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Mr. Pac-10 Previews the 2006 Season


Posted Sep 8, 2006


Mr Pac-10 Gives an Overview of the Upcoming Pac-10 Season

(originally posted early August)
It seems like parity may have finally gotten to the top of the Pac-10. With the Trojans having lost two Heisman winners, most of their offensive line, and a fair chunk of their defense, they may finally be vulnerable to the rest of the league. The question is, who can rise up and challenge them? Can it be Cal, led by stellar running back Marshawn Lynch and a very strong defense? Many pundits certainly think so. But what about some other teams that could contend? Oregon is a threat, with a tremendous amount of young talent, and is certainly capable of being a factor, though a questionable secondary and a brutal schedule are major obstacles. Arizona State has been cited as a threat, and with their explosive passing game, they'll be dangerous as long as their defense stands up and they don't fall victim to chemistry problems after the drama that occurred with the decision to switch the starting quarterback from Sam Keller to Rudy Carpenter.
As far as the rest of the league goes, there is some definite sleeper potential. Oregon State gets all of the top contenders at home, and is certainly capable of coming up with a big upset or two. Stanford returns a great quarterback and gets their best receiver back from injury, making them a threat to win a few shootouts. Arizona boasts a great secondary, which will help them a lot against the big passing teams in this league. UCLA lost a lot of talent, but upgraded its coaching staff and could rebuild quicker than expected. Washington State has a fantastic reciever in Jason Hill, and if they can do a better job with the supporting cast, might be able to improve on last year's record despite the loss of Will Derting and other important contributors. Washington still looks like the low man on the totem pole, but should be a tougher out than the last two years, and should be capable of winning a couple of games somewhere.
With many of the Pac-10 teams boasting distinct strengths and weaknesses, and a couple of teams that will probably be very inconsistent, it looks like there will once again be a fair number of upsets, a projection that is reflected in my game by game picks. Factors which will come into play include: home-field advantage, potential letdown games, and most importantly the matchups between individual units (for instance, Arizona State, with a pass-happy attack, will have a chance against a USC team that is rebuilding its secondary, and could have a field day against Oregon's weak pass defense, but should struggle against Arizona and their excellent secondary). And as always, I will compare my Pac-10 league picks against picks available elsewhere, whether online or, in the case of Athlon, in their season preview edition. Last year's results are posted at the bottom of this article.

Individual Team Capsules:

Arizona Arizona State Cal Oregon Oregon State
Stanford UCLA USC Washington Washington State

FORMAT OF PREVIEW CHART:

TEAM 1 @ TEAM 2
ME WIN OR BLANK WIN OR BLANK
ATHLON WIN OR BLANK WIN OR BLANK
CFN WIN OR BLANK WIN OR BLANK
HAIRE WIN OR BLANK WIN OR BLANK
AZC WIN OR BLANK WIN OR BLANK
ACTUAL RESULT WIN OR BLANK WIN OR BLANK

notes:
ATHLON predictions from the Athlon preseason preview publication
CFN predictions from collegefootballnews.com, article here
SI predictions from cnnsi.com, article here
HAIRE predictions from Tom Haire, uscfootball.com, article here
CFP predictions from collegefootballpoll.com, article here
AZC predictions from azcentral.com, article here
one note: I only am looking at in-conference games; there are a lot of teams that I don't know about, and it can be difficult to pick non-conference games, especially early in the year, so I choose to pass those over in my comparisons

In-Conference Predictions for Each Week
Week 1
STAN @ UO
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 4
USC @ ARIZ
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
ASU @ CAL
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
WSU @ STAN
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
UCLA @ WASH
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 5
WASH @ ARIZ
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
UO @ ASU
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
CAL @ OSU
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
STAN @ UCLA
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
USC @ WSU
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 6
ARIZ @ UCLA
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
UO @ CAL
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
WSU @ OSU
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
WASH @ USC
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 7
ARIZ @ STAN
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
ASU @ USC
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
CAL @ WSU
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
UCLA @ UO
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
OSU @ WASH
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 8
OSU @ ARIZ
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
STAN @ ASU
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
WASH @ CAL
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
UO @ WSU
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 9
ASU @ WASH
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
USC @ OSU
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
WSU @ UCLA
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 10
ARIZ @ WSU
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
ASU @ OSU
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
UCLA @ CAL
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
WASH @ UO
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
USC @ STAN
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 11
CAL @ ARIZ
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
WSU @ ASU
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
UO @ USC
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
OSU @ UCLA
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
STAN @ WASH
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 12
ARIZ @ UO
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
UCLA @ ASU
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
CAL @ USC
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
OSU @ STAN
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
WASH @ WSU
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 13
ASU @ ARIZ
ME WIN
ATHLON TOSS UP
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
UO @ OSU
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
Week 14
STAN @ CAL
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT
USC @ UCLA
ME WIN
ATHLON WIN
CFN WIN
HAIRE WIN
AZC WIN
ACTUAL RESULT

