2007 Pac 10
- 2008 Pac 10 Early Lookaheads
2007 Pac 10
| Arizona St
| Oregon St
| USC |
| Washington St
That hump Arizona’s been trying to get over since Mike Stoops came on
board doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. The Wildcats got hot in
November, winning 3-of-4, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a sluggish
first half of the season, or an inability to close out games. The
season did showcase a change in philosophy for the Arizona offense,
which opened up the passing attack for QB Willie Tuitama, who responded
by setting school records for touchdown passes, completions, and
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Mike Thomas
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Spencer Larsen
Biggest Surprise: Had Oregon QB Dennis Dixon played more than a
quarter, the outcome likely would have been different, but don’t expect
the ‘Cats to give back their Nov. 15 upset of the nation’s second-ranked
team. Arizona exploded for 21 unanswered points in the second quarter,
getting a pair of touchdowns from CB Antoine Cason, starting Oregon’s
season-ending three-game slide into obscurity.
Biggest Disappointment: Losing at home to Stanford, 21-20, on
Oct. 20. The Wildcats fell one win short of that elusive bowl
eligibility, making a loss to one of the Pac-10’s lightweights that much
harder to digest.
Looking Ahead: With their quarterback and all of their skill
position players back in 2008, the Wildcat offense will be even better
in the second year in Sonny Dykes’ system. However, if a defense that
was built for success in 2007 can’t replace the likes of Cason and
Larsen, the ‘Cats will hover around .500 again next year.
It was no coincidence that Arizona State’s best season in 11 years was also
Dennis Erickson’s first season in Tempe. The Sun Devils unexpectedly rose to
No. 6 in the country with an 8-0 start before being outclassed down the stretch
in double-digit losses to Oregon, USC, and Texas in the Holiday Bowl. The
program showed a penchant all year for falling behind early and storming back in
the second half, getting plenty of help from the resurgence of third-year QB
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Rudy Carpenter
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Robert James
Biggest Surprise: Although Erickson was supposed to have a positive
impact on the program, talk of a possible national championship run in November
was highly unexpected. The Sun Devils were more physical and mentally tough
than at any time in the Dirk Koetter era, sporting a defense that finished in
the top half of the Pac-10 in run and pass defense.
Biggest Disappointment: The play of the offensive line. Despite boasting
a veteran unit that returned six players with starting experience, the Sun Devil
offensive line was often no match for opposing pass rushes, allowing a
league-worst 55 sacks over 13 games.
Looking Ahead: Now that he has momentum, Erickson needs to parlay that
into more speed and depth along both lines. The return of Carpenter for his
senior season provides stability, but to remain a player in the Pac-10 in 2008,
Arizona State needs to develop reinforcements on the offensive line and in the
It was a tale of two starkly different seasons for the Bears in 2007. In the
first, Cal beat Tennessee and Oregon en route to a 5-0 start and a No. 2
national ranking. In the second, Cal stumbled to a 1-6 regular season finish,
falling to seventh place in the Pac-10 and barely qualifying for a December bowl
game. To their credit, the Bears rallied to beat Air Force in the Armed Forces
Bowl, the only good news in Jeff Tedford’s toughest fall in
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Justin Forsett
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Zack Follett
Biggest Surprise: Down 21-0 to a fired-up Air Force squad on New Year’s
Eve, Cal had the look of a team that was getting a head start on the offseason.
Instead, the Bears dug deep behind backup QB Kevin Riley, scoring six touchdowns
in the final three quarters for a 42-36 victory. Hey, it wasn’t the Rose Bowl
that this program craves, but it’s substantially better than heading into the
long break on a four-game losing streak.
Biggest Disappointment: After the Oregon win on Sept. 29, the offense
went AWOL, failing to score more than 28 points in seven consecutive games.
Although it didn’t help that QB Nate Longshore had a nagging ankle injury, the
Bears had too many weapons to be stonewalled by the likes of Washington and
Looking Ahead: The next few months should be interesting for Tedford, who
hasn’t faced this level of adversity, and has already begun to shake up his
staff. Can Riley unseat the unpredictable Longshore? That’s a question that’ll
be asked plenty between now and the opener with Michigan State.
Not a whole lot went according to the script for the Ducks in 2007.
