BC Tailgate, your official home for college Blogcritics’ football news, rants, and riffs. Every conference is covered — we don't play favorites to the big boys.
ACC by Ben Miraski
Big East by Dan McGowan
Big Ten by Geeves
Big XII by Ben Miraski
Conference USA by Dan McGowan
MAC by Brian Szabelski
Pac 10 by Geeves
SEC by Josh Hathaway
WAC by Brian Szabelski
USCCoach: Pete Carroll
2007: 11-2 overall, 7-2 in the Pac-10 (T-1st).Head of the Class – USC is much like one of those terrible slasher flicks where the poor, hapless victims throw everything but the kitchen sink, enough to kill any reasonably constructed human being several times over, but the dude in the mask just won’t die. Restocked with enough talent to field split-squad national championship teams, the team is its usual title contender self.Underachievers – Some small chinks may have appeared. QB Mark Sanchez, continuint the long USC trend of guys finally getting to start in their senior year, dislocated his kneecap earlier in camp, but will likely only have to miss the opener against Virginia. RB CJ Gable injured his hip and is out indefinitely, but it isn’t like there aren’t a half-dozen guys waiting to step in his shoes.Academic Suspension – USC had neither a 1,000 yard rusher nor a 1,000 yard receiver for the first time in six years last season, and they have enough unproven talent that the feat might be repeated. However, they do have plenty of talent, plus all of their hardest opponents at home, so it’s hard to find fault with this monster. UCLACoach: Rick Neuheisel
2007: 6-7 overall, 5-4 in the Pac-10 (T-4th)Head of the Class – The Golden Boy has officially returned home. Rick Neuheisel is one of the best-known UCLA quarterbacks in history, and was one of the better coaches in the conference until Washington screwed him out of a job. His offensive brain, plus the brilliant addition of former USC Trojan and Tennessee Titan offensive coordinator Norm Chow, will be a huge boost for the team, which already has one of the best defenses in the country Underachievers – That offense wasn’t so much terrible last season as it was completely incapable of staying healthy. If they can manage that this season, they could do some serious damage within the conference, with five of their first seven games at home.Academic Suspension – A little bit of shine came off those gold helmets when expected starter Ben Olsen went down with an ankle injury that will cause him to miss the first three and possibly four games of the regular season. The first two games against Tennessee and BYU will say a lot about what the team is capable of, with or without Olsen Arizona StateCoach: Dennis Erickson
2007: 10-3 overall, 7-2 in the Pac-10 (T-1st)Head of the Class – Rudy Carpenter is still the man under center, which should have most of the teams on ASU’s schedule very worried. Add onto that one of the deepest receiving corps in the country, let alone the conference, and big numbers could be had by all.Underachievers – The defense didn’t lose a ton of starters, but they did lose their best starter in defensive tackle Michael Marquardt. If the defensive line is unable to pick up his slack in generating pressure, a good but not great defensive back end could be exposed all over again.Academic Suspension – Arizona State had the year they had last year in spite of Carpenter being sacked the third most in all of Division I. With only two returning starters on this year’s line, it would be difficult to expect an improvement, so I sure hope this offense isn’t built on any kind of timing. ArizonaCoach: Mike Stoops
2007: 5-7 overall, 4-5 in the Pac-10 (6th).
Head of the Class – QB Willie Tuitama gets one last year to shine, and it could be fun to watch. He averaged 307 yards and two touchdowns per game last season, and he only lost one offensive starter in the off-season. Arizona has finally joined the big boys in the offense heavy Pac-10.Underachievers – The defense will definitely be either better or worse than last year. There is some talent, but there is no depth on the defensive line, and they’re all new starters – as are two of the three linebackers. Don’t expect great things from Arizona’s run defense. Academic Suspension – Only time will tell with this squad. Mike Stoops is probably on a short leash, and might get choked out of Arizona if there’s yet another bowl-less year for the Cats. That’s perhaps a bit harsh considering the scrap heap of a team he inherited from John Mackovic, but folks do like to win these days. They’re a decent bet to at least post a winning season, but is that enough? OregonCoach: Mike Bellotti
2007: 9-4 overall, 5-4 in the Pac-10 (T-4th)Head of the Class – A majority of last year’s talented and opportunistic defense returns, and the rest of the conference can be none too thrilled about that. Theteam lost some starters, but they still have the horses to be a legit conference title factor.Underachievers – Welcome to year two of the “Offense That Lit the World On Fire Until Dennis Dixon Blew Out His Knee.” The offense won’t be as bad as the tail end of last year now that they’ve had a chance to adjust the scheme to the personnel, but with no QB as agile as Dixon, it still won’t be quite the same.Academic Suspension – As usual, nothing about this team will ever be as wretched as their uniforms. One could argue that they lost just enough talent at just the wrong positions (quarterback, pass-rushing end) to bump them down a notch and out of contention, but a very favorable schedule should have them 5-0 headed into their Oct. 4th game against USC. Oregon StateCoach: Mike Riley
2007: 9-4 overall, 6-3 in the Pac-10 (3rd)Head of the Class – The team’s best receiver, Sammie Stroughter, comes back this year after missing ten games last season with personal problems and then a lacerated kidney. He gets to do his senior season over again, and has every intention of making it a memorable one. Oregon State’s offense is no doubt thrilled.Underachievers – The defense was pretty good last season, but that’s completely irrelevant, because the entire front seven has turned over with new starters. I guess this means that an experienced secondary can cover for some of the big plays the front seven is bound to give up.Academic Suspension – A rough early schedule could end things before they start with a team that will need a little time to jell. Three road games in their first five, including matchups against USC and on the road versus Penn State and Utah will give this team either a good head start or an insurmountable road block. WashingtonCoach: Tyrone Willingham
2007: 4-9 overall, 2-7 in the Pac-10 (10th).
Head of the Class – QB Jake Locker is the man for the Huskies once again. