The Pac-10 is not as deep as last season, but the league is top heavy with a national championship favorite in USC and three BCS bowl contenders in Arizona State, Oregon, and Oregon State.
However, the middle and the bottom of the Pac-10 is woefully weak. Due to UCLA and Cal being down this season, as few as four teams could make bowl games this year.
USC has two top-tier quarterbacks in Mark Sanchez and Mitch Mustain, who are both a significant improvement over John David Booty. Pete Carroll's team is also stacked at running back, with three returning backs with over six yards per carry.
USC has unproven but NFL-potential receivers and an offensive line. On defense, USC is loaded with talent and returns stars to improve an already formidable defense.
With two All-American-caliber players in Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing at linebacker and a tough front four, USC has the speed on defense to catch up to the spread.
USC also is the deepest team in the nation. Its second string could beat any other team in the Pac-10.
Surprise Team: Oregon
Due to the losses of Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart, the Ducks have been underlooked coming into this season.
Quarterback Nate Costa is a similar dual threat on both the run and the pass to Dixon and six all Pac-10 players on defense.
The Ducks will continue to build momentum off of last year blowout bowl win over South Florida. Also, Mike Belotti is a nationally underrated coach and has brought in his highest ranked recruiting class this season.
The Ducks will be fighting for the top of the Pac-10 and a BCS bowl bid.
Similar to the plight of LSU, UCLA has quarterback trouble this season again after losing both Ben Olsen and Patrick Cowan to knee injuries. However, UCLA lacks the overall talent of LSU and has a very suspect offensive line.
Those factors will make it a long season in Westwood. UCLA also has the toughest non-conference schedule in college football, facing three nationally ranked teams (Fresno State, Tennessee, and BYU).
Rick Neuheisel is known for quick turnarounds, but this roster lacks the talent to rise up in a top heavy Pac-10.
USC vs. Arizona State: This game will determine a trip to the national title game for both teams with the loser fighting Oregon for the Rose Bowl. Can the USC linebackers expose ASU's suspect offensive line?
Oregon vs. Oregon State: The Civil War is more heated now that both teams are Pac-10 contenders.
Arizona State vs. Oregon: A high scoring thriller that will probably determine second place in the Pac-10 and a possible Rose Bowl appearance.
USC vs. UCLA: UCLA spoiled the Trojans' championship hopes in 2006. Can Neuheisel revive college football's intercity rivalry and send the Trojans out of the title once again?
Projected Pac-10 Standings (do not count bowl games)
1) USC 12-0 (9-0) BCS Title Game
2) Arizona State 11-1 (8-1) Rose Bowl
3) Oregon 10-2 (7-2)
4) Oregon State 8-4 (6-3)
5) Cal 6-6 (4-5)
6) UCLA 4-8 (4-5)
7 tied) Washington 4-8 (3-6)
7 tied) Stanford 4-8 (3-6)
9) Arizona 4-8 (2-7)
10) Washington State 4-9 (1-8)