2007 UCLA Bruins

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 UCLA Bruins Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 UCLA Bruins

Recap: With 20 starters back from a team that beat USC a year ago, the Bruins 6-7 mark qualified them as one of the biggest underachievers of the year, costing Karl Dorrell his job.  Although injuries to quarterbacks certainly played a part in UCLA's disappointing results, the program often missed its mark even when either Ben Olson or Patrick Cowan was healthy.  The Bruins did finish over .500 in Pac-10 play, feasting on the bottom of the league, and catching Oregon State and Oregon at opportune times in the season.         

Offensive Player of the Year: WR Brandon Breazell

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Bruce Davis

Biggest Surprise: Very little made sense around Westwood this season.  On Oct. 20, the Bruins rebounded from an inexcusable loss to Notre Dame to hand No. 10 Cal its second straight loss.  UCLA got a big day from RB Kahlil Bell and a 76-yard pick six from CB Alterraun Verner as the Bears drove for the win that qualified as the play of the year for the Bruins.    

Biggest Disappointment: On national television, UCLA had the indignity of becoming Notre Dame's first victim on Oct. 6.  In an utterly hideous performance that began the Bruins' headaches at quarterback, they managed just 140 yards and two field goals, committing more turnovers than points scored with freshman walk-on McLeod Bethel-Thompson calling signals.

Looking Ahead: It's the dawn of a new day at UCLA, as former quarterback and assistant Rick Neuheisel replaces Dorrell.  Although he's had success at this level before, he's also inheriting a roster that'll be missing a ton of last year's regulars.  If Neuheisel can get Olson to finally max out his potential, he'll be off to a nice start in his return to the Pac-10.

- 2007 UCLA Preview 
2006 UCLA Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 at Stanford W 45-17
Sept. 8 BYU W 27-17
Sept. 15 at Utah L 44-6
Sept. 22 Washington W 44-31
Sept. 29 at Oregon St W 40-14
Oct. 6
Notre Dame L 20-6
Oct. 20 California W 30-21
Oct. 27 at Wash State L 27-7
Nov. 3 at Arizona L 34-27
Nov. 10 Arizona State L 24-20
Nov. 24 Oregon W 16-0
Dec. 1 at USC L 24-7
Las Vegas Bowl
Dec. 22 BYU L 17-16

Dec. 22
2007 Las Vegas Bowl
BYU 17 ... UCLA 16

UCLA rallied to get in position to win the game with a chip shot field goal, but BYU's Eathyn Manumaleuna got a hand on the kick to stop it just enough for it to go barely under the crossbar to preserve the Cougar win. The UCLA defense dominated for most of the game, holding BYU to just 265 yards, but a muffed punt led to a 14-yard Austin Collie touchdown catch and Michael Reed caught a 13-yard scoring pass to cap off a 55-yard drive late in the second quarter. The Bruins capitalized on a Harvey Unga fumble deep in BYU territory to get a four-yard Brandon Breazell scoring grab as time ran out in the first half, but they would only manage a 50-yard Kai Forbath field goal in the second half.
Offensive Player of the Game: BYU WR Austin Collie caught six passes for 107 yards and a touchdown
Defensive Player of the Game: UCLA DE Bruce Davis made seven tackles and three sacks
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: McLeod Bethel-Thompson, 11-27, 154 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Chris Markey, 27-117. Receiving: Brandon Breazell, 4-44, 1 TD
BYU - Passing: Max Hall, 21-35, 231 yds, 2 TD
Manase Tonga, 3-21. Receiving: Austin Collie, 6-107, 1 TD

Thoughts and Notes ...
While BYU certainly won't give the win over UCLA back, but this was hardly a bright shining moment for the Mountain West. The Bruins were down to an untested third string quarterback, is dealing with all the coaching turmoil, and it still came within a an Eathyn Manumaleuna mitt from pulling off the upset. This might not have been enough of a showing for Dwayne Walker to win the UCLA head coaching job, but he had the defense playing at a high level. ... In several ways, this BYU season might have been even more impressive than last year when it ripped through almost everyone. Bronco Mendenhall and his staff got 11 wins out of a team with a less talented offense, and was able to pull off tight wins over UCLA, New Mexico, Utah and TCU. ... If only UCLA had a healthy Ben Olson or Pat Cowan. McLeod Bethel-Thompson wasn't always helped out by his receiving corps, and he did a great job of getting the team in a position to win the game on a great final drive, but he was too inconsistent throughout. ... The pass rushing stars didn't disappoint. UCLA's Bruce Davis played at another level, and BYU's Jan Jorgensen was terrific.

