Pacific Ten Conference
Bottom Line: How many superlatives can you use in reference to a conference that has been dominated by one team for the better part of a decade? The answer is none. For all the teams that have posed a challenge to Southern California over the past six seasons, not one has found the magic formula needed to dethrone the Trojans and interrupt their unprecedented string of six consecutive conference championships. And the streak appears alive and well for at least one more year.
USC Trojans (12-0): Like clockwork, Pete Carroll’s team reloads for another championship run after losing a host of key players to the NFL. In no way am I downplaying the accomplishments of Carroll on the recruiting trail, but how hard can it be to convince a hormone-driven 18-year-old kid that he needs to come to Southern California to play ball for a championship-caliber team and fornicate with some of the planet’s most beautiful women in a relative paradise on Earth?
Arizona State Sun Devils (10-2): This may just be me thinking out loud, but it seems as if QB Rudy Carpenter has been taking the snaps in Tempe forever now. If my memory serves me correctly, Carpenter lost to his current coach, Dennis Erickson, and the Oregon State Beavers during the middle part of his career at ASU…in 2002.
California Golden Bears (9-3): Cal kindly provides us with one of the most intriguing matchups taking place during college football’s opening weekend on Aug. 30. And though we are extremely thankful that a west coast team outside of USC finally got the balls to travel past the Rockies, we are nonetheless nonplussed by the fact that the Golden Bears decided to make the haul to East Lansing, MI so early. If last season taught head man Jeff Tedford anything, it’s that his team provides us with a lot more material when they start off hot and don’t enter the dunk tank until at least the middle of October.
Oregon State Beavers (8-4): As much as I praise Cal for its scheduling prowess, I scoff at Oregon State for being unoriginal in its attempt to think outside the box. The Beavers will travel the great divide known as the Pacific Ocean to take on the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii at every team’s house of horrors, Aloha Stadium. I suppose what seems like an excuse for Dennis Erickson to get away to do some retirement time-share shopping— and the players to enjoy the services of the local hula dancers— could actually be misconstrued as an attempt to bring together two bowl-bound programs.
Arizona Wildcats (8-4): After guiding Arizona to what could be called a pair of breakthrough seasons (6-6 in ’06, 5-7 in ’07) in one of the nation’s higher profile conferences, it’s time for head coach Mike Stoops—now in his fifth season at Tucson—to take the next step and start creating some parallels between himself and his brother, “Big Game” Bob.
Oregon Ducks (7-5): No longer in Eugene are the likes of Dennis Dixon at quarterback and Jonathan Stewart in the backfield. With both former stars now playing with the big boys, it is up to QB Justin Roper, the Ducks’ fifth-stringer a year ago, and RB Jeremiah Johnson, who performed admirably in 2007 (54 car., 344 yds, 4 TD) while spelling Stewart, to carry the load and erase the memories of last season’s November collapse and ensuing exclusion from the national championship picture.
UCLA Bruins (6-6): Rick Neuheisel gets his chance to prove himself at his alma mater right off the bat in 2008. A former Bruin QB, Neuheisel and his team face an absolutely brutal non-conference schedule that includes no. 18 Tennessee and true sleeper Fresno State in Westwood and Brigham Young, a consensus BCS buster pick, on the road. And this is all in the first month of the season. Throw in an equally taxing Pac-10 slate, and those six wins appear to be quite the generous assessment.
Washington Huskies (4-8): Presently, I’m putting the over/under on wins for the Huskies at two, for 6-6 would be a monumental achievement in the wake of a non-conference schedule that rivals that of UCLA. However, it is far more likely Tyrone Willingham—11-25 in three seasons—will find his ass firmly planted on the hot seat following a 2-10 season that features blowout losses to BYU, Oklahoma and, most notably to the Washington brass, Notre Dame.
Washington State Cougars (3-9): The Iowa Hawkeyes of the Northwest, Washington State went a combined 20-6 under former coaches Mike Price (UTEP) and Bill Doba during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, but they have since fallen completely off the map. Now it is up to Paul Wulff to resurrect a program in Pullman that hasn’t had a winning season or postseason aspirations since Doba’s first year in 2003.
Stanford Cardinal (2-10): After struggling through a majority of its schedule, save for wins against San Jose State and Washington State, the Cardinal and the embattled Jim Harbaugh will limp into the Coliseum in mid-November seeking their second consecutive win against the heavily favored USC Trojans. Unfortunately for both, history will play the role of bitch and refuse to repeat herself, and Stanford will limp into Berkeley for another beating the following week.
Team on the rise: Oregon State
Team on the fall: Oregon
Player to Watch: Arizona QB Willie Tuitama
Bowlers: USC, Arizona State, Oregon State, Arizona, California, Oregon