Pac-10 2010 Team By Team Hot Points

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Pac-10 2010 Team By Team Hot Points

Last year, I wrote a series of articles on the Pac-10 about what I felt were three keys for each team's success.

For Oregon, I made points on new head coach Chip Kelly and his ability to transition from coaching the offense to coaching the whole team.

Point two was a more balanced offense. Well, if the run game ain’t broke don’t fix it. I was wrong. Oregon's pass offense got much worse but they managed to make it work anyway.

The final point was taking advantage of the home schedule with Cal, USC and Oregon State coming to Autzen.

I would say I hit two out of three for the Pac-10 champs.

I don't know that I have the time to do a whole series this year with only a few days left to kickoff. 

Here are my thoughts, three quick hits if you will.

 

Arizona

The defense only returns four starters. To add insult to injury, they also have a new defensive coordinator. The backfield will have to anchor the D and is one of the conference's top units. The run D needs help and could be the deciding factor in determining if the team will have an average season or a good season.

Running back health was an issue last season. Grigsby and Antolin can be scary good runners and it wouldn’t surprise me to see dual 1,000 yard rushers. Grigsby missed three games and saw limited action in several others because of his shoulder injury. Antolin played in all the games but had shoulder problems of his own along with some knee issues.

The schedule sets up well for Arizona as they have Cal, Oregon State, Washington, USC and rival Arizona State at home as well as non-conference opponent Iowa. The two main road games will be Oregon and Stanford. Take advantage and Arizona could be in great position at the end of the season.

Arizona State

Who made the schedule?? For two of the non-conference games the Sun Devils host two teams from the FCS. What that means is if they win both, only one counts toward bowl eligibility. Basically it is like playing only 11 games. On top of that they go to Wisconsin, the preseason No. 12-ranked team in the country.

QB Steven Threet has been named the starter to take over the new offense of OC Noel Mazzone, which will be more of a spread passing attack. I don’t really get it since they only return two wideouts that had more than 200 yards receiving last season.

The defense was the best in the Pac-10 last season and with the early schedule the way it is they probably will be again. Kidding aside, the defensive front will likely be one of the best in the country but the backfield leaves something to be desired.

Cal

Cal seems to be the epitome of expectations or disappointment. They are almost always expected to do well, and they crash or no one has high hopes and they end up doing well. This season most expect a middle-of-the-pack finish so I don’t really know what that will turn into.

Running backs haven’t been a problem for Cal and this year will be no different. From Arrington to Lynch then to Forsett followed by Best and now Shane Vereen. Back after back have ran for 1,000 yards and gone from Cal to the NFL. Vereen started his case last season and will continue this year as the feature back.

Cal had better hope that the early part of the schedule is kind to them because the end sure isn’t. Sure, they have three home games but those games are with Oregon, Stanford, and Washington. Both Oregon and Washington put up 42 points on Cal last season making the combined score 84-13. Stanford hasn’t been much of an issue lately but it is the Big Game and anything can happen.

Oregon

As I noted before I thought that balancing the offense with more passing would be important for Oregon last year. I still think it is and I think it will happen this year. The run will still be first and foremost this season with an amazing and fast corps of running backs. New QB Darron Thomas will throw more than Masoli did and the wide receivers are more experienced this year than last. I’m not calling for a 50/50 run/pass offense but the ratio will be better than having the eighth ranked rushing offense and the 98th passing.

Speaking of quarterbacks, I haven’t been overly vocal on my opinion of the whole Masoli situation. If you read my Bold Predictions, then you know I think Oregon will have a better offense without Masoli. And it will be because he is gone. Masoli was inconsistent. He hit his stride for most of the season only to be a no show in the Rose Bowl. Kelly has shown he can coach up a quarterback given enough time and I think Oregon will be fine again.

The defense is underrated. It looked bad because it gave up high point totals to Stanford, Purdue, and Arizona(overtime). But in reality, in conference play, Oregon had the top rushing defense, top total defense, and led the conference in sacks. Oregon was also second in scoring defense. Yes, they lose some starters but some such as Walter Thurmond III and T.J. Ward missed significant portions of the season with injuries.

Oregon State

It begins and ends with Quizz. Sure they have his brother and the O-line looks decent but can anyone look me in the eye and tell me that they don’t believe that Oregon State will go as Quizz goes? If he has a bad game or gets shut down they will not win. There is little depth at RB behind him so not only do they need him to perform, but also stay healthy.

Seems that with the focus on the quarterback issue at rival Oregon, many people forget that Oregon State is breaking in a new QB too. Canfield is leaving Oregon State fourth on the Oregon State all-time passing list and touchdown list. He had a 69.7 completion percentage which was a Beaver single-season record. His successor Katz has a strong arm and is doing well in practice but with the dismissal of Lalich, the Beavers have little depth here as well.

Oregon State may have the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation. Not only are they playing two BCS bowl participants but both are ranked in the preseason top 10. Oh, and games are on the road. History lesson, Oregon State on the road in September the last five years, 1-6. The last 10 years, 4-12. Those wins by the way were New Mexico, New Mexico State, Temple, and UNLV.