Projected Non-Conference Results

Arizona:
vs BYU: W
@ LSU: L
vs Stephen Austin: W

ASU:
vs Northern Arizona: W
vs Nevada: W
@ Colorado: L

Cal:
@ Tennessee: W
vs Minnesota: W
vs Portland: W

Oregon:
@ Fresno St.: L
vs Oklahoma: W
vs Portland: W

Oregon St:
vs Eastern Washington: W
@ Boise St: L
vs Idaho: W
@ Hawaii: W

Stanford
@ San Jose State: W
vs Navy: W
@ Notre Dame: L

UCLA:
vs Utah: L
vs Rice: W
@ Notre Dame: L

USC:
@ Arkansas: W
vs Nebraska: W
vs Notre Dame: W

Washington:
vs San Jose St.: W
@ Oklahoma: L
vs Fresno St.: L

Washington St:
@ Auburn: L
vs Idaho: W
vs Baylor: W

Quick team-by-team notes

Arizona:
A young team that will eventually be good. Now isn’t the time, though, but they’ll show improvement by keeping most of their games close. Their pass defense is their biggest strength, which will help them a lot against the teams on their schedule.
Biggest Games:
vs BYU, @ Stanford, @ Washington St, vs Arizona St:
BYU will be an early indicator of which way this team is headed. If they can pull it out, they'll have a real shot of making an improvement, and maybe even a bowl game. If not, their schedule will be too tough to make the postseason. Stanford and Wazzu are winnable road games, and nothing turns a program around quicker than winning key games on the road. ASU is a game they can definitely win, and would be a big boost for their program, even if the rest of the season doesn't turn out the way that they planned.

Arizona St:
This is a really dangerous team, both to their opponents and to themselves. Chemistry could be a massive issue after Koetter's mishandling of the quarterback situation. If this team ever hits a losing streak, things could really fall apart. If not, though, they should still be good, though defense and special teams will once again be an issue, as will their ability to consistently win on the road.
Biggest Games:
@ Colorado, vs Oregon, @ USC, @ Arizona
The Colorado game will set the tone for the rest of the season. If they can't win in Boulder, they almost certainly won't challenge either Cal or USC on the road either. Oregon could well be the game for third place, and they definitely can't afford to lose this one after back to back tough road games against Colorado and Cal. Arizona is clearly a game they can lose, based on the last two years' results. In fact, the game against the Wildcats may well be the most important in the long run, as it will doubtlessly have significant recruiting implications. ASU simply cannot afford to let Mike Stoops and U of A get even further ahead in the recruiting wars.

Cal:
The sky's the limit for this team, as long as the quarterback situation works itself out. Even if QB remains a big weakness, the Bears will still be a strong contender for the Pac-10 title.
Biggest Games:
@ Tennessee, vs Oregon, @ Oregon St, @ USC
ASU will be tough, but Cal really matches up well against them. Maybe Cal will get tripped up somewhere other than these four games, but it really doesn't seem likely, as these are clearly the four biggest landmines. Even the game at the Coliseum isn't out of reach, though it will certainly be difficult. If they can take three out of these four and not get tripped up elsewhere, they will have a very real shot of not just winning the Pac-10, but will also be well in the running for a bid in the National Title game.

Oregon:
This is a young team that will have some growing pains, but there's enough talent that they can make a run, especially if the quarterback position works itself out quickly.
Biggest Games:
vs Oklahoma, @ Arizona St, @ Cal, @ USC:
These are the four big games that will be the difference between a decent season and a great one. Obviously the Civil War is important, but the tone of the season will be set long before the Ducks end the season in Corvallis. They will also need to be careful of early upsets before they fully gel; if they don't come to play, they could certainly lose either of their first two games.