Dec. 1
USC 24 ... UCLA 7
USC held the Bruins to 168 yards of total offense, didn't allow a third-down conversion, and only gave up a nine-yard touchdown catch from Dominique Johnson with seven seconds to play in the first half. The USC offense wasn't crisp, but it had few problems taking control of the game and keeping it with Joe McKnight running for a five-yard score, Chauncey Washington running for a ten-yard score, and Fred Davis closing out the scoring with a 12-yard Fred Davis catch. UCLA's Dennis Keyes made 19 tackles for the Bruins.
Player of the game: USC RBs Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson combined for 162 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: Patrick Cowan, 13-24, 156 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Chris Markey, 17-49. Receiving: Brandon Breazell, 4-53
USC - Passing: John David Booty, 21-36, 206 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Joe McKnight, 13-89, 1 TD. Receiving: Fred Davis,
6-41, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Even though the statistics are overwhelmingly in favor of USC, the Bruins really didn't play all that poorly defensively in the loss. The offense was another story, but there wasn't any running game thanks to all the injuries at running back, and Pat Cowan wasn't able to carry the attack with the passing game. With four losses in the last five games, this might have been if for the Karl Dorrell era, but it's not necessarily fair considering all the injuries.

Nov. 24
UCLA 16 ... Oregon 0
Oregon QB Brady Leaf was awful, and then he hurt his ankle, was out for the game, and his backups were worse. UCLA QB Osaar Rasshan was miserable, missing on all seven of his passes with an interception, Ben Olson came in and was awful, but the Bruin defense dominated and the offense got just enough with a 20-yard Craig Sheppard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and a Kai Forbath field goal in each of the first three to get the ugly win. The two teams combined for just 22 first downs with 22 punts and 368 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: UCLA LB Christian Taylor made 13 tackles, a sack and four tackles for loss.
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Cody Kept, 6-23, 52 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 13-33. Receiving: Ed Dickson, 5-31
UCLA - Passing: Ben Olson, 4-10, 64 yds, 1 INT
Chris Markey, 30-91. Receiving:
Brandon Breazell, 2-50
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Osaar Rasshan can't play quarterback anymore. He might be the only option, but UCLA can't put him under center and have any prayer of competing against USC. For all the injuries and all the problems, the Bruins are somehow bowl eligible after the win against Oregon. However, the offense got ten first downs, 220 yards of total offense, and only won because Oregon was more inept. The defense will have to pull off a gem like last year to even think about pulling off the upset next week.

Nov. 10
Arizona State 24 ... UCLA 20
Arizona State overcame an early 10-0 deficit and a late 89-yard kickoff return for a score from Matt Slater to hold on for the win. Rudy Carpenter connected with Kyle Williams for a nine-yard score, Dimitri Nance ran for an 11-yard touchdown, and Keegan Herring put the Sun Devils up for good with a 71-yard run midway through the third quarter. After a Thomas Weber punt pinned the Bruins deep with time for one last gasp try, a several lateral play helped get the ball past midfield, but the desperation play sputtered out and ASU pulled it out.
Player of the game: In a losing cause, UCLA S Chris Horton made eight tackles, three sacks and four tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: Osaar Rasshan, 14-27, 181 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Craig Sheppard, 12-56, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon Breazell, 5-87
Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 16-31, 200 yds, 1 TD
Keegan Herring, 22-116, 1 TD. Receiving: Chris McGaha, 9-123

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UCLA isn't giving up without a fight. Karl Dorrell is under intense pressure, but to be fair, he doesn't have a real quarterback to work with and his top rushing options are out. Even so, his Bruins battled hard in the loss to Arizona State, mainly because the defense kept the game alive. Outside of allowing a big third quarter touchdown run, the D did a solid overall job. Now it'll have to generate even more pressure and create more big plays to have a shot at Oregon next week. With Osaar Rasshan under center, there simply isn't enough firepower to keep up with the Ducks.

Nov. 3
Arizona 34 ... UCLA 27
UCLA took an early lead with 100-yard kickoff return for a score from Matt Slater following a 39-yard Jason Bondzio field goal, and then Willie Tuitama and the Arizona passing game took over with Chris Jennings taking a pass 55 yards for a score and Rob Gronkoswki scoring from 27 yard out as part of a 24-point run. UCLA despite losing QB Pat Cowan to a collapsed lung, came back with Kai Forbath field goals from 35 and 61 yards out, and a one-yard Chane Moline touchdown run, but the Wildcats were able to run out the clock late. Arizona outgained UCLA 469 yards to 288.
Player of the game: Arizona QB Willie Tuitama completed 21 of 36 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: Osaar Rasshan, 3-10, 78 yds
Rushing: Chane Moline, 15-62, 1 TD. Receiving: Dominique Johnson, 4-74
Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 21-36, 341 yds, 3 TD
Nicholas Grigsby, 20-124, 1 TD. Receiving: Rob Gronkowski, 6-94, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
And now the Bruins are really in trouble. Losing three of the last four is bad enough, but the injuries keep on mounting with the big one coming against Arizona when QB Pat Cowan left with a collapsed lung. Osaar Rasshan simple can't throw the ball, completing just three of ten passes, so if he's not running well, or if the Bruins don't have any other passing options, things could get really ugly with Arizona State, Oregon and USC up next. The defense and special teams will have to help out more with the offense too banged up to consistently move the ball from here on out.