Southern California

New head coach Lane Kiffin can’t seem to escape controversy. Being named head coach at Tennessee sparked many people to start questioning him and his coaching ability. He made false accusations, made controversial statements, had some violations, and left after one year faster than little kids stealing money from mom's purse when they hear the ice cream man. He took over a job at Southern California only to have the NCAA hammer the program with sanctions. I honestly don’t know what to expect from this guy next.

A few years ago, USC was featured everywhere you turned with a deep stable of running backs. Now it seems that every time I read something about USC running backs, they lose another one. Dillon Baxter has a one-game suspension. Allen Bradford fell awkwardly and left practice early. Is C.J. Gable even on the team still? I haven’t heard anything about him all offseason. Marc Tyler has been named the starter for at least the Hawaii game.

USC has done well year in and year out at home and on the road except for one place, the state of Oregon. Since 2006, USC has lost to both Oregon State and Oregon twice each, every time on the road. It started at Oregon State with at 31-33 loss in 2006. Only last seasons game at Oregon was by more than seven points as Oregon routed the Trojans 47-20. This season they get the Ducks at home but have to go to Oregon State. It isn’t necessarily something that will make or break the season, just an interesting trend.

Stanford

No question as to what the main issue here is, replacing Toby Gerhart. Can it even be done? Not by one person. At least not at first. Look for a ongoing running back competition with Stepfan Taylor, Jeremy Stewart, and Tyler Gaffney. It will likely be running back by committee unless someone can emerge as a feature back. Don’t forget about FB/ILB Owen Marecic, who will play both ways.

Chris Owusu is possibly the best kick return men in the nation. He had three touchdowns and had 1,167 yards returning kicks. He also had 682 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He is fast, dynamic and scary good. Unquestionably a game changer.

While last years offense was focused on the run, 11th in the nation rushing, 70th passing, I fully expect a flip of those numbers. Andrew Luck is an accurate passer with weapons all over the field. Along with the previously mentioned Owusu, there is also Ryan Whalen who was the team leader in receptions and receiving yards and Coby Fleener who was third in both categories. TE Konrad Reuland is back as well.

UCLA

I said before that Oregon State may have the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation, UCLA is right there with them. Two trips to the Big 12 is the main part, Kansas State may not be such a big issue but national runner up Texas is definitely one. The third game is where they could argue with Oregon State, Houston comes to UCLA with their high-powered passing offense led by Case Keenum.

I know this is supposed to be about this year but I have to say I feel like UCLA is setting up for a bigger 2011. The two deep on all sides of the ball has all of just a handful of seniors. The starting line up has maybe three, I haven’t seen an official one, just projections. The experience gained this year could be setting UCLA to have an outstanding 2011.

When you talk about kicking, it is nice to say you have the reigning Lou Groza award winner on your team. Kai Forbath comes back as not only the best kicker in the conference, but also the nation. He hit 28-31 kicks last season including a 52-yarder that could have been moved back a few more yards. He was 24-25 on extra points as well.

Washington

For the past couple of seasons the Washington offense has been all about Jake Locker. Last year, a few weapons emerged to help out and now going into 2010 Washington may have the best offensive skill positions in the conference. Maybe not individually, but as a whole. Jake Locker directing the offense, Chris Polk running the ball with Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar catching it. If the line can tighten up, Washington will have no problem scoring.

The main question is can they stop anyone? The defense has holes to fill at every level and will be anchored by the secondary, which was actually the weakness last season. Losing Donald Butler, E.J. Savannah, and Donald Te’o-Nesheim will be tough to over come. Having Mason Foster, Nate Williams, and Desmond Trufant back will be something to build around.

While those other teams mentioned have tough non-conference schedules, I think Washington has one of the toughest all around. Washington hasn’t won on the road since 2007 and this season has to travel to BYU, USC, Arizona, Oregon, Cal, and rival Washington State. The home schedule includes Nebraska, Arizona State and, Oregon State, both of whom Washington has been unable to beat in their last six meetings each. Then there is Stanford who ran all over them last season.

Washington State

It can’t get worse can it? That’s the hope in Pullman anyway. After an 1-11 season the only that could be worse would be going 0-12. Most analysts have Washington State at least making some upward progress and winning a game, maybe even two, and with fewer blowouts.

A lot of people have head coach Paul Wulff on the hot seat this season. I don’t. I mean, I have him on a warm one, but not really a hot one. I think Washington State officials know that sometimes three years just isn’t enough to rebuild a program. By letting him go they may be digging themselves a deeper hole. While the results haven’t been reflected on the field yet, but recruiting is getting better under him ever so slightly.

James Montgomery should be ready to take over the run game. The Cal transfer was a four-star recruit that committed to California in 2006 and transferred to Washington State and redshirted in 2008. Last season he was injured in the third game of the season so he only accumulated 167 yards and one touchdown. If he can stay healthy he should lead the team in rushing, improve the offense and could even help get a win in a close game.

Bonus Quick Hits

Colorado

I am projecting out to 2011 here in case they are able to join by then. The offense looks like it would be returning plenty of starters but the defense would need some rebuilding. The main question will be is Hawkins going to be the guy that will lead the Buffs to the Pac-10 or will there be a new head man in Boulder?

Utah

The Utes have just the opposite questions for me heading toward 2011. The defense seems like they will have more starters back after this season than the offense. This season there are new coordinators on both sides of the ball so it will be interesting to see how their play calling goes this season, more aggressive or conservative, more run or pass, to give us a look at next year.

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