Not the blazing start or the bowl upset, and certainly not the
devastating knee injury to QB Dennis Dixon that transformed Oregon
from a national championship contender to a rudderless ship at the
end of the regular season. When Dixon was healthy in September and
October, he was building an impressive Heisman resume, and the Duck
offense was a locomotive that could drop 50 points on any unprepared
defense. Seemingly on a collision course with New Orleans or
Pasadena, Oregon never recovered from the loss of its superstar,
losing the final three league games to earn a consolation Sun Bowl
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Dennis Dixon
Defensive Player of the Year: DE Nick Reed
Biggest Surprise: Blasting South Florida in the Sun Bowl with
first-time starting QB Justin Roper at the controls. Given up for
dead weeks ago, the Ducks shredded a very good Bull defense for 56
points and 533 yards, getting four touchdown passes from Roper and
253 yards rushing and a pair of scores from Jonathan Stewart.
Biggest Disappointment: Dixon’s ACL tear against Arizona
State and hastening of the injury a week later at Arizona will haunt
Duck fans for years. So, too, will the Sept. 29 loss to Cal, in
which WR Cameron Colvin fumbled through the end zone reaching for
the game-tying score with just seconds left in regulation.
Looking Ahead: Is Roper a long-term solution at quarterback,
or just a one-game wonder that’ll go down in Oregon lore? The answer
to that question will go a long way to determining the 2008 fate of
a program that loses Dixon and probably Stewart to the NFL.
The Beavers might have had the quietest nine wins of the season,
rebounding from a ragged start to go 7-1, including a Civil War win
over Oregon and an Emerald Bowl victory against Maryland. Oregon
State labored all year to find an effective, mistake-free
quarterback, often leaning on the legs of RB Yvenson Bernard and an
aggressive, veteran defense that led the Pac-10 in run defense and
turnovers gained, and was No. 2 in sacks. While others in the
league received substantially more media attention, the Beavers
finished just a game out of first place, quite an achievement for a
school that was earmarked for the middle of the pack.
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Yvenson Bernard
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Derrick Doggett
Biggest Surprise: The Beavers’ Oct. 13 upset of No. 2 Cal was
the spark that set off their torrid finish to the season. With the
Bears staring at a No. 1 ranking with a win, Oregon State got a
workmanlike effort from Bernard and a break when Cal QB Kevin Riley
allowed the clock expire before Jordan Kay could attempt the
game-tying field goal.
Biggest Disappointment: Sammie Stroughter. Oregon State’s
All-American wide receiver and return man was never right in 2007,
missing time early for personal reasons and then bruising his kidney
after returning. In an offense that sorely needed his leadership
and playmaking ability, he wound up catching just 15 passes in three
games of action.
Looking Ahead: Without Bernard and most of that sturdy front
seven, Oregon State could get off to a slow start again in 2008.
After a disappointing first season as a starter, it’s incumbent upon
QB Sean Canfield to develop into the player that was so coveted
coming out of high school.
Stanford is a long way from being a player in the Pac-10, but at
least first-year coach Jim Harbaugh has helped bring a renewed
energy to the program. And one of the most memorable wins in school
history. The Cardinal’s 24-23 defeat of USC as a 40-point underdog
brought national attention to the program, while breaking the
Trojans’ 35-game home winning streak. Throw in an upset of Cal in
The Big Game, and it was a positive opening statement from Harbaugh
on The Farm.
Offensive Player of the Year: WR Richard Sherman
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Clinton Snyder
Biggest Surprise: The Cardinal caught the entire country off
guard on Oct. 6, when it beat No. 2 USC, authoring one of the
strangest upsets in the history of college football. Stanford just
hung around long enough until backup QB Tavita Pritchard found WR
Mark Bradford for the winning score with 49 seconds left, sending
shockwaves throughout the sport.
Biggest Disappointment: Stanford had every opportunity to
pull a trifecta in 2007, beating Cal, USC, and Notre Dame in the
same season. The Cardinal, however, blew its chance against the
Irish on Nov. 24, failing to capitalize on four turnovers and
countless unforced errors by the visitors. Although Notre Dame went
on to win, 21-14, it was a game Stanford could have won if it played
with a little more offensive consistency.
Looking Ahead: Although slaying the occasional dragon is
nice, Stanford is aiming to be a week-in, week-out threat in the Pac-10
that contends for postseason games. Last season was a building
block, but now the Cardinal needs to continue bolstering its depth,
while developing a quarterback that can exploit the league’s secondaries.
