Athlon Sports No. 12

It's no secret that Rick Neuheisel's top priority this spring was to develop a viable running game. Rich Alexis returns at tailback after a 688-yard campaign, but redshirt freshmen Kenny James and Shelton Sampson have explosive potential.

Neuheisel wants balance, but how can his passing game possibly be more effective? Quarterback Cody Pickett completed 60 percent of his passes for 4,458 yards and 28 touchdowns. Wide receiver Reggie Williams caught 94 balls for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he has Charles Frederick on the other end of the formation to draw away some of the attention.

Linebacker Marquis Cooper, the team's co-leader in tackles last fall with 100, heads up eight returning starters on defense. Manase Hopoi is back after posting a team-high 17 tackles for loss. Derrick Johnson and Roc Alexander are lock-down corners; Johnson nabbed five errant aerials last season.

Aerial circus: Washington put the ball in the air 621 times last fall, third-most of all D-IA teams.

Two-year wonder: Reggie Williams is the school's career leader in both receptions and yards — after just two years.

New standard: In 2002, quarterback Cody Pickett became the Pac-10's first-ever single-season 4,000-yard passer.

2002 results: 7–6 (4–4 Pac-10)

2002 Bowl Game: Lost to Purdue 34-24 in the Sun Bowl

Returning starters: 8 offense, 8 defense, no kickers

2003 Schedule:

A. 30 at Ohio State
S. 6 Indiana
S. 20 Idaho
S. 27 Stanford
O. 4 at UCLA
O. 11 Nevada
O. 18 at Oregon State
O. 25 USC N. 1 Oregon
N. 8 at Arizona
N. 15 at California
N. 22 Washington State

Schedule Analysis: The Huskies will have a tough time winning their opener in Columbus. The next five games will give Washington some momentum heading into a two-game stretch vs. Oregon State and USC that will ultimately determine if the Huskies can contend for the Pac-10 title. November looks do-able, especially with the Apple Cup at home.

Final Word: Washington desperately needs some offensive balance if they want to win the league as they did in 2000. The temptation to let Cody Pickett keep chucking it is there, but Rick Neuheisel knows he went 7-6 with a 4,000-yard passer a year ago. Defensively, the Huskies obviously need to improve on last year's performance, and the guess here is they will. Whether or not it will be enough to win a Pac-10 title remains to be seen, but remember USC has to travel to Seattle this year.

To pre-order the 2003 Athlon Sports Pac Ten edition, click on the magazine icon below. The Pac Ten and National editions are set to hit newsstands June 6.

#12 Washington

Plain Text Attachment [ Save to my Yahoo! Briefcase | Download File ] Title: Athlon Sports No. 11 Author: Athlon Sports Sub Title: NC State is the only ACC program to have beaten Florida State in two consecutive seasons. Story Images: Caption: Philip Rivers Deck: The 2002 Wolfpack won 11 games for the first time in school history and embarrassed Notre Dame in a New Year's Day bowl game. The encore will be performed with a defense that needs some rebuilding. The top five D-linemen are gone as well as linebacker D'antonio Burnette, the team's leading tackler, and two-time All-ACC free safety Terrence Holt. Body: Linebacker Pat Thomas, rover Andre Maddox, cornerback Greg Golden and heralded incoming freshman end Mario Williams form the framework of the '03 defense.

Quarterback Philip Rivers will continue to fatten his career passing numbers of 61 touchdowns and 8,993 yards, and challenge for the Heisman Trophy. Tailback T.A. McLendon and wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery are lethal weapons. Offensive tackle Chris Colmer racked up 151 knockdown blocks in 2002 and exudes All-America.

Fourth-year coach Chuck Amato's team faces a major obstacle at national champion Ohio State on Sept. 13. Then it's clear sailing until the final three games on the slate — Virginia, at Florida State, and Maryland.

Noles busters: NC State is the only ACC program to have beaten Florida State in two consecutive seasons since the Seminoles joined the league in 1992.

Drought: NC State hasn't won an ACC title since 1979.

Kick away: The Wolfpack finished 2002 ranked second nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 24.9 yards a pop.

2002 results: 11–3 (5–3 ACC)

2002 Bowl Game: Defeated Notre Dame 28-6 in Gator Bowl

Returning starters: 7 offense, 5 defense, both kickers

2003 Schedule:

A. 30 Western Carolina
S. 6 at Wake Forest
S. 13 at Ohio State
S. 20 Texas Tech
S. 27 North Carolina
O. 4 at Georgia Tech
O. 11 Connecticut
O. 18 Clemson
O. 25 at Duke
N. 1 Virginia
N. 15 at Florida State
N. 22 Maryland

Schedule Analysis: The Sept. 13 game at Ohio State is surely already circled in red on the Wolfpack calendar. After beating Florida State and Notre Dame to close out the 2002 season, NC State is looking for another big name to add to its list, and Ohio State is it. A win at Columbus will boost the Pack into the Top Five, a loss will keep it in the Top 20. The ACC heavyweights are all in November, and two of the three are at home. Two weeks to get ready for Florida State in Tallahassee will help.

Final Word: New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has to like the hand he has been dealt in Raleigh with Rivers at quarterback, McLendon in the backfield and Cotchery at wide receiver. The front seven on defense is a bit of a mystery at this point, but Chuck Amato has been recruiting well. All-ACC safety Terrance Holt is a nice safety blanket on the back line. The 23-year ACC title has an excellent chance of ending in 2003.

To pre-order the 2003 Athlon Sports Atlantic Coast edition, click on the magazine icon below. The Atlantic Coast and National editions are set to hit newsstands June 6.

#11 NC State

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