Ahead of the Pac

21 06 2010

After the Pac-12 Bottom Feeders and Middle of the Pac , we finally present you with the penultimate 2010 Pac-12 Rankings with the top four teams in the conference. These are not to be confused with where we think the teams will finish the season ranked. Starting it off is the newest member of the conference:

#4 Utah Utes

Returning Starters Offense 8, Defense 4, punter/kicker 2

Strength – Quarterback- Jordan Wynn didn’t start until the 9th game of the season, but he had his best performance in the Poinsettia Bowl against Cal, throwing for 338 yards on 26 of 36 passing and earning the MVP award. He was a true freshman last year and he should improve with some experience under his belt. The backup Terrence Cain will provide some quality depth at the position as he has started 8 games with a 7-1 record.

Weakness – Linebacker – The Utes lost all of their starting LB’s from last year, but their D- line returns all four starters (Sealver Siliga, Dave Kruger, Lei Talamaivao, and Christian Cox) and should take some pressure off of the inexperienced players.

#3 Oregon State Beavers

Returning Starters Offense 8, Defense 7, punter/kicker 2

Strength – Rodgers Brothers – Oregon St has the Pac-12’s best RB – Jacquizz Rodgers, and the best WR – James Rodgers. These two should ease the transition of a new QB after the loss of first team All-Pac 10 QB Sean Canfield.

Weakness – Quarterback – When a conference is loaded at the QB position, it doesn’t help to be the only team with an inexperienced player at the helm. Ryan Katz is the favorite heading into the season, but his only action last year was in mop-up duty. The Rodgers brothers will make his job easier, but he still needs to prove himself.

#2 USC Trojans

Returning Starters Offense 6, Defense 6, punter/kicker 1

Strength – Linebacker – The Trojans welcome back all three starters from a year ago (Malcolm Smith, Chris Gallipo, and Michael Morgan) with possibly the best player of the bunch backing up a couple positions, Devon Kennard. This group will need to be more consistent this year, because there’s not much depth outside of Kennard.

Weakness – Secondary – It’s been five years since Taylor Mays hasn’t lined up in the secondary for USC, but they also lost the rest of their starters in the secondary. Shareece Wright was the #1 CB on the team before being ruled academically ineligible last season, but made an impact when he returned for the bowl game. USC has stockpiled talent up and down their roster for years, but their secondary was inconsistent last year even with Mays in the lineup. With the conference stacked at the QB position, their new defensive coordinator – Monte Kiffin, will have his hands full in the fall.

#1 Oregon Ducks

Returning starters Offense 9, Defense 9, punter/kicker 1

Even though the Ducks lost arguably their best player and a handful of others to off-field troubles, the Ducks bring back plenty of key pieces from their 2009 Pac-10 championship team. They have a tougher schedule ahead of them this year, and less depth than a year ago, but the experience gained should make up for it.

Strength – Running back – LaMichael James quickly made people forget about LaGarrette Blount when he stepped right in and ripped off 1,600 yards rushing. The Ducks also brought in the highly touted blue chip recruit Lache  Seastrunk who should provide some depth at the position.

Weakness – QB – While it’s tough to find a weakness from a team that just won the conference championship and returns 18 starters, the quarterback position is still unknown. Chip Kelly’s spread offense relies on a QB that can run the ball and that’s where Jeremiah Masoli excelled, (even though he couldn’t run from the law). Nate Costa was ahead of  Masoli on the depth chart before tearing his ACL, but he’s in a tight battle with Darron Thomas heading into the fall.

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