After previews of the ACC, Big Ten, and Big East, we have made some bold picks and some not so bold. We are now shifting our focus to the three best conferences, in no particular order being the PAC Ten, Big 12, and the SEC.
First we will take a look at the PAC Ten. The conference that could be known as USC and the nine dwarves after dominance USC has shown the last decade.
Sure teams have jumped up from time to time to stop the Trojans once a season, but the problem is they have not been able to wrestle the conference title away.
So could this be the year that someone dethrones the USC juggernaut. This might be the only year to get by the Trojans in a long time.
USC has lost a lot this past season with a new starting quarterback, a new front seven on defense and two new coordinators. This would be the year to get by USC if there ever was a year to do so.
If a team is going to get by USC for the conference crown, they will have to do two things. First they will first have to beat the Trojans and second, not choke a game away somewhere down the line themselves.
There are three teams who I believe and win the PAC Ten title over USC. They are Oregon, Oregon State, and California. Each has questions entering in this season.
Will Cal be the "Best" team, can Oregon State make Corvallis "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood", and will Kelly be a "Chip" off the old Bellotti block? The team that can answer the questions the best could replace USC on the top of the standings.
So without further waiting here is my PAC Ten preview and predictions in alphabetical order as always.
Arizona Wildcats: Prediction 6-6
Last season Arizona made it to a bowl game for the first time in 10 years. The Wildcats beat a very good BYU team in at bowl games as well.
That was last season and now Arizona will enter the season for the first time in four years without Willie Tuitama at quarterback. Mike Stoops saved his job last season but will have to show the program will not slide to far back this season.
When Stoops was hired he was supposed bring back the desert swarm in Tucson but mostly it has been a desert pest. Still, last year was his best season for the Wildcats and showed the program is heading in the right direction.
On offense this season, Arizona might have to rely on the running game. The Wildcats have Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin to pace the running attack.
The two backs could be very helpful as Arizona breaks in a new starting quarterback. Still the Wildcats will have to pass to keep teams honest.
The defense boasts several good players and they are very athletic. Still the defense will have to bring back memories of the 1990s on defense.
Still looking at the schedule there could be a slight drop off this season in the wins department. Just, because the road schedule is brutal for the Wildcats.
Non conference has two sure wins in the form of Central Michigan and Northern Arizona. There is a trip to Iowa that will be tough but the PAC Ten has owned the Big Ten the last few years. I will give the Wildcats the slight edge.
In conference is where things get tough. Sure Arizona gets to play Washington and Washington State but that does not mean the rest of the schedule is a cake walk.
I can see Arizona getting wins over both Washington schools and I think Stanford at home. Still, no matter what, the Wildcats will play everyone tough.
Conference loses could come on the road at Oregon State, California, Arizona State, and USC. Home loses could come from an improved UCLA team and an Oregon team that has more talent.
Arizona could go 4-8 at worse but the talent level is too good for that. The best the Wildcats can do is 8-4 because they have a killer road schedule.
I believe a 6-6 season should be no problem. While this might make Arizona fans think they are taking a step back it could setup a very good 2010.
Arizona State Sun Devils: Prediction 6-6
Arizona State is in the same boat as Arizona. The Sun Devils will start this season without Rudy Carpenter after 43 straight starts at quarterback.
Most wonder what Arizona State team will this be this season. The 10-win team from 2007 or the five-win team from 2008.
That is a question Dennis Ericson will have to answer this season. Still, even with a down year Ericson could be about the only coach on the hot seat besides Stoops.
The Sun Devils offense will go only as far as Carpenters replacement can take them. There is no quarterback on the Arizona State roster with a lot of playing time. Scoring in the PAC Ten is a must to keep up with the high octane offenses in the league.
The Arizona State defense has several good players and might have to carry this team if the offense struggles. The Sun Devils have several impact players on defense back from the 2008 campaign.
Out of conference Arizona State gets two cupcake wins from Idaho State and Louisiana Monroe. Then a trip to Athens to play the Bulldogs of Georgia and the Sun Devils will not win the game.
In conference Arizona State should get wins from Washington State, Washington, and Arizona at home. Still, do not rule out a win over Stanford.
The in conference losses could come from Oregon State, California, USC, Oregon, and UCLA. The Sun Devils get Cal, Oregon State, and USC at home but do not have the players to beat the class of the conference.
