Can Any Pac-10 Clubs Unseat USC?
by Trevor Whenham - 07/17/2008
Do you know what I am really sick of? USC constantly winning the Pac-10. The Trojans have been division champs six years in a row. I don't really have a problem with Pete Carroll and his boys, and I am certainly not one of their haters. I just really can't stand it when a team is able to reign virtually unchallenged for so long. Of course, some teams have risen up and given the team a scare from time to time, and they have shared the division lead three times, but there hasn't been a team that has been a consistent, legitimate threat. That needs to end. But it probably won't. Here's a quick look at possible Pac-10 contenders to see if any team can rise up.
Washington State - We'll start with an easy one. There is no way this team is competitive. They have a new coaching staff, and they will be introducing a new, no-huddle spread offense. That could be a good move for them in the long term, but they just don't have the personnel for it now. They also have a defense that will scare no one. Five wins would be an absolute miracle for this team.
Stanford - I like what this team is doing, and I think that Jim Harbaugh is going to turn things around. Just not yet. They return the most players in the Pac-10, so experience won't be an issue. Talent will be, though, and so will their schedule. They play seven road games, and have USC at home. They were 4-8 last year, and will have to be lucky to be better this year.
Oregon State - The Beavers have two quarterbacks in Lyle Moevao and Sean Canfield that could start for a lot of teams. They will have their hands full, though, with inexperience at receiver and running back. The defense is a question mark, as evidenced by the loss of six of eight linemen. They have a tough schedule this year, but they won nine games last year so they can't be entirely counted out. I expect much the same from a typical Mike Riley team - a solid squad that does nothing overwhelming. The Trojans need not fear them.
Washington - This team could be a surprise, and for the sake of Ty Willingham's job it had better be. Jake Locker is a special player, and he could make a real impact if he can stay healthy. He's a big key, but so is the defense. They brought Ed Donatell in from the NFL as defensive coordinator, but he has a huge job in front of him to fix this awful unit. They have a brutal schedule, including non-conference games against BYU and Oklahoma. Too much for a miracle - they will not contend.
UCLA - Logic says that the team will be rebuilding, but the addition of Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow should give them a boost. They have an injury problem at quarterback, a secondary that will struggle to stop anyone, and a brutal schedule that includes Tennessee, BYU and Fresno State. They could surprise, but a surprise would mean seven or eight wins. Not a contender.
Arizona - We'll see how badly Mike Stoops wants to be a head coach at a major program. If he doesn't have a good year he will be gone. If I were him I would pack my bags. Explosive Willie Tuitama will key an offense that should be fun to watch. They aren't the hardest team to defend, though, because they can't run. The defense loses some big pieces, but they should still be fine. They have the softest schedule we have seen so far, and should finally win enough games to make a bowl. Not a threat for the top, though.
Cal - This team recently has had the habit of starting highly ranked and then disappointing. This year they aren't going to be ranked to start, so maybe they can surprise. Nate Longshore is one of those guys who seems like he has been around forever, but the QB is just a senior. Provided he can get his job back after an injury he should be good, but the offense has lost a stunning amount of talent at receiver and running back. The defense is decent, and their linebackers are spectacular. The team will make a bowl, but not one that most people will watch.
Oregon - If only Dennis Dixon had another year left. Instead, this team has to break in a new QB without the safety net of Jonathan Stewart to hand off to. On offense it all comes down to who wins the starting job and how well they do. The defense will be good. The line is solid, and I don't think that there will be a secondary anywhere that is any better than this one. The Ducks could surprise, but if I were a fan I would brace myself for seven or eight wins.
Arizona State - So it all comes down to this. I haven't found another contender, and this is the only team left. The Sun Devils are coming off taking a share of the conference title last year, though Texas humiliated them in their bowl appearance. Rudy Carpenter is back for a last tour at QB, and he is healthy. He lost several offensive starters, but the talent is still there. Defense should again be solid. I think Dennis Erickson is as good as there is, and I want to believe in this team, but I'm not sure I can. The reason is simple - their schedule. They play Georgia in the middle of September, and probably won't be favored. They also travel to Cal and USC in consecutive weeks. This team should be good, but, sadly, not as good as the Trojans.
So there it is - not a lot to cheer for. Maybe someone can beat the Trojans next year.