***Stanford (1-11 overall, 1-8 in the conference): Jim Harbaugh has already excited the Cardinal faithful in his short time as head coach with his energy and passion. Will that lead to wins, that remains to be seen, and probably not seen for a couple years down the road. This team does have some pieces offensively to be successful, and it's hard to imagine the defense will be any worse than it was last year, especially against the run.
Quarterback T.C. Ostrander (918 yards passing, 3 TDs, 5 INTs) saw action in 10 games last year and started five, because Trent Edwards couldn't stay healthy behind a terrible offensive line. Ostrander gained valuable experience last season and will have a solid receiver group to work with. Mark Bradford (10 rec., 111 yards, 1 TD), one of the best receivers in the conference, is back from injury, and so is Evan Moore (14 rec., 242 yards, 3 TDs). With those two out of the lineup regularly, Richard Sherman (34 rec., 581 yards, 3 TDs) got the opportunity to shine, and now all three are ready to go. Harbaugh will need more out of running back Anthony Kimble (470 yards, 2 TDs), who led the team in rushing last season. The offensive line returns four starters from last year's unit. Like last year, they struggled during the spring, and remain Harbaugh's biggest area of concern.
The Cardinal defense gave up over 200 yards rushing per game in 2006. Even with the loss of leading tackler Michael Okwo, this unit should be better. They return eight starters and played better in the spring game, forcing three turnovers and holding the starters to just one touchdown.
***UCLA (7-6 overall, 5-4 in the conference): Karl Dorrell will look for a more consistent effort from his team on Saturdays, specifically on offense, as the Bruins return 10 starters on both sides of the ball.
One of the best defenses in the Pac 10 last season, ranking 2nd overall and first against the run, defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker could be in line for the next big-time coaching job after transforming this defense in one year. Defensive end Bruce Davis (47 tackles, 12.5 sacks) and strong safety Chris Horton (95 tackles, 3 INTs) are two of the best in the nation at their position. Linebacker Christian Taylor (83 tackles, 13.5 TFL) was second on the team last year in tackles, and defensive tackle Kevin Brown (24 tackles, 6 TFL) leads the charge against the run.
Dorrell named Ben Olson (822 yards, 5 TDs, 5 INTs) the starting quarterback over Pat Cowan (1,782 yards, 11 TDs, 9 INTs), who played admirably the last seven games of the season when Olson went down with an injury. Running back Chris Markey (1,107 yards, 2 TDs) ran well behind a sketchy offensive line that returns four starters. Markey was also the team's leading pass catcher with 35 receptions, so Dorrell is looking for more production in his passing game.
***USC (11-2 overall, 7-2 in the conference): Another best team ever at USC, seems to be the slogan with the Trojans every year. There is no doubt this team is good, judging by several preseason No. 1 rankings. Pete Carroll is loaded on both sides of the ball, where his second units could make his team very competitive against anybody.
Quarterback John David Booty (3,347 yards, 39 TDs, 9 INTs) will be one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy coming into the season. He loses his top two receivers from the season before, but won't miss a beat with Patrick Turner (272 yards, 2 TDs) ready to step into the national spotlight and tight end Fred Davis (38 rec, 352 yards, 3 TDs) back. The talent at running back is absolutely the best in the nation led by C.J. Gable (434, 4 TDs). Seven running backs on USC's roster were blue-chip prospects coming out of high school. Tackle Sam Baker is back to anchor the line.
Dallas Sartz is the only impact player gone from the defense last year. Rey Maualuga (78 tackles, 5 TFL) is poised for a Butkus Award type season with outstanding linebackers Keith Rivers (85 tackles 7.5 TFL) and Brian Cushing (57 tackles, 13.5 TFL) lining up next to him. Safety Taylor Mays (62 tackles, 3 INTs), and cornerback Terrell Thomas (50 tackles, 2 INTs) lead the secondary, and defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis (34 tackles, 4.5 sacks) mans the middle of the defensive line.
***Washington (5-7 overall, 3-6 in the conference): Third-year coach Tyrone Willingham enters the season on the hot seat. Sound familiar? He lost a lot of key players from last season including quarterback Isaiah Stanbeck, and the schedule could be the toughest in the nation.
Running back Louis Rankin (666 yards, 4 TDs), who split duties last year with Kenny James, will have to carry the load offensively, as Willingham named red-shirt freshman Jake Locker the starting quarterback. Locker will have receiver Sonny Shackelford (666 yards, 7 TDs) to throw to. He was the Huskies leading receiver last year.
Washington has been terrible against the pass the past two seasons and cornerback Dashon Goldson and safety C.J. Wallace are gone. A lot of young players will have to step up if this team has any chance of making a bowl game. Defensive end Greyson Gunheim (44 tackles) had 14 tackles for loss and six sacks last season, and could be one of the best pass rushers in the conference this fall.
***Washington State (6-6 overall, 4-5 in the conference): The Cougars have failed to reach a bowl game in three straight seasons, and head coach Bill Doba's job is on the line. Doba has decided to take over the duties of the defensive coordinator and linebackers. With the Pac 10 being so talented, and with only 12 returning starters in the program, Doba and his team will be hard pressed to reach the post season.
If Washington State does reach a bowl game, it will be on the arm of quarterback Alex Brink (2,899 yards, 19 TDs, 10 INTs). A second-team all-conference selection last season, Brink has his top receiver Michael Bumpus (558 yards, 1 TD) returning, and offensive tackle Bobby Byrd. Running back Dwight Tardy (667 yards, 4 TDs) is back to carry the load, but will have to be more productive.
The defense is suspect, but Ropati Pitoitua (37 tackles, 7.5 TFL) gives the Cougars an answer at defensive tackle, and Husain Abdullah (66 tackles, 3 INTs) is back at safety. The defense only returns five starters and is counting on a lot of young players to step up.