by Badger of Predictem.com
Continuing on with our previews for all of the major NCAA Conference
Championships in college football, now lets turn our attention
towards the West Coast and assess the contenders for the title in the
The PAC-10 made some bold moves in the offseason to secure its future as a major conference in the eyes of the BCS by inviting Utah and
Colorado to join forces with the league. Despite efforts to land
Texas too (supposedly) only to rebuffed, dont be surprised if the
league keeps shopping around for another school or two to try and
remake its image for the future and be considered on par with the
The other big news out of the league while many of you were watching
hoops or the World Cup is that the mighty USC was handed a big slap
by the NCAA, including probation and a two-year ban from bowl games.
So the landscape has changed with USC out of the picture, which will
make the PAC-10 a conference race worth watching in 2010.
The futures odds listed are available at Betonline Sportsbook.
Odds to Win the Pac PAC-10 Title:
Oregon Ducks : +250
Oregon State Beavers : +250
UCLA Bruins : +350
Washington Huskies : +500
Arizona Wildcats : +500
Stanford Cardinal : +800
California Golden Bears : +800
Arizona State Sun Devils : +1200
Washington State Cougars : +2500
The Oregon Ducks put together a pretty impressive rap sheet of
offenses this winter, so much so that quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was
kicked off the team and stud running back LaMichael James was
suspended for the opener. All of this turmoil has taken the shine off
the fact that the Ducks were returning 17 starters from last years
Rose Bowl team. Im not sure if the Ducks will stay in the BCS title
hunt (see 2010 BCS Predictions), but even with Nate Costa at QB the
Ducks should be able to win the PAC-10. Hosting Stanford, UCLA,
Washington and Arizona all at home in Autzen Stadium gives the Ducks
the best chance as well.
Up the road in Corvallis the Oregon State Beavers are starting to take in more money at the window with every arrest thats made in
Eugene, as the Beavers are even money with the Ducks at +250 on the
moneyline. With Jacquizz Rodgers running the ball and James Rodgers
catching it, the Beavers could make the transition to a new
quarterback (likely Ryan Katz) a little easier. But what could help
the Beavers seal the deal are 10 returning starters on defense,
especially since they have one of the toughest conference road
schedules (at Arizona, Washington, UCLA and Stanford) and will be
forced to win in hostile environments.
UCLA and coach Rick Neuheisel will finally get their chance to emerge
out of the shadow of USC in So Cal this season, but the big question
is will they? After a 6-6 season that included a bowl win (over
Temple, relax) many are hyping the Bruins to win a watered-down
PAC-10 this season, mainly because QB Kevin Price is more mature and
(hopefully) better as a sophomore. But with a bevy of true freshman
recruits expected to play immediately on defense, I just cant
imagine theyll be able to handle the back-to-back games versus Cal
and Oregon on the road in October.
With what many NFL scouts are predicting as the top pick in next years
draft playing quarterback, hopes have never been higher in Washington
as the Huskies have become a trendy pick in the PAC-10. With Jake Locker
executing the brilliant schemes of coach Steve Sarkisian theres little
doubt in my mind the Huskies have enough offense. But if they have to score
45 points every game because their defense is that weak, and thin, then
theres no way the Huskies can stay in the race till the end. Especially
since the Huskies schedule at the end of October (at Arizona) and early
November (at Oregon, home vs. UCLA, at Cal) is going to be tough enough.
Arizona had what many considered a breakout 8-4 season
for Mike Stoops and the Wildcats last year, then they got punched in the
face 33-0 by Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl and they slipped right back into
the shadows of the chase pack in the PAC-10. If running back Nic Grigsby
can stay healthy to help take the pressure off of QB Nick Foles, the Cats
offense could be good enough to take the prize. The Desert Swarm defense
is strong up front, but holes in the back might be exposed by late November
when they have to try and steal the conference crown away from Oregon on
If Washingtons Locker is the college games top QB prospect, then
Stanford sophomore Andrew Luck is a narrow second, which makes the Cardinal a strong sleeper pick for the title in 2010. Luck wont have
running back Toby Gerhart to blast away late in games, so hell be
asked to carry the Cardinal offense on his back all season. Stanford
hired new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio to install a new 3-4
scheme (like everyone else in the football playing world), so your
guess is as good as mine how much last years 9th-ranked defense in a
10-team league will improve. They will need to improve quickly too,
with dates at UCLA and at Oregon before the first week of October.
Heres the part of the preview where we talk about California,
and how they have loads of talent and skill including QB Kevin Riley and
emerging running back Shane Vereen (who had more yards than Jahvid Best
last year), and how they should be a front-runner for the PAC-10 crown.
But until coach Jeff Tedford puts together a title-worthy defense, and figures
out a way to get his players to give a shit, the Bears are likely to be
headed right back toward their annual disappointing season. If, and its
a huge if, but if the Bears can get through the early portion of their PAC-10
schedule unscathed they could take advantage of a three-game home stand
to end the season with Oregon, Stanford and Washington all coming to Memorial
Stadium in November.
Both Arizona State and Washington State have fallen off the PAC-10 road map in recent years, and both have huge obstacles in the way
that makes their 2010 seasons look bleak. Arizona State has a new
offense under new coordinator Noel Mazzone (from NY Jets), but very
little talent to run the new scheme. Meanwhile, up in Pullman the
Cougars had the nations worst defense last year (500+ ypg and 38
ppg) and unless coach Paul Wulff is a miracle worker I have a hard
time seeing that unit improving enough to contend in 2010.
Finally, even though they are ineligible for the PAC-10 title, Ill
offer up a preview of the USC Trojans. Matt Barkley returns at
quarterback for his sophomore season, but with the annual raid on the
roster by the NFL draft the Trojans dont have nearly the amount of
experience surrounding him on offense. That NFL raid was worse on the
defensive side of the ball too. With a favorable home schedule
(Washington, Cal and Oregon) its not inconceivable the Trojans could
affect the PAC-10 race with a fast start in October, but a tough
November (at Arizona, at Oregon State, at UCLA) will likely bring
them back down towards .500 in conference.
Short Favorite Oregon (+250) Im not sure I like the way coach Chip Kelly is running the team, but the Ducks are just too talented
in a weak PAC-10 for me not to take them as my short favorite.
Middle of the Road Arizona (+500) I think the beat down the Cats
took against Nebraska in their bowl game last year shook them back
down to reality, and hopefully motivated them to get their mojo back
this year. Arizona may be the most balanced team, and a solid value
as a middle pick.
Longshot Stanford Cardinal (+800) The Cardinal are my sleeper long shot, even though their odds are closer to a middle pick. Luck
is like Washingtons Locker, a QB capable of carrying and team on his
shoulders, but the Cardinal have a better defense and supporting cast.
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