USC and Cal to Duke It Out for Pac-10 Title in 2008

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USC and Cal to Duke It Out for Pac-10 Title in 2008

2008 Predicted Pacific Ten Conference Final Standings

1. USC 8-1
2. Cal 7-2
3. Oregon 6-3
4. ASU 5-4
5. Arizona 5-4
6. Oregon State 4-5
7. Stanford 3-6
8. UCLA 3-6
9. UW 2-7
10. WSU 2-7

USC

Pete Carroll continues to assemble the best depth of talent in all of college football.  As a result, he is often overlooked for his tremendous teaching and motivational abilities as a coach.  His USC teams play at a consistently high level of intensity and rarely hurt themselves with mistakes.

In 2008, the Trojans should be exceptional.  Look for more forced turnovers and improved special teams play.

The offense is not nearly at the same level.  The quarterback position is a major question with the likely starter being an unproven Mark Sanchez.  Sanchez went down with a knee injury in camp this summer, and neither of his backups distinguished themselves.

Compounding the concern at quarterback is USC's offensive line.  It’s a group with potential but lacking in experience and depth.  In addition, playmakers need to be found at both the WR and TE positions.

If the offensive line can come together, a strong running game should emerge, helping the Trojans' young quarterbacks find their footing.

Look for USC to get hit with a rare home loss to Ohio State and another loss in the first half of the Pac-10 slate.



California

The depth and talent in Berkeley are superior to all but USC within the conference.  Had the Bears not done their best Van De Velde imitation in late October last season, we’d be talking about them as a legitimate threat to USC’s conference dominance.  Instead, we’re left wondering if this program's psyche and confidence can be resuscitated.

On paper, the team looks impressive.  Offensively it starts up front, where Cal sports the team’s deepest and most talented offensive line in the Jeff Tedford era.  The running game should be strong, as only the Trojans have a better stable of running backs.

Playmakers need to be established at WR, but they will be helped by having a healthy fifth-year senior and a dynamic sophomore, both of whom have played well in the past, throwing them the ball.

The Bear’s defense should be improved with eight returning starters.  However, they have shifted to a 3-4 set, which could take time to master, and the run defense has to improve for Cal to play well.

How this team deals with adversity will point to whether they challenge USC for the conference title, as they did two years ago, or end up near the bottom of the conference, as they did last season.



Oregon

This will be the Ducks' best defensive team in many years.  The secondary is as good as USC’s, and they return the conference’s top sack master at DE.

On offense, the Ducks' offensive line will be among the nation’s best and will allow new stars to establish themselves at wide receiver and quarterback.

The schedule is ugly, and depth is a concern almost everywhere.  Oregon will need to stay healthy—especially at quarterback, linebacker, and defensive tackle—if they plan to contend for the Pac-10 crown.



Arizona State

Dennis Erickson made a great first impression and did so with only decent talent.  The schedule is a lot less favorable this year, and much of the talent that was there last year has left for the NFL.

Rudy Carpenter is a good but not great quarterback, and the offensive line only looks good when compared to UCLA’s.  If the offensive line can find itself, there is talent at WR and RB.

The defense came alive under Erickson and should again be solid if unspectacular.  Omar Bolden and Troy Nolan are both studs in the secondary.  ASU has three very good defensive linemen but little depth.

Expect ASU to come back to earth as Erickson works to stockpile AAA talent.



Arizona

It couldn’t happen to a less likable guy, but Mike Stoops will finally get over the hump this year.  The offense will be solid with Nic Grigsby as a run threat and Willie Tuitama and a very strong WR corps mastering the spread offense.  If they can stay healthy, the offensive line looks like the best crew Stoops has had.

Last year’s defense disappointed, but they should bounce back to the hard-hitting bunch Stoops is known to develop.

Depth is a concern almost everywhere, but receiver and special teams play could be a nightmare.



Oregon State

Mike Riley is a superb coach, and despite having to rebuild his defense, this team will be competitive.  Lyle Moevao will establish himself as a reliable Pac-10 QB with a solid group of wide receivers, led by Sammie Stroughter, who could be the conference’s best wideout.

The defense must replace nine starters but has some talent coming in to mitigate the losses.

On both sides of the ball, the Beavers' ability to create a run game and stop the opponent's run will be the keys to the season.



Stanford

A staunch defense and a further injection of Jim Harbaugh’s raw optimism will result in one more win than last season.  Stanford has a very strong front seven on defense, and they finally have a decent offensive line to help their offense.  The Cardinal lacks any offensive playmakers, including at quarterback, and the secondary will be spotty.

While it’s highly unlikely they will surprise USC or Cal again, this Stanford team will be more competitive and take another step forward in the Harbaugh rebuilding process.



UCLA

Rick Neuheisel is just going to have to grin and bear it.  Despite a stout defense, UCLA does not have enough to overcome the conference’s most anemic offense.

The Bruins' offensive line will be reminiscent of the groups Stanford put out under Buddy Teevens and Walt Harris.  Look for sacks galore and a nonexistent running game.  The talent and depth at QB is only marginally better, which will waste a strong corps of running backs and wide receivers.

The defense should keep games close, but that won’t be enough to keep UCLA solidly out of the bottom half in the conference.



Washington

A brutal schedule will eviscerate any hope Ty Willingham had of keeping his job.  His Dawgs will play hard and smart, but that won’t be enough to overcome a lack of talent.  Jake Locker is an absolute stud at QB, but injuries and a lack of playmakers around him will dull his impact.

The defense is more talented than last year's group but is very young.

Given UW’s recruiting momentum, Willingham would turn this around in another year, but the UW faithful don’t have the patience.



Washington State

Look for a better than expected offensive performance and an every bit as bad as advertised defense from the Cougars.  They will upset a couple of folks at home but will endure some bad beatings on the road.

New coach Paul Wullf will improve this team's discipline and consistency, but unless he can recruit, he may have a short stay in Pullman.

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