Forecasters Widely Disagree On 2009 Pac10 Football
By Fred Delkin
Looking at the upcoming Pac10 grid season three months ago, we pegged the Oregon Ducks likely to go 10-2 and challenge for the conference title, with USC, Arizona State and Cal the most likely contenders. Now that the preseason forecasters have weighed in, we find some wide discrepancies among our fellow crystal ball gazers. hil Steele, self-acclaimed dean of predictions, rates USC, Cal, UCLA, Arizona and Oregon State as his league top five. Athlon magazine has USC, Cal, Oregon and Oregon State as its top five. Steele has Oregon strongly downgraded.
We don't believe our rival seers have taken some unusual schedule into account. The Ducks have no less than seven home games, including contenders USC and Arizona State and have four straight matches at Autzen early in the season. The Quackers get a probable breather at Washington before coming home to face SC. Let's look at a school by school analysis:
USC--the Trojans, as usual, boast more talent, top to bottom, than any rival, but have to break in a new quarterback. Their 'away' schedule pits then against Cal, Oregon and Arizona State on unfriendly fields. Last season, Troy faced the other league title contenders at home.
Oregon--Webfoot fortunes may suffer in some seers' eyes due to the replacement of Mike Bellotti as head coach. However, successor Chip Kelley has already proved himself as an offensive genius with his current talent. No other contender has a more favorabvle schedule.
Arizona State--Coach Dennis Erickson has perhaps the best veteran defense in the league. He must go green at QB, but has a pair of signal-calling contenders with fmuch promise and gets SC and Cal on Sun Devil home turf well into the season.
California--the Golden Bears could win it all, hosting SC and having given the Trojans fits in all the past matchups between mentors Jeff Tedford and Pete Carroll. Cal has a veteran Kevin Riley at QB and the finest running back in the Pac10 in Jahvid Best. Defense will be the question mark.
Stanford--Jim Harbaugh has coached a revival at the Farm and faces a relatively weak schedule in the first half of the season. The Cardinal returns more lettermen than any league foe and seems well off at QB and fullback. Here again, defense is a question. Contenders Arizona State, Oregon and Cal are Stanford visitors.
Oregon State--the Beavers also have a veteran QB returning, and the Rodgers brothers are back to add proven rushing (Jaquizz) and James (receiving) to the mix. The OSU schedule opens weak, but gets mean by October and the Bevos must travel to contenders Arizona State, Cal and Oregon. Defense is dependent on greenhorns and will limit the win total, but another bowl game can be expected.
UCLA--Rick Neuheisel's first head coaching season at his alma mammy was a disaster and the Bruins lack proven talent at many key positions. The schedule is friendly, with home games vs.Oregon, Cal and Arizona State. Five wins.
Washington--the Huskies recorded their first winless season in school history in 2008. The rebuilding job is now in rookie head coach Steve Sarkisian's hands. The 2008 offensive coordinator for SC has brought his SC coaching compatriot Nick Holt with him to guide a defense that was pitiful last season. With QB star Jake Locker back from injury, we think the Dawgs may show some revival. They open their league season at home vs. USC, have some expected traveling losses to Stanford, Arizona State and OSU and have a brutal home opener vs. national title contender LSU. We forecast a 3-9 overall record.
Washington State--this shapes up as the Pac10's weakest link. The Cougars managed to beat only Washington and Portland State a year ago. The 2009 schedule includes trips to USC, Oregon and Cal. A paucity of talent awaits second year mentor Paul Wulff and he could go winless.
ROSES & RASPBERRIES...a parcel of posies to Portland's Lents neighborhood for telling the City Council to take its Beaver baseball stadium proposal elsewhere...how about the moon?...no applause should be aroused by the departure of coach Mouse Davis from Portland State football and now it's up to Jerry Glanville to justify his over-hyped image by winning the Big Sky with a Viking squad boasting its best talent in years...Cowboy Glanville knows his reputation will rise or fall on September 19th at Montana...roses are deserved by donors to the PSU athletic coffers and their hope that the on-campus Stott Arena will be expanded soonest in recognition of the Viking cage team's two straight qualifications for the NCAA post-season Big Dance. Tough to lose coach Ken Bone to Washington State, but his coaching cohort stays to apply his recruiting expertise to the PSU future.
© 2009 Oregon Magazine