The numbers are the CFN pre-preseason national rankings.
2006 Record: 11-2
Why to get excited: There have been some good defenses in Pete
Carroll's era, but none like this. Ten starters return with so much
depth that the third stringers would start for at least 75 other teams.
While many will focus on the loss of receivers Dwayne Jarrett and Steve
Smith, there's more NFL talent ready to step in. Patrick Turner, Vidal
Hazelton and others will make John David Booty look great, and vice
Why to be grouchy: Is Booty the real deal? While he looked
fantastic in the Rose Bowl, he was inconsistent throughout the year even
with Jarrett and Smith to work with. There are plenty of great running
back options, but no one has made anyone forget about Reggie Bush and
LenDale White. USC might be a factory, but center Ryan Kalil and tackle
Kyle Williams will be missed.
The number one thing to work on is: Punt returns. Along with
Booty getting on the same page with the starting receivers, and for a
top running back or two to emerge, there needs to be more pop to the
punt return game after averaging a mere 6.19 yards per try. Getting more
out of punter Greg Woidneck would be nice.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Dwayne Jarrett
Biggest defensive loss: LB Dallas Sartz
2006 Record: 7-6
Why to get excited: The program has been building for this
season. The USC win showed the potential of the team under Karl Dorrell,
and now it's time to blow up with ten starters returning on each side of
the ball. All things considered, the schedule works out extremely well
with the road games at Utah, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington State
and Arizona to go along with the trip down the freeway to USC. BYU,
Notre Dame, Cal, Arizona State and Oregon have to come to the Rose Bowl.
Why to be grouchy: Will a quarterback controversy cause an issue?
Pat Cowan is mobile and showed towards the end of last year that he can
be a winner, but Ben Olson has the potential to lead the team to a truly
special season. Will the team be divided in any way? The loss of PK
Justin Medlock, arguably the nation's best kicker last year, will be a
problem at some point.
The number one thing to work on is: Getting even more pop to the
offense. That'll come once the quarterback situation is settled.
Consistency would be nice, but big plays would be even better. There are
too many good, experienced skill players to average just 330 yards and
23 points per game.
Biggest offensive loss: C Robert Chai
Biggest defensive loss: DE Justin Hickman
18. California 2006 Record: 10-3
Why to get excited: Jeff Tedford is locked up with a contract
extension, Justin Forsett appears more than ready to take over the
full-time rushing duties from Marshawn Lynch, DeSean Jackson, Lavelle
Hawkins and Robert Jordan form the nation's most electrifying receiving
trio, and Nate Longshore is a talented, experienced passer. If the Bears
can get by the early visit from Tennessee, a 7-0 start is possible
before going on the road to deal with UCLA and Arizona State. The USC
game is in Berkeley.
Why to be grouchy: While there might be a lot of great pieces
returning to the puzzle, some key superstars are gone including Lynch,
LB Desmond Bishop, CB Daymeion Hughes, and DT Brandon Mebane. Those four
were among the best in the nation at their positions. Andrew Cameron and
Erik Robertson will be missed from the offensive line.
The number one thing to work on is: Stopping the pass. The back
seven was fine at slowing down most of the short stuff on a regular
basis, but even with an All-American in Hughes patrolling part of the
field. the secondary still gave up 241 yards per game. Getting more
pressure from the defensive front would be a plus.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Marshawn Lynch
Biggest defensive loss: CB Daymeion Hughes
Why to get excited: One of the hot teams at the end of last year
winning four straight including the Sun Bowl over Missouri, just about
everyone is coming back with eight starters returning on defense and
seven on offense including All-America candidates Sammie Stroughter and
Yvenson Bernard. Four starters are back on the offensive line, while
likely new starting quarterback Sean Canfield should be fine right away.
Alexis Serna is back for what seems like his ninth year as the Beaver
Why to be grouchy: The Pac 10 slate is as bad as it gets with
five away games going to Arizona State, California, Washington State,
USC and Oregon. Four starters might return to the O line, but it almost
got Matt Moore killed last year and might not give Canfield a whole
bunch of time. Three starters return to the secondary, but Sabby
Piscitelli was the playmaking glue who held it together.
The number one thing to work on is: Getting even more balance to
the offense. With backs like Bernard and Clinton Polk, there's no reason
to only average 118 rushing yards per game. Of course, the number is
skewed from all the sacks, but that doesn't mean there can't be a more
effective ground attack. Until Canfield is sharp, the running game will
have to shine.
Biggest offensive loss: QB Matt Moore
Biggest defensive loss: SS Sabby Piscitelli
39. Arizona State 2006 Record: 7-6
Why to get excited: Dennis Erickson might be a rent-a-coach, but
he's a good one at the collegiate level. He was hired early enough to
put his offensive stamp on the team, while the defense shouldn't be too
bad if the cracks can be filled in quickly. Rudy Carpenter is a talented
passer who should be more relaxed and comfortable a year after the
quarterback controversy fiasco. Ryan Torian is a special back who should
be the focal point of a balanced attack. The schedule is fantastic with
a relatively easy non-conference slate (Bowling Green, Colorado and San
Diego State), while USC, Cal and Oregon State have to come to Tempe.
Why to be grouchy: The schedule is sort of quirky at the end of
the year finishing up with Cal, at Oregon, at UCLA, USC and the rivalry
date with Arizona; there's not a sure thing in the bunch. Enough key
players from last year's defense are gone, including LB Beau Mautai and
CB Keno Walter-White, to make a difference early on. Losing offensive
safety valve Zach Miller early to the NFL was expected, but still
The number one thing to work on is: Improving the pass protection
and developing a deep threat. While Carpenter wasn't the player he was
in 2005, he didn't have Derek Hagan to throw to and was hit early and
often. The line gave up 37 sacks and forced Carpenter to hurry his
throws time and again. This is a huge, relatively experienced line that
needs to be better.
