Predicting the Pac 10: An Early Forecast/Preview

West Coast BiasContributor IApril 5, 2009

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Mark Sanchez #6 of the USC Trojans drops back to pass against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the 95th Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi on January 1, 2009 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The following is the predicted order of finish for the upcoming Pac 10 season. We’re going from the bottom up, so let’s start things off with the great state of Washington…

10. Washington

Sarkisian might bring this program back into the national spotlight, but it’s not going to happen this year. USC’s coaches are great recruiters, but not nearly as effective as developers of talent (more on that later).

As a result, UW will spend another season in Suckville at the bottom of the Pac 10. Another bold prediction- Washington may finish last, but they will win a game this year, maybe even two.

9. Washington State

Wazzu should savor not being in last for the time being, because they are looking to be a mainstay at the bottom once Washingtonturns things around. Watching them last year, you just get the sense that they are absolutely outmatched physically by every team (except UW).

A team could play sloppy and turn the ball over and still blow WSU out of the water. WSU fans, I feel for you.

8. Arizona

Zona fans won’t like this. However, this ranking is more about the strength of the Pac 10’s top 8 teams than about how bad UA will be. Having said that, losing Tuitama will hurt more than Arizona would like to think, and I’m not buying that Stoops has fully turned this program around.

7. Stanford

I like Gerhart and I like the energy and physical style of play that Harbaugh has brought to the furd. But it’s going to be hard for them to really break into the top half of the Pac 10 with the talent level where it is for the time being.

And I know nobody’s talking about it, but once Stanford gets decent, you know Harbaugh is just going to leave them for a better job. Perhaps Rodriguez gets fired and Jimmy leaves for his alma mater? Speaking of teams with head coaches destined to leave their current team once they can land a better gig…

6. Arizona State

Let the Dennis Erickson jokes begin! I like ASU, but now that Carpenter has exhausted his nine years of eligibility, they are destined to struggle, at least early on in the year. I’m thinking they’ll be the lowest-rated team to make a bowl from the Pac 10.

Either that or in an unprecedented move, an elite team will fire their head coachmid-season and elect to hire Erickson instead of an interim coach, and Erickson will have no choice but to accept, leading to ASU tanking it down the stretch.


The talent is coming in, and things are looking better for UCLA. I expect them to get better every year for the next three seasons until the NCAA discovers that Neuheisel has been convincing UCLA basketball players to shave points to fund his “recruiting” efforts. For the time being, a bowl game seems likely.

4. Oregon State

Every year, I want to underestimate them. Every year, they lose to a horrible team early in the season, seemingly confirming my predictions. And every year, they turn it around and end up near the top of the Pac 10.

Riley has brought a certain level of stability and predictability to this program. Fourth seems high to me, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they manage to get even higher.

3. USC

Anyone can pick USC to win the conference title, but I’m going to show you why they won’t even finish second. Think of this year as payback for that horrible Sanchez press conference.

First of all, Pete Carroll is a phenomenal recruiter, and he hires other coaches who are young and enthusiastic recruiters. Because of this, he gets all the best players.

However, there’s a tradeoff—USC coaches are great recruiters, but they are content to let competition among blue chip prospects determine their depth chart rather than trying to develop the talent they already have. And this year, they just might pay for it.

New coordinators on both sides of the ball, new QB, new LBs. I know they have talent stashed away, but you don’t win titles with new quarterbacks. And with so much change, I think the Trojans will struggle at the beginning of the season.

By the end, they’ll probably be among the elite, but with an early game at Ohio State and playing away against both Cal and Oregon, I think they lose at least two games this year.

2. Oregon

I hesitated on this pick, but I decided to take a risk and really stick it to all the USC homers out there. I think Oregon has the potential to win the Pac 10, but with a new coach and the second coming of Onterrio Smith at running back, there’s reason for concern.

In spite of that, Oregon seems to always have talent stashed away at the skill positions, and if Chip Kelly turns out to be an even better coach than Bellotti, the sky is the limit for this team. If not, USC could sneak in at runner-up.

Pac 10 Title- California

Here’s what should scare teams about Jahvid Best—last year, he was coming off major surgery (yes I realize he had two surgeries this offseason, but they were very minor), had no consistent QB play, and had an offensive line severely depleted by injuries…and he ran for 1580 yards with 15 TDs and led the nation in yards per carry.

Cal has offensive lineman who were starting last year and are now struggling to hold on to a backup role. That’s how many injuries they had.

Again, there are concerns here, as there are with all the teams on the list. But Cal has so much talent returning. The secondary and defensive line are back, and the new linebackers are more experienced than others might lead you to believe.

All the receivers and running backs return, and if Riley (because he WILL win the job) can play the way he’s capable of playing, Cal could put together a very special season.


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