The Pac-10: home to USC Song Girls, smart Stanford kids, and THAT Oregon Duck. They play football, too...and quite well, in actual fact.
Is anyone other than USC going to win the Pac-10?
Probably not. The battle for a new quarterback shows what rude health USC's offense is in, and you should trust Pete Carroll to choose a good one. Even though we think Mitch Mustain is overrated, he's still pretty darned good.
However, there are two things that could get in the way of the "mighty" Trojans: the fact that Carroll & Co. always seem to trip up in the State of Oregon, and the fact that the linebacking unit has been shredded by defections to the NFL.
But if USC can win all of their games—as well as the tricky non-conference trip to the Horseshoe against Ohio State—those Song Girls will be cheering. A lot.
You talked about the State of Oregon.
Oregon is fancied to be USC's successor for the Pac-10 trip to the Rose Bowl, and Oregon State, who had a great run last year right until the injury to star running back Jacquizz Rodgers, is ranked just outside the Top 25. Look for both of these schools to factor into a title battle.
We mentioned that the Ducks are fancied to beat out USC for a title run. We'll throw this one out there—if they can win at Boise State (no mean feat in itself) and stop USC, then the Ducks will win the Pac-10 title and may even run the table. Those are two big "ifs" though.
We predict an 11-1 record for Oregon (loss at home to USC) and an 8-4 record for Oregon State.
What about the State of California?
While Stanford will do the usual (that is, suck), Cal hasn't been talked about at all this offseason. That's strange, because Jahvid Best is a brilliant running back. But there are too many question marks about the Bears to confidently say that they'll roar this year. Maybe 7-5 if they are lucky.
One coach that's been particularly vocal is Rick Neuheisel, UCLA's coach. The win over Tennessee last year was a monster for the program, but repeating that at Neyland Stadium might be a tad more difficult. Kevin Bosworth shines out in a pretty useful defense, but it'll have to play incredibly if UCLA are to threaten USC. We're thinking 8-4.
Did someone forget Washington?
For very good reason, as it goes. Washington and Washington State combined for just one conference win last year in a brilliant display of futility, and this year isn't pegged to be different. Scout.com thinks Washington State is going to finish 2-10, while it's got Washington pegged at 3-10.
Here's my take: Washington WILL be better than WSU this year, because Jake Locker isn't a bad quarterback and Steve Sarkisian's recruited pretty well. I'm not saying bowling, but I'm going for 4-8, with the wins coming against Idaho, Arizona, Washington State, and Stanford.
Oh, and then there's Arizona...
Mike Stoops' coaching job at Arizona has been on the line for years. The Wildcats haven't performed properly for ages, and don't look for 2009 to be "the year" either. Arizona State will be in recovery after the departure of QB Rudy Carpenter, but really, a 6-6/7-5 year will be somewhat of a success.
Oregon: When you talk about atmosphere, you talk about Oregon football. Best co-eds prize is the most difficult of the lot, but I'll give it to Arizona State.
Sorry USC, your reign is over. The Oregon Ducks cheerleading squad wins.