Oct. 27
Washington State 27 ... UCLA 7
The Cougars ran for 247 yards with Dwight Tardy scoring from one yard out in the first quarter and closing things out with a 51-yard touchdown dash in the final minute. The defense held UCLA to 267 yards of total offense, with 50 of them coming three plays into the game on a Kahlil Bell touchdown run. The Bruins were inept the rest of the game, failing to keep the chains moving, while the Cougars held on to the ball for 38 minutes.
Player of the game: Washington State RB Dwight Tardy ran 37 times for 214 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 22 yards.
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: Pat Cowan, 17-36, 167 yds
Rushing: Kahlil Bell, 4-67, 1 TD. Receiving: Terrence Austin, 5-45
Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 28-46, 271 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Dwight Tardy, 37-214, 2 TD. Receiving: Jed Collins, 6-71
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... You know what you're getting out of UCLA, even it you don't really know from week to week which team will show up. You know you'll get a home run, but if there aren't several, the offense doesn't produce. The defense will have its moments, but when things go wrong, they go really, really, wrong. After running into a buzzsaw against Washington State, a rebound win over Arizona is now a must. How quickly could things go south? After the trip to Tucson, the Bruins play Arizona State, Oregon and USC.

Oct. 20
UCLA 30 ... California 21
Down one late in the fourth quarter, UCLA got a 27-yard Kai Forbath field goal for a 23-21 lead, but Cal got into instant scoring range on a big Jahvid Best kickoff return. On third and five from the UCLA 30, Nate Longshore got picked off by Alterraun Verner for the second time of the day, but this time it went 76 yards for a score. In the see-saw game, the Bruins got three Forbath field goals and a trick touchdown on a 29-yard pass from WR Brandon Breazell to Dominique Johnson, but the Bears kept pace with three Longshore touchdown passes including two to DeSean Jackson.
Player of the game: UCLA DB Alterraun Verner made 4.5 tackles, two tackles for loss, broke up three passes, and picked off two passes, taking one for a game-sealing touchdown.
Stat Leaders: California - Passing: Nate Longshore, 22-34, 232 yds, 3 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Justin Forsett, 25-76. Receiving: DeSean Jackson, 9-136, 2 TD
UCLA - Passing: Pat Cowan, 18-27, 161 yds, 1 TD
Kahlil Bell, 22-142. Receiving: Joe Cowan, 7-39

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... You want to try to figure out this goofy Bruin team? Offensively, it's easy. If Pat Cowan is under center, things are fine, while on defense, the Bruins are living off of the big play time and again while also stuffing the running game. The Bears only got 67 rushing yards and never got into to an offensive groove when the passing game wasn't working. After all the problems and all the non-conference ugliness, the Bruins are still unbeaten in conference play with two of the league's lightweights, Washington State and Arizona, up next. Both games are on the road, so focus is of the utmost importance with Arizona State, Oregon and USC still to deal with.

Oct. 6
Notre Dame 20 ... UCLA 6
In a game that might have set back offensive football 50 years, Notre Dame forced seven turnovers to pull off the win despite amassing just 140 yards. The Irish scored in the third quarter on a one-yard Jimmy Clausen touchdown run, and 50 seconds later, got a Maurice Crum 34-yard fumble recovery for a score. UCLA lost starting quarter Ben Olsen to a knee injury, and was only able to manage two first half Kai Forbath field goals.
Player of the game: Notre Dame LB Maurice Crum made seven tackles, one sack, forced a fumble, recovered two fumbles, picked off two passes, and scored a 34-yard touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Notre Dame - Passing: Jimmy Clausen, 17-27, 84 yds
Rushing: James Aldridge, 22-52. Receiving: John Carlson, 6-38
UCLA - Passing: McLeod Bethel-Thompson, 12-28, 139 yds, 4 INT
Kahlil Bell, 18-64. Receiving: Joe Cowan, 5-69

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Bruins had better figure out the quarterback situation in a real hurry. Either Ben Olsen or Pat Cowan have to gut it out, despite not appearing to be able to late a whole game, or the running game will have to do a whole bunch more than it did against Notre Dame to have any shot against Cal in two weeks. McLeon Bethel-Thompson simply can't play, at least he couldn't against the Irish. The only way the Bruins could've lost that game was by screwing up. Seven turnovers and 11 penalties later, Merry Christmas, Notre Dame.

