This Week With The Toe

The Toe kicks off the season with his first set of thoughts and predictions.

Today is the day. After nine months of agony, the Oregon State Beavers open their football season against Eastern Kentucky. With that, comes another year of tailgating, family fun, and the Toe's predictions. Last season, my record was an astounding 53-18, a 75% accuracy rate. I'm looking to improve upon that this year. But before I get to this week's predictions, lets take a look around the Pac-10 and what to expect over the course of another Pac-10 season.

Look For These Things to Happen

· Washington State winning the conference. An experienced, senior quarterback, a solid returning offensive line, and a favorable schedule all contribute to why Washington State should run away with it.

· The Pac-10 being disrespected again in the polls and having a good one-loss team that isn't given real consideration to play in the national championship.

· Oregon State winning more games than Oregon. An easier non-conference schedule (though not by much), and the Civil War at home will give the nod to the Beavers in a year when both teams should be fairly strong, yet also fairly equal.

· Washington to lose a few games they shouldn't. Rick Neuheisal, though a great recruiter, seems to lack the ability to make key in-game adjustments (see the Holiday Bowl last year). That weakness will hurt in a close Pac-10 race.

· Carson Palmer having his best collegiate season, but still making a few mistakes in key situations that everyone will always remember.

Don't Count on These Things Happening

· UCLA finishing in the top half of the conference. The Bruins lost a ton of seniors. They'll have lots of talent, but replacing guys like DeShaun Foster, Ryan Nece, Robert Thomas, Brian Poli-Dixon, and others will not be easy. They were "stocked with senior leadership" last year and they still collapsed down the stretch.

· Arizona being the Pac-10's doormat again. The Wildcats have plenty of experience and will surprise a few teams.

· Stanford setting any defensive records. With one returning starter from last year's defense, not to mention five sophomores at starting slots, Stanford's defense will take a while to mesh. They will struggle early, especially with the offense also having to adjust to a new offensive scheme.

· Cal going winless in conference again. They bring back plenty of experienced guys. They won't compete for a bowl berth (they can't go this year anyway because of NCAA probation), but they will win a game or two.

Preseason Power Poll and Predicted Order of Finish

1) Washington State
2) Oregon State
3) Washington
4) Oregon
5) USC
6) Arizona
8) Cal
9) Arizona State
10) Stanford

Any of the top 5 teams could make a run for the title with the right breaks. Washington State looks like it has it all together, but the Beavers, Huskies, Ducks, and Trojans will be hot on their tail if they falter. And it's almost certain there will be a two or three way tie for either first or second.

Now for This Week's Picks

Michigan 33, Washington 24.  Michigan will be looking for revenge after last year's blown contest in Seattle. The Wolverines had outplayed the Huskies for the entire game until Omare Lowe single-handedly won it for UW. Michigan takes this one in front of the big home crowd.

Washington State 34, Nevada 13.  Washington State will take some time shaking off the early season rust. They will also have to deal with Nevada's young star, Chance Kretschmer, who rushed for nearly 1100 yards last season as a freshman. But the Cougs should run away with this one in the second half.

Cal 26, Baylor 14.  The Bears against the Bears should bring Jeff Tedford's first collegiate win. The Bears have been pitiful the last few years, and should remain on that track this year. Kyle Boller should show some improvement, as long as he can pick up Tedford's system.

Oregon 27, Mississippi State 20.  The Ducks will open the renovated Autzen with a win over the visiting Bulldogs, although it will be a hard-fought battle. Mississippi State should be able to throw the ball. Their receivers are quick and will challenge the youthful Duck secondary. But Oregon should win this one at home close and late.

Arizona State 28, Eastern Washington 10.  Eastern Washington can give a good team a good scare. We all know that. But with a game already under their belt, ASU will have a good opportunity to get some confidence on offense. ASU should score early and coast the rest of the way.

Arizona 35, Northern Arizona 13.  Arizona's offense should have a big day. Clarence Farmer will tear up the NAU defense. Wildcats score early. Nic Costs will probably get his first collegiate playing time by the end of the third quarter.

Oregon State 38, Eastern Kentucky 6.  EKU will get at least one field goal of a Beaver turnover and another on a long drive. Steven Jackson and the OSU defense will put in big performances. Derek Anderson will have a good game, now that he's not throwing against Dennis Weathersby and Terell Roberts every down. It will be a great opener at Reser. See you all there!

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