Pac-10 Predictions

Everybody in college football is undefeated at this time of year, and everybody is on the upswing. Then reality comes crashing down in the fall - each win balanced by somebody else's loss. Ever mindful of the zero-sum game, Daniel Novinson offers his predictions for every win and loss on the 2007 schedules in the Pac-10 this fall. Also his view on each team's key stretch, plus crazy predictions.

One of my biggest beefs about the mainstream preseason football magazines is that judging by the previews, every team should improve by three games.  I guess it is smart business – why tell your loyal customer base that their favorite team has no secondary?  But it makes it tough to realistically judge how your favorite team's chances stack up.  Some magazines have bucked that trend in recent years, running through the schedule and marking down predicted wins, losses and swing games, but they are all so straight-to-form that they are equally unrealistic.  USC, Ohio State, LSU and Texas will not all go 12-0 this season – teams like Oregon State (shocked USC last year) or Kansas State (shocked Texas last year) will come out of nowhere.

After writing up every team's strengths and weaknesses for TheBootleg.com's 2007 opponent previews, I feel I have a decent pulse on the league.  Here is how I could see it all shaking out:

1. USC (12-0, 9-0)

Wins:  Idaho, at Nebraska, Washington State, at Washington, Stanford, Arizona, at Notre Dame, at Oregon, Oregon State, at California, at Arizona State, UCLA

Losses:  None

Make-or-Break Stretch:  At Cal (Nov. 10), at Arizona State (Nov. 22), UCLA (Dec. 1)

Crazy Prediction/Chance to Look Really Bad Six Months From Now:  The defense does not allow more than 20 points at home the entire season.

2. UCLA (10-2, 7-2)

Wins:  at Stanford, BYU, at Utah, Washington, Notre Dame, California, at Washington State, at Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon

Losses:  at Oregon State, at USC

Make-or-Break Stretch:  Arizona State (Nov. 10), Oregon (Nov. 24), at USC (Dec. 1)

Crazy Prediction/Chance to Look Really Bad Six Months From Now:  The Bruins play USC close enough in the season finale to win over national respect and sneak into their first BCS bowl since the 1998 season.

3. Oregon (8-4, 6-3)

Wins:  Houston, Fresno State, at Stanford, California, Washington State, at Washington, Arizona State, Oregon State

Losses:  at Michigan, USC, at Arizona, at UCLA

Make-or-Break Stretch:  at UCLA (Nov. 24), Oregon State (Dec. 1)

Crazy Prediction/Chance to Look Really Bad Six Months From Now:  Arizona's top defense stonewalls the Ducks on a Thursday night in one of the conference's biggest upsets of the season.

4. Cal (8-4, 5-4)

Wins:  Tennessee, at Colorado State, Louisiana Tech, Arizona, Oregon State, Washington State, at Washington, at Stanford

Losses:  at Oregon, at UCLA, at Arizona State, USC

Make-or-Break Stretch:  at Oregon (Sept. 29), Oregon State (Oct. 13), at UCLA (Oct. 20), at Arizona State (Oct. 27)

Crazy Prediction/Chance to Look Really Bad Six Months From Now:  Tennessee has major defensive issues; Cal has the best receivers in the nation; and the Vols embarrassed the Bears last year.  This year's game is in Berkeley, so I say Cal returns the favor and hangs 40.

T5. Oregon State (7-5, 4-5)

Wins:  Utah, at Cincinnati, Idaho State, at Arizona State, UCLA, Arizona, Washington

Losses:  at California, Stanford, at USC, at Washington State, at Oregon

Make-or-Break Stretch:  at Arizona State (Sept. 22), UCLA (Sept. 29), Arizona (Oct. 6), at Cal (Oct. 13)

Crazy Prediction/Chance to Look Really Bad Six Months From Now:  Yvenson Bernard leads the conference in rushing and is in the top-ten nationally, but few notice as the Beavers are not a top-25 team.

T5. Arizona State (7-5, 4-5)

Wins:  San Jose State, Colorado, San Diego State, at Stanford, Washington, Cal, Arizona

Losses:  Oregon State, at Washington State, at Oregon, at UCLA, USC

Make-or-Break Stretch:  Cal (Oct. 27), at Oregon (Nov. 3), at UCLA (Nov. 10), USC (Nov. 22)

Crazy Prediction/Chance to Look Really Bad Six Months From Now:  Life is great in Tempe as the Sun Devils start 6-1, crack the top-15 and ESPN writes a puff piece or two on the turnaround Erickson is performing in the desert.  It all comes crashing apart, though, as the Devils hit the back half of their schedule and lose four of their last five (Cal, at Oregon, at UCLA, USC, Arizona).

7. Arizona (6-6, 3-6)

Wins:  At BYU, Northern Arizona, New Mexico, Washington State, Stanford, Oregon

Losses:  At Cal, at Oregon State, at USC, at Washington, UCLA, at Arizona State

Make-or-Break Stretch:  UCLA (Nov. 3), Oregon (Nov. 15), at Arizona State (Dec. 1)

Crazy Prediction/Chance to Look Really Bad Six Months From Now:  The Cats steal one of their last three (in the key stretch above) to make their first bowl since 1998.

8. Washington State (5-7, 3-6)

Wins:  vs. San Diego State, Idaho, Arizona State, Stanford, Oregon State

Losses:  at Wisconsin, at USC, at Arizona, at Oregon, UCLA, at Cal, at Washington

Make-or-Break Stretch:  Stanford (Nov. 10), Oregon State (Nov. 17), at Washington (Nov. 24)

Crazy Prediction/Chance to Look Really Bad Six Months From Now:  The offense finishes in the middle of the Pac-10, but the defense finishes dead-last in the conference and allows teams like USC, UCLA, Cal and Oregon to put up some ugly, ugly numbers.  The defense blows a double-digit lead or two and costs the Cougars a bowl bid in the final weeks.

T9. Stanford (3-9, 2-7)

Wins:  San Jose State, at Oregon State, Washington

Losses:  UCLA, Oregon, Arizona State, at USC, TCU, at Arizona, at Washington State, Notre Dame, Cal

Make-or-Break Stretch:  at Arizona (Oct. 20), at Oregon State (Oct. 27), Washington (Nov. 3), at Washington State (Nov. 10)

Crazy Prediction/Chance to Look Really Bad Six Months From Now:  The Cardinal beats San Jose State, beats a Pac-10 bottom feeder or two (I say Washington) and comes out of nowhere to win one they really should not (say, Oregon State) in dramatic, fourth-and-game, 25-yard touchdown Sportscenter-highlight fashion.  Memories of that game linger for months and give the fans reason to keep on believing after an otherwise unremarkable season.

T9. Washington (3-10, 2-7)

Wins:  at Syracuse, Arizona, Washington State

Losses:  Boise State, Ohio State, at UCLA, USC, at Arizona State, Oregon, at Stanford, at Oregon State, Cal, Washington State, at Hawaii

Make-or-Break Stretch:  Arizona (Oct. 27), at Stanford (Nov. 3), at Oregon State (Nov. 10)

Crazy Prediction/Chance to Look Really Bad Six Months From Now:  Bye, bye Ty.  A god-ugly loss at Stanford is a microcosm of an ugly season that costs Willingham his job in his third year in Seattle.


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