2010 College Football Predictions: 25 Bold Pac-10 Predictions
With the college football season quickly approaching, the time is ripe for predictions.
The Pac-10 conference was riddled with offseason controversy, scandal, and expansion talks, keeping the spotlight focused on the West Coast.
With nine teams that can finish anywhere from first to ninth in 2010, the spotlight is sure to remain bright.
The following 25 bold predictions range from the probable to unlikely, but it ultimately is up to you to decide which is which.
1. More than two head coaches won't be returning in 2011
Whether it's due to being fired or being hired elsewhere, the Pac-10 is ready for some head coach shuffling after the 2010 season.
Dennis Erickson at Arizona State and Paul Wulff at Washington State are two head coaches who are on the hot seat heading into the season.
Additionally, UCLA's Rick Neuheisel could find himself in hot water if the Bruins finish below .500.
If any team finishes below expectations, one or more schools will be bringing in a new staff for 2011.
Oregon State coach Mike Riley and Stanford's Jim Harbaugh could be hot commodities all across the country for teams looking to replace a coach...NFL not excluded.
2. The Pac-10 will win at least two-thirds of non-conference schedule
The Pac-10 has been criticized for a lack of high-end non-conference wins in recent years.
With several top 25 teams like Nebraska, Iowa, and Texas playing Pac-10 opponents this year, the time to prove themselves is now.
Here's some games to look forward to:
September 4: Oregon State vs. TCU in Arlington
September 4: Washington State @ Oklahoma State
September 11: Oregon @ Tennessee
September 17: Cal @ Nevada
September 18: Iowa @ Arizona
September 18: Nebraska @ Washington
September 18: Arizona State @ Wisconsin
September 25: Oregon State @ Boise State
September 25: UCLA @ Texas
November 27: Notre Dame @ USC
Note to reader: I'm not saying all these games will be Pac-10 victories.
3. Norm Chow will finally get a head coaching job
Norm Chow has been a great offensive coordinator at the college level since 1973 with the exception of a stint with the Tennessee Titans from 2005-2007.
The coaching shuffle that is expected after the 2010 season is bound to churn up a school that wants to see what Norm can do in the driver's seat.
How great of a story would it be if he ended up at BYU?
4. Washington State will win a conference game
The Washington State Cougars have four conference wins since 2007.
Two of those wins came against a struggling Washington team, and none of them occurred during the 2009 season.
The law of averages is bound to kick in eventually. Right?
5. Arizona State's defense will allow fewer than 275 yards per game
Arizona State came close to this mark in 2009, allowing only 298 yards per game, the best in the Pac-10.
With five starters back at key positions, the Sun Devils will look to do even better in 2010.
Saia Falahola and Lawrence Guy will team up as possibly the best interior lineman duo in the Pac-10.
James Brooks will add pressure from the defensive end position, making the defensive line at Arizona State a dangerous one.
Vontaze Burfict has been involved in offseason injuries and controversies, but he is the most talented player to play on ASU's defense since Terrell Suggs.
6. Arizona's running backs will combine for more than 2,000 yards
With all the talk about Nick Foles and the dangerous passing attack at Arizona, many forget that the Wildcats have a stable of running backs waiting to explode.
In 2009, Nic Grigsby, Keola Antolin, and Greg Nwoko combined for 1,447 yards despite all three spending time on the injured list.
Redshirt freshmen Daniel Jenkins and Kylan Butler will look to throw their names into the contest this year, adding further depth to the position.
H-back Taimi Tutogi is currently out with a high ankle sprain, but he is expected to get some carries at the tailback position as well.
7. Oregon won't kick any more players off the team
The 2010 offseason was a rough one for the Oregon Ducks, to say the least.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was suspended for the 2010 season when he was allegedly involved in a burglary.
He was subsequently kicked off the team after a second arrest in June.
In January, kickers Rob Beard and Mike Bowlin, as well as defensive end Matt Simms, were involved in a brawl that left Beard seriously injured.