Oregon St:
This is a very talented team, with a powerful running attack being their biggest strength. However, quarterback is still a liability, and Matt Moore will cost them a couple of games somewhere along the way with more bad decisions.
Biggest Games:
@ Boise St, vs USC, vs Arizona St, vs Oregon:
Boise on the road is a definite reach, but if the Broncos don't have a smooth coaching transition, OSU has a shot. The other three are tough home games that the Beavers might be able to pull out; if they can take two out of three this will be a very successful season, and if it's zero, they'll struggle to reach a bowl, as they will definitely drop a couple other games along the way.

Stanford:
The offense will make a big improvement with the return of virtually all their starters, plus injured receiver Evan Moore. If they can stay healthy, they've got a solid shot of finally making a bowl game. If not...
Biggest Games:
@ UCLA, vs Arizona, @ Washington, vs Oregon St
If you take down San Jose State, Navy and Wazzu as wins, then barring any upsets, they'll need to win three of these games to go bowling. UCLA, Arizona and Oregon State are tough matchups, while they haven't won at Husky Stadium for decades. It's not an impossible task, as each game is winnable, but it will definitely be tough for them. Call it about 50-50 whether or not they succeed.

UCLA:
In the long run, everything that happened this offseason will be good for this program. A great recruiting class and a strong new coaching staff will pay dividends by 2008 at the latest, and quite possibly by 2007. However, this year will see a big downturn for the Bruins, as they lose virtually everyone of note from a team that was extremely fortunate to win as many games as they did. Unless Ben Olson is amazing right away, this will be a mediocre team at best, as their offense just won't be good enough to carry them past the burden of what looks to be a lousy defense.
Biggest Games:
vs Utah, @ Washington, vs Stanford, vs Arizona:
UCLA's schedule is very backloaded, which is a terrible break for a young team and an overhauled coaching staff. With the exception of Wazzu, the last seven games are all nasty, which means that if they can't succeed early they won't be going anywhere. As three of their swing games are at home and the third is against Washington, they've at least got a shot at respectability. It won't be easy, but if this team gels quickly they could surprise and make a run at a bowl game.

USC:
With all the talent that graduated from 2005's monster, it'll be very interesting to see how the Trojans adjust. They've been getting so many top-line recruits that it won't take them long to reload, but they will probably still take a step or two back this season before taking a big step forward next year.
Biggest Games:
vs Nebraska, vs Arizona St, vs Oregon, vs Cal, vs Notre Dame:
It's cheating to list five games here, but the truth is that each of these games will be legitimate challenges for the Trojans. Fortunately, they're all in LA, which means that they'll be favored in all five of these games. If they can lose no more than two of them, and not get ambushed by any lesser teams on the road, they should at least make some sort of BCS game. Getting only one loss will be a tough task, but if they can hit that mark, then they'll have an excellent shot of making the National Title game.

Washington:
They're still the worst team in the league, but the gap keeps closing, as they'll end up very close to a few other teams. Last place, while likely, is by no means a certainty.
Biggest Games:
vs UCLA, @ Arizona, vs Stanford, @ Washington St
Other than San Jose State, these are the four games they'll have the best shot at winning. Each one would be an upset, but they should at least take one of them. If they can split this group or better, they could very well find themselves out of the league cellar for the first time since 2003.

Washington St.:
They were incredibly snake-bitten in 2005, but they also lose a significant amount of talent. Jason Hill is good, but unless they either find a running game or Alex Brink finally becomes a good quarterback, they'll struggle again this year.
Biggest Games:
vs Baylor, @ Oregon St, vs Arizona, vs Washington
At Auburn is a brutal way to start the year, which could really affect them early on. If they can't rebound quickly, Baylor might catch them napping. The Oregon State game has been a major bellweather for them the past few years. When they win, things go well, and when they lose, the bottom falls out. Arizona and Washington look like fellow cellar dwellars, but the Cougars will have the home-field edge for both games. This team will be explosive enough to have a shot at stealing a game or two elsewhere, but these games will be the difference between whether their season is mediocre or really bad.

At the end of the year, I’ll post a comparison with other places that have provided season previews, just like I did last year, when I got the best results for picking the league standings, only being off by 10 games from the perfect picks, and tied with Tom Haire in the game by game picks.

