Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pac-10 Conference: Team by Team 2009 Preview

Article originally written by David Hedlind on the

I don’t know everything there is to know about all the teams in the conference. Who they lose and how good the back ups were are all things I just have no clue about. Here is a look at the Pac-10 though, and I did my best to talk about as much as I could.

Arizona Wildcats

First order of business for the Wildcats is to find a replacement for QB Willie Tuitama. Tuitama has been the starter since midway through his freshman year. No matter who they get will be hard pressed to fill his shoes easily.

Making the task harder is the loss of WR Mike Thomas, the new Pac-10 leader in receptions. Making it easier is the return of TE Rob Gronkowski, who, after Thomas, was Arizona’s leading receiver.

Defense is looking good starting on the ends where Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore are back. The Two combined for 15 sacks last season.

The secondary is held down by Cam Nelson at safety and corner Devin Ross. The other corner will be open for competition in the spring while Robert Golden moves from corner to the other safety spot.

The schedule is a bit tougher than in 2008. The 2008 non-conference schedule was Idaho, Toledo and New Mexico. Iowa alone on the 2009 schedule makes it twice as hard. Central Michigan is there too which is a step up from Toledo in terms of MAC schools.

Arizona must travel to Oregon State, Cal, and USC, three of the top four projected teams for the conference.

I think another bowl would be a good season, but I don’t think it will be one of the top bowls.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Four-year starter quarterback Rudy Carpenter is gone. Senior Danny Sullivan has is the most experience but sophomore Samson Szakacsy, sophomore Chasen Stangel and freshman Brock Osweiler will all compete for the spot.

Who ever is throwing will have the advantage of Chris McGaha there to catch the ball.

At running back, senior Keegan Herring is also gone. He wasn’t the leading rusher in '08 anyway. Dimitri Nance led the team but I wouldn’t be surprised if he shares carries with Ryan Bass and Shaun DeWitty.

The offensive line only losses one so this could be a strength for the Sun Devils.

Another weapon for the Sun Devils is kicker Thomas Weber, the '07 Groza Award winner.

The defense only appears to be losing one player from each level, a defensive end, inside linebacker and a safety. The defense will be leaned on while the offense establishes itself.

The schedule only has five away games this season. The higher number of home games could help them get back to a bowl.

They travel to Georgia before entering Pac-10 play. Of the five Pac-10 bowl teams from 08, they only have to travel to Oregon.

California Golden Bears

Now that Nate Longshore is gone it seems only logical that Kevin Riley will be the quarterback. The two went back and forth until finally Longshore was in and Riley was benched.

Tailback Jahvid Best returns and many are calling him a dark horse for the Heisman. Best had two surgeries this offseason.

The main concern on defense will be the loss of the defensive end Rulon Davis, all the starting linebackers and safety Bernard Hicks.

Cal will take on two teams from other BCS conferences that both went to bowls in their non-conference schedule. They host Maryland to open the season then travel to Minnesota two weeks later.

Of the Pac-10 projected top teams, they only travel to Oregon, where they won the last time they played there.

The way the schedule sets up, Cal could be in the hunt for the Pac-10 title.

Oregon Ducks

With sudden news about head coach Mike Bellotti stepping down as head coach and moving to athletic director and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly will become the head coach. This could throw a new wrinkle into the whole season.

Jeremiah Masoli separated himself from the rest of Oregon’s quarterbacks by the end of the season in '08. At this point I think everyone else is playing for the backup position. Among them are former starter Justin Roper, and Nate Costa, who was named starter but never played due to injury.

Behind Masoli should be 1,000-yard rusher LeGarrette Blount. I say should be because of some trouble he had this winter. Oregon tends to run with more than one back though. Highly touted redshirt freshman LaMichael James is possibly going to be that other back but Andre Crenshaw and Remene Alston will all see time.

Offensive line is the question most people have. The line loses four starters but they return four players with starting experience so I don’t see this being as big a problem as wide receiver.

The defense is also looking to fill in the line. Junior college players were brought in to fill the positions. Defensive end Nick Reed is gone. Reed led the Pac-10 in sacks two years in a row. The other end, Will Tukuafu was no slouch with 7.5 sacks in '08.

Oregon’s run defense was actually the strength of the D, so the linebackers returning should help hold that down.

That’s good because the pass defense was non existent and the loss of Patrick Chung and Jarius Byrd isn’t going to help that situation. TJ Ward and Walter Thurmond are back to help improve this part of the defense.

Oregon has a highly favorable schedule. That is after the season opener at Boise State. They draw Utah, Cal, USC, and rival Oregon State all at home in Eugene. The toughest road games appear to be Arizona and Stanford.

Oregon should make a bowl again and with a favorable home schedule could take a run at the Pac-10 title.

Oregon State Beavers

Oregon State has two senior quarterbacks with starting experience in Lyle Moevao and Sean Canfield.

Running back Jacquizz Rodgers and his brother, wide receiver James Rodgers, accounted for a mass amount of the offense last season. This was never more evident until the Civil War and the Sun Bowl when they did not play and the offense struggled.

The defense in '07 was one of the better defenses in the Pac-10 and they lost a lot of starters. People questioned if they would be successful on that side of the ball in '08.