Bowlin left the team after the incident, and Simms was dismissed from the team.
After linebacker Kristian Kiko Alonso was arrested in February on suspicion of driving under the influence, wide receiver Jamere Holland was kicked off the team, supposedly for his Facebook comments about the incident.
Additionally, running back LaMichael James was arrested for a domestic incident and has been suspended for the season opener.
Whew...and I didn't even have time to mention LeGarrette Blount's punch.
8. Mike Mohamed will win the Butkus Award
Mike Mohamed led the Pac-10 with 112 tackles in 2009 and added three interceptions and two sacks.
As a senior Mohamed has the potential to go above and beyond his 2009 production and should be a lock for first team Pac-10 honors.
And okay, it may be a little too early to be making award winner predictions, but that's what makes this so much fun.
9. Andrew Luck will be a Heisman finalist
Speaking of award winner predictions...
No, I don't think Andrew Luck will actually win the Heisman Trophy, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear his name in the discussion.
As a freshman in 2009, Luck threw for 2,575 yards and 13 touchdowns. He only threw four interceptions.
Luck's passing numbers are expected to rise in 2010 due to the fact that Stanford no longer has Toby Gerhart's offensive production.
Stanford has its top three receivers back from last season, giving Luck the weapons he needs to put his name in the back of Heisman voters' minds.
10. Jake Locker will not be the best QB in the Pac-10 statistically
As a senior, Jake Locker has the experience and the leadership capabilities to be one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in 2010.
The fact that NFL scouts are seemingly drooling over him just gives further evidence to his ability.
But the Pac-10 is stacked with quarterback talent this year, and between Matt Barkley, Andrew Luck, and Nick Foles, the race for the best numbers is going to be a tight one.
Also, Locker has proven that he is injury-prone in the past, and any missed games would obviously result in a drop in numbers production.
11. Kai Forbath will kick more than 30 field goals
UCLA fans would rather see Kai Forbath kicking extra points in 2010, but the early offensive line woes are indicating that the season is going to be filled with drives being stopped short.
Forbath kicked a Pac-10-leading 31 field goals in 2009, making 28 of them, with a long of 53.
His efforts were enough to earn him the Lou Groza Award for the nation's best kicker, but UCLA needs to score touchdowns to compete this year.
12. Oregon State will lose both Rodgers brothers after 2010
The Rodgers brothers were the one-two punch for the Beavers in 2009.
Older brother James Rodgers caught 91 balls for 1,032 yards and nine touchdowns and added 303 yards of rushing as a wide receiver.
Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns and added 522 yards receiving as a running back.
The Rodgers brothers will continue to be the pulse of the Oregon State offense in 2010 as they break in a new quarterback in Ryan Katz.
James Rodgers is a senior and will exhaust his eligibility after the season, and Jacquizz Rodgers will have NFL scouts knocking on his door if he produces numbers similar to those he posted in 2009.
The Oregon State Beavers face the possibility of a Rodgers-less team in 2011.
13. Arizona State will start three different quarterbacks
The position of quarterback was an obvious weakness for the Sun Devils in 2009, as they played three different quarterbacks.
Brock Osweiler, Samson Szakacsy, and Steven Threet will be the rotating trio in 2010, and the three quarterbacks have been locked in a position battle since this spring.
Unfortunately for Sun Devil fans, the quarterback battle isn't occurring because all three are blowing away the Arizona State coaching staff.
Each one has shined at times and performed terribly at others, meaning this quarterback battle will drag into the 2010 season with each getting a chance to prove he can handle the job.
14. Nate Costa will score more touchdowns than LaMichael James
Nate Costa will have competition at the quarterback position coming from Darron Thomas, but should he win the job, he will accomplish more with his arm than LaMichael James will with his legs.
James is already in coach Chip Kelly's doghouse for his offseason arrest and has been suspended for the season opener.
