The Pac-10 is much stronger this season. It’s no longer USC, Oregon and the Little 8. Here’s how I see the conference stacking up for the 2010 season.
1. Oregon Ducks. Quite simply, the Quacks are better without Jeremiah Masoli – plus they get their two top challengers to the crown at home (Stanford on Oct 2 and Arizona on Nov 26).
2. Stanford Cardinal. Jim Harbaugh is a miracle worker. There doesn’t seem to be any drop-off without Toby Gerhart in the lineup, in fact, the team seems more explosive and less predictable. They also get Arizona at home on Nov 6.
3. Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats are my wild card pick to take the conference. They face three drawbacks: Road games at Oregon and Stanford, and their traditional late season swoon. If they can upset the Ducks in Eugene and get through the conference schedule with just one loss, ‘Cats fans can say hello to Pasadena on New Year’s Day.
4. USC Trojans. Understandably, the boys from Troy are playing uninspired football this season. I see them losing at Stanford, at Arizona, and at home to Oregon. There’s another loss in their schedule somewhere, perhaps ASU on Nov 6.
5. Oregon State Beavers. The Beavers and Cal are a toss-up for the fifth and sixth positions in the conference. The tie-breaker is in Oregon State’s favor because they host the Golden Bears this season.
6. California Golden Bears. The Nevada loss exposed Cal’s defense. Consider this a rebuilding year if you’re a Cal fan and you’ll be happy.
7. Arizona State Sun Devils. ASU looked tough on the road at Wisconsin, but they’ll open conference with a loss to Oregon, and they they have to travel to Corvallis to face Oregon State which will be feeling mighty nasty after getting stampeded at Boise State. Other difficult road games include Cal, USC, and Arizona.
8. Washington Huskies. I was on the Jake Locker bandwagon in the preseason, but lucky for me, I chose to hold back my conference picks until the non-conference games were well underway. Steve Sarkisian is a fine coach and I truly believe he will lead Washington to greatness again. It just won’t happen for another 2-3 years.
9. UCLA Bruins. This team has the talent to end up as high as the number 5 spot in the conference, but their offensive line has been devastated early on. Kevin Prince will be fortunate to make it through the entire season intact. The Bruins are probably two years away from challenging for the conference title – Prince’s senior season.
10. Washington State Cougars. What can you say about this hapless program? How Mike Price ever got them to the Rose Bowl Game twice in six years is a mystery to even the most astute college football student.