Offense: USC lost enough quality players to stock and NFL expansion team. Most teams would be rebuilding but So Cal isn't most teams, especially on offense. They still have a pair of outstanding wide outs Jr WR Dwayne Jarrett (1,274 and 16 TD's) and Sr. WR Steve Smith. The biggest question for the So Cal offense is how they will replace Matt Leinert and Reggie Bush. They will try doing so with a pair of juniors QB John David Booty and RB Chauncey Washington both of them capable of stepping up and making big contributions. The strongest position on offense might be the offensive line with two ALL-Americans (LT Sam Baker and C Ryan Kalil) both of them should make it a lot easier for USC to transition this season and keep the USC tradition of winning going. I look for USC offense to be very productive again this season this is just too much talent on this side of the ball.
Defense: The USC defense suffered an unusual slump last year, something the Pete Carroll is hoping to get turned around. He will attempt to this this with new DC Nick Holt. The cupboard will not be bare with six returning starters. The defensive line look to be one of the strengths for the Trojans led by All -American candidate Jr. DE Lawrence Jackson (10 sacks) and Jr. NT Sedrick Ellis. The linebackers also look very strong with three players that received considerable playing time last season. If the secondary can stay healthy this season they should be one of the best in the Pac 10. If the defense can step it up under new DC the Trojans will be in the hunt for another Pac 10 title.
Player to keep your eye on: This season success will depend allot on the play QB John David Booty. If the former No 1 prep quarterback in America can step up and play at a high level there shouldn't be much of a dip in the Trojans offense.
Offense: The Golden Bears offense ranked 9th in the nation last year in rushing and 26th overall in total offense. You would think HC Jeff Tedford would be happy with such a performance but that was not the case. In the offseason they hired Northwestern Wildcats OC to integrate the spread offense with the Golden Bears power rushing game. With eight starters returning on offense their biggest concern is finding a QB. So Nate Longshore, who won job last season only to break his leg in the season opener against Sacramento State, was listed # 1 coming out of spring ball. Whoever is the starting QB they will rely on RB Marshawn Lynch (1,246 yards and 10 TD's) to carry the load and help take some of the pressure off the passing game. The biggest beneficiaries of the new spread offense could be the talented group of WR's Sophmore DeSean Jackson (601 yards and 7 TD's) and Jr. Robert Jordan. The Golden Bears should again be strong this year on offense and with a little luck might end up winning the Pac 10.
Defense: The defense returns 13 of the top 16 tacklers from a team that led the conference in scoring defense (21.2 points per game 26th in the nation). With defensive line and line-backing corps virtually intact the Golden Bears look again to be loaded on defense. The key to their defense this season is forcing more turnovers and limiting big plays in a conference that in known to have some high powered offenses. If there secondary can step up and if they bring the bend – but – don't – break mentality the Golden Bears defense could carry them to a Pac 10 title.
Player to keep your eye on: RB Marshawn Lynch had a great Sophmore season and will look to put himself among the elite this season when it comes to running backs. A good season will put him in the driver’s seat for the Heisman Trophy for 2007.
Offense: Oregon's offense should be potent with seven starters returning, including all of the offensive line. With a strong group of WR's lead by James Finley (571 yards and 2 TD's) they should be able to spread the field and make a lot of big plays. No team ran more plays per game (83) than Oregon last year. The new rules shaving the times of games will adversely affect Mike Bellotti's up-tempo offense. With a good offensive line that has know how and experience this should allow the Ducks QB 's the time it takes to let its talented skill position players get down the field and make plays. With the Pac-10 going to, nine-game conference schedule, the Ducks will be hard-pressed to compete for the title, but could sneak up on tams if taken lightly.
Defense: The Ducks defense returns five defensive starters, this should allow the defense to return to form (44th in total defense). Their ability to stop the run and pass makes the Ducks defense very valuable in a conference that loaded with offensive talent. The strength of the defense is the LB's, Brent Haberly and Blair Phillips who anchor the defense. The big thing for the Ducks is how they can replace All- American DT Haloti Hgata, who sometime occupied three blockers and DB Aaron Gipson who led the nation in interceptions. There will be some holes to fill here, but with four of the five returning starters being seniors they have the experience they need to be among the league’s top defenses.
