Pac 10 Preview 2006 - Top 5s
Posted Aug 9, 2006 2006 Pac 10 Preview Top 5s

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1) The five games that will shape the Pac 10 race (in order)

Sept. 23,
Arizona State at California
The loser will still be in the Pac 10 title race, but it'll be a steep uphill battle. ASU can't afford a loss with a battle with Oregon the next week.
Oct. 7,
Oregon at California
Looking to make up for last year's overtime loss to the Ducks, Cal can't lose home games if it wants to be in the hunt for the championship.
Oct. 14,
Arizona State at USC
The Sun Devils had the Trojans on the ropes last year before succumbing in the second half. This year's battle might decide the Pac 10 title.
Nov. 11,
Oregon at USC
Oregon only lost one regular season game last year coming against USC. An upset win in L.A. would likely change the Pac 10 race.
Nov. 18,
California at USC 
Yeah, the two teams still have rivalry games ahead, but this will likely be the most important game of the conference season.

2) Five non-conference games that Pac 10 teams had better take very, very seriously
1. USC at Arkansas, Sept. 2
The Hogs are a lot better than last year when they got blasted 70-17 by the Trojans. Even with Arkansas star RB Darren McFadden likely out, the ground game will test the USC front seven.
2. Oregon at Fresno State, Sept. 9
While it might not seem possible to overlook a Fresno State team that makes a living off of playing top teams, Oregon makes this road trip a week after opening the year against Stanford and with Oklahoma to follow.
3. Nevada at Arizona State, Sept. 9
Quarterback Jeff Rowe and the Wolf Pack have one of the few teams with the firepower to stay with ASU.
4. Utah at UCLA, Sept. 2
A Ute win would hardly be an upset.
5. Idaho at Oregon State, Sept. 23
The Beavers are head-and-shoulders better than the Vandals, but Dennis Erickson will have his new team fired up.

3) Five best Pac 10 pro prospects
1. Arizona State TE
 Zach Miller, Jr. - 38 catches, 476 yds, 12.5 ypc, 4 TD
One of the nation's best tight ends, the 6-5, 258-pound junior is a Todd Heap clone who'll set every record for ASU tight ends before his time is done. He gets the headlines for his receiving skills, but he's one of the nation's best blocking tight ends and a possible top 15 pick if he chooses to come out next season. He makes plays like a wide receiver with soft, reliable hands.
USC WR Dwayne Jarrett, Jr. - 91 catches, 1,274 yds, 14 ypc, 16 TD
Jarrett spent his freshman season being compared to Mike Williams, and then had scouts thinking he's even better than the current Detroit Lion after a brilliant sophomore season showing off hands, the ability to make the acrobatic grab, and consistency. He has caught passes for 75 yards or more in 15 of the 26 games he has played in with a whopping 29 touchdowns in two years.

3. California DT Brandon Mebane,
Sr. - 29 tackles, 7 sacks, 9.5 TFL
The 306-pound senior is one of the best interior pass rushers in America and will be the rock of the defensive front seven. He has a chance of taking over where Oregon's Haloti Ngata left off as the nation's best tackle.
4. California CB
Daymeion Hughes, Sr. - 62 tackles, 5 interceptions, 12 broken up passes, 1.5 TFL
The first-team All-Pac 10 star of last year should be an All-American this season. He's an experienced defender with 118 tackles and seven career interceptions, and he put it all together with a fantastic 2005 turning into the lock-down corner the defense was looking for. At 6-2 and 188 pounds he's a great-sized corner with the speed to stay with just about any receiver in the conference.

5. Washington State WR
Jason Hill, Sr. - 62 catches, 1,097 yds, 17.7 ypc, 13 TD
In one of the biggest surprises in college football this off-season, the fringe All-America candidate decided to return for his senior season when he could've been a first day draft pick. He's has the size at 6-2 and 208 pounds and the deep speed to be this year's star you need to watch. Not just flashy, he's consistent and clutch. He has only played in six games over the last two seasons without a touchdown.

