For the final BCS Conference preview we head out West. And in a huge shocker we choose USC to take the title. Despite the sliding kneecaps and the loss of more talent, Pete Carroll and crew should take the Pac-10 title and compete for a spot in the BCS title game. It will not be as glamorous as years past with the absolutely dominating performances, but USC is simply more talented than their opponents with the exception possibly of Ohio State. The stumbles the Trojans had last year including the inexplicable loss to Stanford and Jim Harbaugh at home, and a loss in Eugene to Oregon fuel the fire for this year. They have a similar chip on their shoulder to Georgia in that both teams were playing better than anyone in the country at the end of last year, but while Georgia’s case was shot down by not winning their Conference, USC could not overcome a loss to the trees. There might be a few close contests in the mix, but the Trojans should once again be champs of the Pac-10.
Of course we must give a nod to the September 13th match-up with Ohio State. It will be a game of epic proportions and I think it will be more the margin of victory than who wins the game that will be the most important result to take away from the game. Offensively, the Trojans will lean on their running backs and why not? They have plenty of depth at the position, a sturdy offensive line, and look for Joe McKnight to take off this year behind center Kris O’Dowd and company. I have a feeling USC will muscle defenses around in conference this year. The oft overlooked USC defense will be the backbone of the team. This version of the Trojan army should be more of a grinding team led by staunch linebacker play of Brian Cushing. Right now it appears that Sanchez will be able to play behind center. As long as he or whoever is taking snaps can stay clean and avoid big mistakes, the Trojans should roll in Conference play.
Their main competition should come from Arizona State. Somehow Dennis Erickson has been washed clean of the mess he left at Miami. It is now but a distant memory and he has had work ever since, bouncing around in the NFL and Oregon State. Last season the Sun Devils had a surprisingly good year, and even had thoughts of winning the Pac 10 until USC beat them at home. I see this year’s team winning the games they are supposed to, but I think Georgia is seeing their match-up with the Devils in Tempe on September 20th, as a statement game and the Devils have not won a big game in a while. Quarterback Sam Carpenter adds new true freshman wideout Gerell Robinson to the offensive attack, but it may be the defense which proves to be the Achilles heel. Oregon came into this season ranked 20th in the coaches poll but if there were questions as to how the team would do without Dennis Dixon or Jonathan Stewart, it was put to the side after the tragic drowning of redshirt safety Todd Doxley. The running game should be fine with Jeremiah Johnson, but questions at QB for a spread offense are never a good thing. He has accomplished a lot already but I think we will really see a gritty coaching performance by Mike Belotti this year. I was expecting UCLA to over perform this year, but with Ben Olson out for two months, the Bruins might be in too deep of a hole by the time they return. I’m sure Phillip Fulmer would be doing cartwheels if he was physically able after learning that UCLA will be sans Olsen for their match-up. The rest of the Pac10 will duke it out as always, but I think the axe will fall on Willingham in Washington this year unless they win a bowl game.
Pac 10 picks
Conference Champion: USC
Below Expectations: Washington, Oregon
Above Expectations: Oregon State, Washington State
Player to watch: Joe Mcknight, RB, USC
Game to watch: Arizona State @ USC, October 11th