Sept. 29
UCLA 40 ... Oregon State 14
Oregon State appeared to be on its way to an easy win, taking a 14-0 first quarter lead on an Al Afalavia 33-yard fumble return for a score, and a one-yard Yvenson Bernard touchdown run. The then came the self-destruction. UCLA managed two Kai Forbath field goals in the second quarter, and took advantage of two fumbled kickoff returns from Gerard Lawson to get two short Kahlil Bell scoring runs. Brandon Breazell scored from 69 and 30 yards out, with the first score coming after a personal foul call, and Chris Markey ran it in from two yards away as part of a 28-0 fourth quarter Bruin run.
Player of the game: UCLA CB Trey Brown made eight tackles with two interceptions.
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: Ben Olson, 14-25, 220 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Kahlil Bell, 24-80, 2 TD. Receiving: Brandon Breazell, 2-99, 2 TD
Oregon State - Passing: Sean Canfield, 22-35, 146 yds, 2 INT
Yvenson Bernard, 27-125, 1 TD. Receiving: Anthony Brown, 6-34

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UCLA wasn't always great against Oregon State, but the defense was. The talented Beaver offense only gained 248 yards and turned it over five times, with two coming on special teams, as the Bruin defense came up with its most complete performance of the year. The offense took advantage of OSU mistakes, but it wasn't a consistent attack. Over the last two games, the O has lived by the home run to break games open, and it has to show it can keep the chains moving when the big play isn't there. If would be nice if Ben Olson could come up with a complete game. That might come against Notre Dame.

Sept. 22
UCLA 44 ... Washington 31
In a game of big plays, UCLA came up with a few more. In a wild second half, UCLA's Dennis Keyes took an Jake Locker pass 60 yards for a 24-10 lead on the way to a seemingly easy fourth quarter, but the Huskies started off the fourth quarter by turning an interception into a 20-yard Anthony Russo touchdown. Just when it seemed like UW was about to take over the momentum, UCLA got it back as Chris Markey tore off a 72-yard touchdown run. But the Huskies would respond with a 63-yard Russo score to pull within seven. Again, it seemed like UW was about to make a big move, but on the ensuing kickoff, Matt Slater took it 85 yards for a score. Kai Forbath hit two late field goals, and the Bruins weren't threatened again.
Player of the game: UCLA RB Chris Markey ran 14 times for 193 yards and a touchdown, and caught a pass for five yards.
Stat Leaders: Washington - Passing: Jake Locker, 17-36, 216 yds, 4 TD, 2 INT
Jake Locker, 15-92. Receiving: Anthony Russo, 5-106, 2 TD
UCLA - Passing: Patrick Cowan, 17-30, 147 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Chris Markey, 14-193, 1 TD. Receiving: Dominique Johnson, 5-32, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... How strange is this team? After a stunningly miserable loss to an awful Utah team, the offense kicked it into high gear against Washington with 333 rushing yards and big plays from the defense, but now there are problems. QB Ben Olson was out with headaches, but he suffered a knee injury, meaning McLeod Bethel-Thompson, an unheralded third stringer, had to hand the ball off. The Bruins showed the explosiveness needed to make a big run in the Pac 10, but a steady, and healthy, quarterback has to emerge from the pack.

Sept. 15
Utah 44 ... UCLA 6
UCLA turned it over five times, committed ten penalties, and lost a sure touchdown when WR Marcus Everett lost the ball through the end zone for a touchback, but it was the opportunistic Utah offense that made it a blowout. Following a 53-yard Marquis Wilson touchdown catch on the game's opening drive, the Bruins cut the lead to one on two Kai Forbath field goals. That would be it for UCLA, as Utah cranked out 37 unanswered points on two more Tommy Grady touchdown passes and helped by three Darrell Mack touchdowns. Four Utah scoring drives went fewer than ten yards.
Player of the game: Utah RB Darrell Mack carried 19 times for 107 yards and a score, and caught three passes for 34 yards and two more touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: UCLA - Passing: Ben Olson, 20-40, 290 yds, 3 INTs
Rushing: Kahlil Bell, 12-59. Receiving: Brandon Breazell, 6-121
Utah - Passing: Tommy Grady, 17-30, 246 yds, 3 TDs
Darrell Mack, 19-107, 1 TD. Receiving: Derrek Richards, 4-65
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Does UCLA have a short memory? The Utah loss was as ugly as it gets. The offense couldn't stop screwing up, and the defense couldn't come up with a big stop to change the momentum around. With Washington up next, a win would mean a 2-0 Pac 10 start and should gloss over this embarrassment, but there's major cause for concern. The offensive line struggles with the Utah pass rush, allowing five sacks, and Ben Olson was off. He threw for five touchdown passes against Stanford in the opener, but he hasn't exactly been consistent. Olson clearly needs more time and more work, but it'll be interesting to see how long Pat Cowan can stay on the bench if the results aren't better.

