I finally finished my reviews of every team we play this year and while it became a little repetitive as time went on the goal was to give you something to read each day during June, and July which are usually a pretty slow time for college football news.
My friend Nathan Ware and his Seattle PI blog should be back in action this week. I imagine we will get going with another edition of Backtalk soon after practice begins. For those of you who wondered what happened to Nathan the answer is that he takes off the time between the end of spring football and fall camp to take a mental break. Don't worry he is still out there ready to crank plenty of good information.
Sports Blog Nation
It looks looks like we are going to be joining the Sports Blog Nation Network in a few days. This will bring a few changes such as a new web address, and a lot more tools we can use to effectively blog quite a bit better with.
We will be joining Bruins Nation, Addicted to Quack, and my friend Jake at Building the Dam among others. What the readers get is a better resource of overall football information and networking through the network.
I get a little more credibility by using that format since the bloggers at SBN have been deemed to be some of the very best in the country.
When the change is made I will post the new address, and instructions on this site which won't be going dark because we have such a large archive of stuff over here since this blog is now entering its third season commenting on Husky athletics.
Predicted Pac Ten Standings
USC and Oregon are the class of the league this season followed by Arizona State. After that you have a crap shoot between California, Washington, Oregon State, UCLA, and Arizona scrambling for an upper division finish. You just may just be able to include Stanford in that group if they develop a QB, and stay healthy. The Cardinal are definitely on the upswing, and Harbaugh is proving he can recruit with the very best of them. He is quietly putting together a very strong class for 2009. I predict WSU will bring up the rear in 2008, but it isn't like this team is devoid of talent, however lack of depth will be a factor.
1. Southern California....Surprise! I am picking the Trojans to win the conference this year and contend for a national title. That doesn't mean I didn't strongly consider Oregon, the Ducks could end up being very good. My main concern about the Trojans is declining offensive production which has been happening the last couple of years. They have the talent to reverse that, but I'm not convinced that Mark Sanchez will be the equal to Booty, who wasn't the equal of Leinhart, and Palmer. On defense this team will be awesome and led by the best safeties, and linebackers in the country. We are talking maybe four first round draft choices on this defense. USC could win a lot of games just with the defense so maybe the decline in offense if it continues won't hurt them.
2. Oregon....I almost picked the Ducks to win the Pac Ten. I think the Ducks have a better offensive line than USC, and have equal quality at the skill positions. Even though Costa is unproven he may end up being better than Dixon before he leaves. On defense I have to take Oregon up front, and at cornerback. USC has much better LB's, and even though the Ducks have safety Patrick Chung the Trojans have a couple of kids that may be slightly better. If Costa clicks like insiders say he can this could be the Ducks year. Surprisingly one of the biggest obstacles may be the opener with Washington because Costa won't be settled in yet.
3. Arizona State....Dennis Erickson exceeded expectations with his 2007 squad, but he has been doing that his entire career. You will never confuse Rudy Carpenter with a Peyton Manning, but this kid has a lot of moxie and knows how to win. He was just creamed on a hit by Washington near the end of the first half in Tempe last year and he bounced back up and just dared the Husky offense to try it again. They didn't, and in the second half the team made the correct adjustments on defense and blew UW out of the water. Well coached teams do that, and ASU is a very well coached team. Erickson may be the best coach in the conference when it comes to making second half adjustments.
4. California....The Bears were ugly in the second half of last season and they folded losing to teams like Washington, and Stanford. Nate Longshore took the brunt of the criticism, and the team graduated a lot of NFL quality talent at the skill positions. Longshore will likely share time with Kevin Riley this season until the Bears find out who makes the offense click the best. This team is similar to Washington in 2008, they have a veteran QB, a very good offensive line, and inexperienced talent at the skill positions. On defense they have a crew of LB's that are second only to USC on paper. They are filling holes with good talent in the defensive backfield, and the defensive line. The Bears can challenge this year if the injury bug doesn't bite, and the play at QB rebounds. The second half collapse was troubling, and it was obvious that Tedford lost his team. Jeff is a top notch coach and he will be out to prove that 2007 was an aberration.
