2008 CFN Pac 10 Preview

Posted Jun 24, 2008

While USC is still the king of the hill, Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA aren't going to make it easy for the Trojans to win another Pac 10 title. Check out all the predictions, the CFN All-Pac 10 team, unit rankings and more in the 2008 CFN Pac 10 Preview.

2008 CFN Pac 10 Preview

Team Previews & Predictions
Arizona | Arizona State | California | Oregon | Oregon State
Stanford | UCLA | USC | Washington | Washington State

- 2008 CFN Pac 10 Preview
- CFN All-Pac 10 Team & Top 30 Players
Pac 10 Unit Rankings

- Pac 10 Schedules & Predictions

By Richard Cirminiello

This is the year that someone breaks through and ends USC’s six-year choke hold on the Pac-10 title.

Yeah, right.

Sure, the Trojans have shown signs of vulnerability the past two seasons, losing

head-scratchers to Oregon State, UCLA and Stanford, but when a November surge is needed, they always deliver. Plus, no one fills holes in a depth chart faster than the Men of Troy.

So, as USC feeds the NFL with a new crop of talent, there are a bunch of young players, likeDE Everson Griffen, RB Joe McKnight and QB Mark Sanchez, who are poised for stardom …and another BCS bowl game.

The nine teams chasing the Trojans can be broken down neatly into three groupings. In the first tier are Oregon, Arizona State and California — the schools best positioned for a Rose Bowl run. The Ducks begin life after Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart by hoping that a bunch of newcomers can keep the offense humming. Determined to build on last year’s banner season under Dennis Erickson, the Sun Devils first must figure out how to keep QB Rudy Carpenter from being treated like a piñata. Cal is looking to regain some street cred after back-to-back disappointing seasons, including last year’s second-half implosion.

The Pac-10’s mid-section consists of UCLA, Oregon State and Arizona — programs that are good enough to go bowling yet have way to many question marks to be considered serious contenders. While there’s a buzz surrounding the Bruins and new coaches Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow, that alone won’t solve the quarterbacking issues. The Beavers were built for last season. This year, they rebuild around young RB Ryan McCants and a veteran secondary. If Arizona finally is to return to the postseason, it’ll be on the strong arm of Willie Tuitama, who’s flourishing in Sonny Dykes’ passing attack.

Pulling up the rear will likely be Washington, Stanford and Washington State, who will all be a break or two away from bowl eligibility. The Cardinal and Cougars are excited about the direction they’re heading in under Jim Harbaugh and Paul Wulff, respectively. The Huskies might be looking for a new direction in 2009 if Tyrone Willingham can’t get to the .500 mark.

Overall, the big question is whether or not the conference will get any respect. The last time the league got two BCS bids was after the 2002 season, and it has only gotten two teams into the big money games twice in the ten year history of the current BCS format. This could finally be the year two teams past the velvet rope, but at the moment, it’s USC and nine other schools looking to change the perception.

— Those dismissing the Ducks are putting too much emphasis on the departure of QB Dennis Dixon. Of course he’ll be missed, but coordinator Chip Kelly is back and there’s promise among the new backfield prospects. The team will lean on an underrated defense that returns eight starters, six of whom earned All-Pac-10 honors in 2007.

Arizona State
– The excitement is sky-high after an impressive first year under Erickson, but the O line is still an issue, the defense will likely continue to struggle against offenses with a pulse, and the schedule isn’t a plus.

USC at UCLA, Dec. 6
— Forget the race for the Pac-10 crown, which already might be decided by this time. All eyes will be on Neuheisel, who faces off against Pete Carroll for the third time overall but for the first time in this storied rivalry.

Arizona QB Willie Tuitama will smash Cody Pickett’s Pac-10 record for passing yards in a season. With a second year in the system, a talented receiving corps and a rebuilt Wildcats defense, Tuitama will be a statistical machine.

1. C Alex Mack, Sr. California
2. WR Brandon Gibson, Sr. Washington State
3. WR Mike Thomas, Sr. Arizona
4. LB Clinton Snyder, Jr. Stanford
5. S Patrick Chung, Sr. Oregon

Tyrone Willingham, Washington
— The temperature continues to rise around Willingham, who has posted a dismal 11-25 record in three seasons in Seattle. Plus, he no longer has his most vocal supporter, former AD Todd Turner, in his corner. Things got so bad after last season, one well-heeled U-Dub alum offered six figures to the school for Willingham’s ouster. Games against former employer Notre Dame, along with Arizona, whose coach Mike Stoops is also on thin ice, will go a long way toward determining Willingham’s fate.

1. Boise State at Oregon, Sept. 20
2. Fresno State at UCLA, Sept. 27 
3. Toledo at Arizona, Sept. 6
Oregon State at Utah, Oct. 2
5. Arizona at New Mexico, Sept. 13

5 Best Pro Prospects
1. DT Fili Moala, Sr. USC
2. LB Rey Maualuga, Sr. USC
3. LB Brian Cushing, Sr. USC
4. SS Taylor Mays, Jr. USC
5. C Alex Mack, Sr. California

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill
Averell Spicer or Christian Tupou for DT Sedrick Ellis, USC
Nate Costa or Justin Roper for QB Dennis Dixon, Oregon
Marquis Hundley for Antoine Cason, Arizona
Jeremiah Johnson for RB Jonathan Stewart, Oregon
5. Anthony McCoy or Rhett Ellison for TE Fred Davis, USC