Arizona State has to travel to UCLA, Stanford, and Oregon. Oregon is always a tough road trip and UCLA and Stanford should be improved.
The worst I see Arizona State season being is 4-8 and the Sun Devils could do as well as 7-5 or 8-4 with luck. This could be the first season Ericson has back to back losing seasons.
The most likely record for Arizona State is a 5-7 season and a second straight losing season.
California Golden Bears: Prediction 10-2
This could be the year Jeff Tedford leads California to the BCS Promised Land. The Bears do have the best offensive player in the conference in Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen is not a bad second option to have.
Still I have to wonder if the Bears will let down their fans and me once again. This is not the first time California has been picked to win the PAC Ten. They usually disappoint and this year could be different or more of the same.
The offense should not have problems scoring points with Best leading the way and if the Bears can find some quarterback play. Kevin Riley will have to be an adequate quarterback to keep teams honest and let the running do the heavy lifting.
California's defense will have to make plays to win games against the best teams in the conference. The Bears will look to rebuild their linebacker crops and hope they grow up quickly.
The non conference schedule is not the toughest in the world and is winnable. There is a revenge game against Maryland, a cupcake in Eastern Michigan, and a very game Minnesota team. Still all three should be wins.
In conference the schedule sets up pretty good for California. They should get wins on the road against Arizona State, Stanford, and Washington. The home wins should come from Washington State and Arizona.
Here is where I am going to go out on a limb with wins at home against USC and Oregon State. I do think that Cal will stumble on the road against Oregon and UCLA.
I think the worst the Bears will be is 5-7 if nothing goes right for California. If everything goes right I would not be amazed to see a perfect season.
Still, I think California will have a great season and will miss out on a BCS bid anyway. A head to head loss to Oregon will keep them out of the BCS.
Oregon Ducks: Prediction 9-3
Two things are certain to happen in Eugene, Oregon this season. One is that the Ducks will wear several different uniforms. The Ducks always break out several different uniforms from Nike during the season.
The other thing and more seriously is that for the first time in 14 seasons Mike Bellotti will not be walking the sidelines as head coach. Bellotti will become the new A.D. and turn the coaching reins over to Chip Kelly.
The team Kelly takes over will not change much since he was the offensive coordinator and he has quarterback Jeremiah Masoli back as well. Masoli was one of the hottest quarterbacks toward the end of last season.
Along with having Masoli, the backfield will have LeGarrette Blount getting his chance to be the featured back. The offense should be good as long as they do not stall like in their losses last season.
The defense will have to play better this season than last season. The Oregon defense only held two teams to 14 points or less. While they won nine games last season if the defense does not tighten up they could be in shootouts like last season.
The non conference schedule boasts two teams that could be BCS busters. Oregon could end up with one of the toughest out of conference schedule in the country.
The Ducks start the season out on the Smurf turf of Boise State. The Broncos are always a hard team to beat at home and will beat Oregon for a second season.
Oregon gets a Purdue team changing coaches this season as well in their second game. The Ducks should get a win at home.
The third non conference game is at home against a Utah team looking for a second straight BCS birth. This could be a very good game but I give the Ducks the edge at home. Still I would not be surprised if the Utes won.
In conference Oregon should get road wins against Washington and Stanford. The Ducks should get home wins from Washington State and Arizona State.
The big games in conference could be wins against California, USC, and Oregon State at home. The Ducks could drop games on the road against UCLA and Arizona.
The Ducks could be as bad as 5-7 this season if they do not get any breaks with the schedule and they cannot beat Cal or USC. Oregon could run the table but the PAC Ten has too many good teams for Oregon to make it without any blemishes in the loss column.
Still I think Oregon could go 8-4 and still win the PAC Ten with wins against Cal, Oregon State, and USC. I believe a 9-3 season is the most likely record this season.
With wins over Cal, Oregon State and USC would give the Ducks the PAC Ten title and break the Trojans seven year run as conference champions.
Oregon State Beavers: Prediction 9-3
The motto for this year's Oregon State team should be “Finish." That is what the Beavers did not do last season.
After upsetting USC at Corvallis on a Thursday night with the whole country watching catapulted the Beavers in the PAC Ten lead. Even with two non conference losses and a conference loss Oregon State was the front runner to win the conference.
Then came the final game of the season against in-state rival Oregon. The Beavers went from a BCS bid to the Sun Bowl instantly and handed USC the title on a silver platter.
