Pac 12

2010 College Football Preview: PAC-10

| by

It is baseball season, but there are plenty of ways to get your fill of football too. Our own Danny Hobrock is on the beat making his way across the College Football landscape exhaustively covering team after team. These previews will get you up to snuff with everything you need to know about the transition to each 2010 team.

Each team preview covers the team's outlook and projection for the 2010 season. We've got in depth coverage of each team's offense, defense and special teams. We'll cover who's in and who's out, and players from true freshmen to four year starters and pro prospects. Finally, we'll look at strategy and style of play on both sides of the ball, as well detailed information about coaches and players.

Today Danny is previewing the PAC-10 Conference teams - Oregon DucksWashington HuskiesOregon State BeaversUSC TrojansArizona WildcatsCalifornia Golden BearsStanford CardinalUCLA BruinsArizona State Sun Devils, and Washington State Cougars. Clicking on each team's logo will take you right to the team's preview.

Check back often between now and the September 2nd season kick-off as new team previews are going up almost every day. Clicking here or on the NCAA Football in the right sidebar will take you to the page containing all the previews published to date.

Popular Video

This judge looked an inmate square in the eyes and did something that left the entire courtroom in tears:

  1. Oregon Ducks
  2. Washington Huskies
  3. Oregon State Beavers
  4. USC Trojans
  5. Arizona Wildcats
  6. California Golden Bears
  7. Stanford Cardinal
  8. UCLA Bruins
  9. Arizona State Sun Devils
  10. Washington State Cougars

Oregon Ducks

Pac-10 Champions

This is assuming that the Ducks offense doesn't lose too much of a step without Masoli. The spread offense requires good reads from the quarterback and either Costa or Thomas must make good decisions for this team to be successful. Costa has been around the program for a while and knows the offense well. While younger and less experienced, Thomas will likely lead this team in the future, whether that begins in 2010 or 2011. Both quarterbacks have their qualities and whichever wins out in the fall will be the key to another Pac-10 title and trip to the Rose Bowl.

The running game should again be the strength of the offense with James returning following a 1,500 yard season as a freshman and Barner, who was also a freshman a year ago, as his backup. They'll run behind a solid offensive line that returns all five starters and features four upperclassmen. On the defensive side of the ball, the pass defense will be interesting to watch this year with depth at the safety position and promise at the corner position. The linebackers may be the strength of the defense, while the pass rush should be strong off the edges.

The Pac-10 is a tight race with several teams entering the season with a legitimate shot at earning a trip to the Rose Bowl. While the Trojans cannot win the Pac-10 or a trip to a bowl game, they'll likely be fired up enough to make as much of the regular season as they can, disrupting their conference rivals' hopes of winning the conference and playing spoiler whenever they can. Oregon enters the season the favorite (arguably), but will by no means run through the Pac-10 the way the Trojans had in the last decade.

Washington Huskies

2nd Pac-10

The matchup with Oregon in early November could hold a lot of weight in how both teams finish in the conference. With USC no longer the dominant force they once were, things opened up last season in the Pac-10 and should do the same this season. Even if the Trojans compete for the conference crown, the days of playing solely for second place seem to be over.

Jake Locker won't be the only asset that the Huskies will send onto the field next season. Washington returns most of their offensive production from last season including their starting quarterback, running back and seven players who caught at least 14 passes. Every single player, and that includes offense, defense and special teams, who scored points last season is back for 2010.

The defense must focus on replacing Te'o-Nesheim's sack production and needs to force more interceptions in the passing game. Putting pressure on the quarterback to disrupt the passing game often goes hand-in-hand with improving pass defense and forcing turnovers, so an improvement in either area should benefit the other. Of course, the Huskies still ranked 93rd in pass defense and forced just eight interceptions despite 10 sacks form Te'o-Nesheim.

All-in-all, though, this looks to be a very successful season for the Huskies. Even if they finish lower than second in the Pac-10, as I have them projected, there seems little doubt that Washington will be in the bowl season come December or January.

