2007 CFN Pac 10 Preview

Posted Jul 27, 2007

It's USC's world and the rest of the Pac 10 is taking up space ... or is it? While the Trojans, helped by Brian Cushing, have the best D yet under Pete Carroll, UCLA, Cal, and shhhhhh, Oregon State, are loaded enough to win the league's title. Check out the predictions, All-Pac 10 team, unit rankings and more in the 2007 CFN Pac 10 preview.

2007 CFN Pac 10 Preview

Team Previews, Offenses, Defenses & Depth Charts
Arizona | Arizona State | California | Oregon | Oregon State
Stanford | UCLA | USC | Washington | Washington State

- CFN All-Pac 10 Team & Top 30 Players
- Pac 10 Team-by-Team Capsules

Pac 10 Unit Rankings

- Pac 10 Schedules & Predictions

By Richard Cirminiello & Pete Fiutak

Whether or not you like the Pac-10, you have to give the left coast league its just due for being the BCS conference that does the most for college football

Beyond getting it right by scheduling all the teams to play each other (wake up Big Ten: figure out how to make this happen), it does the best job of pushing itself out of conference.

Outside of Arizona (who’s making a respectable trip to BYU), every Pac-10 team plays a non-conference game against a BCS-league team or Notre Dame. And we’re not talking about showdowns with Duke and Baylor here.

California vs. Tennessee, Oregon vs. Michigan, USC vs. Nebraska, Washington vs. Ohio State and Washington State vs. Wisconsin highlight the non-conference match-ups, and there are plenty of other juicy ones throughout the year. There’s only one embarrassment against a D-IAA team when Oregon State hosts Idaho State.

But does the league get any love east of the Mississippi for playing it tough? No. The national perception is that it’s still USC and a bunch of other teams. That will only change once the Pac-10 starts winning some of these big match-ups.

Oh sure, Cal blew away Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl, but the Bears were all but dismissed by the SEC after an opening-day loss to Tennessee. UCLA is remembered for choking late against Notre Dame and being the one team Florida State was able to run over. Even when the non-USCers pulled off a seemingly really big win (Oregon over Oklahoma), it wasn’t exactly a clean victory.

It doesn’t matter; the league should be applauded for having teams willing to put themselves on the chopping block. This year, the tough games aren’t going to be limited to the non-conference showdowns.

USC will be everyone’s preseason number one (or somewhere in the top three), and Cal and UCLA are each good enough to be in the top ten. Oregon State deserves to be in the top 25, while Arizona State, Oregon, and Washington State should all spend time in the rankings at some point in the year. Arizona has its best team yet under Mike Stoops (and that’s not intended to be a back-handed compliment), Washington has its best team year under Ty Willingham (though that’s not saying much), and Stanford, well, Stanford can’t be any worse.

The league is good enough to be in the running for the number two spot behind the SEC in the conference rankings. Unlike others, the Pac-10 actually gives itself the chance to earn that recognition.

Team That'll Surprise

UCLA. This is a legitimate top-ten team that’s been building to this point for the last four years under head coach Karl Dorrell. There’s enough talent on both sides of the ball to beat anyone in America (that win over USC wasn’t a fluke), and now the Bruins will be in the hunt for the Pac-10 title, at least until the trip across town in early December.

Team That'll Disappoint
Arizona. Every year, Arizona is the hot team that’s about to explode under head coach Mike Stoops. Every year, Arizona stinks under Stoops (while Dick Tomey, two coaches removed, has done a masterful job up at San Jose State). While there are some nice playmakers on each side of the ball, QB Willie Tuitama hasn’t proven he can stay healthy, and the team hasn’t proven it can play at a consistently high level. This year won’t be any different.

Offensive Player of the Year
QB John David Booty, Sr. USC. - He doesn’t have Dwayne Jarrett or Steve Smith to throw to anymore. Boo-hoo. There’s still a who’s who of future NFL talent to throw to, with Patrick Turner and Vidal Hazelton ready to step in and shine. If the Trojans do what they’re supposed to, Booty will be seen as the ringleader who got them there.