2006 Predictions / Results

STANDINGS PREDICTIONS 2006

MY PREDICTIONS ATHLON PREDICTIONS CFN PREDICTIONS SI PREDICTIONS
USC 7-2 USC 8.5-0.5 USC 8-1 USC 9-0
CAL 7-2 CAL 8.5-0.5 CAL 7-2 CAL 8-1
UO 6-3 UO 6.0-3.0 OSU 5-4 ASU 7-2
OSU 5-4 UCLA 6.0-3.0 ASU 5-4 UO 6-3
ASU 5-4 ASU 5.5-3.5 UO 5-4 UCLA 4-5
STAN 4-5 ARIZ 4.0-5.0 WSU 4-5 ARIZ 3-6
ARIZ 4-5 OSU 2.5-6.5 UCLA 3-6 WSU 3-6
UCLA 3-6 WSU 1.5-7.5 STAN 3-6 STAN 3-6
WSU 2-7 STAN 1.5-7.5 ARIZ 3-6 OSU 1-8
WASH 2-7 WASH 1.0-8.0 WASH 2-7 WASH 1-8
TOTAL WINS OFF BY
0 WINS 0 WINS 0 WINS 0 WINS
HAIRE PREDICTIONS AZC PREDICTIONS CFP PREDICTIONS ACTUAL RESULTS
USC 9-0 CAL 8-1 USC 9-0 ARIZ 0-0
CAL 8-1 ASU 7-2 CAL 8-1 ASU 0-0
ASU 6-3 USC 7-2 UO 7-2 CAL 0-0
UO 5-4 UO 6-3 ASU 7-2 UO 0-0
UCLA 4-5 UCLA 5-4 UCLA 5-4 OSU 0-0
ARIZ 4-5 ARIZ 4-5 STAN 4-5 STAN 0-0
WASH 3-6 WSU 3-6 OSU 2-7 UCLA 0-0
STAN 2-7 OSU 3-6 ARIZ 2-7 USC 0-0
WSU 2-7 STAN 2-7 WSU 2-7 WASH 0-0
OSU 2-7 WASH 0-9 WASH 0-9 WSU 0-0
TOTAL WINS OFF BY
0 WINS 0 WINS 0 WINS

2005 Predictions / Results

WEEK BY WEEK RESULTS
MY PREDICTIONS ATHLON PREDICTIONS CFN PREDICTIONS HAIRE PREDICTIONS
TOTAL 28-12 28.0-12.0 24-16 26-14

note: predicted "toss-up" games are indicated by being equal to half a win and half a loss
STANDINGS PREDICTIONS 2005

MY PREDICTIONS ATHLON PREDICTIONS CFN PREDICTIONS SI PREDICTIONS
USC 7-1 USC 8.0-0.0 USC 8-0 USC 8-0
UO 6-2 ASU 6.5-1.5 ASU 6-2 ASU 6-2
UCLA 6-2 UCLA 6.0-2.0 CAL 6-2 UO 5-3
ASU 5-3 CAL 6.0-2.0 UO 4-4 CAL 5-3
CAL 4-4 UO 4.5-3.5 OSU 4-4 WSU 4-4
STAN 4-4 OSU 4.0-4.0 UCLA 4-4 UCLA 4-4
WSU 3-5 WSU 2.5-5.5 ARIZ 3-5 ARIZ 3-5
ARIZ 2-6 ARIZ 1.5-6.5 WSU 3-5 OSU 3-5
OSU 2-6 STAN 0.5-7.5 STAN 1-7 STAN 1-7
WASH 1-7 WASH 0.5-7.5 WASH 1-7 WASH 1-7
TOTAL WINS OFF BY
6 WINS 14 WINS 16 WINS 14 WINS

HAIRE PREDICTIONS CFW PREDICTIONS CFP PREDICTIONS ACTUAL RESULTS
USC 8-0 USC 8-0 USC 8-0 USC 8-0
UCLA 5-3 UCLA 6-2 UCLA 7-1 UO 7-1
CAL 5-3 STAN 6-2 CAL 6-2 UCLA 6-2
ASU 5-3 CAL 5-3 ASU 6-2 CAL 4-4
UO 4-4 ASU 5-3 OSU 5-3 STAN 4-4
ARIZ 4-4 WASH 4-4 WSU 3-5 ASU 4-4
OSU 4-4 UO 2-6 STAN 2-6 OSU 3-5
WSU 3-5 OSU 2-6 UO 2-6 ARIZ 2-6
WASH 2-6 ARIZ 1-7 ARIZ 1-7 WSU 1-7
STAN 0-8 WSU 1-7 WASH 0-8 WASH 1-7
TOTAL WINS OFF BY
16 WINS 14 WINS 18 WINS