7. Someone get Kevin Riley some Kaopectate- Riley wasn’t hesitant in discussing where he believes he ranks among Pac-10 QBs and he can’t really be expected to say anything else. With that being said, comparing Kevin Riley to Jake Locker or Andrew Luck equals a serious case of diarrhea of the mouth. For instance, what would a Kevin Riley led UW team have looked like last year or better yet, in 2008? Some Cal fans don’t even think he’s the best QB on the team and have been calling for Brock Mansion.
Riley and the Bears were decimated by Oregon, USC, and Oregon State and followed their most impressive win of the year, the Big Game victory over the hottest team in the league at the time Stanford, with a complete flop at Washington.
The bottom line is that Riley doesn’t have the kind of arm that stretches a defense and isn’t mobile enough to require a spy defender or create problems when he is outside of the pocket. He went on a three game hiatus last season during which he threw zero touchdowns, including the Oregon and USC games, which ultimately sealed the Bears Poinsettia Bowl fate. With even fewer playmakers around him than last season, Riley will have his chance to carry the load and prove where he ranks amongst the leagues QBs.
6. USC playing the role of…spoiler?- It’s a role they rarely if ever played under Pete Carroll but USC really only has that and pride to play for this season because most of their usual lofty goals have been eliminated by the sanctions. Everything surrounding the sanctions isn’t really important because no one really believes the NCAA is going to overturn any of the penalties regardless of how and what the Trojans try to appeal. What is important is how the USC program defines itself without Pete Carroll. He built the program in his image and when he left he took Jeremy Bates and Ken Norton Jr. with him.
Moving on for USC has to mean no longer playing fast and loose with the NCAA handbook and whether or not Lane Kiffin can avoid making the same mistakes as the guys before him remains to be seen.
Kiffin avoiding rules violations is almost laughable considering how many times he has come into question during his short tenure as a college head coach. Even if USC does manage to avoid bending or breaking the rules, keeping his players motivated is going to be a challenge mostly because the Psyche of the team is still damaged from last season.
The beatdown on Halloween night and the proverbial twist of the knife the following week in front of a stunned Colosseum crowd to the Cardinal definitely took some of the juice from the Men of Troy and they have a long ways to go before they get it back. The good news for SC fans is that while their team can earn nothing more than 13 regular season wins, they will have a chance to throw a major wrench in the plans of Oregon and Stanford, who both look like contenders.
5. The Sleeping Giant is stirring on Montlake- The sleeping part has been undeniable. Washington finally showed signs of life last season after the Tyrone Willingham nightmare mercifully came to an end in 2008. Sark is a completely different coach and the program has a totally different feel than it did under Ty.
The big time recruits are coming back and most important of all, Jake Locker decided he would rather see his college career through than leave for either MLB or the NFL. It very well could all be coming together for Washington in Sarkisian’s second year; Locker decides to return for his senior year, which gives Keith Price and Nick Montana a valuable year of study.
Surrounded with more dynamic playmakers like Chris Polk and Devin Aguliar, James Johnson and Jermaine Kerse and behind a more solid line, Locker and the Dawgs have more than enough to get to a bowl game and fight for a conference title.
But seeing is believing and Husky fans have seen only flashes of brilliance and not consistent production out of Locker and the rest of the Washington offense. Locker accounted for 16TDs in UW’s five wins and 12 in their seven losses and did not rush for a score against any of those seven opponents other than Notre Dame. It remains to be seen if the simple formula of “stop Locker from running it into the endzone” is still enough to beat the Huskies this year.
4. Andrew Luck cannot be as successful without Toby Gerhart behind him…can he?- Andrew Luck has all the tools to be a very successful college and pro quarterback, but he’s going to struggle while adjusting to life after Toby. Gerhart was an absolute monster and commanded a great deal of the defenses attention on every snap. No disrespect to Jeremy Stewart, but he just doesn’t have the ability to break down a defense physically and mentally the way Gerhart did.
Whether or not Luck can continue to let the game come to him without a game changer in the backfield remains to be seen. While the running game will no doubt suffer, Luck welcomes back his top three pass catchers in Ryan Whalen, Chris Owusu and Cody Fleener. Those guys caught 10 of Luck’s 14 TDs and the only departed player to catch a TD for the Cardinal last year is Jim Dray who had three (fullback/MLB Owen Marecic had the other).
There is no doubt Luck has the physical tools to get the job done but the loss of a guy as dominate as Gerhart was towards the end of last season will leave Luck more exposed than he was at any point last year and how he responds to that is going to determine the direction of the Cardinal’s season.