The 2009 season brings high hopes to Oregon State. Head Coach Mike Riley has three big reasons to believe this season will be great.
The Beavers return Lyle Moevao back at quarterback for one reason for Oregon State fans to smile. The other two reasons are the return of the Rogers brothers both Jacquizz and James.
The only reason to worry on offense could be the offensive line needs to be reworked. If the Beavers can do that scoring should not be a problem.
On defense Oregon State has to find replacements on the line and the whole secondary. Still there are good returning players at defensive end and linebacker.
Out of conference the Beavers have one easy win against Portland State. The other two non conference games are a road game at UNLV and Cincinnati at home. Oregon State should be good enough to beat all three.
In conference is where the Beavers could run into major trouble. Still there are winnable in conference games.
Oregon State should get wins at home against Arizona, Stanford, Washington and UCLA. The Beavers should get road wins at Arizona State and Washington State.
The hard part of the conference schedule is road games at California, USC, and UCLA. Oregon State has to play just about every very good team in conference on the road.
The Beavers should not do any worse than 6-6. I do not see them being any worse than that.
The Beavers have the offensive talent to win every game on the schedule. Still the road games are just too rough to get by them all.
I still think the Beavers will have a 9-3 season and be in the race all season. Oregon State could win the whole thing if they get lucky.
Stanford Cardinal: Prediction 5-7
It’s hard to figure out how good this program is when the biggest offseason news is the new bathroom installed in the head coach’s office. That has been the largest 50,000 to 70,000 talked about so far this season.
Stanford had a good season going last year until they dropped the final three games of the season. Although the final three games were against very good Oregon, USC, Cal teams.
This season could be what head Coach Jim Harbaugh has waited three seasons for. The Cardinal returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense from a 5-7 ball club.
Harbaugh has talent on the roster but it might be a year away from a breakout season. Still there is a feeling of hope around Palo Alto.
If there is a PAC Ten team that could be a dark horse Stanford is that team. The Cardinal will have to find a quarterback and help in the secondary to succeed this season.
The out of conference schedule has two losses. The first being a road trip to Wake Forest and the other being a home game against Notre Dame. The third non conference game should be a win against San Jose State.
The in conference schedule has home wins against Washington, UCLA, and Arizona State for Stanford. The Cardinal should get road wins against Washington State.
Stanford could lose road games against Oregon State, Arizona, and USC. The home loses could be Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame.
The Cardinal could have a 3-9 season at worse. Still the best could be a 7-5 season for Stanford.
I think the realistic season Stanford will be another 5-7 season. The future looks bright for Stanford and especially if they can keep Harbaugh again in the offseason.
UCLA Bruins: Prediction 8-4
There are two things you can guarantee to happen to your program when you hire Rick Neuheisel as a head coach. The first is a quick turnaround in wins. The second is that your program will be under NCAA probation when he leaves.
So far for UCLA the Neuheisel era is in the first stage making a program a winner again. Entering his second season at his alma mater do not be in awe if the Bruins go bowling this season.
The talent is there for a quick turnaround and Neuheisel has the Bruins believing they can play with USC. The offense will be in the hands of Kevin Prince.
If offensive coordinator Norman Chow has anything to do with it NFL scouts will be drooling over Prince before he leaves UCLA. That is if he can find some receivers to throw the ball to and a running game.
Offensively the Bruins have been near comatose. If things are going to turn around the offense will have to come out of the witness protection plan it has been hiding under.
The UCLA defense has several returning players and a nice mix of sophomores and freshmen. The defense will have to be a lot better in 2009 after only holding the two Washington teams to under 20 points.
Even if the offense comes out of hiding the defense will have to make stops if the Bruins plan of winning games this season. If UCLA gets some offense and the defense can make some stops this could be a quick turnaround.
The non conference schedule has two relativity easy games against San Diego State and Kansas State both should be wins. The big out of conference game will be against Tennessee on the road and the Vols should get the win.
In conference the Bruins get a nice mix of home and away games. UCLA gets some of the big boys at home and some on the road.
The Bruins should get home wins against Washington and Arizona State. The road wins should come from Arizona and Washington State.
The games that could make or break the Bruins at home are Oregon and California. The UCLA in conference road games against Oregon State, Stanford, and USC could end up as losses.
UCLA could slide this season with all the freshmen and sophomores who will get playing time. The worse the Bruins could be is 3-9 this season.
