The state of California is home to a vast diversity of exceptionally talented collegiate, semi-professional, and professional athletic teams.
In 2010, the biggest piece of the West Coast will have no shortage of special college football teams. But how do the California colleges stack up against each other?
Here's one look at how the college football teams of California could rank against one another.
Key Losses: Travis Jones (LB), Justin Cole (DE), Carl Ihenacho (DE), Kevin Jurovich (WR)
Impact Returners: Duke Ihenacho (S), Tanner Burns (S), Manu Ngatikaura (S), Tiuke Tuipulotu (S), Peyton Thompson (CB), Pompey Festejo (LB), Josh Harrison (WR), Marquis Avery (WR), Jalal Beauchman (WR), Lamon Murdrow (RB), Jordan La Secla (QB)
Top Recruits: Jabari Carr (WR), Forrest Hightower (RB)
A new coach for a bad team playing in a decent conference doesn't spell good things for the San Jose State Spartans.
At least Mike MacIntyre has a lot of good returning experience to work with.
Right now, this team just doesn't hold up well to the rest of California.
Key Losses: Nick Sandford (S), Kwincy Edwards (CB), Luke Laolagi (LB), Jerry Milling (LB), Ikaika Aken-Moleta (G), Tommy Draheim (T), Peter Nelson (T), DeMarco Sampson (WR), Roberto Wallace (WR)
Impact Returners: Darryn Lewis (S), B.J. Hemmings (S), Martrell Fantroy (S), Marc Yarbrough (LB), Andrew Preston (LB), Miles Burris (LB), B.J. Williams (DE), Vincent Brown (WR), Brandon Sullivan (RB), Walter Kazee (RB), Ryan Lindley (QB)
Top Recruits: Ronnie Hillman (WR), Jake Feely (LB)
The Aztecs play in a quality Mountain West Conference but have decent returning experience and a workable schedule in 2010 (Nicholls State, Utah State, at New Mexico State, and at Missouri in the non-conference).
San Diego State's personnel losses are important ones though. Two tackles, two good receivers, two quality linebackers, and various other pieces leave the Aztecs with some sizable holes to fill.
With a little luck and progression from young players, the Aztecs will be at least the fifth-best team in the Mountain West.
Key Losses: Alterraun Verner (CB), Kyle Bosworth (LB), Reggie Carter (LB), Korey Bosworth (DE), Jerzy Siewierski (DT), Brian Price (DT), Terrence Austin (WR), Chane Moline (FB)
Impact Returners: Rahim Moore (S), Tony Dye (S), Akeem Ayers (LB), Datone Jones (DE), Nelson Rosario (WR), Tyler Embree (WR), Jonathan Franklin (RB), Kevin Prince (QB)
Top Recruits: Owamagbe Odighizuwa (DE), Jordon James (RB)
I love the offensive pieces the Bruins return, and I love the recruiting class they bring in. I don't love the defensive pieces the Bruins lose and how tough the Pac-10 could be in 2010.
UCLA's schedule is flat-out nasty. At Kansas State, at Texas, at California, at Oregon, at Washington, and at Arizona State with Stanford, Houston, Washington State, Arizona, Oregon State, and USC at home looks like a bare minimum of six losses to me unless Rick Neuheisel can muster up the coaching job of a lifetime.
This team will be endlessly better than their record shows and certainly could surprise me.
Key Losses: Lorne Bell (S), Moses Harris (S), A.J. Jefferson (CB), Ben Jacobs (LB), Nico Herron (LB), Chris Lewis (DT), Cornell Banks (DT), Joe Bernardi (C), Andrew Jackson (G), Kenny Wiggins (T), Seyi Arijotutu (WR), Chastin West (WR), Ryan Matthews (RB), Lonyae Miller (RB)
Impact Returners: Phillip Thomas (S), Desia Dunn (CB), Shawn Plummer (LB), Kyle Knox (LB), Chris Carter (DE), Jamel Hamler (WR), Robbie Rouse (RB), Ryan Colburn (QB)
Top Recruits: Davon Dunn (ATH), Josh Harper (WR)
Ryan Matthews and his Bulldogs were among America's favorite teams in 2009, but in 2010 they'll have to find some new star power to achieve similar success.
