore looked very inconsistent. Longshore is back and wants to continue the success he had back in 2006. The offense seems pretty stagnant as no starting position players return. The offensive line is inexperienced but has some depth to spare. The defense will be a little more experienced than the offense. The LB department is solid with all 3 starters back plus some quality back-ups. The D-Line was mediocre last season and needs to pick up the slack, but the secondary has plenty of talent, which includes safeties Bernard Hicks and Marcus Ezeff.

The Bruins have some QB problems as of right now. Patrick Cowan suffered a season-ending ACL injury back in spring practice and now Ben Olsen broke his right foot earlier this month. SDSU transfer Kevin Craft is expected to get the nod for the season opener vs. Tennessee in two weeks. There is no clear set RB right now as both leading candidates are coming off knee injuries. Marcus Everett returns for a fifth season at WR, there should be a mix of experienced receivers and freshmen getting playing time. They have one of the best DT tandems in the nation in Brigham Harwell and Brian Price.

7. Arizona
QB Willie Tuitama is one of the best QBs in the conference and may be one of the most under-appreciated in the country. This could be a do or die season for head coach Mike Stoops as he looks for his first winning season and bowl trip at Zona. Nic Grigsby is a capable RB and 6 WR return which should give them tremendous depth. The season will highly depend on the defense as they look to break-in 7 new starters.

8. Washington
The Huskies should benefit quite a bit from a tough schedule last season and they should again with another tough one this season. QB Jake Locker could be a Heisman candidate someday. Brandon Johnson looks to break-in at RB with his speed. No returning wide-outs return which will be a problem. The offensive line should help with 3 full-time starters back and some quality back-ups. The defense is very suspect with a very inexperienced front and secondary.

9. Stanford
The Card can build off an historic upset over USC last season. The program may be on the uprising after that huge win when it comes to the fan base and recruiting. QB Tavita Prichard is back after his stunning TD throw to trounce the Trojans. The backfield is pretty thin but if Anthony Kimble stays healthy, he'll be the main man. The WR core is inexperienced and needs Richard Sherman to step up. They are lucky to have an experienced O-Line back. The defense has some bright spots but they need some play makers to step up to help the veterans. Look for the Line backing corps to head the defense.

10. Washington St.
2008 will be a transition year for the team. They are breaking in a new spread option offense with a new QB. That QB looks to be 5th year senior Gary Rogers. The backfield has some capable backs with returning starter Dwight Tardy and a solid back-up in Chris Ivory. All-American candidate Brandon Gibson is back at WR. 4 starters do return on the O-Line, but the new offense will provide some bumps for them. The defense looks to improve after having one of the worst in the Pac 10 last season. The D-Line and secondary need some play makers to step up.

Offensive Player of the Year:
Rudy Carpenter, QB- Arizona St.

Defensive Player of the Year:
Rey Maualuga, LB- USC

Freshman of the Year:
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB- Oregon St.

Coach of the Year:
Dennis Erickson- Arizona St.

Top 3 Games:
Arizona St. at USC- Oct. 11

Oregon at Oregon St.- Nov. 29

USC at UCLA- Dec. 6

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