2010 Spring Preview - The Pac 10's USC Need
USC QB Matt Barkley
USC QB Matt Barkley
Posted Mar 21, 2010

The 20 Big Questions Going Into 2010 - No. 16. When the big dog struggles, the perception is usually that the league is down. But is that really the case? The Pac 10 will have plenty of chances to shine this year, but it wouldn't hurt if USC rebounds. This and more in the Pac 10 spring overview.

2010 Spring Preview - No. 16
Pac 10 - The Need To Win. Now.

2010 Spring Preview 
- 2010 Pac 10 Spring Preview 
- 2010 Spring Question ... How much does the Pac 10 need USC? 

- No. 20 Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 1-10) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 11-20) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 21-30) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 31-40) 
- Top 50 Non-Conference Games (No. 41-50)  
- No. 19 Is this it for the Big 12? 
- No. 18 Just how close the Big East has come to a BCS title?
- No. 17 Did ACC expansion work?

Excuse me. Didn't you used to be the Pac 10?

Ask the Big Ten what life is like when the supposed superpowers don't look so super. The league supposedly couldn't play anymore because Ohio State couldn't beat national title-level SEC teams, Michigan went into the tank, and USC spent years beating up the Big Ten representative. The Pac 10 could suffer the same problem if it doesn't get off to a hot start and unless USC is really, really good.

Pac 10 fans love to scream about a bias against their conference and their schools, and there's some truth to that (cough … Toby Gerhart … cough). It's hard to understand what you don't know, and many are tucked into the East Coast beds when some of the best Pac 10 games are starting to heat up. But everyone knows USC, everyone saw Oregon lose the Rose Bowl, and now, everyone knows who Jeremiah Masoli is. The king of the hill, the Trojans, spent far too much time losing last year and haven't been in the BCS Championship since Vince Young decided to have his all-timer of a day, and they need to be great to give national fans something to grasp onto, because there just isn't a lot there this year if Oregon can't fill the void.

Give the Pac 10 credit, though, for going out and not being afraid to take on a challenge … as always. From Oregon State's trip to Boise State, Oregon's date at Tennessee, Washington playing Nebraska, UCLA facing Texas, Houston and Kansas State, USC travelling to Minnesota, Iowa hosting Arizona, and Arizona State going to Wisconsin, there are loads of fantastic non-conference games and several big chances for the league to prove that it deserves more respect, should have two teams in the BCS, and isn't starting to slide. If the Pac 10 wins a bulk of those big games, then the accolades will come.

And people will watch. Fans notice the big non-conference games and even if Jim Bob SEC doesn't give a rootin' toot about the Pac 10, he'll give it up if he sees Tennessee getting thumped by Oregon. However, after the Pac10 chirped about the great 2008-2009 bowl season, the reverse is happening now after USC struggled to beat Boston College, UCLA had mega-problems with Temple, Arizona got embarrassed by Nebraska, Oregon State didn't show up against BYU, Oregon lost to Ohio State, Stanford couldn't stop Oklahoma, and Cal couldn't slow down Utah. That's a 2-5 bowl record with the two not that great, and while that's an overrated stat, the momentum from the end of 2008 is long gone.

On the plus side, the field is wide open and the Pac 10 race should be among the most entertaining ever. Nine teams (Washington State being the exception) can go into the season thinking they have a real, live shot to get to the Rose Bowl. Some need bigger breaks than others, but because the Pac 10 does it right and has a round-robin schedule, and because USC and Oregon have suddenly come back to the pack, this will be a year to stay up and watch what's happening.

The Top Five Pac 10 Players Who Need A Big Spring
1. Matt Barkley, QB USC
2. Kevin Riley, QB California
3. Kevin Prince, QB UCLA
4. Nate Costa, QB Oregon
5. Darron Thomas, QB Oregon

The Top 5 Position Concerns/Battles
1. Oregon quarterback
2. UCLA defensive line
3. Oregon State quarterback
4. Stanford running back
5. Arizona State quarterback

The 5 Biggest Pac 10 Spring Storylines
1. Jeremiah Masoli. How much does the Oregon quarterback matter to the team's success, and what does it say that he's suspended for the year and the team still might be the preseason Pac 10 favorite?
2. Can Lane Kiffin actually coach? He hasn't been as wild and pot-stirring as many expected after his start at Tennessee, but it's early. He'll have a wee bit of a grace period since USC isn't the slam-dunk favorite for the title it was in past years, but he could make a big splash right away with a great season.
3. Is Stanford still going to be good without Toby Gerhart? Jim Harbaugh is widely considered to be among the brightest young head coaches in the game, and if he can pull off another big season for the Cardinal, the sky will be the limit for his coaching career.
4. Jake Locker's progression. On looks and raw skills he's everyone's No. 1 NFL quarterback prospect going for the 2011 draft, but he hasn't proved it on the field. Is he going to be a No. 1 overall pick-caliber player for the Huskies? The spotlight is on this spring to set the foundation.
5. Will UCLA's offense improve? Will UCLA be better overall? With the brutal schedule, the Bruins need to make every minute of every practice count to be ready to hit the ground running from the start in early September.

The Spring Pac 10 Team Rankings
1. USC
2. Oregon
3. Oregon State
4. Stanford
5. California
6. Washington
8. Arizona
9. Arizona State
10. Washington State

The Pre-Spring Call For Player Of the Year
1. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB Oregon State
2. LaMichael James, RB Oregon
3. Jake Locker, QB Washington
4. Nick Foles, QB Arizona
5. Shane Vereen, RB California