4) Five biggest Pac 10 shoes to fill 
USC RB Chauncey Washington for Reggie Bush
So who wants to be a superstar? Is it a foregone conclusion that the starting USC quarterback will be a Heisman finalist thanks to all the talent around him? Probably, but who will it be? John David Booty appeared ready to explode in the starting role before back spasms struck this spring. Mark Sanchez has next level talent and may someday be in New York for a Heisman presentation now that he's back on the team after a sexual assault charge filed by a USC student was dropped.
2. USC QBs John David Booty and Mark Sanchez for Matt Leinart
The surprise winner of the backup job last year, Daniel saw meaningful time in place of a dinged up Brad Smith leading the Tigers to a win over Iowa State with an impressive 16 of 23 performance for 185 yards and a touchdown. He's not going to run like Smith did, but he's not a statue with good mobility and speed. He's a tough competitor who should add more of a passing element to the attack over the next few years than Smith was able to.
3. Washington State RB
DeMaundray Woolridge for Jerome Harrison
One of last year's big recruits, Woolridge saw a little bit of time as a true freshman ripping off 133 yards in the blowout over Nevada and 105 yards against Grambling. He didn't see much action the rest of the way with Jerome Harrison getting so much work, but he'll be the main man this season with sprinter's speed in a compact 5-8, 233-pound body. The big question will be his hands; can he catch like Harrison did?

4. Oregon DT
Cole Linehan for Haloti Ngata
Linehan goes from a backup role to starter on the left side. He has worked hard at getting stronger over the last two years and now should be a rock in the middle. He's quick enough to be a decent interior pass rusher.

5. Arizona State LB
Beau Manutai for Dale Robinson
The huge 262-pound man in the middle will try to take over for the Pac 10 Co-Defensive Player of the Year. While he won't be Robinson, the former JUCO transfer has a few start under his belt and should be one of the team's leading tacklers and tackles for loss once he returns from an ankle injury.

5) Five Pac 10 breakout players
Ben Olson, Soph. - 2-4, 11 yds
The star of the 2002 BYU recruiting class will finally, finally be the main man. After serving a church mission and transferring to UCLA, Olson spent last spring battling Drew Olson for the starting job before getting the backup job after struggling with his accuracy. He's big, strong, can move, and now he's firmly entrenched in the starting role. He missed the first three games last year with a broken hand and saw limited action, so consider him a bit rusty going into the year since he hasn't seen any meaningful work since 2001. 

2. California QB
Nate Longshore, Soph. - 8-11, 72%, 131 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Longshore was looking great getting the opening day start against Sacramento State, and then he broke his ankle in the second quarter and the Joe Ayoob era began. The 6-5, 230-pound sophomore is a big bomber with a nice command of the offense, he's not a runner and had a bit of a limp in spring practices. Even so, he'll likely be the main man for the next three seasons even though he's the least mobile of all the options.

3. Arizona State DE
Kyle Caldwell, Sr. - 17 tackles, 3 TFL
While the rest of the line has bulked up, Caldwell has slimmed down to 261 pounds and should be an even quicker pass rusher. He was banged up throughout last season and was unable to build on his seven-sack 2004 campaign. When he's on, he has the ability to be one of the Pac 10's premier pass rushers.

Oregon State RB Clinton Polk, Jr.
The 220-pound back provides a great mix of speed and power to the mix coming over from Scottsdale JC. He grabbed the second string job by the horns this spring and showed soft hands as a receiver. While he won't take over the starting job from Yvenson Bernard, he'll get at least ten carries a game.
5. Oregon WR Jaison Williams, Soph. - 15 catches, 245 yds, 16.3 ypc, 3 TD
Here's the Duck receiver to watch out for. Williams has a scary-good blend of skills with track speed in a 6-5, 243-pound body. He has been clocked at 10.65 in the 100-meter dash and showed off a little bit of his talent last year highlighted by a 66-yard scoring play against Oregon State. He'll start off behind Cameron Colvin but will quickly find his way into the mix.