Player to keep your eye on: WR James Finley had a breakout year for the Ducks last season as a Jr. He should give the Ducks QB's a go to target that can get down the field. I look for James improve on last year season and be one of the better WR's receivers in the Pac 10.
Offense: There will be NO problems on this side of the ball, they are absolutely loaded. They have two excellent QB's (Rudy Carpenter 2,273 yards and 17TD's) and Sam Keller who started last year before going down with a thumb injury and may start again this year. They also have a ton of talent on the outside and maybe the nation’s top TE Zach Miller. The Sun Devils offense was one of the nation’s best last season (7th in scoring offense 36.8 points per game and 2nd in total offense) and I look for that trend again to stay the same this year. If there is one area they could look to improve in it would be the running game, they will look to talented So. RB Keegan Herring (870 yards and 6 TD's) to shoulder most of the responsibility. The Sun Devils will again be explosive this year 30-40 point games seem to be the norm with this team.
Defense: As good as the offense is they can't get into shoot outs every game; the defense will have to play much better than they did in 2005. Allowing 29.9 points per game (86th in the nation) will have to improve dramatically for the Sun Devils to contend in the Pac 10. They are hoping a trio of defensive line transfers will help make a difference. Making matters even worse is that they will have to replace its best defensive players from last season (LB Dale Robinson and LB Jamar Williams) and both its starting DB's. If there is a bright spot on this side of the ball it is that there are five returning starters with four of them being seniors. Their best defense this season may be their running game if they can get it going and allow their defense to rest the Sun Devils might have a shot of sneaking up some teams.
Player to keep your eye on: QB Sam Keller how does he come back from his thumb injury? Will he be looking over his shoulder this season with Rudy Carpenter waiting in the wings? Sam has the talent to lead the Sun Devils offense and his strong arm is something that will help the Sun Devils push the ball down the field.
Offense: The Cardinals return ten starters on offense, but the offensive line will be the determining factor in the Cardinals success. There's an old Pac-10 adage that says bet on the team with the best senior quarterback. Cardinals may have the Pac 10 QB in Trent Edwards (1,934 yards and 17 TD's). Edwards has some weapons on offense at his disposal with a pair of senior WR's and a senior TE. The offense should be able to step it up this season and improve on their 24.5 pts per game average (71st in the nation) and will also need to improve their running game (110th in the nation) if they are to compete in the Pac 10.
Defense: The Cardinals defense was like sieve in 2005 giving up 30.6 points per game. The defensive line will be the main rebuilding project for 2006, a highly touted recruit (Ekom Udofia) out Scottsdale maybe just what the doctor ordered. The one bright spot was at linebacker with Mike Silvia and Michael Okwo stepped up and made allot of big plays. If the Cardinals can mustard up some "D" this season to help out the offense they may give a few teams some troubles.
Player to keep your eye on: Senior QB Trent Edwards is one the nation’s top QB's and if the offensive line gives him the protections he need he can really carve up a secondary. The big thing with Edwards is keeping him healthy; he has had a history of getting banged up.
BEST OF THE REST
Washington State – The Cougars should have one of the highest – scoring units in the Pac 10, led by WR Jason Hill (1,097 yards and 13 TD's) a legitimate All – American candidate. QB Alex Brink (2,891 yards and 24 TD's) know how to get his talented group of WR's the ball , if Brink can cut down the interceptions this season this could good be a big year for the Cougar offense that averaged 33.5 points per game (21st in the nation) and over 489 yards in total offense (8th in the nation). As good as the offense was at scoring points the defense was just as good at giving them up, over 31 points per game (97th in the nation). The good news is the Cougars have seven returning starters including DE Mkristo Bruce (10 sacks) who has a way of getting in the offensive backfield and disrupting plays. A few plays here and a few plays there could help the Cougars propel themselves to the top of the league.