Oregon State Beavers

3rd Pac-10

As with just about every Pac-10 team that I project to finish somewhere between two and seven, I feel compelled to mention that this could obviously be higher. The trouble is that just about every team in the conference has its eyes, realistically, on the Rose Bowl. Oregon State returns their two top playmakers, as well as several other options on the offensive side of the ball, and eagerly awaits the debut of Ryan Katz, expected by many to lead the Beavers for the next several years. Four of five starters on the offensive line are back with Michael Philipp possibly emerging as one of the nation's top offensive linemen sometime in the next couple of years.

Defensively, five starters need to be replaced, but with an All-American candidate returning at defensive tackle in Stephen Paea, improvement expected in the pass rush, linebacker Keith Pankey expected back for the start of the season, formidable replacements for two players who left the team for personal reasons, and a secondary returning three starters and counted on to be much better, there's a lot to feel good about in Corvallis. Oregon State, while they exceed expectations just about every season, has not finished atop the Pac-10 since 2000. The Beavers are in good shape to change that entering this season.

USC Trojans

4th Pac-10

So the Trojans can't technically win the Pac-10, but this 4th place finish that I've predicted could be higher or it could be lower. Gone are the days when predicting the Pac-10 was easy. The Trojans would finish with one, two or no losses, reload on signing day and do the same the next year. This season marks the first time in a while that USC is not the consensus preseason choice to win their conference. In fact, Oregon is getting most of the hype despite losing their Heisman-candidate quarterback. There are still those who think USC will finish with the best record in the Pac-10, but the number is far less than it has been.

While Barkley seems poised to improve upon his debut performance, questions concerning depth along the offensive line and at the wide receiver position need to be answered for this offense to be successful all season long. On the defensive side of the ball, anxieties about this team's ability to replace all four starters in the secondary remain despite the return of Shareece Wright, who may emerge as the Pac-10's top cornerback when all's said and done. The front seven is set (although some worry about depth at linebacker) and will be instrumental in pressuring the quarterback and aiding the secondary in the short- to mid-range to take pressure off a relatively inexperienced bunch.

Sanctions against the Trojans will keep them out of the postseason for two years and will limit their recruiting ability as they're docked 30 scholarships. The upcoming season marks a new beginning for the Trojans with a new athletic director and head coach, the fact that they're no longer college football's premier program and of course as they deal with heavy sanctions and four years probation.

Arizona Wilcats

5th Pac-10

Arizona defines dark horse in the Pac-10 this year. Washington returns a lot of offensive power this season, but Arizona does, too. Oregon is without starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, but shouldn't suffer too much with Nate Costa and Darron Thomas ready to handle the duties under center. Other quarterbacks around the conference (Matt Barkley, Andrew Luck, Jake Locker) have gotten more hype and publicity, but Nick Foles is a leader who now has a year of experience to go along with his impressive intangibles. Skill players are everywhere on the offense making finding playmakers a non-issue as we approach the start of the season.

The defense, with just four starters returning, presents the most question marks for the Wildcats. All three starting linebackers from last year's squad are gone, leaving possible gaps in the second level of defense. The pass rush should be among the top in the Pac-10, however, and a talented secondary will only benefit from pressure on the opposing quarterback. Don't bet the farm on Arizona making their first trip to the Rose Bowl. Just don't count them out and don't look too surprised if they make a run. Gary Randazzo of WildcatSportsReport.com presents an excellent case for the Wildcats this season

Taking a look at their schedule, Duke must win their games against the ACC's softer opponents (i.e. Wake Forest, Maryland and Virginia), and must not let up another opening week loss to an FCS school (they get Elon on September 4) if they want a shot at a bowl game. That would bring them to four wins. They also need to grab the win over Army and pull off a surprise win against a team to whom they're supposed to lose (i.e. Alabama, Miami, Virginia Tech, Navy, Boston College, Georgia Tech and North Carolina). They can do it, but it's far from a certainty.

California Golden Bears

6th Pac-10

The Pac-10 is one of the most difficult conferences to predict in terms of how the teams will finish with most Pac-10 schools set to field a solid team in 2010. With Oregon considered the front-runner (although that's debatable), spots two through eight could really go in any and all directions with Arizona State and Washington State expected to round out the conference at 9 and 10.