Fortunately, the non-conference schedule includes Illinois, Cincinnati, and Cal Poly at home and Ole Miss on the road. Two of those games should be winnable, and even playing at Ole Miss will be doable in 2010.
I don't expect the WAC to be particularly strong either. UCLA is the better team, but the opportunities will come far easier to Fresno State, in my opinion.
Key Losses: Brett Johnson (S), Syd’Quan Thompson (CB), Eddie Young (LB), Devin Bishop (LB), Tyson Alualu (DE), Mike Tepper (T), Verran Tucker (WR), Jahvid Best (RB)
Impact Returners: Sean Cattouse (S) Josh Hill (CB), D.J. Holt (LB), Mike Mohamed (LB), Mychal Kendricks (LB), Cameron Jordan (DE), Marvin Jones (WR), Shane Vereen (RB), Kevin Riley (QB)
Top Recruits: Keenan Allen (ATH), Chris Martin (DE)
A decent core of offense returns for the Golden Bears despite losing a highlight reel of talent in Jahvid Best. Some quality recruiting should help fill that gap though, too.
On the other hand, several defensive pieces are gone from an inconsistent group in a high-powered Pac-10 offense.
At least non-conference games are against Colorado, UC Davis, and at Nevada.
The Golden Bears are talented, but like UCLA, the hectic nature of Pac-10 play could really hurt California.
Key Losses: Will Harris (S), Taylor Mays (S), Josh Pinkard (CB), Kevin Thomas (CB), Everson Griffen (DE), Damian Williams (WR), Stafon Johnson (RB), Joe McKnight (RB), Anthony McCoy (TE), Charles Brown (OT), Jeff Byers (OG), Nick Howell (OG)
Impact Returners: Michael Morgan (LB), Malcolm Smith (LB), Chris Galippo (LB), Devon Kennard (DE), Jurrell Casey (DT), Ronald Johnson (WR), C.J. Gable (RB), Allen Bradford (RB), Matt Barkley (QB)
Top Recruits: Robert Woods (WR), Markeith Ambles (WR)
The rest of the Pac-10 shudders at the thought of Lane Kiffin bonding with the talented stable of offensive weapons he now has at his disposal at Southern California.
Matt Barkley already has hype behind him. Imagine what he'll do with a very energetic and renowned quarterback tutor behind him.
All this complacent defense needs, I think, is a shot in the arm too. There's so much talent and athleticism in the Trojan locker room, Kiffin won't know what to do.
It's really tough to put a team this talented at No. 2 on this list.
Key Losses: Bo McNally (S), Richard Sherman (CB), Kris Evans (CB), Will Powers (LB), Clinton Snyder (LB), Ekom Udofia (DT), Toby Gerhart (RB), Chris Marinelli (OT), Andrew Phillips (OG)
Impact Returners: Delano Howell (S), Shayne Skov (LB), Chase Thomas (DE), Tom Keiser (DE), Ryan Whalen (WR), Chris Owusu (WR), Stepfan Taylor (RB), Andrew Luck (QB)
Top Recruits: Blake Lueders (DE), Devon Carrington (S)
The Stanford Cardinal take the biggest hit to the back half of their defense, but who would doubt that Jim Harbaugh will manage to field yet another scrappy, tough defense?
Stanford's schedule isn't easy, though, so that Harbaughness will be a necessity when closing out games and winning the contests the Cardinal are supposed to win.
I think the entire world is ready to see what Andrew Luck can do at the head of the offense.
Stanford seems like the best team in California in 2010 to me, but an Oct. 9 contest in Palo Alto with USC will tell us for sure.