Midseason Report - Pac 10

Posted Oct 13, 2006

The best Pac 10 players, coaches, surprises of the midseason and more

Offensive Player of the Midseason
Marshawn Lynch, RB California

Defensive Player of the Midseason
Mkristo Bruce, DE Washington State

Ten best Pac-10 players in the first half of the season
1. Marshawn Lynch, RB Cal
2. Nate Longshore, QB Cal
3. Mkristo Bruce, DE Washington State
4. DeSean Jackson, WR Cal
5. Jonathan Stewart, RB Oregon
6. Daymeion Hughes, CB Cal
7. Isaiah Stanback, QB Washington
8. John David Booty, QB USC
9. Justin Hickman, DE UCLA
10. Jaison Williams, WR Oregon

Biggest Surprise – Washington
The timetable for Washington’s return to respectability has changed suddenly and unexpectedly over the first half of 2006.  The Huskies won more games in September than they had over the last two years combined, getting dramatically improved play from the defense and QB Isaiah Stanback.  Without warning, Washington has left the Pac-10 cellar, passing UCLA, Oregon State, Stanford and Arizona along the way.   

Biggest Disappointment – Arizona 
That encompasses both the Wildcats and the Sun Devils.  It’s been a real bad year for football in the Grand Canyon State, where Arizona has failed to emerge this fall as many expected and Arizona State proved to be Pac-10 pretenders with one-sided losses to Cal and Oregon.  The play of quarterbacks Willie Tuitama and Rudy Carpenter has been a microcosm of all that’s been going wrong in Tucson and Tempe, respectively.   

The Pac-10 Champion will be ... USC
Red-hot Cal is certainly going to have a say in the title chase, however, it’s hard not to go with the champs, who’ll get the Bears in the Coliseum, where they haven’t lost in five years.  By a wide margin, the Trojans have the nastiest defense in the Pac-10, while the offense figures to simmer once Dwayne Jarrett returns from injury and Emmanuel Moody and Chauncey Washington settle into their roles in USC’s two-back attack.       

Best Game of the First Half 
Oregon 34 ... Oklahoma 33, Sept. 16
Garrett Hartley connected on four field goal attempts and had a shot to save Oklahoma from a painful and controversial collapse, but his 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked as time ran out give Oregon the tremendous win. Down 33-20 with just over three minutes to play, Oregon got a 16-yard touchdown run from Dennis Dixon, recovered the onside kick, which was reviewed after Sooner coaches thought it hit a Duck player before going ten yards, and scored with 46 seconds to play on a 23-yard touchdown pass Brian Paysinger with the extra point giving Oregon a 34-33 lead. Oklahoma's Reggie Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards to get into field goal range before the final block. The finish overshadowed a brilliant day from the two star running backs with Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson rushing for 211 yards and a touchdown and Oregon's Jonathan Stewart tearing off 144 yards and a score.
Second Best Game USC 28 ... Washington State 22, Sept. 30
Third Best GameOregon 31 ... Fresno State 24, Oct. 9

Worst Game of the First Half 
Oregon State 38 ... Idaho 0, Sept. 23
Oregon State had no problems in Dennis Erikson's return to Corvallis as Yvenson Bernard ran for touchdowns from 19 and seven yards out and Anthony Wheat-Brown caught a ten-yard scoring pass on the way to an easy win. The Beaver defense held Idaho to 185 yards and picked off Vandal QBs five times with Derrick Doggett returning one pick 12 yards for a third quarter score. Idaho was zero for ten on third down conversions.

Coach of the Midseason – Tyrone Willingham, Washington
Jeff Tedford of Cal is the choice in just about any other year, however, what Willingham is doing in Seattle is remarkable.  One year after going 2-9, the Huskies are 4-2 with quality wins over Fresno State, UCLA and Arizona to go along with a moral victory in Saturday’s 26-20 loss in the Coliseum.  A return to the post-season, which didn’t look like it would materialize until 2007 or 2008, is about to happen a couple of years ahead of schedule.