I don’t think they matched what they did in '07, but the defense was still stout only giving up 30 point four times. Unfortunately all four were losses.

The defense again has quite a few holes to fill. If the past is an indication of what they are capable of, I wouldn’t be to worried.

Oregon State tends to start slow and finish well. They have also had trouble when they have gone east. Good news is they don’t have to go east this season and the early schedule doesn’t look overly challenging.

Cincinnati is coming to Corvallis and they did win the Big East last season, but Oregon State is usually better at home. This is especially true with USC. Oregon State has beat the Trojans the last two times they have played at home but lost down in LA.

The Civil War with Oregon was a home team’s dream for over 10 years but the last two have been wins for the visiting team. This year’s game is at Oregon.

Oregon State hopes to make another run at the Rose Bowl and the Pac-10 title. With trips to USC, Cal, and Oregon I am not sure if this is the season for it.

USC Trojans

I think I am going to keep this quick and simple.

USC is known for simply reloading and they should do so again.

Quarterbacks Mitch Mustain, Aaron Corp, Garrett Green, and incoming freshman Matt Barkley will battle for the vacated spot left by Mark Sanchez.

The run game was by committee, I don’t expect that to change.

The defense was among the best in the nation and takes a hit losing a lot of starters. Like I said before though, they reload time and time again. Don’t be surprised if they are stacked again.

USC is tough at home or on the road. Everyone is looking forward to the early trip to Ohio State. They also play at Cal and Oregon, two of the teams most believe will challenge for the Pac-10 title.

Three tough games that everyone expects. The problem for the Trojans is that most of the games they have lost the last few years, no one saw coming.

Stanford Cardinal

Head coach Jim Harbaugh has improved Stanford each of his two seasons. The next step is getting to a bowl.

Having starting quarterback Tavita Pritchard and running back Toby Gerhart returning is a great start.

The offensive line has to replace two including the center Alex Fletcher, who received second team all Pac-10 honors.

From what I know, Stanford is only losing a couple players from the defense. The defense didn’t have a lot of stars on it but did have a couple of players make the Pac-10 honorable mention. They are back for next season.

The Cardinal were one win short of making a bowl in '08. Three of the losses were by seven or less and all three of those were on the road.

Actually all but one loss, USC, was on the road. If they can convert just one of those losses to a win they could be bowling again for the first time in nine years.

UCLA Bruins

Last season, UCLA went into the season with a bunch of injuries hanging over the quarterback position. I would guess the job is Kevin Craft’s to lose at this point.

The passing game should be a strong point since the top five receivers are back. Having an experienced line, losing only one, will help give Craft time to throw. Kai Forbath is back and is one of the conferences best kickers.

The defense is returning a majority of its players. There will be a new defensive coordinator this season and I don’t know what kind of scheme they will be using.

Honestly I don’t remember hearing much about the defense last season, so I don’t know much about it for next season.

UCLA pulled off the upset of Tennessee last season at home. For the 2009 season UCLA will have to try and do it again on the road. They draw Oregon at home followed by trips to Arizona and Oregon State in consecutive weekends. Those were four of the five bowl teams from '08.

Then, of course, there is that season closer with at USC.

I think UCLA would be cutting it close to make it to a bowl in '09.

Washington Huskies

New coach Steve Sarkisian's inherit’s a team that went 0-12 in '08. He has managed to get the players, boosters, and alumni excited about University of Washington football again.

Quarterback Jake Locker has pretty much carried the team since he came in as a freshman. The switch to a pro style will be interesting to see.

The skill positions weren’t much to talk about, but I will say keep an eye on Terrance Daily and Chris Polk.

The offensive line will be rebuilding and filling in the center position for Juan Garcia will be the biggest hole to try and fill.

I can really only point out one bright spot on each level of the defense.

On the defensive line it is Daniel Teo'nesheim. He was the teams sack leader in '08.

The linebackers return EJ Savannah. He had a great 2007 season but then missed '08 for various reasons. Time will tell if this was a good move or not.

The secondary has been less than stellar but did have safety, Nate Williams earn Pac-10 honorable mention honors.

The Huskies continue to schedule some of the toughest competition but at least they put on a game that should give them a win this season too. They are opening at home with LSU followed by Idaho.

They get USC, Oregon, and Cal at home but I don’t know if home field will really be an advantage.

I would be surprised if Washington got more than four wins.

Washington State Cougars

The quarterback battle was down to Kevin Lopina and Marshall Lobbestael, but Lobbestael's recent arrest for being drunk in public and suspension from the team changes things.

Washington State was among the worst in the nation in offense last season. They are still trying to rebuild under second year head coach Paul Wulff.

The good news is leading rusher Dwight Tardy is back. The bad news it leading receiver Brandon Gibson is not.

The defense wasn’t much better than the offense and also rated among the worst in the nation.

I am not sure they lose a lot and if that is a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand you have experience coming back. On the other hand, is that a good thing when the defense wasn’t that good?

Hawaii and SMU are on the schedule, both for home dates. I would have to think these games are manageable. They play '08’s top four Pac-10 teams in a five week span which includes trips to USC and Oregon in back-to-back weekends.

I would think they will at least match their two wins from '08, but I still don’t see a bowl for the Cougars.

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