Freshman Lache Seastrunk will be consistently pushing James for playing time for the duration of the season.
Senior wide receiver Jeff Maehl is looking to have a breakout season, and tight end Brandon Williams will give Costa a trustworthy red zone threat.
15. USC will lose at least four games
The Trojans were surrounded by more controversy than any other team in the NCAA this offseason.
The drama started when Pete Carroll left for the NFL and USC hired Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin left Tennessee high and dry, and his assistant coach Ed Orgeron was even accused of poaching Volunteer recruits.
The Trojans were already cast in a negative light due to looming NCAA investigations into its football and basketball programs.
The NCAA hammer came down hard, and USC got a postseason bowl ban and a loss of 30 scholarships.
The Trojans went 9-4 in 2009, losing to Oregon, Arizona, Washington, and Stanford, all four of which are looking to compete for the Pac-10 title in 2010.
The competition in the Pac-10 is the best that USC has experienced in the last decade.
That mixed with no hopes of a postseason game and a new coaching staff could be enough to push USC to another four-plus-loss season.
A lot of this prediction depends on how USC plays when it gets down early in a game. They will either play for pride and battle back or roll over and wait for the ban to be lifted.
16. Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed will combine for more than 15 sacks
In 2008, defensive end Brooks Reed led the Arizona Wildcats with eight sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss.
In 2009, it was Ricky Elmore's turn as he led the Pac-10 with 10.5 sacks.
Reed was hampered by an ankle injury for most of 2009, but his ankle is fully healed, meaning he can return to his 2008 form.
Should both defensive ends be healthy, they have the potential to be the best duo in the Pac-10.
17. Stanford will go 3-0 against the California schools
The Stanford Cardinal were primed to take the California title in 2009 after beating UCLA and dominating USC.
However, Stanford dropped a close game against Cal 34-28 late in the season to miss out on the sweep.
The Cardinal were on the opposing end of that sweep in 2008.
With one of the nation's top young quarterbacks and 14 other returning starters, Stanford is looking to put up big numbers in 2010.
UCLA is struggling with its offensive line, USC is dealing with offseason NCAA sanctions, and Cal is always a crapshoot, so Stanford needs to strike while the iron is hot.
18. Washington will be back in a bowl game
The Washington Huskies haven't been to a bowl game since 2002.
A healthy Jake Locker gives the Huskies a versatile weapon capable of winning just about any game on their schedule.
Luckily for Husky fans, he will only have to win six to make it back to bowl eligibility, something that is definitely in the cards.
Chris Polk should rush for over 1,000 yards again, and the Washington secondary should keep the games close.
19. Washington State will average more than 14 points per game
The Cougars struggled offensively in 2009, amongst other things, only averaging 12 points per game.
Quarterback Jeff Tuel gives the Cougars their most capable scorer in the last couple of years, and coach Paul Wulff brings more experience in his third year as head coach.
Okay, so the bar isn't set very high for this prediction, but the Cougs will have to take their victories where they can get them in 2010.
20. Owamagbe Odighizuwa will be a Freshman All-American
Owamagbe Odighizuwa could have gone anywhere in the country and probably been a starter at defensive end.
Rick Neuheisel pulled out all the stops and managed to beat out USC, Oregon State, and other national powers for the services of this freak of an athlete.
There is no doubt that Odighizuwa will start as a freshman for the Bruins, and no one would be surprised if he blew up and posted a double-digit sack total...which was almost the prediction for this slide.
21. USC will lose to Notre Dame
I realize that most Trojans fans are probably throwing discarded Heisman Trophies at me at this point, but I feel the writing is on the wall for the 2010 season.
For the sake of top-notch competition in the Pac-10, I hope I am wrong.
This legendary rivalry has been completely one-sided in the last five-plus years, with Notre Dame barely competing in 2007 and 2008.
Last year the Fighting Irish took the Trojans to the wire, and USC needed to hold off a late comeback by Notre Dame for the victory.