Sept. 8
UCLA 27 ... BYU 17
UCLA jumped out to a 20-0 lead helped by a 56-yard Trey Brown interception return for a score, two Kai Forbath field goals and a four-yard Kahlil Bell scoring run, but had to hang on as BYU pulled within three in the third quarter on two Max Hall to Austin Collie touchdown passes. The Bruins finally got a little breathing room in the final minutes on a three-yard Chris Markey run to finish off a 12-play, 45-yard drive that ate up 3:40. BYU outgained UCLA 435 yards to 236 but got timely plays from the defense including two key sacks and a forced fumble from Bruce Davis.
Player of the game: UCLA CB Trey Brown had five pass break ups, 4.5 tackles, a fumble recovery, and a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: BYU
- Passing: Max Hall, 30-52, 391 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Rushing: Harvey Unga, 5-28. Receiving: Austin Collie, 7-79, 2 TDs
- Passing: Ben Olson, 13-28, 126 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Kahlil Bell, 16-79, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcus Everett, 5-66
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... UCLA's defense showed up when it had to against BYU, but the offense that was so balanced and so good against Stanford appeared to miss the bus. It's too much to call Ben Olson's 13-of-28, 126-yard performance a major step back, but it certainly wasn't a positive, while the rest of the offense only managed a mere 236 yards total to BYU's 435. The defense made the plays early and very late, and the offensive line helped pave the way late, but this was hardly the type of game Bruin fans are going to feel great about. A bounceback performance at Utah is a must before dealing with a hot Washington team.

Sept. 1
UCLA 45 ... Stanford 17
Ben Olsen threw five touchdown passes with Joe Cowan scoring from 19 and 77 yards out, while Kahlil Bell got the ground game going with 195 yards as the Bruins cranked out 624 yards of total offense. Stanford had its moments, with Richard Sherman taking a T.C. Ostrander pass 70 yards for a touchdown and Jim Dray scoring from nine yards out, but the defense didn't do enough to make it a game. Olsen also connected with Gavin Ketchum for a six-yard score, Dominique Johnson from four yards out, and Brandon Breazell for a 15-yard touchdown.
Player of the game ... UCLA QB Ben Olson went 16-of-29 for 286 yards and five touchdown passes. 
Stat Leaders: UCLA- Passing: Ben Olson, 16-29, 286 yds, 5 TDs
Rushing: Kahlil Bell, 19-195  Receiving: Brandon Breazell, 6-111, 1 TD
Stanford - Passing: T.C. Ostrander, 27-59, 331 yds, 2 TDs
Anthony Kimble, 14-69  Receiving: Evan Moore, 6-87

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... As crazy as it might sound considering Ben Olsen just threw five touchdown passes in the win over Stanford, he needs to be sharper. UCLA could do whatever it wanted to against the Cardinal defense, helped mostly because the offensive line was terrific in all phases, especially in the running game, but Olsen still missed on a few too many passes. However, he didn't make any big mistakes to turn the tide of the game, and the issues, as slight as they might be, can likely be chalked up to rust. He'll be tested more against BYU and Utah over the next two weeks.

Sept. 1 – at Stanford
Offense: Jim Harbaugh wants to attack defenses with an up tempo offense that'll feature lots of pre-snap motion and a ball control element that harkens back to the Bill Walsh days of the West Coast offense.  It worked swimmingly at the University of San Diego for the past couple of years, but this is Stanford where ten points and less than 250 yards a game was the norm last year.  The Cardinal is experienced everywhere and pretty deep at the skill positions, but none of that will matter unless the offensive line does a complete 180 off last year's atrocious performance. 
Defense: New defensive coordinator Scott Shafer is scrapping the 3-4 this year in favor of an attacking 4-3 that is designed to create more turnovers and more plays for negative yards.  The Cardinal is open to suggestions after finishing last in the Pac-10 in just about every defensive category in 2006.  There are holes, to be sure, but Shafer will also inherit some exciting young talent at each unit, such as sophomore tackle Ekom Udofia, sophomore linebacker Clinton Snyder and junior cornerback Wopamo Osaisai.  Above all else, the defense has to find some answers against the run after being humiliated for more than 2,500 yards and nearly five yards a carry a year ago. 