Player who'll step up in the second half – John David Booty, QB USC
Booty and the offense have been sort of lurking in the weeds as the Trojan defense dominates the headlines in the early going.  That’ll change once Dwayne Jarrett returns from his shoulder injury and the running game develops into a more known commodity.  With a number of high-powered offenses still left on the schedule, Booty will have plenty of chances to grab the spotlight in higher scoring games.               

Best performance so far – Yeah, he threw two picks and got help from an unexpected source, however, Oregon QB Dennis Dixon really grew up in the Sept. 16 game with Oklahoma, accounting for 375 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner to Brian Paysinger with 46 ticks left.  Washington QB Isaiah Stanback had a similarly transcendent moment a week later against UCLA, guiding the Huskies from behind with a career-high three touchdown passes.       

Top Freshman – USC RB Emmanuel Moody
The nine-month mystery over who’d be succeeding Reggie Bush and LenDale White in the Trojan backfield has finally been solved…sort of.  Sharing the backfield with Chauncey Washington, Moody leads USC with 394 yards and a pair of touchdowns after earning his first starts in September.  The true freshman has used his size and speed to gobble up 6.6 yards a carry through the first six games.   

Coach who needs to have a big second half – Oregon State head coach Mike Riley
Riley is under .500 for his career in Corvallis and coming off a 5-6 season, making a successful second half of 2006 essential to his job security.  The Beavers entered this year with a ton of returning talent on both sides of the ball, but were carpet bombed by Boise State and Cal before losing Saturday’s game with Washington State 13-6.          

Players who need to have a big second half – USC CBs Terrell and Kevin Thomas
In the make-or-break three-game homestand that begins Nov. 11, the Trojan secondary will go toe-to-toe with Oregon’s Jaison Williams, Cal’s DeSean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins and Notre Dame’s Jeff Samardzija and Rhema McKnight.  Ouch.  If the Thomas’ aren’t up to the challenge, USC’s perfect season and title hopes will be in serious jeopardy.    

Best remaining conference game – Cal at USC, Nov. 18
All the marbles.  The whole ball of wax.  However it’s labeled, this titanic clash between the Bears and the Trojans will likely produce the Pac-10 champion for 2006.  Beyond the obvious big-picture ramifications, Cal’s offense versus the USC defense alone gives this game the potential to be one of the most entertaining match ups of the entire season.   

Team Mid-Season MVPs & Predictions  
Arizona – LB Spencer Larsen
predicted wins: at Stanford, Oregon State, Arizona State
predicted losses: at Washington State, Cal, at Oregon
predicted record: 5-7

Arizona State – RB Ryan Torain
predicted wins: Stanford, at Oregon State, Washington State, UCLA
predicted losses: at USC, at Washington, at Arizona  
predicted record: 7-5

California – QB Nate Longshore
predicted wins: at Washington State, Washington, UCLA, at Arizona, Stanford
predicted losses: at USC
predicted record: 10-2

Oregon – QB Dennis Dixon
predicted wins: UCLA, at Washington State, Portland State, Washington, Arizona, at Oregon State
predicted losses: at USC
predicted record: 10-2

Oregon State - RB Yvenson Bernard
predicted wins: at Stanford, at Hawaii
predicted losses: at Washington, at Arizona, USC, Arizona State, at UCLA, Oregon
predicted record: 4-9

Stanford – LB Michael Okwo
predicted wins: none
predicted losses: Arizona, at Arizona State, USC, at Washington, Oregon State, at Cal 
predicted record: 0-12

UCLA – DE Justin Hickman
predicted wins: Washington State, Oregon State,
predicted losses: at Oregon, at Notre Dame, at Cal, at Arizona State, USC 
predicted record: 6-6

USC – QB John David Booty
predicted wins: Arizona State, at Oregon State, at Stanford, Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame, at UCLA
predicted losses: none
predicted record: 12-0

Washington – QB Isaiah Stanback
predicted wins: Oregon State, Arizona State, Stanford
predicted losses: at Cal, at Oregon, at Washington State
predicted record: 7-5

Washington State  – DE Mkristo Bruce
predicted wins: Arizona, Washington
predicted losses: Cal, Oregon, at UCLA, at Arizona State
predicted record: 6-6