Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pac Ten Alley

Ted Miller is one of the most knowledgeable college football writers in the country. He is usually pretty dead on with his observations. I was hoping for a little more sunshine from him, but what you see is what you get.

The other day this Washington fan, demonstrating remarkable forbearance, told me he didn't expect Baby Jesus, er, quarterback Jake Locker to instantaneously transform the Huskies into a national title contender. This guy said he'd be -- sigh -- reasonably satisfied with "seven or eight wins and a decent bowl game."He expected a response, but it seemed best to bury my face in a foamy mug of Leffe Triple. Time out for wisdom: If you can't think of anything nice to say, just gulp your beer.

Miller does offer a ray of hope, and that is the Defense is due to be the best it has been over the past five years. Just how much better it is depends on how well the young talent meshes in the defensive backfield during pre season camp. We look strong, deep, and experienced up front. We have the best set of LB's with the best set of tools since Lambo was here.

UW opens with Syracuse, Boise State, Ohio State, UCLA, USC, and California. They will be probably only favored in one of those games, and even an improved Washington team could start off the season 1-5. Following that are Arizona State, Oregon, Arizona, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington State, and Hawaii. You can easily see that on the downside the Huskies will be lucky to win 4-5 games.

On the upside Washington splits it's first six games getting by Syracuse, Boise, and UCLA. We went down to the last play with USC, and California last year, and Ohio State is actually rebuilding a bit, so you hope we are now capable of playing against these perennial top ten clubs.

On the back half of the season we have a good chance to knock off Arizona, Stanford, and WSU. Hawaii was pretty good last year, and they are going to be pretty good again, but we should be at a point when we can beat the best in the WAC.

Oregon has beaten us soundly the past two years, there is a gap, but the Duck's return to Husky Stadium for the first time in years, so anything can happen. We play ASU on the road, and you can expect that Erickson will have his team whipped into shape. Still we should be able to play with the Devils. Oregon St had a great season last year, they finished strong, but we should be able to compete with them too.

I think it is easy to look at the negative, especially if you are betting a little money, but I think this team can win eight ballgames next season. The opportunity is there, and I really believe Willingham is going to field a team that is going to get better every week.

The key to this season will be our defense giving our offense enough time to get better every week because I think we are going to be pretty good by the end of the season. The 2007 team is still in a rebuilding phase, but a rebuilding phase with a serious possibility of upside.

2008 is the year I think it is all going to come together for this program. With an exceptional in state class headed this way most of the holes on the roster should be filled, and 90% of the team will be made up of Willingham's players.

Pac Ten Alley

The rich keep getting richer at USC.

Quarterback Mitch Mustain, who started eight games for Arkansas last season, will transfer to USC, a source said Wednesday. Mustain, 6 feet 3 and 205 pounds, had been contemplating transferring to either USC or Tulsa. He visited USC in February and also watched the Trojans scrimmage at the Coliseum this month. Mustain could not be reached for comment. Coach Pete Carroll declined to comment.

The tree sitting protest continues at Berkeley.

A team of noted San Francisco criminal lawyers has taken on the case of Zachary Running Wolf, one of several environmental activists who have been sitting high up in a grove of oak trees at the University of California, Berkeley in an attempt to block a sports complex the university plans to build on the site.

It is still all baseball this Spring at OSU, but the Beavers have some work to do.

The Beavers travel down the road to play the Pilots this afternoon. Daniel Turpen will get the start for the Beavers, trying to rebound from some shaky outings his last few times out. The Pilots will go with Right hander Danny Meier.

Oregon's offense starts to click as the Duck's head into the last week of practice.

Oregon’s offense ran for two touchdowns and threw for two others, as the unit finally began to look comfortable under new coordinator Chip Kelly. Dennis Dixon completed a five-yard scoring pass to Jaison Williams on the first possession for the first string. Brian Paysinger took a pitch and ran 41 yards for a touchdown, Andiel Brown ran for a 29-yard score and Nathan Costa threw a pretty 25-yard touchdown pass to Rory Cavaille.

UCLA has a less than impressive venue for their spring game.

But think about it -- the whole point of the spring scrimmage is to promote the team, to put on a show for the fans. It's not for the benefit of the coaches or the players, they could get just as much done (or more) with a scrimmage done in front of empty stands. As a practice, the scrimmage is no more effective than any other practice. But as a way to promote the team, as a way to build good will, as a way to show off the new product and create a buzz, maybe some enthusiasm -- it's a great opportunity. Now, it's a missed opportunity.

The Cougars lose a key player on defense. not a lot of noise coming out of Pullman this Spring.

Washington State's Lance Broadus, a starting defensive end, had surgery on his left shoulder Tuesday and might miss some games early in the football season.

Arizona wrapped up Spring practice last week.

Arizona wrapped up most of its spring work with a 90-play scrimmage Saturday afternoon that had enough good things on both sides to impress coaches, notably the head man. "It was a good scrimmage, and I was pleased with our workouts all spring. We have a chance to spread things out with looks and the different parts of the offense we can utilize," head coach Mike Stoops said. "Overall I'm really pleased. (Quarterback) Willie (Tuitama) is getting a good grasp of the offense. We need to get bigger and stronger up front. If we do that, it can be a good season for us," he said.

Stanford seems to be bouncing back a bit this Spring under coach Harbaugh.

I went to Stanford Stadium on Saturday to see how the Cardinal looked under new coach Jim Harbaugh. My early evaluation: The offense that averaged about 10 points per game last season played pretty well; the defense that yielded more than 30 per game did not. Before the second stringers even played a down, the offense had reached the end zone three times without being stopped.

A parting shot to ex Sun Devil Basketball Coach Rob Evans.

The University of Arkansas is obviously too distracted by Las Chronicas Locas De Boss Hawg to do any research on their new assistant, for if they did they might reconsider. In the AP write-up, Evans doesn't even have any career achievements listed from his last seven years of coaching, all of which happened to take place at ASU.

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