Everybody has their own thoughts on the upcoming Pac 10 season. Many believe Oregon will return to the Rose Bowl. The media believes that LaMichael James and Jacquizz Rodgers are the best running backs in the conference. Almost everyone is in consensus that Washington State will remain in the conference basement for another year. While many of these predictions are very true, here is ten bold predictions that will catch Pac 10 fans by surprise come December.
The 5'10", 198 pound junior is next in line of a run of talented Golden Bear running backs. During the Jeff Tedford era, the program has produced J.J. Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, Jahvid Best and now Vereen.
During the last four games of 2009, Vereen ran for nearly 600 yards. LaMichael James will miss the season opener and will share carries with Kenjon Barner and Lache Seastrunk. Jacquizz Rodgers will have a great year but suffer due the play of a new quarterback. Washington tailback Chris Polk broke 1,000 yards a year ago, but doesn't have a talented offensive line to produce a big year. Vereen will finish the season with the most rushing yards in the conference.
Many NFL draft experts have Locker as a top five selection in 2011. The 6'3", 224 pound senior finished 2009 with the fourth best quarterback rating in the conference. The athletic, strong Washington native was sacked 28 times, threw 11 interceptions, and completed 58.2 percent of his passes in 2009.
Senior Kevin Riley has no where to go but up, Nick Foles completed over 63 percent of his passes last season, Matt Barkley will be efficient, and Andrew Luck will be teaming up with Ryan Whalen and Chris Owusu all season long.
At the end of the season Locker will not be a first or second team selection in the Pac 10 conference.
Many believe this will be the year for Washington to return to a college bowl game. After a 5-7 season, the Huskies return Jermaine Kearse, Chris Polk, Devon Aguilar in an offense led by Jake Locker.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, they return a mediocre defense and play a daunting schedule. Three of Washington's first four games are against BYU, Nebraska, and USC. Add in later road games against Oregon, California, and Arizona and it will be really difficult to reach six wins on the season.
Andrew Luck will need to prove doubters in 2010 that his success didn't rely on former running back Toby Gerhart. The Stanford passing offense is powerful with Luck, Ryan Whalen, and Chris Owusu.
Don't expect the Cardinal rushing attack to come close to the 224.3 rushing yards per game average of last season. The defense allowed 26.2 points per game, and will be needed to step up in games at Oregon, Notre Dame, California, and Washington. The Cardinals also face two outstanding defenses in trips to UCLA, and Arizona State. Jim Harbaugh and Stanford will struggle to reach the six wins they need to become bowl eligible.
The Oregon rushing attack averaged 236.1 yards per game on the ground in 2009. This season they return a very talented and experienced offensive line that could be considered the best in the conference.
Regardless of the Oregon quarterback, Chip Kelly's offense will have the services of Kenjon Barner, LaMichael James, and five-star freshman Lache Seastrunk. The Duck running game will simply rack up big yards against Portland State, New Mexico, Washington State, Arizona and Washington.
At the end of the season, the best defenses statistically will be Arizona State, UCLA, and USC. Vontaze Burfict will be named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, the Trojan and Bruin defenses will on average allow below fifteen points per game during the 2009 season. Both Arizona State and UCLA will fall short due to sub-par offensive play, and USC is simply playing for pride in 2010.
Barely reaching a bowl game in 2009, don't look for the Bruins to return in 2010. The upcoming schedule includes trips to Texas, Kansas State, Oregon, California, and Washington. Include that with home games against USC, Houston, and the rest of the conference and six wins seem nearly impossible.
With the amount of talent on the roster, and the expectations Neuheisel brought to Pasadena the pressure will be boiling for the UCLA coach. The Bruins will stay competitive with a great defense. With rival USC in trouble, the time is now for the Bruins to return to the top of the conference.
For the third straight year, the Civil War will be played for an invitation to the Rose Bowl. Once again the Beavers will go from the possibility of playing in Pasadena, to falling down to the third or fourth slot in the conference.
The Ducks will win a close game in Corvallis and return to the Rose Bowl. The Beavers will fall to third place, and travel to San Diego to play in the Holiday Bowl.
One may think this team will be lacking in motivation, and determination. With the abundance of talent on this roster, new coach Lane Kiffin does not want his first year to be a disappointment. The biggest reason the Trojans go undefeated is the their schedule.
This is by far the easiest schedule for USC in recent memory. The non-conference slate includes Hawaii, Virginia, Minnesota and a home contest against Notre Dame. The most difficult conference road games are at Stanford, Arizona and Oregon State.
The Trojans will look for redemption against the Cardinal, Arizona, and Oregon, and the defense will be experienced and motivated. It is a little sweet justice that the Trojans will finish 2010 undefeated and still be stuck watching the BCS Championship game in January 2011.
Rose Bowl: Oregon will return to Pasadena after finishing the season second in the conference to USC. Wisconsin will meet the Ducks after Ohio State is chosen for the BCS National Championship game against Alabama.
Alamo Bowl: Jeff Tedford and Cal will travel south to play in the Holiday Bowl.
The Golden Bears will meet the third seed out of the Big 12 being most likely Oklahoma State or Nebraska.
Holiday Bowl: Once again the Beavers will begin the season slow, get hot during the middle of the season and fall short late. In comparison, at least they won't be stuck in the Las Vegas or Sun Bowl like previous seasons.
Sun Bowl: With the return of Nick Foles, Keola Antolin, and Nic Grigsby, the Wildcat offense will be potent and score over 30 points per game in 2010. Arizona plays a favorable schedule which only includes difficult road games at Oregon and Stanford.
Las Vegas Bowl: As stated before the Cardinal will struggle to reach six wins on the season and will be rewarded with a trip to Las Vegas against the first seed out of the Mountain West.
The bowl ban placed on USC really hurts the conference just as much as the Trojans. With USC running the table in 2010, it only adds another loss to each and every team in the conference. Instead of six bowl eligible teams, the conference will be left with five and left out of the Emerald Bowl.