Biggest offensive loss: TE Zach Miller
Biggest defensive loss: S Zach Catanese
43. Oregon 2006 Record: 7-6
Why to get excited: The skill players have the potential to put
up numbers with the best of them. QBs Brady Leaf and Dennis Dixon, RB
Jonathan Stewart, and WR Jaison Williams are experienced enough to do
far more than they did over the final four games of last year. The line
should be good enough to give them all time to work. The return game was
a major strength last season, and should be again with all the top
returners back. Three of the league away games are against non-bowl
teams (Stanford, Washington and Arizona).
Why to be grouchy: An early trip to Michigan might hurt the
psyche of a team that finished the year on a disastrous note. The
defensive line loses Darius Sanders and anchor Matt Toeaina, while J.D.
Nelson was a key playmaker in a strong secondary.
The number one thing to work on is: Deciding on a quarterback.
Dixon was the main man early on last year, but he had to keep looking
over his shoulder at Leaf and eventually lost his gig. The offense
should've been getting better as the season went on, not worse. The
potential is there for big things; now the team has to play like it.
Biggest offensive loss: C Enoka Lucas
Biggest defensive loss: FS J.D. Nelson
45. Washington State 2006 Record: 6-6
Why to get excited: Wazzu might have been the best team to have
not gone to a bowl over the last two seasons. It invented ways to lose
close games in 2005, and collapsed last year losing its final three
games to Pac 10 lightweights Arizona, Arizona State and Washington.
Everyone will be well motivated. Getting several of the key skill
players back should help the cause. After a trip to Wisconsin, the
Cougars get San Diego State and Idaho before ...
Why to be grouchy: ... playing three Pac 10 road games in four
weeks going to USC, Arizona and Oregon. There's also a trip to Cal down
the line. Washington State was tremendous at getting into the back field
last year, and it was mostly due to Mkristo Bruce. He, along with Scott
Davis and his four sacks, are gone. Can Lance Broadus be a premier pass
rusher as the number one guy?
The number one thing to work on is: The return game. Charles
Dillon has the speed and skill to become a solid, but the Cougars were
last in the Pac 10 averaging 5.47 yards per punt return and 17.52 yards
on kickoff returns.
Biggest offensive loss: WR Jason Hill
Biggest defensive loss: DE Mkristo Bruce
2006 Record: 6-6
Why to get excited: After three years under Mike Stoops, the
defense should finally be where Wildcat fans had hoped it would be a few
years ago. With the return of top corner Antoine Cason for his senior
year, nine starters are back on what should be one of the Pac 10's
stingiest defenses. Offensively, Willie Tuitama, if he can stay healthy,
is the type of playmaker to finally get things moving on a consistent
basis. The young O line that struggled so much last year is all back
full with a year of experience.
Why to be grouchy: Teams don't just go from being 115th in the
nation in total offense to dangerous with a snap of the fingers.
Unfortunately, as good as Tuitama is, the team can't rely on him for a
full year. RB Chris Henry, who looked like a star at times over the
second half of last year, ditched early for the league of mercenaries.
PK Nick Folk won't be around to rely on anymore when the offense
struggles to close.
The number one thing to work on is: Generating a pass rush. It's
inexcusable that Stoops and his staff haven't figured out how to get to
the quarterback. 15 sacks and a mere 50 tackles for loss haven't made
anyone forget about the Desert Swarm days.
Biggest offensive loss: RB Chris Henry
Biggest defensive loss: SS Michael Johnson
2006 Record: 5-7
Why to get excited: QB Jake Locker and RB J.R. Hasty are
superstar prospects who appear to be finally ready to shine. The entire
defensive line returns after a decent year, while the offensive line
should be a strength. Yes, Ty Willingham can coach.
Why to be grouchy: It's asking a lot for Locker to be the savior
right away. How's this for an opening eight games? At Syracuse, Boise
State, Ohio State, at UCLA, USC, Cal, at Arizona State, Oregon. The
secondary gave up 240 yards per game last year and now has to replace
three starters. The defense loses five of the top six tacklers, while
the offense has to replace top receiver Sonny Shackelford.
The number one thing to work on is: Forcing turnovers. Washington
failed to generate enough big plays with only 14 takeaways. Doing more
on third downs would be a plus after converting just 33.7% of its
Biggest offensive loss: WR Sonny Shackelford
Biggest defensive loss: SS C.J. Wallace
75. Stanford 2006 Record: 1-11
Why to get excited: With a new coaching staff comes new hope.
Walt Harris didn't have a prayer after injuries hit the offense hard,
and now Jim Harbaugh takes over after a successful stint at the
University of San Diego. Nothing is expected out of the program this
year, and everyone will overlook the Cardinal.
Why to be grouchy: Of the 12 games, nine come against teams that
went to bowls while the other three come at Arizona, at Washington
State, and against Washington. The overall talent level isn't even close
to the rest of the Pac 10.
The number one thing to work on is: Getting the offense moving.
It's one thing to be bad, but it's another to be bad and completely
ineffective. Stanford might never have the athletes to come up with a
killer defense, but it's always been able to get the skill guys to put
up yards and points in bunches. Averaging 232 yards and 10.58 points per
game isn't going to fly. First and foremost, the line has to be better
after allowing 50 sacks and paving the way for just 65 rushing yards per
Biggest offensive loss: QBs T.C. Ostrander and Trent Edwards
Biggest defensive loss: LB Michael Okwo