Oregon 10-3 (8-1)
Arizona 8-5 (6-3)
Oregon State 8-5 (6-3)
Stanford 8-5 (6-3)
USC 9-4 (5-4)
California 8-5 (5-4)
Washington 5-7 (4-5)
UCLA 7-6 (3-6)
Arizona State 4-8 (2-7)
Washington State 1-11 (0-9)
Returning Leaders: Passing
Kevin Riley, Cal, Sr (209 of 382 for 2850 yds, 18 TD, 8 INT)
Jake Locker, Washington, Sr (230 of 395 for 2800, 21 TD, 11 INT)
Matt Barkley, USC, Soph (211 of 352 for 2735, 15 TD, 14 INT)
Andrew Luck, Stanford, Soph (162 of 288 for 2575, 13 TD, 4 INT)
Nick Foles, Arizona, Jr (257 of 400 for 2465, 19 TD, 9 INT)
Returning Leaders: Rushing
LaMichael James, Oregon, Soph (230 carries for 1546 yds, 14 TD)
Jacquizz Rodgers, OSU, Jr (273 carries for 1440 yds, 21 TD, 5.2 ypc)
Chris Polk, Washington, Jr (226 carries for 1113 yds, 5 TD, 4.9 ypc)
Shane Vereen, Cal, Jr (183 carries for 952 yds, 12 TD, 5.2 ypc)
Returning Leaders: Receiving
James Rodgers, OSU, Sr (91 rec for 1034 yds, 9 TD, 7.0 rec/game)
Jacquizz Rodgers, OSU, Jr (78 rec for 522 yds, 1 TD, 6.0 rec/game)
Ryan Whalen, Stanford, Sr (57 rec for 926 yds, 4 TD, 4.4 rec/game)
Jeff Maehl, Oregon, Sr (53 rec for 696 yds, 6 TD, 4.1 rec/game)
Jermaine Kearse, Washington, Jr (50 rec for 866 yds, 8 TD)
Returning Leaders: Tackles
Mike Mohamed, Cal, Sr, LB (111 total, 8.54 tackles/game)
John Boyett, Oregon, Soph, S (90 total, 6.92 tackles/game)
Mason Foster, Washington, Sr, LB (85 total, 7.08 tackles/game)
Alex Hoffman-Ellis, Wash St, Jr, LB (84 total, 7.64 tackles/game)
Returning Leaders: Sacks
Kenny Rowe, Oregon, Sr, DE (11.5 sacks)
Ricky Elmore, Arizona, Sr, DE (10.5)
Nick Perry, USC, Soph, DE (9.0)
Thomas Keiser, Stanford, Jr, DE (8.0)
Cameron Jordan, Cal, Sr, DE (8.0)
Returning Leaders: Interceptions
Rahim Moore, UCLA, Jr, S (10 interceptions)
Trevin Wade, Arizona, Jr, CB (5)
Talmadge Jackson, Oregon, Sr, CB (4)
Akeem Ayers, UCLA, Jr, LB (4)
Around the Interweb
Who is your pick to win the Pac-10?
It's hard not to pick Oregon, they have so much coming back. But the quarterback is so pivotal to that offense and team and Jeremiah Masoli had it down to a science. But with Masoli running afoul of the law and having been kicked off the team, the Ducks I think may falter in the chase for the crown. In the end, USC, allow they can't go to a bowl, finishes atop the Pac-10 standings.
With 7 teams receiving first-place votes from the media, parity is evident in the Pac 10. I'm going to stray from the popular pick, which is Oregon, and choose the Beavers of Oregon State. Mike Riley's teams are notorious for slow starts, and have a difficult slate to begin the season, but once they enter Pac 10 play, they will entertain two of the conference favorites at home (USC, Oregon), while also welcoming the Golden Bears. Oregon appears a a world-beater at home, but no so much away from Autzen. USC has lost the last two games played in Corvallis, and if not for late Reggie Bush heroics, there would have been a third.
One thing’s for sure – usc will not be representing the Conference in the Postseason this year. Even with all the defections, Lane Kiffin — a mediocre Head Coach at best — still has more talent on his roster than anyone else. But usc’s ban leaves Oregon in the driver’s seat to play in the Rose Bowl Game, even without dynamic stoner QB Jeremiah Masoli. The Ducks seemed like the Class of the Pac-10 last season.
Breaking Down The Pac-10
Chris:The only reasons I have Arizona falling this far (CFBZ note: Chris has them at #7) is that I'm not sold on the offense's ability to win shootout games in this league. The offense is perfectly adequate, but adequate won't do it in a league this stacked offensively. Also there are some questions defensively, as the Wildcats only return 4 starters from a pretty good defense a year ago, and will also have to deal with switching to a completely different scheme. This all adds up to not being a contender for the Pac-10 title.