Sept. 8 - BYU
Offense: While the offense won't crank out the big numbers last year's attack did (finishing fourth in the nation in total offense and fifth in scoring), it'll be fantastic starting with a great line that has more talent and depth (though unproven) than the program has seen in a long time. The receivers have to step up with the top targets of last year gone, and new starting quarterback Max Hall has to be efficient from day one. The 1-2 rushing punch of Manase Tonga and Fui Vakapuna will carry things when it needs to with an interesting blend of speed and power.
Defense This won't be the best defense in the Mountain West, but it'll be good enough to win with. The 3-3-5 was replaced by the 3-4 last year with tremendous results. Now the production should be there again with a big front three, led by end Jan Jorgensen, and a good linebacking corps that needs Kelly Poppinga to be the main man in the middle in place of Cameron Jensen. The safeties, Dustin Gabriel and Quinn Gooch, are as good as any in the conference, but the corners are nothing special.

Sept. 15 – at Utah
Offense: Look out. Utah not only gets just about everyone back with its top six wide receivers, leading rusher Darryl Poston, and four starting offensive linemen, but it also welcomes back its superstar, quarterback Brian Johnson, after taking last year off to recover from a torn ACL. All the problems with inconsistency throughout last season should be gone thanks to all the experience. Expect more explosion, a slew of Mountain West all-stars, and for Johnson to become a national college football name. There's more than enough depth at the skill positions to withstand injuries, but there's no development among the backups on the line.  
Defense: There's a ton of athleticism and loads of potential, but there are also several major concerns on the line and secondary. The linebacking corps will be fine with four starting-caliber players returning led by Joe Jianonni in the middle. Martail Burnett is an all-star waiting to blow up at end, free safety Steve Tate is good for 100 tackles, and Brice McCain has the kind of speed that NFL scouts tend to drool over. Everything else is up in the air with former receiver Sean Smith trying to handle the second corner spot, no experience to count on at strong safety, and unproven new starters at tackle and the second defensive end. In the end, the D will be fine in Mountain West play because of all the talent, but it might not be good enough to win the league title if the offense struggles for a game or two.

Sept. 22 - Washington
Offense: All eyes in Seattle will be fixed on the debut of hot-shot rookie quarterback Jake Locker, but if there's one priority for Tyrone Willingham in 2007, it's to get more consistent on the ground.  Conservative by Pac-10 doctrine, the third-year coach wants to pound it between the tackles to set up the pass.  Top back Louis Rankin is more of an outside runner, putting the onus on 210-pound sophomore J.R. Hasty to start realizing his vast potential.  While Locker has all the tools for stardom, he'll spend most of the upcoming season adapting to his new role as the face of the program.  His big-play target will be senior Marcel Reece, a Mike Walker clone poised to make a salary run.
Even with a slight improvement in 2006, the Husky pass defense ranked among the nation's worst for the second straight year.  With no stars and two new starters, expect more of the same in 2007.  The problems in the secondary will again overshadow a sneaky good front seven that features four returning starters on the defensive line and a group of young, dynamic linebackers, including sophomores E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler that could evolve into playmakers.  Defensive ends Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te'o Nesheim are a couple of warriors that combined for two dozen tackles for loss last fall.  At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Gunheim runs like a gazelle, making him a magnet for NFL scouts visiting the Northwest. 

Sept. 29 – at Oregon State
Offense: While the Beavers regularly skip using a fullback in favor of a third receiver, they're a balanced offense that'll run it as much as they throw.  When you've got a back as talented as senior Yvenson Bernard, that's called using your resources wisely.  Bernard has run for more than 1,300 yards in each of the last two seasons behind a nasty, no-nonsense line that welcomes back all but one starter.  Senior split end Sammie Stroughter is an open field dynamo coming off a monster season in 2006.  What he can do for an encore depends in large part on how well one of two sophomore quarterbacks adapts to a full-time gig.  Hard-throwing lefty Sean Canfield is the acknowledged favorite to supplant Matt Moore, but Lyle Moevao sent a message this spring that he won't go away quietly.             
Defense: Much of the unit that led the Pac-10 in takeaways and sacks is back in Corvallis for 2007.  The front seven, in particular, is rock solid and made up entirely of seniors.  The best of the bunch is outside linebacker Derrick Doggett, who has the range and long stride to literally make plays anywhere on the field.  After bagging a team-high nine sacks as a reserve in 2006, end Dorian Smith is a sleeper with a chance to shed his anonymity this fall.  Whether the Beaver D can get from really good to impervious in 2007 depends on the development of a suspect secondary that allowed 223 yards a game a year ago.  Junior corners Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes are moving in the right direction, but you don't get better by losing long-time patrolman Sabby Piscitelli.                                      

