The Pac 10 proved itself in 2009 to be an elite conference with lots of parity for the first time since Pete Carroll's first season at USC. As for 2010 you can usually make a pretty good prediction on what is going to happen next year based on the previous years record, returning starters, and most importantly experience at quarterback.
If you are using that as a guide it is pretty easy to pick the Oregon Ducks as the favorite to win the conference in 2010. Overall the Pac 10 was young in 2009 and that was one reason for all the parity. Washington and Washington State like to point at youth for being a reason they will be better in 2009 but you can say that about any team in the conference next season excluding ASU and Arizona.
At first glance this is an early look at the holes that teams need to plug next season and what the reasonable expectation should be for 2010.
1. Oregon - Offense - 10 - Defense - 9
The Ducks go into 2010 as the favorite to win the conference. On offense they have everyone coming back except for TE Ed Dickson who will be adequately replaced by David Paulson. Defensively they need to replace half of their defensive line which is graduating but they do have the beef in reserve to do that. The defensive backfield will be young but a lot of those players saw considerable action this season.
The big key for Oregon is the return of Jeremiah Masoli at QB and his partner in crime LaMichael James. The Ducks should start next season in the top five nationally and be primed for a national championship run. If you are a duck fan you don't have too much in the immediate future to worry about.
2. Southern Cal - 7 Offense - Defense - 7
The Trojans lose three offensive lineman and their TE so their is some rebuilding to do up front. On defense they need to replace the entire secondary. This was a young USC team with plenty of talent on the roster which will only get better with time. The key to 2010 will be the continued development of QB Matt Barkley and the hope of some playmakers maturing around him on offense.
Pete Carroll has recruited well at USC but he didn't have any actual superstars on the roster in 2010 at key positions like he did in the past. The Trojans need a RB to emerge to compliment what Barkley will bring next season. Expect the improvement at QB to be there as usual. SC needs some serious playmakers if they are going to get past Oregon.
3. Oregon State - Offense - 8 - Defense - 9
On offense the Beavers need to replace Sean Canfield who played himself into a NFL draft pick this past season. The Rodgers brothers are scheduled to return but I could see James leaving early for the NFL. The Beavers lose only one starting offensive lineman. On defense the Beavers lose a LB and one of their CB's so they are in really good shape going into 2010 if Lyle Moevao can get a sixth year to come back and run the Beav offense.
If Moevao can get another season and James Rodgers comes back the Beavers will be very good on offense. If they don't come back I could see this team fall a couple of spots despite having an improved defense. You win with experience at QB in this league. If OSU is breaking in a new QB there will be some growing pains.
4. California - Offense - 9 - Defense - 5
The Bears only lose one offensive lineman and will likely lose RB Jahvid Best who is headed for the NFL early. No big deal because Shane Vereen is just as scary. Other than that the Bears return pretty intact on offense which means trouble for the rest of the Pac 10. On defense the Bears will loose 3/4 of their secondary, half of their LB corps and a DE so there is some rebuilding to be done.
I expect the Bears to do better on offense next season. Kevin Riley has to get better at QB with another year under Tedford. Defensively the Bears are rebuilding and that will ultimately keep them from winning the title. Tedford has recruited well over the years so he has some talent in the depth that is ready to move up to help fill holes on defense.
5. Stanford - Offense - 8 - Defense - 7
The Cardinal lose Heisman hopeful Toby Gerhart who is a huge part of their offense. He will be tough to replace. They also lose one OL and a TE so with the exception of Gerhart they return pretty much intact on offense. On defense they lose the two best players in their secondary in McNally and Sherman. They also lose monster NT Ekom Udofia and LB Will Powers.
Imagine Stanford without Toby Gerhart in 2009. How competitive would this team have been? Gerhart is a generational talent who the Cards won't be able to replace. Harbaugh continues to bring in solid recruiting classes so the Tree will be an improved team. The questions are will Andrew Luck be able to pick up enough of the slack in 2010 for the Stanford offense to be a factor? Can Stanford find an adequate replacement for Gerhart?
6. Washington Offense - 9 - Defense - 7
The Huskies lose Ossai and Homer from the offense. On defense they lose Butler and Savannah at LB plus Jones and Teo Nesheim on the DL. Jones was more of a spot starter because of injuries and the same can be said of Savannah who will petition for a 6th year.
The Huskies have some good returning at the offensive skill positions but they are in year one of rebuilding the offensive line because Sark couldn't find any to sign in year one. It will take at least two years of development until this highly rated OL class is ready to contribute. The only big question on offense is if Jake Locker will return. If he does UW should go to a bowl in 2010. If he doesn't it will set the program back a year or two.
Defensively Washington played a lot of young players in 2010. They also have a lot of talent coming in with the next class which should alleviate depth concerns. Washington will be improved on defense next season even though the losses of Teo Nesheim and Butler will be felt.
If Jake Locker doesn't come back the Huskies would fall to eighth in my early predictions. Not much of a fall but the difference between making or not making a bowl game in 2010 unless a miracle happens at QB.
7. Arizona - 5 Offense - Defense - 4
The Wildcats lose WR Terrell Turner, FB Chris Gronksowski, and most of their offensive line. On defense they lose half the defensive line and all three of their starting LB's. They also lose two starters in the secondary.
Thank god for Nick Foles and Nic Grigsby because this team is going to need them next year. Arizona and ASU are really the only team in the conference doing a major rebuild from an attrition standpoint next season. If TE Rob Gronkowski returns it will be another big plus.
8. UCLA - 8 Offense - Defense - 7
The Bruins lose FB Chane Moline, WR Terrance Austin, and TE Logan Paulsen on offense. Defensively they lose the Bosworth twins and Reggie Carter at the LB spots. Alteraun Verner is always leaving at CB. You can count on Rick Neuheisel to continue bringing in new talent from the recruiting trail. There are some losses on defense but the Bruins have the talent to fill the holes coming back or coming in. T
The big questions are on offense. Can the Bruins develop an adequate starting QB to go along with an adequate running game in 2010. It all starts on the offensive line. Has Rick built up enough talent and depth here to make a difference on the OL in 2010?
9. Arizona State - 2 Offense - Defense - 5
The Sun Devils are in trouble unless Dennis Erickson can plug some major holes immediately. On offense they lose three starting linemen along with the TE, WR's, RB, HB, and QB. As bad as they were on offense maybe starting over is a better idea.
On defense they lose DE Dexter Davis, LB Travis Goethel, LB Mike Nixon, and 3/4's of the secondary. The defense was the only spark the Devils had last year so this is a major area of concern.
Erickson starts 2010 on the hot seat for the first time as a college coach. He really needs to hit the JV trail this off season to have a chance to get this team near .500 in 2010. I don't think he can get it done in the time he probably has left. Breaking in a new QB won't help matters.
10. Washington State - 8 - Offense - Defense 9
On offense the Cougars lose QB Kevin Lopina, RB Dwight Tardy, C Kenny Alfred, and TE Tony Thompson. On defense they lose LB Andy Mattingly and Safety Xavier Hicks.
The good news is that everyone who matters is coming back. The bad news is that really nobody on this roster matters at this point. WSU needs a massive influx of talent to climb out the basement. Wulff needs to put together a remarkable recruiting class this off season or he isn't going to make it out of Pullman alive next season.