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Pac-10 football preview: ASU expected to finish second

Cal Bears offense at the line of scrimmage with OSU on October 13, 2007 (The Daily Californian).

And here we go yet again. Just like three years ago, an SEC football team will visit Tempe. And while No. 1 Georgia will certainly be worth the wait, the real key of ASU’s season seems to be exactly what it was in 2007: USC.

Should the Sun Devil football team end up losing to Georgia, it will only need a simple reminder: The BCS favors those teams that lose early in the season.

Running the table in the Pac-10 conference or even beating USC in its own right might seem hard, if not impossible to do.

But it’s why understanding the conference is essential. Nine conference games outweigh one with even the nation’s top team.

ASU is in a unique position as well. The Sun Devils got better, and their conference did not. Here’s an outlook on the Pac-10:


It seems to always occur this way. ASU’s trip to the Coliseum on Oct. 11 could be the crossroads for both teams.

USC always has a potent offense. But that’s backed up by a Pete Carroll-led defense, which will rival Oregon for tops in the conference. The Trojans’ secondary is strong and Carroll has assembled quite possibly the best linebackers in the conference, if not the country.

And after so much talk about the Trojans’ quarterback being hurt (junior Mark Sanchez), he is already back at practice.

Oregon State

No team likes going to Corvallis­ — not any team I have ever heard of. This year will be no different as the Beavers look to improve their 6-3 in-conference record in 2007.

Junior quarterback Lyle Moevao, though, is cause for uncertainty. Last season, Moevao completed about half of his passes and is going to need to be more proficient.

None of OSU’s three running backs have ever taken a college football snap. Nevertheless, a strong offensive line anchored by senior left tackle Andy Levitre should alleviate some of the pressure.

On the defensive side, Oregon State dominates. Four seniors fill the secondary, featuring cornerback Brandon Hughes.

Perhaps the only good thing about Corvallis this year is that USC has to play there too.


Cal recently named sophomore Kevin Riley its starting quarterback for the team’s season opener against Michigan State, though senior Nate Longshore will also get playing time.

Cal’s offensive line should do well at protecting whoever their quarterback is, with four seniors. Center Alex Mack, chief among them, allowed the fewest sacks in the conference last year.


This is the final chance for coach Mike Stoops down in Tucson. A record of 17-29 during his four-year tenure isn’t doing him any favors.

UA will be asking senior quarterback Willie Tuitama to live up to his billing. Junior left tackle Eben Britton will be able to buy Tuitama more time in the pocket.

The defense is without four of its main starters on the defensive line. UA will be banking on a more experienced secondary.

Helped by an easy pre-conference schedule that includes Idaho, Toledo and New Mexico, it’s conceivable that Stoops will only have to go 4-5 in conference play to save his job.


Defense will be the name of the game for the Ducks. This Oregon team has experience at every position on the defensive side, including seven returning players. Senior defensive end Nick Reed will lead the way.

Sophomore Justin Roper will likely fill the role of departed quarterback Dennis Dixon. But Oregon didn’t just lose a star signal-caller—it also lost running back Jonathan Stewart to the NFL.


Sophomore Jake Locker is expecting skill to somehow overcome inexperience. The star Husky quarterback will be throwing to a young group of wide receivers, but will be helped by senior center Juan Garcia who has recovered from foot surgery.

UW will need more production from sophomore running back Brandon Johnson, who only had a single game in which he rushed for 100 or more yards.

The defense needs work too. Coach Tyrone Willingham has hired new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell to help.

But with more inexperience on the defensive line, Donatell will be having early headaches as he tries to lower the 446 yards per game allowed last season.

Washington State

It’s a new year in Pullman, complete with a new coach in Paul Wulff. But it will be a familiar feeling for the Cougars, who haven’t had a winning season since 2003.

Look for the premier player on this team to be senior wide receiver Brandon Gibson. He set a school record in 2007, recording 1,180 receiving yards for the season.

Senior linebacker Greg Trent is one of eight potential returning starters on the defense.

It’s possible that WSU will make a run at the middle of the conference, but don’t expect too much from last season’s seventh-place team.


This offseason has been a nightmare for the Bruins. Both of UCLA’s senior quarterbacks are out. Ben Olson, who isn’t new to injuries, re-hurt his foot in the beginning of August and Patrick Cowan is also out.

A junior college transfer, junior Kevin Craft, has been given the promotion to starting quarterback. Senior Marcus Everett and sophomore Dominique Johnson should offer help at wide receiver.

Senior running back Kahlil Bell will have trouble running behind a makeshift offensive line.

With players moving around on both sides of the ball, UCLA has a lot to prove.


Why does it seem that the Pac-10 always gets to laugh at the Cardinal? USC didn’t find them too funny last season.

It’s the defense that is their greatest lapse, one that allowed 435.5 yards per game, the ninth-worst in the conference in 2007.

On the offensive side, it’s anyone’s guess at quarterback, as three players are currently in competition. Senior Tavita Pritchard is the only player competing that has actually taken a real snap.

Stanford hasn’t done much to get better this offseason and it will show.

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