Ross:They lose a ton on defense (7 starters), return a ton on offense (8 starters), lose both coordinators... but they have a favorable schedule (5 conference home games and two of the conference road games are winnable ones @ UCLA and @ Washington State). If you wanted to swap them with Washington, I wouldn't argue (CFBZ note: Ross has them at #6).
Chris:Offensively the Sun Devils will struggle...but not as much as most people think. Who can forget that Steven Threet was adequate at Michigan two years ago before transferring away from Rich Rod's option heavy spread? Threet may not be the Sun Devils' savior in 2010, but 2011 may be a different story, especially if linebacking sensation Vontaze Burfict sticks around for the party. The Sun Devils' 2010 storyline: O will struggle and D will be good...not 2009 good, but good.
Ross: LB Vontaze Burfict is one of the best players in the league. Unfortunately, his teammates kinda suck.
Chris: Separating the teams in the middle of the Pac-10 is like choosing the hottest girl at a Curves...in other words, it's difficult and extremely agonizing. To pick Cal over Arizona (CFBZ note: Chris has Cal at #6 and Arizona at #7 on his ballot), I have to believe that Cal's pass defense will improve drastically (despite only returning one starter and probably starting a freshman). I don't, but in a quarterback's league, no guy has more experience than Kevin Riley. Riley will use that experience to exploit Pac-10 secondaries alongside one of the nation's best up-and-coming running backs in Shane Vereen. Also, Jeff Tedford coached teams play too well for the Bears to fall any further.
Ross: This seems to be in the default range that Cal is settling into under Tedford: good, but not great (Ross ranked them at #5). Kevin Riley's back for a third year as starter, but he's shown little that makes you think he could lead them to the promised land. Still, the bottom rarely falls out on Tedford teams and they should have a strong offense.
Chris- At first I was skeptical about Oregon's contention (in the Pac-10 and nationally) without returning 2-year starter Jeremiah Masoli, but then a familiar name appeared in the starting lineup...one Nate Costa. Costa may not be a Masoli (which at this point we can't take as completely a bad thing, right?), but with all of the skill position talent at his disposal, and a completely intact offensive line, I have faith in Costa. Add in 8 returning starters on an improving defense and your have your conference champs. Oh wait, and did I mention LAMICHAEL JAMES!? How many guys in recent history can you remember who didn't start the season and finished with 1,500 yards rushing. Yeah, that's right, THIS GUY! They will ride on James' coattails all year, and James (who quickly became one of the nation's best) will lead them to Pac-10 glory.
Ross: Even without Masoli, this team is loaded on offense (9 returning starters, including the entire offensive line) and features a lot of returning faces on defense, too. If they get decent performance out of whoever emerges at QB, they should again be very, very good. The one concern: the schedule has them going to USC, Cal, and Oregon State, three difficult road games.
Chris- The Rodgers' brothers are going to rewrite a lot of Oregon State records together. That doesn't necessarily equal Pac-10 contention, but if they stay healthy, there's no arguing that they can make a run at the Rose Bowl. The key will be sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz (assuming he's the starter). If the Rodgers' brothers have to drag him along for the whole ride, it's unlikely the Beavers will even crack the top half. But the offensive and defensive talent is such that if Katz is just efficient and the Beavers' staff plays not to lose (a risky way to play believe it or not) they should finish high enough to warrant a good bowl and season they can be proud of.
Ross: Definite potential to be atop the league, given how much they return on offense (8 overall, including 4/5 of the offensive line and the marvelous Rodgers brothers) and the fact that Riley has developed into one of the most consistently good and reliable coaches in the Pac 10. They also have a fairly favorable schedule, with three of their top opponents (Cal, USC, Oregon) all coming to Corvallis. Breaking in a brand-new QB is a worry, though.
Chris: Even if the Cardinal lost Heisman Trophy candidate Toby Gerhart, they return the Pac-10's most efficient passer...yes, sophomore Andrew Luck...not that kid named Clausen. The Cardinal may have snuck up on some teams last year, but this year teams will be wary from the get-go. Luck will have to turn that efficiency into even more productivity after losing his backfield mate, and especially with a suspect defense, will have to win more shootouts this year than a year ago. But don't sleep on Coach Jim Harbaugh. He is almost ready to contend annually for the Pac-10 hardware.
