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1) The five
games that will shape the Pac 10 race (in order)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Five non-conference games that Pac 10 teams had better take very, very
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
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.
best Pac 10 pro prospects
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
Dwayne Jarrett, Jr. - 91 catches, 1,274 yds, 14 ypc, 16
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
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
Five biggest Pac 10 shoes to fill
1. 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
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
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
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.
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.
Oregon WR Jaison Williams, Soph. - 15 catches, 245 yds, 16.3 ypc,
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.