Replacing five starters on defense, one of the top rushers in school history and a starting offensive tackle who started all 13 games in 2007 and 2009 (injured in 2008), Cal has some question marks peppered throughout the roster. Quarterback Kevin Riley must have a solid senior campaign if the Bears want to compete in the conference. Inconsistency at the game's most important position (arguably, I know) can plague a team. He'll have some offensive weapons to work with in Vereen, Jones, Ross and Sofele, but needs to step up to finally live up to expectations in his farewell campaign.

Stanford Cardinal

7th Pac-10

This may seem a bit low for a team returning one of the conference's top quarterbacks, arguably the best offensive line in the Pac-10 and most starters on both units, but the Pac-10 is stacked this year. Road contests against UCLA and Oregon, and then a home contest against USC is a hell of a way to start the conference schedule. They also have a road matchup against Notre Dame thrown in there. If Stanford can grab their conference opener against UCLA (which they should) and then take at least one of their next two contests against Oregon and USC, they'll be in pretty good shape to compete in one of the tightest conferences in the nation. If not, they may find themselves playing catch-up and hoping for a loss or two from Arizona, Washington, Oregon State, etc.

Success on offense shouldn't be too much of a problem despite the loss of one of the nation's top running backs. A strong offensive line, a leader under center, a couple of talented wide receivers and promise in the backfield can go a long way. Where Stanford needs to worry is on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line will be solid and the move to a three-man line improves the unit's depth. Question marks begin to arise a bit when you get to the second level and grow even more abundant at the third level.

UCLA Bruins

8th Pac-10

The Bruins will implement the Revolver in Pasadena. To what extent the new offense plays in the UCLA offense remains to be seen, and some aren't so impressed with how the Bruins ran the offense in the spring. Nevertheless, the Bruins offense will feature, to some degree, elements of an option offense. The change is due to the lethargic offensive numbers the Bruins have put up in the past few seasons. The offense has ranked 71st or worse in the nation since 2006. The Bruins return talent at the skill positions and are excited to see what Josh Smith can do on offense and special teams. The offensive line and how well the new offense works are the big questions on the offensive side of the ball.

On defense, there are just five returning starters, and three of the seven lost were all-Pac-10 first teamers last season. That's never good. Two new starting linebackers and three new starting defensive linemen must step up to solidify the front seven. Free safety Rahim Moore is the star of the secondary, and the defense along with linebacker Akeem Ayers. The defense will be the strength of this team once again, and while they may not live up to last season's production, will be a formidable bunch again despite the turnover.

Arizona State Sun Devils

9th Pac-10

Arizona State will likely find themselves competing with Washington State to stay out of the Pac-10 basement. That's not to say there isn't reason to be hopeful for the future, but with no clear-cut leader under center, questions surrounding the skill positions and an already shaky offensive line that lost a starting interior lineman to injury in Jon Hargis and saw their depth depleted when Patrick Jamison jumped ship, the offense could be in for some growing pains. The new offense will be one of the storylines to follow in the Pac-10.

On defense, whether a leader or two emerge to replace the departed veterans will go a long way in whether ASU lives up to last year's 13th ranked defense. The Sun Devils held opponents to less than 300 yards per game last season. Look for that number to creep up a bit, but the defense will once again be the strength of this team.

Washington State Cougars

10th Pac-10

The Cougars finished second to last in the nation in total offense and dead last in total defense. They finished ranked in the 100's in 15 key statistical categories. That's a one way ticket to nowhere in college football. I know Cougars fans are hoping their team can find its way out of the Pac-10 cellar, and with much improved depth across the roster and valuable experience for several players, they very well could. But it's never easy to bounce back following two- and one-win seasons no matter how much promising talent is on the roster. The Cougars could find themselves fighting for ninth in the conference with Arizona State, but the Pac-10, while it lost some key players across the board, should be strong once more and the race for the conference crown will have all teams playing their best ball until the final week. - Danny Hobrock

Danny Hobrock is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.

Be sure to check the right sidebar daily for new NCAA Football 2010 Season Previews and NFL 2010 Season Previews as we'll be adding them almost every day until the September kick-off's.