Still if those young players grow up quickly the Bruins have the talent to make noise in the PAC Ten. While they would not run the table a 10-2 season is unlikely but possible.
I figure the Bruins will vastly improve and will go bowling. I think an 8-4 season is very reachable this season and next season UCLA will be a major play in conference.
USC Trojans: Prediction 9-3
USC could be a victim of their own success this season. The Trojans have been so good they have forced the other teams in the PAC Ten to get better.
While USC has owned the conference title for the last seven seasons they have stock up on talent. The rest of the conference stepped up their recruiting.
Now in 2009 the Trojans have been hit all over the field by losses to players to the NFL and graduation. USC will have to rebuild its linebacker corps and find a quarterback.
The Trojans will start a true freshman at quarterback for the first time in school history. Who will have to deal with the loss of a receiver on offence to injury and with the defensive departures.
This could be the best coaching job Pete Carroll has done while he has been at USC. For the first time in years the Trojans look like they could be toppled.
The losses just keep mounting up for the Trojans. I know the talent level is deep and USC will not fall apart. I do think this will be a slight rebuilding year.
You know it’s a kind of down year when the main player getting pub this offseason is a defensive player. Do not get me wrong Taylor Mays is a great player but when was the last time the offseason focus is on a defensive player not an offensive player.
USC still has playmakers on both sides of the ball. How fast they come together might dictate how quickly the Trojans are national championship ready.
For the rest of the PAC Ten this is the season to dethrone the Trojans. If you do not win the conference this season it might not happen next season.
The non conference schedule has two big games and both are on the road. The first will be at Ohio State and the second at Notre Dame. I think USC will split those games getting beat by the Buckeyes.
The third out of conference game will be a win against an overmatched San Jose State team. That should leave the Trojans 2-1 out of conference. Still Notre Dame could upset USC.
In conference the Trojans will beat Washington, Washington State, Arizona State, Stanford, and Arizona. USC will get home wins against Oregon State and UCLA.
The Trojans will get tripped up by California and Oregon on the road. The Oregon State and the UCLA games will be dog fights as well.
I can only believe that the worse USC will do is an 8-4 season. The talent is there for the Trojans to win every game on the schedule.
I still think that USC will be slightly down this year. Most teams would love to have the problems the Trojans do and be considered having a down season.
I think the Trojans will go 9-3 this season and next season retake their place at the head of the peaking order. Carroll will do a great job as always and he knows 2010 will be the year for the Trojans.
Washington Huskies: Prediction 2-10
Remember when the Huskies where a good football team. Washington playing for national championships and PAC Ten titles in the 1990s.
Now Washington has hit rock bottom and is struggling to rebuild this down trodden program. New head coach Steve Sarkisian will have a big job ahead of him.
Still it will take time and the Huskies fans will have to give Sarkisian time to get the job done. This will be at least a five year job and he should get the time if Washington wants a solid program.
Still this will be a long season for Washington fans. I do not see many wins this season and it might be that way for the next couple of years.
Out of conference the Huskies play two killer games against LSU and Notre Dame. Both games will be loses but they will beat Idaho in a non conference game.
In conference look for losses against USC, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, California, and Oregon State. I do believe that Washington will win the Apple Cup and beat Washington State.
The worse Washington will do is going winless. The best the Huskies can do is 4-8.
Still I think a 2-10 season is what is likely. It will be a long wait for Washington fans. Get ready for it.
Washington State Cougars: Prediction 2-10
Just like their in state counterpart the Cougars have fallen on tough times. Washington State will have to rebuild its program as well.
Do not look for a quick turnaround for the Cougars. This will be a process just like at Washington.
It will be a race to see who will get their team on track first. Paul Wulff gets the nod to rebuild the program. Entering year two of the rebuilding process do not expect leaps and bounds.
Washington State will lose games against Stanford, USC, Oregon, Arizona State, California, Arizona, UCLA, Oregon State, and Washington all in conference.
The Cougars will face one tough out of conference game against Notre Dame. Washington State could get wins from SMU and Hawaii.
The worse the Cougars could do is going winless. I do not see much better than a 3-9 season at best.
I think a 2-10 season is most likely. The rebuilding process goes on.
So the PAC Ten will have a new champion for at least this year. Oregon State, Oregon, and California better make the most of this season.
It might be the best chance the rest of the PAC Ten has to catching up with the Trojans. The losses were big for USC but 2010 will be more like the Trojans we are used too.