Media day signifies season's start

A major theme dominated the Pac-10 Conference's annual media day - the dominance of the teams from the Pacific Northwest. With the top three teams from last year all hailing from Oregon and Washington, media members were quite intrigued with the shift of power away from Los Angeles.

Oregon, for the first time ever, was voted as the preseason favorite, while the Beavers and the Huskies were picked to finish second and fourth respectively.

"It's a nice honor," Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti said. "Let's just hope they're right at the end of the season."

The top teams don't actually return the most starters from last season, that honor goes to Stanford. Stanford has 18 starters coming back. Cal also returns a large contingent of starters. Despite returning a host of starters, the Bears are picked to finish near the bottom.

"Polling doesn't really matter," said Cal coach Tom Holmoe who hadn't seen the poll. "They are intriguing but it doesn't have anything to do with what we're trying to do."

"The ranking is based on last years success," Bellotti concurred.

New Arizona coach John Mackovic knows all too well that pre-season rankings don't really matter.

"It's not the first time I've been picked to finish at the bottom of the barrel and surprised people."

Another Northwest team isn't picked to do as well. The Washington State Cougars are picked to finish last.

"We'd like to duplicate the success of the other teams up here," Cougar coach Mike Price said.

Bob Toledo of UCLA has been on the conference long enough to see the balance of power rapidly move up north.

"With scholarship limits there is a lot more parity," Toledo said. "Oregon State and Oregon are getting a lot of good football players. Look across the country, there are teams winning that weren't winning 10 or 15 years ago."

Toledo has coached at Oregon and has seen the rise of power of the Ducks and Beavers.

"Autzen (Stadium) is a great home field advantage," Toledo said.

Oregon has become the Pac-10's dominant team over the past few seasons, while the Beavers are experiencing recent success of unparalleled levels. Oregon may have the best home field advantage and Corvallis will be rocking with the first ever sell out of season tickets.

"I do think that having both teams doing well is great," Bellotti said. "It's a great time to be a football fan in the state of Oregon."

Even though the balance of power seems to have shifted, don't ink in a Northwest school as conference champion. The Pac-10 appears to be one of the most unpredictable conferences in the nation. One just has to look at the preseason poll to see the uncertainty. Stanford is the best example. On media ballots the Cardinal were picked as high as first and as low as tenth.

"Any of the teams could win it," Bellotti said. "There's not much difference between the first five teams and the second five and that makes the conference great."

"There's not one team that wins the conference every year like in some other conferences," said Beaver tailback Ken Simonten.

So what does it take to win the crazy conference? Tyrone Willinghmam has the simplest strategy.

"Win," Willingham joked. "Seriously, it's an offense dominated conference. You must score points. If you don't score points you don't win."

Wildcat Authority Top Stories