Oct. 6 - Notre Dame
Offense: Yeah, Charlie Weis is a great offensive coach, but there's some serious rebuilding needing to be done. There are good prospects, but there are several major concerns and no proven production. Can the line be better despite losing three starters? Will the skill players be remotely close to as good as the Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, Rhema McKnight and Darius Walker foursome of last year? Are the quarterbacks ready? The quarterbacks appear to be fine, the running backs will be solid in a combination, and the receivers are fast and decent. The line will be a plus by the end of the year, but it'll be a problem early on.
Defense: Charlie Weis is trying to improve a defense that was fine against the mediocre, but lousy when it came to stopping the better offenses. Gone is defensive coordinator Rick Minter, and in comes Corwin Brown, who installed a 3-4 scheme to try to generate more big plays and get more speed and athleticism on the field. The line will be the issue early on as two steady starters are needed to help out Trevor Laws. Maurice Crum leads a promising linebacking corps that should shine in the new defense. The big problem could again be the secondary. It has experience, but it won't get as much help from the pass rush, like it did last year, and needs the young corner prospects to push the unspectacular veterans for time.

Oct. 20 - California
Offense: With Jeff Tedford at the controls, this is basically a pro-style offense that mixes the run and the pass evenly, and puts up points as quickly as any program in the country.  The head coach will be calling plays again after a one-year hiatus, meaning trick plays will be more frequent than a year ago.  The job of distributing the ball to an array of speedy skill position players belongs to quarterback Nate Longshore, a strong-armed junior that threw 24 touchdown passes in 2006 and a few too many picks.  Although he has plenty of receivers to choose from, none is more lethal than DeSean Jackson, a field-stretcher and legit Heisman candidate.  Super sub Justin Forsett takes over for Marshawn Lynch at running back, where he'll be running behind an outstanding veteran line.  Center Alex Mack is on the All-American doorstep after earning first team All-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore.
Defense: There's plenty of work to be done for a Cal defense that begins a new era without its signature all-conference player at each of the three defensive units.  Outstanding recruiting by Jeff Tedford and his staff in recent years ensures that the cupboard is far from empty, but there'll be a learning curve early on in 2007.  Of greatest concern is a pass defense that gets modest support up front and will be relying on a slew of green cornerbacks.  Sophomore Syd'Quan Thompson and redshirt freshman Darian Hagan look the part, but need to deliver once Pac-10 plays begins.  Junior Zack Follett is the budding star of a linebacker unit that has the potential to be the next best thing to USC in the conference.      

Oct. 27 – at Washington State
Offense: Washington State won't abandon the run by any means, but this is an offense that's traditionally wide-open and run out of three-wide sets.  The engineer of the attack will be fourth-year starting quarterback Alex Brink, who enters his senior season with a real nice complement of receivers, led by all-Pac-10 candidates Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus.  Although the offensive line welcomes back four players that started games a year ago, both tackles will be new, a big concern heading into the season.  If they're overmatched, the ripple effect will reverberate throughout the entire offense.          
Defense: Expect some subtle changes as head coach Bill Doba steps in to coordinate the defense in 2007.  He'd like to utilize more man coverages and blitz packages, both of which could be suicide for a secondary that's been gutted by graduations and is in dire need of a couple of reliable cornerbacks.  The Cougars are going to give up plenty of yards and points, but if they can create turnovers and sack the quarterback, like last year, there's hope that the breakdowns can be managed.  The defense is loaded with big, agile bodies up front, but there's a catch—serious injuries are mounting and could bleed into the start of the season.  While there's no quick fix for the pass defense, junior college transfer Terry Mixon has the potential to be a star from the moment he steps foot in Pullman.

Nov. 3 – at Arizona
Offense: After averaging a 100th place finish in total offense over the last three years, Mike Stoops has handed the unit off to former Texas Tech coordinator Sonny Dykes.  Dykes has learned from the likes of Mike Leach and Hal Mumme over the last decade, so expect to see a rejuvenated Willie Tuitama in the shotgun, putting the ball up a ton more than last season.  The Wildcats' quest to stretch defenses vertically and horizontally in the spread offense will hinge on their ability to develop dependable receivers other than junior Mike Thomas.  The beleaguered offensive line is a year older, intact and poised to benefit from a system that forces the quarterback to make quick passes and even quicker decisions.  Sophomore Eben Britton is on the brink of becoming a prodigy at right tackle.
Defense: With the return of ten starters and an all-star caliber player at each unit, Arizona should be even stingier than 2006, when it led the Pac-10 in turnover margin and allowed fewer than 20 points a game.  The headliner once again will be senior Antoine Cason, one of the smoothest corners in America and a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award.  Led by underrated senior Spencer Larsen, the linebackers are a no-name crew that just goes out and makes a bunch of tackles every Saturday.  The onus for jump starting the pass rush falls squarely on the shoulders of senior Louis Holmes, a massive talent that underachieved in his first season out of junior college. 

