Uncertainty reigns entering Pac-10

The last time a Pac-10 team was playing, all the way back on Jan. 1, Pete Carroll was head coach at USC, Jeremiah Masoli was quarterback at Oregon, the Pac-10 had 10 teams, the Big 12 had 12 and the Big Ten still inexplicably had 11.

The last time a Pac-10 team was playing, all the way back on Jan. 1, Pete Carroll was head coach at USC, Jeremiah Masoli was quarterback at Oregon, the Pac-10 had 10 teams, the Big 12 had 12 and the Big Ten still inexplicably had 11.

Oregon State had a chance to get Lyle Moevao back for a sixth season, Arizona hadn't settled on coordinator-by-committee, Stanford was running a 4-3 defense and UCLA hadn't spent its spring playing with a loaded weapon.

Most of all, the Trojans hadn't been hammered by the NCAA.

Then again, Cal was debating its quarterback quandary, Arizona State looking for guys who can block and Washington State grasping for any sign of progress. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Seriously though, just as the Pac-10 prepares for a dramatic shift under commissioner Larry Scott with the addition of Colorado and Utah with unknown and potentially unforeseen consequences, so too is there uncertainty surrounding the race for the Rose Bowl.

There's a strong chance the team that wins the conference might not play on New Year's Day, given the convergence of a bowl ban, favorable schedule and plenty of returning talent at USC. But how will the players respond to a backloaded docket if the Trojans are out of the league race?

Can Lane Kiffin maintain an offensive identity after the scatterbrained tenure of Jeremy Bates? Will the line hold up? What kind of leeway does Matt Barkley have with Mitch Mustain nipping at his heels? Does Monte Kiffin have the magic potion to fix a leaky USC defense?

How will Oregon senior Nate Costa's knee hold up after multiple surgeries? How will that dynamic offense change if he can't be a factor in the running game? Does he hold off Darron Thomas, he of the 210 yards and three touchdowns in a frantic fourth quarter against Boise State back in 2009? Can the defense fare better against power running games? What is the team's psyche like after a tumultuous offseason filled with arrests?

With the most favorable home-road breakdown in the Pac-10, can the Beavers finally break through and play in the Rose Bowl? How quickly can quarterback Ryan Katz take to the system or will Jacquizz and James Rodgers simply carry Oregon State?

Is this the year Jeff Tedford finally pulls the plug on the Kevin Riley experiment in Berkeley?

Can a committee approach on the Farm possibly come close to replacing Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart's 1,871 yards rushing?

Who's the real Nick Foles, the breakout star who shredded Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford or the shaggy quarterback that limped to the finish line?

Which is the real Washington, the Huskies showing plenty of bite early and late against LSU, USC and Cal or little bark in the middle two months of the season?

Can Arizona State score?

Can UCLA?

Finally, can the Cougs get back into the conference win column, let alone shape the run for the roses?

Some questions are clearly easier to answer than others.

Dan reveals his Preseason All-Pac-10 Offense on Thursday.


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