2009-10 Pac-10 Football Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 8/11/2009
A 5-0 bowl season was able to mask what was an otherwise mediocre season for the Pac-10 conference in 2008. The Pac-10 was the Mountain West’s bitch after going 1-6 against it, and besides USC’s blowout over Ohio State there were multiple nonconference embarrassments. Personally, I thought the conference was way down and ready to hit a slide.
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But entering this year the Pac-10 brings back four of the most experienced teams in the country in Washington, Stanford, UCLA and Cal. They also scored a 61 on my “returning talent” scale, which was No. 3 of all of the BCS conferences. And even though USC is breaking in some new players at key places they are still one of the dominant programs in the country. So if 2008 was a “down” year for the Pac-10 then there are a lot more sunny days ahead on the gridiron on the Left Coast.
Here are my 2009 Pac-10 football predictions to help you with your college football handicapping:
The Favorite: USC
What is there to say? The football factory is still open. No other team in the country can lose as much talent as the Trojans yet still have such a stranglehold on their conference. But I have to say that I am still on the same side with those folks that see USC as very vulnerable. Last year they had one of the best defenses in school history and this season eight of their top 11 tacklers – and six of their front seven – are gone. The good news is that the offense will more than make up for it. That is, as long as they settle on a quarterback. But this team will run the ball all over the soft defenses of the Pac-10. And if USC can get past tough road games at Ohio State and at Cal then they really only have one “loseable” game left: at Oregon.
The Challenger: California
The Golden Bears are the sexy pick to unseat USC this year and steal (borrow) the conference crown. They have the best runner west of the Mississippi and a fringe Heisman candidate in Jahvid Best. Their line is deep and talented and they have strong wideouts. Defensively they are loaded with upperclassmen and a pair of NFL Draft prospects in Syd’Quan Thompson and Tyson Alualu. But looking at Cal schedule I’m more convinced that they can beat USC and less convinced that they can run the table beyond that. Tough road games at Oregon, UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford and Washington stand in the way. I just don’t think they can win them all. I like Cal this year and they should be solid. But I don’t think the stars are completely aligned.
The Dark Horse: Arizona
I was never a big Willie Tuitama guy for the Wildcats so I don’t think that his loss will be as big of a deal. However, the problem is that the ‘Cats are unsettled with the two guys behind him. If Matt Scott or Nick Foles can step forward and prove to be an efficient leader then the weapons on this offense are sick. Great wideouts, the best tight end in the country, and an All-Pac-10-caliber running back sits behind a veteran line. The defense brings back seven starters, including all four linemen and two secondary players. They play at Oregon State, at Cal and at USC. So while Arizona can’t win the conference title they could be a thorn in the side of those who are trying to.
The X-Factor: Stanford
Stanford’s 11 three-year starters represent the highest total in the country and they are clearly one of the most experienced teams in the nation. Jim Harbaugh has this team headed in the right direction and really fired up about this year. This is his deepest team yet and with stud thumper Toby Gerhart running they have a legit go-to guy on offense. Four of their last five games are at home, including games against Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame. And the last time the Cardinal went to USC they pulled out a stunning upset win. So they can play with anyone and I think that they are going to be in the top four or five teams in the conference after seven straight losing seasons.
The Surprise Team: UCLA
It’s easy to forget that Rick Neuheisal was dealt a thin hand last season. And it was made even thinner by the fact that injuries ravaged the roster all fall. But this season the Bruins bring back five all-conference performers and 16 returning starters (compared to six last year). This team has a nice blend of youth and experience and is solid on both lines. The X-Factor for this team will be quarterback play. Injuries forced them to used third-stringer Kevin Craft last year and Craft was an INT machine. The Bruins are going with frosh Kevin Prince, but it’s hard to think that he can be any worse. A tough road slate lies ahead but I think that this group will be feisty and end up in a bowl game.
The Disappointment: Oregon
I just don’t like what I see out of this Ducks squad. Jeremiah Masoli is the real deal, but let’s remember that the guy was fifth-string last year, so his upside is a bit limited. They have a new coach and just nine returning starters in the fold (including just one all-conference player). They are one of the least experienced teams in the country, let alone the Pac-10, and with rebuilt offensive and defensive lines (and the loss of 14 seniors) I think there will be plenty of growing pains. They open at Boise State and have tough home games against Utah, Cal and USC. On one hand it is good that they get those games in Autzen. On the other, I don’t think it will help.
Oregon State – You can just never count out Mike Riley, who is one of the best coaches in the country. After his masterful job guiding last year’s team to nine wins that leaves Riley at 28-12 straight up and 24-14 against the spread over the last three years. This is another team that was gutted by graduation and the NFL Draft and they have only five senior starters. That’s tough. And with what should be season-long quarterback controversy I think this will be a fall back season for the Beavers.
Arizona State – The Sun Devils were a big disappointment last year after earning 10 wins and a fourth straight bowl game in 2007. I think that they will bounce back this year because of some individual talent, but a back loaded schedule is going to brutalize this team down the stretch. They play Cal and USC then go to Oregon and UCLA before finishing up with Arizona. Two wins out of that will be a miracle and I don’t think State will be bowling this year.
Washington – Beware the Huskies. That’s all I’m saying. After the worst season in the program’s history (and an amazingly bad 1-11 ATS mark) I think that Washington is going to bounce back in a big way. They have a new coach and a new energy around the program. Their 18 returning starters are No. 2 in the country. Jake Locker is still the best player that no one outside the Pacific Northwest talks about. And after three close losses by an average of four points, a turnover and injury-riddled season full of tough luck I think that the Huskies will experience some good karma.
Washington State – A lot like their cross-state rivals, the Cougars just couldn’t catch a break in Paul Wulff’s first season. Injuries and turnovers lead to some terrible football and this team was simply outclassed while being outgained by nearly 300 yards per game in conference play. But a strong finish to the year (4-0 ATS run) and 15 returning starters ensures that this season will be better. Still not good, but better.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and you can purchase a full season’s package of his football selections for just $25 per week! Click here for details.
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