Pac-10 Positive Outlook

30 08 2010

I can’t remember a time when the conference was as wide open as it is this year with seven teams legitimately competing for the championship. Some people have UCLA as a dark horse, but their offensive line has been decimated in the off-season from players leaving for missions, injuries, and now academic ineligibility.

I’m tired of ESPN plugging the SEC as the top conference in the country just because they signed a $2.0 billion deal to cover their games. That conference is always top heavy with a couple teams that can beat anyone, but they also have six bottom feeders that would be average in any BCS conference. I don’t think Florida or Alabama could go undefeated against the top 7 in the Pac-10, but both of them somehow came out of the SEC unscathed until the conference championship. If I was betting on these Pac-10 teams to win the conference championship it would be due to the reasons mentioned below.

Oregon

  • Darron Thomas will be a household name by the end of the year, but not because he’s being mentioned on the police blotter like a former Ducks QB. Oregon fans will tell you about how awesome he was in the spring game and that he’s a more accurate passer than Masoli.  He will also be playing behind a talented offensive line and a stronger LaMichael James. If he’s anything near Dennis Dixon 2.0 then the Ducks could repeat as conference champion.

Cal

  • This team has all of the pieces in place, but the one thing that will make them a contender for the championship is the bump in production that typically happens to Pac-10 quarterbacks. Joey Harrington, Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller, Derek Anderson and Sean Canfield all know what it’s like to trod with mediocrity for three years only to see things slow down like Neo in the Matrix during their senior season. Kevin Riley is capable with the weapons he has at his disposal which could push the Bears over the top.

Oregon State

  • The Beavers have as much firepower as any team in the conference, but this year they will combine that with increased production in the trenches. Last year’s team ranked 8th in the conference in sacks allowed and the defense ranked 9th in sacks. Ryan Katz will have a much smoother transition with a more experienced offensive line and defensively the new linebackers will be looking for Stephen Paea to create gaps for them by taking on double teams.

Arizona

  • This team is replacing their defensive coordinator, both starting defensive tackles and their entire linebacking corps, but their defensive ends (Brooks Reed & Ricky Elmore) will be the best pass-rushing tandem in the conference. Combined with the fact that they have one of the best secondaries in the conference, they’ll have a solid defense to match their powerful offense.

USC

  • There’s been coaching turnover, players transferring, and the distractions of Reggie Bushgate, but USC  still has the talent to contend for the Pac-10 championship. The best USC teams of the decade had monsters on the defensive line that could get to the quarterback with a four man rush which allowed the linebackers and secondary to create turnovers. Jurrell Casey is one of the top defensive tackles in the country and Armond Armstead has shown big upside at defensive end.

Stanford

  • Kirk Hirbstreit already put the dreaded curse on Stanford by predicting that they will win the Pac-10 championship, but Jim Harbaugh wants to know what his deal is for adding pressure to an under the radar Stanford team? They have the best quarterback in the Pac-10, but for them to compete for the Rose Bowl it will be because of their currently underrated stable of running backs Jeremy StewartTyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor. The Cardinal offensive line proved that they’re one of the best in the conference, but even moderate production from the ground game will allow Andrew Luck to do whatever he wants through the air.

Washington

  • The Huskies have the most balanced offense in the Pac-10, but if they’re going to compete for the championship it will be due to a scrappy defense that creates turnovers. Nick Holt has seven returning starters which should translate into a better understanding of his schemes. With two all-conference calibur players in cornerback Desmond Trufant and linebacker Mason Foster, I’m anticipating a much more aggressive campaign from the Huskies.

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Pac 12 Playoffs : Final Four

28 06 2010

#1 Oregon vs #8 Arizona

In what looked like an easy road for Oregon to the Pac-12 championship, quickly turned into off-roading in a Ford Pinto. Arizona forced a Nate Costa fumble on a Brooks Reed sack at midfield and Nick Foles threw three straight completions to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. LaMichael James had difficulty running up the middle, but had some success on tosses and sweeps with three runs of 20+ yards. Nic Grisby scored a 35 yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the second half to give Arizona a 20-10 lead, but the Ducks would not go away easily. Senior quarterback Nate Costa led an eight play 71 yard drive to bring the score to 20-17 midway through the third quarter. With five minutes to play, Oregon would take a 24-20 lead behind a 15 yard HB pass to LaMichael James. Mike Stoops looked inconceivably calm as the Wildcats just squandered the lead.  Nick Foles would throw over the top of blown coverage by Talmadge Jackson in the secondary to take a 27-24 lead with 55 seconds to play. The Ducks converted two first downs to get to the 40 yard line, but missed the potential game tying 57 yard FG.

#2 USC vs #10 ASU

Contrary to the rumors, Pete Carroll did not call the plays for Lane Kiffin during the game through his Twitter page, he sent him all the information he needed the night before via facebook message.

Matt Barkley looked more svelte after dropping some of his baby fat in the off-season and his improved mobility was displayed with constant pressure from the ASU defense. Barkley threw for 215 yards on 14 of 23 passing and with two TD’s and an INT. True freshman Dillon Baxter had a youtube worthy 25 yard TD run on a left toss where he slipped past two ASU defenders who came crashing into each other as they reached out for the tackle. The Sun Devils managed just 250 yards of total offense and managed just 10 points while giving up 390 yards and 27 points.

#3 OSU vs #6 UW

Oregon St got off to a strong start with James Rodgers returning the opening kickoff to the UW 27 yard line. His younger brother Jacquizz Rodgers finished the drive with a 7 yard TD run to take an early 7-0 lead. On the ensuing drive Chris Polk was met by Stephen Paea in the backfield on a on third and one play to force a Huskies punt. Three minutes before halftime, Huskies cornerback Desmond Trufant picked off a Ryan Katz pass and returned it thirty eight yards for a TD to give the Huskies a 10-7 lead. After an exchange of TD’s in the third quarter the Beavers took a 21-17 lead on a James Rodgers screen pass. Jake Locker saved his best drive for last as he completed 7 of 8 passes for 71 yards to give the Huskies a 24-21 lead with 21 seconds left in the game. The Beavers failed to convert a first down as time expired.

#4 Utah vs #5 Cal

In the rematch of the Poinsettia Bowl the Bears were determined to contain Utah QB Jordan Wynn. Jeff Tedford took a page out of the Cobra Kai’s method of business and the Bears were more aggressive from the start. Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan came up with two sacks, three QB knockdowns, and 2 late hit penalties to set the tone for the defense and the Utah offense never got into a rhythm. Kevin Riley had a solid  performance hitting 16 of 25 passes for 210 yards and Shane Vareen carried the ground game with 135 yards on 25 carries. Coach Jeff Tedford was quoted after the game saying that he’s boycotting the new Karate Kid, because he’s such a big Ralph Maccio fan and he was even seen doing a crane kick as the time expired with a 31-23 Bears victory.The Bears advance to face Arizona in the Final Four.

The Final Four pairs up

#2 USC vs #6 Washington – Can the former Trojan coaches Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt stay undefeated against their former colleague in Lane Kiffin? Trojans favored by 10.

#5 Cal vs #8 Arizona – Cal survived against a potential game winning drive from Arizona in 2009 by a strange Nick Foles double pass, will they get lucky again? Bears favored by 3

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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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