Defensive Player of the Year
CB Antoine Cason, Sr. Arizona. – It’s possible a USC lineman like tackle Sedrick Ellis or end Lawrence Jackson will get the nod if the Trojan D is lights-out, but Cason will be the league’s best player if anyone bothers to throw his way. Just his intimidation factor could be enough to alter games.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight ...
1. RB Yvenson Bernard, Sr. Oregon State
2. C Alex Mack, Jr. California
3. S Chris Horton, Sr. UCLA
4. S Josh Barrett, Sr. Arizona State
5. LB Spencer Larsen, Sr. Arizona

Coach on the Hot Seat
Bill Doba, Washington State – Easily the league’s most star-crossed program, Washington State has been on the verge of being a player over the last three years, but something always seems to go wrong. A fourth straight season without a bowl game won’t go over well. No, Tony Bennett can’t coach football.

5 Non-Conference Games the Pac-10 had better take very, very seriously
1. UCLA at Utah, Sept. 15
2. Washington at Hawaii, Dec. 1
3. Oregon State at Cincinnati, Sept. 6
4. San Jose State at Arizona State, Sept. 1
5. California at Colorado State, Sept. 8

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. OT Sam Baker, Sr. USC
2. CB Antoine Cason, Sr. Arizona
3. WR DeSean Jackson, Jr. California
4. LB Keith Rivers, Sr. USC
5. LB Rey Maualuga, Jr. USC

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
1. Patrick Turner for Dwayne Jarrett, WR USC
2. Robert Peele for Daymeion Hughes, CB California
3. Nikola Dragovic for Justin Hickman, DE UCLA
4. Worrell Williams for Desmond Bishop, LB California
5. Justin Forsett for Marshawn Lynch, RB California

5 Bold Predictions
1. USC will win the national title, and it’ll be because of its defense. The offense will certainly be fine, but it’ll be more functional than amazing. This Trojan team will roll its way to its second unquestioned national title under Pete Carroll (sorry 2003 fans, it’s a BCS world and we’re all living in it) with its best D of the current era. Enjoy it now because …
2. … Carroll will finally get the offer he can’t refuse from some NFL team ready to give up control. Consider this a lead-pipe lock if the NCAA starts dropping some hammers. Carroll knows he’s in the perfect situation and has become a college football god, but will he want to stick around if he’s not able to play for the national title?  
3. The league will have a hard time filling out its bowl bids. It’ll come down to late in the year when Arizona vs. Arizona State, Oregon State vs. Oregon and Washington State vs. Washington
will all matter in the bowl scramble. USC, Cal and UCLA can already book their tickets, but the rest of the conference will have to work for it.
4. Washington’s Ty Willingham will be all but fired by mid-October, and then will save his job with the finishing kick. How’s this for the first seven games? At Syracuse, Boise State, Ohio State, at UCLA, USC, at Arizona State, Oregon. If the Huskies come out better than 2-5, consider it a success.
5. John David Booty will win first team All-Pac-10 honors, and maybe the Heisman, but Arizona State’s Rudy Carpenter will be the league’s most effective passer. He’ll settle down and bounce back in a big way under Dennis Erickson. He might not have a star-studded receiving corps to work with, but he’ll lead the league in passing efficiency.

What Will Happen
- UCLA will be upset at Oregon State, but will bounce back a few weeks later to beat Cal to get right back in the title hunt. The showdown with USC on December 1 will be for the Pac-10 title, with a groundswell of support for the Bruins to play for the national championship if they can pull off the upset. They won’t.
- California will beat Tennessee to kick-start a 6-0 beginning and a top-five ranking, only to lose at UCLA. After giving USC all it can handle in a close loss, the Bears won’t gear it back up for Washington the next week, getting knocked out of the Pac-10 race for good.
- USC, UCLA, California, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona State and Washington State will go bowling.


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