Notre Dame has been riddled with similar offseason drama, and both teams will bring new coaches to this year's gunfight.
I just feel that Brian Kelly has the quicker draw.
22. Arizona State will allow more than 35 sacks
The offensive line at Arizona State has been deplorable during Dennis Erickson's tenure.
In 2007, the Sun Devils' O-line allowed 55 sacks and followed up that season with 34 sacks in 2008.
The 2009 Sun Devils finally posted a respectable sacks allowed stat in 2009 with 27, but they lost three players with starting experience at season's end.
Hopes for 2010 were high until guards Zach Schlink and Matt Husted retired from football due to injuries and guard Patrick Jamison left the team.
Additionally Jon Hargis is out with a knee injury and is expected to miss most of the season.
The guard position is so depleted that top JUCO transfer Brice Schwab is being switched from his natural tackle position to fill the depth chart holes.
The Sun Devils stocked up on JUCO linemen this spring, but that leaves their line fairly inexperienced and greatly lacking depth should anyone else go down.
23. Shane Vereen will outrush Jacquizz Rodgers
Shane Vereen split time with Jahvid Best in 2009 and still managed to amass 952 yards and 12 touchdowns.
With Best leaving for the NFL, Vereen is the only back in town and will carry the Golden Bears offense this year.
Jacquizz Rodgers rushed for a gaudy 1,440 yards in 2009, and many expect him to be the top back in 2010.
However, with Vereen receiving Best's carries in 2010, we can add Best's production of 867 yards to Vereen's yard total.
So, 952 + 867 = 1,819, which is more than Rodger's 1,440.
It's simple math, really. :)
24. Matt Barkley will throw twice as many TDs as INTs
Matt Barkley was placed in an extremely high-pressure situation in 2009 as he took over the starting quarterback duties for one of the nation's top powerhouses as a freshman.
Barkley put up great numbers, throwing for 2,735 yards and 15 touchdowns.
However, Barkley had his growing pains, as he also threw 14 interceptions.
Barkley has had more time in the system now and should be a lot more comfortable with the spotlight.
That interception rate should drop significantly, and the touchdown total could possibly rise.
25. Arizona will win the Pac-10
Now I know I probably just lost a lot of you.
Everyone will take one look at my profile, see I'm an Arizona fanatic, and write me off as another delusional homer trying to bolster my team's chances.
While you might be right, maybe, just maybe I have the team to back it up this year.
Arizona's offense returns starters at all the key positions with top Pac-10 talent at quarterback in Nick Foles.
Wide receiver Juron Criner is on the Biletnikoff watch list and is joined by about seven other receivers who are capable of producing in 2010.
The running back position is deep and effective with Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin being big home run threats.
The offensive line returns two of the Pac-10's best offensive linemen in center Colin Baxter and tackle Adam Grant.
A lot of the Wildcats' preseason prediction woes have focused on the defense, stating that U of A lost too many starters from 2009.
While the 'Cats did lose seven starters on defense, the four players returning are four of the best from 2009's squad.
Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed are two of the best defensive ends in the Pac-10 and should provide a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Trevin Wade is on the Jim Thorpe watch list, and Robert Golden will move back to his natural position of cornerback on the other side of Wade, giving the Wildcats two lockdown corners.
The defensive tackle position is deeper than it has ever been during the Mike Stoops era, giving them an opportunity to rotate in fresh players at a crucial position.
Arizona replaces all three linebackers from the 2009 season, but what the newcomers lack in experience they make up for in size and football IQ.
Linebacker coach and co-defensive coordinator Tim Kish is confident in his linebackers, as he got his top two JUCO targets in the 2009 recruiting class.
Travis Cobb and Bug Wright give the Wildcats two speedy kick returners on special teams that should give the Wildcats good field position to start every drive.
Stoops has an opportunity to show he made the right decision in hiring two coordinators for each of the open positions and an even bigger opportunity to lead Arizona to its first Rose Bowl appearance.