It is Pac 10 Media Day!
So this is a logical time to come out with my predicted finish for the upcoming Pac 10 football season. Remember, you heard it here first!
I am going to start by going out on a limb and picking USC as number one. Wow...who'd have thunk it? While the Trojans have holes to fill, they do so with well-prepared former high school All Americans. I believe they will beat Ohio State, an early major non-conference match-up, but I also believe the Trojans will lose one or two they shouldn't, preventing them from winning a national championship.
Two seasons ago, Washington pummeled a heavily-favored California team in a late-season home game. For the first time, as the Bears began a late season cave-in, coach Jeff Teford was losing touch with his team. In 2008, however, the Golden Bears went a long way toward resolving these issues, and in '09 I expect Cal to compete with USC for the league championship.
This would be a great opportunity to predict a down season at Oregon State. However, a problem with such a prediction: the Beavers still have two of the most dynamic performers in the conference on offense in the Rodgers brothers. Furthermore, coach Mike Riley has demonstrated time and again his ability to reload with under-the-radar talent and remain in the conference's upper echelon.
In my humble mind, the Oregon Ducks are 2009's Pac 10 mystery team. To begin with, coaching changes nearly always bring about a lingering "hangover". Furthermore, the Ducks have some major holes to fill after hits on both lines and the defensive backfield from graduation. Despite this, recent history tells us that we can pencil the Ducks in for 7-8 wins, depending on how quickly the team comes together.
Stanford is a program on the rise under Coach Jim Harbaugh. He has recruited well and has his athletes believing in his system. Most experts agree that they will finish in the upper division and go to a bowl. I agree.
ASU was the league's enigma in 2008, and simply weren't a very good team when all was said and done. The team had problems which even Coach Erickson couldn't solve, and now are starting all over at QB. Erickson is an excellent coach who can seemingly perform miracles, but I believe this team is at least year away from contending for a championship.
Most Pac 10 beat writers predict a ninth-place for Washington in 2009. While it's reasonable to assume an 0-12 team with a new coach, coming off a lackluster and hastily put-together recruiting class, isn't going to improve dramatically in year one, I am hedging my bet on the Huskies this season. I believe it is fair to place last year's disaster on the injury to Jake Locker and the lame-duck status of Coach Willingham; the team and the coach's fates were sealed when Locker when down in week four. It is fair to say with a healthy Locker, UW would have won 3-4 games in 2008, as the BYU, ASU, UCLA, and WSU games were all very winnable.
So, going in to 2009 I predict Washington will surprise and finish around .500, a major feat for Steve Sarkisian to achieve in his first season. Conditioning, attitude, experience, emotion, and coaching have all been elevated several notches. That said, I predict a 6-6 season for the Huskies and a trip to a lower-tier bowl game.
Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times went out on a limb also by picking the the Huskies to finish ninth. Even with his bumm knee he may just be a little more connected to the program than I am. I respect his opinion and Bob actually gets paid well for doing this type of stuff so it isn't like he is going to risk his reputation by picking the Huskies 7th or 8th. I love you Bob but grow some hair for crying out loud!
UCLA is breaking in a new QB and that position has caused a lot of woes for the Bruins the pat two years. I don't think that is going to change in 2009 and the Bruins will struggle to attain .500 despite the making of good defense.
Next up is Arizona. The Wildcats will be breaking in a new QB and have many holes to fill. I don't see coach Mike Stoops and company moving into the league's upper division this fall, not do I predict a bowl game for the Tucson faithful.
Last (and certainly least) are the Cougars of Washington State, having more problems entering 2009 than I can write in a single paragraph. I simply don't see the Cougs beating anyone this year. It is going to take some solid recruiting classes and a coaching change to clean this mess up.
2009 Pac Ten Predictions
- Southern California (11-1) Rose Bowl
- California (9-3) Holiday Bowl
- Oregon State (8-4) Sun Bowl
- Oregon (7-5) Las Vegas Bowl
- Stanford (7-5) Emerald Bowl
- Arizona State (6-6) Poinsettia Bowl
- Washington (6-6) At Large
- UCLA (4-8)
- Arizona (3-9)
- Washington State (0-12)