Oregon State – If the Beavers offense is going to be improved this season from last it will be because of the progress of QB Matt Moore (2,711 yards and 11 TD's) has made. With 19 interceptions last season he will have to work on becoming more consistent to give the Beavers a chance in the tough Pac 10. Leaning on the running game this season will also play a big part in the success of the Beavers; luckily they have some good legs to lean on with RB Yvenson Bernard (1,321 yards and 13 TD's). With eight returning starters making a run for a bowl this season is legit possibility. Defense or lack thereof is the side of the ball needs the most improvement. The front seven is undergoing a total makeover and will try increasing their 22 sacks from last season. The Beavers will also have to cut down on the big plays allowed, the Beavers had 56 plays of 25 or more yards and receivers averaged 16.3 yards per catch. If and this is a big " if " defense can step up the Beavers will have a good chance of going bowling at the end of the year.
UCLA – The Bruins were dynamite on offense last year but gone is seven of the eleven offensive starters from a team that averaged over 39 points per game. They will look to strong armed QB Ben Olson (top QB in the country coming out of High School) to show what he can do at quarterback and take the helm of the offense. Replacing RB Maurice Drew will not be easy task either; RB Chris Markey (561 yards and 3 TD's) will try to fill those shoes. We will have to wait and see with the Bruins offense, there is a lot of talent there but unproven. Like most teams in the Pac 10 defense is optional and that is was no different with the Bruins allowing 34.2 points per game (108th in the nation). In the offseason DC Larry Kerr was let go and replaced DeWayne Walker who spent the last nine years working in the NFL. The good news is Walker has six returning starters defense, so there is some experience there. The question is can he get this Bruin defense to gel in a new system. This could be a down year for the Bruins in a strong Pac 10.
Arizona – The Wildcats finished (3 – 8) for the second straight year, but the Wildcats were competitive in all but two games. If the Wildcats are to get over the hump and finish games they will have to be more productive on offense (22.9 points per game 80th in the nation). The good thing for the Wildcats is that they may have found their quarterback Willie Tuitama (1,105 yards and 9 TD's) after taking over the position in game seven of last year, Tuitama pulled off upsets over UCLA and Oregon State in successive weeks. This season Tiutama should have some decent weapons on the outside to throw to WR Mike Thomas (771 yards and 5 TD's) and Syndric Steptoe. The Wildcats could be the surprise team of the Pac 10 if they get their offense going. The Wildcats defense is deep, talented and has speed all over the field. If there offense can stay on the field a little longer this season and give the Wildcat "D" a break every once in a while this defense should be able to do some very special things this season. In a conference that is loaded with good offenses the Wildcats have one of the best defenses, and could allow them to stay in games.
Washington – This team had a rough go it last season under first year coach Ty Willingham. If the rebuilding process is to move forward it will largely depend on the success of QB Isaiah Stanback (2,136 yards and 9 TD's). On the outside looking in this team has talent at the skill positions but has never seemed to put all together. If they get big years out of WR Sonny Shackleford (592 yards and 2 TD's) and RB position which is still up for grabs this team could maybe get to five wins which in the minds of most Huskies fans would be a success. On defense a weak and undersized defensive line has given the Huskies problems in the past, this has allowed opposing QB's to take advantage of the time in the pocket to find wide open receivers down field for big gains. Getting to the QB is goal # 1 for this defense. This could help a secondary that was burned for 3,033 yards and 66% completion rate. It looks to me like another tough year for the Huskies, well there always 2007.
PACIFIC TEN OUTLOOK
It looks like the conference will come down to USC, California and Arizona State and not exactly in that order. The Trojans are not just going to walk through the conference like they have in years past there is some formidable competition and some offenses with the same amount of fire power to get in track meet with the Trojans. Teams that could sneak up on the top three are Oregon, Washington State both these teams have high powered offense and if there " D " can get a stop here or a stop there they could find themselves upsetting the Trojans , Bears or Sun Devils. This conference should be one of the competitive and fun to watch conferences in the country. If you like high scoring football with little defense then this is the conference for you, games in the 40's are very common. The team that has their defense step up and make plays when they count will be in the driver’s seat to win the Pac 10. The bottom line is how do the Trojans replace all those star players? If they find a way to reload like they have in the past they should be able to win the Pac 10 and maybe the National Championship with some luck.
PACIFIC TEN PROJECTIONS
3. ARIZONA STATE
6. WASHINGTON STATE
7. OREGON STATE
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