Outside of Pac-10 and Big Ten country, many college football fans don't truly understand the tradition of the Rose Bowl. As the BCS has changed the landscape of major bowls, the Rose Bowl has done its best in keeping the historic game between the two conferences.
I have my own opinion of which teams will meet in early January, and my confidence will not be shaken until the regular season has came to a conclusion. Here is a brief breakdown of each eligible team in the Pac-10 fighting to play in Pasadena. Bring your biased opinion to the door, and let's prepare for the season with a little friendly banter.
The Wildcats are coming off an 8-5 season which concluded with an embarrassing defeat to Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl. Quarterback Nick Foles returns, along with two talented running backs in Keola Antolin and Nic Grigsby. The defense will be led by Trevin Wade, Ricky Elmore, and Adam Hall.
Key games at home include contests against Iowa, Oregon State, California, Washington, and USC.
Notable road trips are at Oregon and Stanford.
Arizona State Sun Devils
Coach Dennis Erickson's squad is returning from a disappointing season which ended at 4-8. The offense is lacking in experience, with Brock Osweiler and Steven Threet continuing to battle for the starting quarterback position. Cameron Marshall will get the nod at running back for a team that averaged 22.3 points per game in 2009. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is one of the best young defensive players in the nation.
Key games at home include contests against Oregon and Stanford.
The road schedule is loaded with crucial games at Wisconsin, Arizona, USC, Oregon State, Washington, and California.
California Golden Bears
While inconsistent, quarterback Kevin Riley is the most experienced signal caller in the Pac-10. Jeff Tedford did lose several key players to the NFL, but has been successful in recruiting elite talent to the program. The Golden Bears finished last season at 8-5, including a mark of 2-2 against the Top 25. Shane Vereen will take over for Jahvid Best, and California has the talent to build around talented defensive tackle Cameron Jordan.
Key games at home included contests with Colorado, Oregon, Stanford, and Washington.
The Bears will travel to meet Arizona, USC, and Oregon State in 2010.
The reigning conference champions return an abundance of starting experience from last season. The Ducks were defeated by Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, and finished the year at 10-3. A battle continues between Nate Costa and Darron Thomas for the starting quarterback position. Running back LaMichael James will look to build off a strong freshman season, and the offensive line is built of veterans. The defense will be anchored by Kenny Rowe, Casey Matthews, and Spencer Paysinger.
Key home games in 2010 are against Stanford, Washington, and Arizona.
The road schedule included contests at USC, Tennessee, California, and Oregon State.
Oregon State Beavers
The past two seasons have seen the Beavers start slow, only to finish the year fighting for a conference title. Ryan Katz will take over for Sean Canfield at quarterback and will benefit from the return of James Rodgers, Jacquizz Rodgers, and a veteran offensive line. Defensive tackle Stephen Paea is the anchor of the defensive line, and the secondary is young and talented. Mike Riley's squad finished the season at 8-5 after a dismal appearance against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The home schedule includes contests with Louisville, California, USC, and Oregon.
Key road games in 2010 are at Boise State, TCU (Dallas, Texas), Stanford, Washington, and Arizona.
Jim Harbaugh continues to bring in talented recruits to Palo Alto. The Cardinal finished last season at 8-5, after a close defeat to Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl. Star running back Toby Gerhart has moved on, but the offense returns Andrew Luck, Ryan Whalen, and Chris Owusu. Thomas Keiser will look to anchor a Stanford defense that gave up 26.5 points per game in 2009.
Key home games on the schedule include Wake Forest, USC, Arizona, and Oregon State.
The team will travel to meet Oregon, Washington, California, and Notre Dame.
The Bruins are looking to overcome injuries and inconsistency in 2010. Coach Rick Neuheisel has been successful in bringing talent to his roster, but has fallen short in terms of victories. The Bruins finished the 2009 season at 7-6, after a bowl game victory over Temple. The offense is led by Kevin Prince, Jonathan Franklin, Nelson Rosario, and Taylor Embree. The defense is a strength, with the services of Akeem Ayers and safety Rahim Moore.
The Bruins will welcome Stanford, Houston, Oregon State, Arizona, and USC to Pasadena in 2010.
The team will travel to play Oregon, Kansas State, Texas, Washington, and California.
The Trojans play a relatively easy schedule in 2010, and can thank Reggie Bush and the NCAA for giving the team no hope of reaching a bowl game this season.
Steve Sarkisian is entering his second season with expectations not seen in Seattle for half a decade. Many consider Jake Locker the best quarterback in the conference, and running back Chris Polk often goes overlooked. The offense is the strength of the team, as the defense gave up 26.7 points per game in 2009. Defensive back Desmond Trufant is primed for a break-out season for the Husky defense. Washington went 5-7 last season, including 2-3 against Top 25 squads.
The home schedule includes Syracuse, Nebraska, Oregon State, and Stanford.
The Huskies will travel to Oregon, USC, Arizona, California, and BYU.
Washington State Cougars
Coach Paul Wulff is looking for his team to pull out of the conference basement in 2010. The Cougars went winless in conference play last season and finished overall at 1-11. The offense returns the services of quarterback Jeff Tuel, and wide receiver Jared Kardstetter. The defense will need to improve after giving up 38.5 points per game last season.
The Cougars will welcome USC, Oregon, Arizona, California, and Washington to Pullman this season.
The team will travel to Oregon State, Oklahoma State, and Stanford.
A Note to Consider
I find it hard to fathom, but if a Pac-10 or Big Ten program plays in the BCS National Championship game, there is a possibility of the Rose Bowl looking to another conference to fill the empty spot.
From the Author
The 2011 Rose Bowl will feature Oregon against Wisconsin. The Badgers will sneak in after Ohio State accepts a bid to play in the BCS National Championship.