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.
The Trojans won a sixth Pac-10 title in-a-row and obliterated Illinois in the
Rose Bowl, yet there was still somewhat of a hollow feeling around Troy in
January. With as much talent as anyone in the country, USC knew it was good
enough to win a national championship, a goal that was complicated by early
season injuries and a loss to Stanford that still doesn’t make any sense. To
their credit, however, the Trojans battled back with five straight wins down the
stretch, got a break when Oregon QB Dennis Dixon was injured, and failed to
relinquish the league throne that was up for grabs much of the year.
Offensive Player of the Year: TE Fred Davis
Defensive Player of the Year: NT Sedrick Ellis
Biggest Surprise: After losing to Oregon on Oct. 27, its second in
conference play, the obits were already being written for USC. At that point in
the season, who would have guessed that the Trojans would rally to another Rose
Bowl berth and a No. 2 ranking in the final Coaches poll?
Biggest Disappointment: The sports world was turned inside out when
Stanford, a 41-point underdog, shocked the Trojans, 24-23, ending their 35-game
winning streak at the Coliseum. More than just a single loss, the game seemed
to strip USC of some of its mystique, while following it like a bad odor for the
balance of the season.
Looking Ahead: There’ll be plenty of new faces on the two-deep, but as
long as Pete Carroll resists the temptation of the NFL, USC will be a heavy
favorite to win a seventh straight Pac-10 title. The battle between Mark
Sanchez and Mitch Mustain to replace John David Booty at quarterback will be a
delicious offseason sub plot.
After raising awareness with a 2-0 start and an upset of Boise State, U-Dub
proved to be a tease, losing its next six games, and finishing alone in the
Pac-10 cellar. In the end, the Huskies were crushed under the weight of a
feeble defense and way too many second-half collapses. On a positive note, the
program did take the wraps off redshirt freshman Jake Locker, who flashed the
dual-threat potential to become the best in a solid lineage of Washington
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Jake Locker
Defensive Player of the Year: LB E.J. Savannah
Biggest Surprise: While an opening day blowout of Syracuse did little to
build a following, Washington opened lots of eyes with a Week 2 defeat of Boise
State, snapping the nation’s longest winning streak. The Huskies were balanced
on offense, and stingy on defense, two traits that rarely materialized on the
Biggest Disappointment: The last two weekends of the season showed you
everything you needed to know about the 2007 Huskies. On Nov. 24, they blew a
late lead to rival Washington State, losing the Apple Cup on an Alex Brink
touchdown pass with 31 seconds left. A week later, they opened a 21-point lead
on undefeated Hawaii before bowing, 35-28. Strong starts and weak finishes was
the theme of the season for Washington.
Looking Ahead: Washington is going to be a dangerous team as long as
Locker is in Seattle, and improving his passing skills. To get beyond average,
however, the Huskies need to surround their messiah with better skill position
players and a little help on defense.
Once San Diego State and Idaho went in the rear view mirror, the Cougars got
exposed as a second-tier Pac-10 team that could only get so far with the
league’s most prolific passing game. An 0-4 start to the conference schedule
ended any hope of a postseason run, fueling speculation that head coach Bill
Doba wouldn’t be back for a sixth season. He won’t. The Wazzu veteran got
canned shortly after his kids came from behind to beat Washington, 42-35, for
the Apple Cup.
Offensive Player of the Year: QB Alex Brink
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Andy Mattingly
Biggest Surprise: The Cougars didn’t just beat UCLA on Oct. 13, they
obliterated the Bruins, scoring the final 27 points, while outgaining the
visitors 545 to 267. In an up-and-down season for Washington State, everything
clicked, including the troubled running game, which got 214 yards and a couple
of scores from RB Dwight Tardy.
Biggest Disappointment: Maybe the season would have been extended by a
game if Washington State could have held off unbeaten Arizona State on Oct. 6.
The Cougars thoroughly outplayed the Sun Devils in Pullman, and had enough
chances to win in the final quarter, but fell short when K Thomas Weber booted
the clincher with 50 seconds left.
Looking Ahead: To replace Doba, Wazzu has hired former player Paul Wulff,
who’s coming off a successful stint as the head coach at Eastern
Washington. A supporter of the no-huddle, spread offense, one of
his first initiatives will be to find a replacement at quarterback for
Brink, the school’s all-time leading passer.