The potential fall of Troy; the wealth of quarterback talent; another big Civil War on the horizon: In short, Al Dannity says the Pac-10 is loaded with stories heading into 2010.
There’s that small matter of USC
Three Pac-10 teams made the Sports Interaction Preseason Top 25 but of the seven that didn’t, one stood out above all the rest. The USC Trojans enter 2010 with probably more questions than any other team in the Pac-10. After going 5-4 in conference play last year, Southern Cal finds itself breaking in a new coach and under the weight of NCAA sanctions. The Trojans will lose 30 scholarships over the next three seasons, and even felt the sting in this year’s unsanctioned class when Seantrel Henderson de-committed.
On top of this USC is banned from going to bowl games for the next two seasons, meaning that even the best record in the Pac-10 will prevent Lane Kiffin from taking his team to the Rose Bowl anytime soon. The Trojans will still play 13 games in 2010 thanks to a road trip to Hawaii earning them an extra home game. I like USC to go 9-4 in 2010.
Quarterbacks lead resurgent old powers
Stanford is placing its faith in Andrew Luck to bring the Cardinal to its first Rose Bowl since 2000. After last season’s 55-21 rout of the Trojans, hopes are high that the Cardinal can keep on rolling in 2010. Luck, who showed flashes of brilliance in 2009, will shoulder most of the workload this year. With Toby Gerhart gone to the NFL, Stanford’s passing game should open up this season, with potentially spectacular results.
Jake Locker is under even more pressure at quarterback in Washington. The Huskies’ signal-caller is a Heisman candidate and the best hope for Washington to end its eight year bowl drought. Locker and Luck are the elite of undoubtedly the deepest group of quarterbacks in any conference. Arizona’s Nick Foles and USC’s Matt Barkley could both have big seasons, while Cal’s Kevin Riley, UCLA’s Kevin Prince, and Washington State’s Jeff Tuel are all returning starters.
Civil War to highlight dramatic run-in
Despite the arms race across the conference, I expect the Pac-10 title to come down to a game between two teams replacing their starting quarterbacks in 2010. Oregon and Oregon State have more depth than their counterparts across the board. Just like last year, the trip to Pasadena should get decided in the Civil War. I like Oregon State, at +350 with Sports Interaction, to claim the outright title and book a trip to the Rose Bowl. USC’s sanctions could reduce the total number of Pac-10 teams that go bowling this season. I like Oregon, Arizona, Stanford, Washington, and Cal to all join the Beavers in the post-season. I rate Cal lower than UCLA in the conference but the Bruins’ non-conference slate will probably keep them from hitting the crucial 6 win mark.