September is right around the corner and with that comes the start of the college football season.
Arizona has a chance to do something big and – regardless of what outside media tells the rest of the country – is primed to compete for a conference title. The Wildcats may not be getting the Rose Bowl predictions on a national level that a lot of fans are hoping for, but for those that have followed UA close enough, there is a general thought that this could be the year.
Here is how the standings will conclude, according to me –
1. Arizona – The Wildcats return virtually everyone on offense and while they lose several defenders, they return the three of the best players from the unit in Ricky Elmore, Brooks Reed and Trevin Wade.
UA has one of the best offenses in the conference and Mike Stoops always coaches up his defense. With the way the Pac-10 finished last season and how the Wildcats conference schedule is set up, they could have the best chance out of the teams in the conference to win it.
2. Stanford – The Cardinal bring back Andrew Luck and have a viable replacement for Toby Gerhart in Stepfan Taylor. Stanford also returns virtually all of its playmakers on offense and really shouldn't lose a beat in 2010 even without Gerhart.
The Cardinal had their struggles on defense and will need to improve dramatically in 2010, but have recruited well and should improve in the upcoming season.
3. Washington – Jake Locker is primed for a huge season and the Huskies offense is ready to take its game to the next level. There are numerous options outside of Locker like Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar and UW could compete for the league title if the defense improves.
Like Stanford, the Huskies defense was just plain bad last year. It held them back from being more competitive in the conference and really put a damper on how well the offense performed.
4. Oregon State – The Beavers are a team that could finish anywhere from first to sixth depending on how new quarterback Ryan Katz does. Luckily for Katz and the rest of the Oregon State offense, both Rodgers brothers return to form arguably the conferences best 1-2 punch
The defense is where the Beavers come up a bit short, but it is a bit better than what Washington or Stanford fielded last year. If Ryan Katz proves to be the real deal, OSU will challenge for a Rose Bowl berth.
5. Oregon – Without Jeremiah Masoli, this team is doomed to be a middle-of-the-pack squad. There have been entirely too many distractions and issues for the Ducks' football program for them to finish in the top three.
Had Masoli returned, I would have picked Oregon to win the conference again – he was that important to the team's run last year – but without him, they lose the ability to run the option to the effectiveness that Masoli provided.
On top of all that, they are nothing special defensively, so this could be a long year up in Eugene.
6. California – As long as Kevin Riley is their quarterback, I have a hard time believing the Golden Bears will find any consistency on offense. They do have a Shane Vereen to replace Jahvid Best, so they can make up for that loss, but the quarterback situation makes it hard for me to pick them any higher.
Finishing seventh ion the conference in total defense doesn't help Cal's cause either. They could improve this year, but not enough to shoot them into the Pac-10 title.
7. USC – The Trojans finished fifth last season. That was before Pete Carroll left. Before several unproven players (like Joe McKnight) bolted for the draft. Before the sanctions and bowl bans. Before losing nearly half of their scholarships over the next three years; Before players started bolting for other programs.
I personally don't care how good these players they have landed were in high school. This is the Pac-10 and these guys underperformed a season ago. There is very little reason for me to believe USC will be one of the better teams in the conference this year.
8. UCLA – Another team with an unsettling situation under center, UCLA is continuing to disappoint its fan-base every year and this won't be any different.
The Bruins have a very solid defense, but do not scare anyone on offense and I doubt that trend changes in 2010. They have played well in out of conference, only to disappoint within it and it's hard to believe that, with all of the other teams proving their worth over the past two seasons, UCLA will improve enough to compete with them.
9. Arizona State – Two years ago, it was hard to find a team in the conference with a better upside than the Sun Devils. Now in 2010, we may be seeing the end of Dennis Erickson's coaching career.
No one that has followed his career should be surprised either. He has traditionally done well at first, but when it comes to developing his own recruits he has been a complete disappointment.
If there is hope for ASU, it's on the defensive side of the ball where the Sun Devils were clearly the best team in the conference. The problem is that the offense (and more specifically the quarterback position) is so deficient that it's hard to see them scoring enough points in the Pac-10 to win enough games to stay competitive.
10. Washington State – Where else can they finish? This program has tanked so far, it's hard to imagine them winning a conference game in 2010. There is optimism at quarterback with Jeff Tuel under center, but with little else on the roster, the Cougars are staring last-place right in the face once again.
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