Ross: There are reasons not to like them, like their porous defense, the fact that their star player and leader (Toby Gerhart) is gone, and the fact that they have a slew of potentially difficult road games (@ Notre Dame, @ Oregon, @ Washington, @ Cal)... but they also have arguably the best QB in the conference (Andrew Luck) and he has a lot of weapons back and Harbaugh has done such an incredible job of turning that program around that it's hard to bet against him.
Chris: The Bruins have improved under Rick Neuheisel, and enjoyed some tempered success. However, this group is too young to contend for anything and the upward trend will at least be put on hold this year. That doesn't mean watching that other team from Los Angeles couldn't be exciting too. For one thing, the Bruins boast preseason All-Conference pick Rahim Moore, who last year picked off a PHENOMENAL 10 passes! $20 on him not topping that total this year to anyone who will take it, but if he does, doesn't that validate my they can be exciting claim?
Ross: They return a lot on offense and another year with Norm Chow should only help them progress on that front; unfortunately, they're going to need to outscore most of their opponents because they return little on defense and just lost one of their best players (Datone Jones) to an injury.
Chris- Many have the Trojans winning the Pac-10, especially now with Jeremiah Masoli moving on to Ole Miss, but I'm not sold. First off, how will the Trojans perform under the damper of not being able to play in the postseason? What about the other restrictions imposed by the NCAA? What about their enigmatic new head coach Lane Kiffin, who although has shown some impressive recruiting tactics, has yet to prove himself to be a great coach. Or how about their savior of a quarterback? You know, the kid who sort of kind of did something that was almost amazing but not really (beating Ohio State by giving the ball to Joe McKnight on pass plays to pad his stats on that final drive). Also, as a Pac-10 assistant correctly pointed out, Barkley didn't really improve with time. He makes too many mistakes, as was highlighted in his senior year of high school when he threw more picks than TD's...yet still managed to be a top prospect. Add to that the Trojans numbers last year (especially offensively where they struggled mightily for USC standards) and their sub-par defensive stats, and you've got the classic case of over-hyped team! The only reason that I am ranking them this high (CFBZ note: Chris ranked them #2 in the Pac-10) is that yes they are USC, and yes they have talent, especially at running back. If they can utilize their running backs' talent, get Matt Barkley to start throwing to his teammates and improve upon what is likely to be the worst SC defense of the last ten years, they have a chance to even be #1 in the Pac-10 next year. But any injuries become truly perilous, because their two-deep is just slathered with freshmen.
Ross: The bottom is going to drop out soon enough, but in the meantime they still have quite a bit of talent in the two-deeps and the ability to play the "us against the world" card while it's still fresh. On the other hand, Kiffin's track record as a HC isn't exactly great, they have a few tricky road games (@ Stanford, @ Oregon State), and this team will have a lot of distractions to try and overcome.
Chris: Despite not buying into the Jake Locker is the best quarterback in America circus (he's very good, but at least on the college level he's a poor man's Tebow...which pains me to say), it is impossible to ignore the offensive firepower they return. Add in what should be an improved defense, and you've got a team destined to finish in the top half of the conference.
Ross: The Huskies have a lot back on both sides of the ball (10 on offense, 8 on defense), good coaching, and made a lot of progress last year. A higher finish certainly wouldn't be a big surprise; I'm holding off until I see them win a few more games and prove that they can get over the hump. They're right on the cusp, though.
Chris: Not very many people know how bad the Cougars were last year, because in an improved Pac-10 there was plenty of good to focus in on...which left the magnifying glass off the Cougars at the bottom. Not only did they not win a Pac-10 game, going 0-9, the Cougars failed to score 20 points on any team not named SMU...which represented their one win on the season. The Cougars ranked last in the Pac-10 in every major offensive and defensive category, and save passing offense (which ranked 100th nationally), they finished every major offensive or defensive category ranked below 115. The team brings back 11 starters total. A total which doesn't include their leading passer, rusher, or a returning punter or kicker. You can look at that one of two ways...the first, it's a lot of new blood that can possibly improve upon their dismal showing from a year ago. The second way...it's going to be an even rougher season in the basement of the Pac-10. I tend to side with the second one.
Ross: Someday they'll be good again. Probably. Maybe. In any event, it ain't happening this year. Their goal should be getting their average margin of defeat under 30 ppg -- then they can start thinking about inching towards respectability again.
CFBZ Predicted Pac-10 Finish
1. Oregon Ducks
2. Oregon State Beavers
3. USC Trojans
4. Stanford Cardinal
5. Washington Huskies
6. Arizona Wildcats
7. California Golden Bears
8. UCLA Bruins
9. Arizona State Wildcats
10. Washington State Cougars