5. Washington....Jake Locker is the most talented QB in the league, and it is expected he will make the quantum leap talented young QB's make in their second year. UW's offense was very good in the second half of 2007, but you may not have noticed because the defense was so atrocious. The Huskies have young unproven talent at the skill positions, but they have recruited well enough to expect some stars to emerge. The offensive line is one of the best in the Pac Ten which will give the mobile Locker time to throw, and the young RB's room to run. Defense is the big question and the Huskies looked like a different team this spring under new DC Ed Donatell. UW has an excellent corp of LB's, and most importantly has developed the depth, and talent to compete in the defensive backfield. Up front questions linger in the interior of the DL, but most of the Pac Ten has the same problem going in to 2008. Washington will try to plug that hole with 290 lb Johnnie Kirton who is moving over from TE, true freshman Senio Kelemente, and the massive 340lb Alameda Ta'amu.
6. Oregon State....The Beavers have had one the better defenses in the country over the past few years. They have to replace most of that defense in 2008 but they will probably be better than most people think. I love the potential of their defensive line. They have better than adequate talent in the defensive backfield. The question mark is at LB where the Beavers will be going with three new starters. Offensively the Beaver have the best WR's on paper in the conference, plus the cupboard isn't bare at RB even though Bernard has graduated. JC DE Simi Kuli who was supposed to come in and make an immediate impact will possibly sit out this season because he has yet to qualify. The question mark is the trigger man, I just don't have faith in their QB's, and I think the defense will fall off enough that they won't be able to make up for it in 2008. Everyone discounts the Beavers, and every season the Beavers defy the odds and finish in the first division. There isn't much separation between Cal, UW, and OSU this year, so it may happen again.
7. Arizona....Everyone loves Willie Tuitama and the offense. The Wildcats are going to put up plenty of points in 2008, perhaps enough points to save Mike Stoops job and go to a bowl. Grigsby is a fine young running back, and the receivers led by Thomas are talented, and deep. The problem is they will have one of the worst projected defenses in the Pac Ten. On paper I just don't see them stopping anyone. If you remember the UW/UA game last season it didn't matter that they couldn't stop UW, they simply outscored them in the 4th quarter. I think for the Wildcats to make a move in 2008 they are going to need to overachieve on defense. Give this team a middle of the road defense and they are a sure bowl team. Stoops is on the hot seat, but many people forget the mess the program was in when he took it over. the non conference schedule ids very kind to this team in 2008. So they should be able to start off 3-0 which means a bowl game is likely.
8. UCLA....Neuheisel, Chow, and Walker are going to get it done in a couple years, but this team has too major holes in too many places. UCLA faithful hope that Chow, and Neu can work their magic on Olson, but Ben is pretty fragile, and he will be playing behind an offensive line that is going to give up a lot of sacks. Defensively the Bruins should be OK up front, but they need to work on the pass defense, and find some depth at DE. The UCLA defense has the potential to give up way to many yards through the air. The Bruins are famous for folding in the second half of the season no matter how strong they start. That attitude could still be a problem after the team skipped a practice this spring which had to be extremely frustrating for the new coaches. Neuheisel has his work cut out in 2008, but he is an excellent game day coach so winning against the odds is something he can accomplish.
9. Stanford....It is very fashionable to automatically reserve the cellar for the Cardinal, but this team is seriously rebuilding. Just ask USC, and California, these guys come out ready to play each game. If you don't take them seriously you just might end up on the wrong side of the scoreboard. They are still a couple of years away, but Harbaugh is going to get them there, and they have a defense that will only get better. Offensively they have work to do score enough points to keep up with the rest of the Pac Ten. If a QB emerges they could make some noise they could move up in the standings. Depth will continue to be a huge concern, but things are getting better on the farm. I wouldn't be surprised to see them pass by UCLA in 2008. If this team can stay healthy all season they may surprise. This team could be the leagues defensive surprise in 2008, but they are probably still too far away on offense to seriously contend.
10. WSU....The Cougars as usual have the ability to put points on the board. Unfortunately they also have the ability to give up way too many. The defense has to be rebuilt before this team can start climbing back up the ladder. Paul Wullf is a talented young coach, but academic sanctions, and a dismal recruiting class are going to hold him back for a couple of years. Some of this teams best players have had serious legal troubles over the past year. Wulff has a lot of work to do to change the culture. The Cougars do have some talented receivers led by Gibson, and if Dwight Tardy returns healthy they have a viable threat at running back. Depth is going to be a problem almost everywhere, so if injuries mount it could get ugly.