Nov. 10 - Arizona State
Offense: Arizona State really wasn't Arizona State in 2006, but with ten starters returning, there's reason to believe that the Sun Devils will score in bunches this year.  Dennis Erickson brings a balanced and unpredictable system that'll use multiple formations and plenty of shotgun, yet still lean heavily on the running game.  The success of the unit hinges on the play of quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who looked destined for stardom as a freshman before suffering through a humbling sophomore season marked by turnovers and lapses in confidence.  His supporting cast is headed by Ryan Torain, one of the nation's best backs that no one outside the Pac-10 has seen.  With six seasoned linemen back, he's destined to become the first Sun Devil in over 30 years to go for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.  Although Carpenter's receivers did nothing to help him out of his slump in 2006, they're now awash with the kind of speed and playmaking potential that's customary in Tempe.       
Defense: Six starters return to a defense that improved in 2006, yet still allowed more than 40 points in four of the final ten games.  The Sun Devils will continue to run out of a 4-3 base while asking their linebackers and safeties to freelance and make plays all over the field.  There are building blocks—and question marks—at each unit heading into 2007.  Tackle Michael Marquardt and Dexter Davis have all-league potential, but both are going to need support from a couple of new starters.  Although the linebackers have considerable upside, the man in the middle, Morris Wooten, is a first-year player.  And while safety Josh Barrett and corner Justin Tryon will play on Sundays, the pass defense is in deep trouble if the other cornerback gets routinely exposed.  The net result?  A nice collection of talent that'll still allow plenty of yards to the Pac-10's finer-tuned offenses.                                     

Nov. 24 - Oregon
Offense: As usual, Oregon gobbled up a ton of yards in 2006, but lacked efficiency most of the year and imploded under the weight of its turnovers in the second half of the season.  So when offensive coordinator Gary Crowton left for LSU, Mike Bellotti turned to New Hampshire's Chip Kelly to get the offense back on course.  A spread offense guru, Kelly will have a few new bells and whistles in his toolbox, including greater use of the no-huddle and increased reliance on superstar back Jonathan Stewart.  The key for the offense, and probably the entire team, will be the development of senior quarterback Dennis Dixon, who became the poster boy for the Ducks' collapse late last year.  He'll get adequate protection from Max Unger and the boys up front, but needs more consistency from a receiving corps that misplayed too many balls in 2006. 
Defense: Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti isn't shy about bringing pressure with his wave of good athletes, and now has a couple of quality corners to marginalize the risk of selling out.  Jairus Byrd and Walter Thurmond, Freshman All-Americans in 2006, join standout rover Patrick Chung to give the Ducks their feistiest secondary in years.  The front seven, however, is far less stable.  After finishing ninth in the Pac-10 in run defense, Oregon needs to shore up the middle of its defense and develop an end or two that can consistently create pressure.  Redshirt freshman Brandon Bair is one possibility that has the staff cautiously excited about the defensive end spot.  In a league filled with strong-armed hurlers, that promising secondary will pay the price if opposing passers are given too much time to throw.

Dec. 1 – at USC
Offense: Does anyone in the country reload faster than the Trojans?  While there'll be new faces on the line, at wide receiver, and at offensive coordinator, the high-powered results that have become commonplace in the Pete Carroll era aren't about to change.  Of course, it helps to have at the controls strong-armed senior John David Booty, one of the early favorites to add a fourth Heisman Trophy to Heritage Hall in the last six years.  He'll be surrounded by an absolutely decadent amount of skill position talent, but most of the receivers lack experience at this level.  In this case, talent will overcome inexperience in a rout.  At 6-5 and 220 pounds, junior receiver Patrick Turner has the imposing size and sticky fingers to conjure up images of Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, and have a breakout year.  Although the line is going to miss the presence of center Ryan Kalil, returning two-time All-American Sam Baker to protect Booty's blindside will help cushion the blow.    
Defense: The Trojan offense is good.  The Trojan defense is scary good.  Backed by a Who's Who of future first-day NFL Draft choices, USC is ready to unleash the nastiest and stingiest unit of the Pete Carroll era.  Led by Sedrick Ellis at the nose, Keith Rivers at middle linebacker, and Terrell Thomas at cornerback, the Trojans boast seven players capable of making a run at All-America honors in 2007.  Yeah, a few more sacks and takeaways would be nice, but this is as close to a flawless unit that there is in the country.  From front to back, they're aggressive, experienced and fast enough to create a swarming effect on the ball carrier.  Although the Trojans will give up yards to teams playing from behind, scoring meaningful points on them in the first three quarters is going to be a year-long nightmare. 


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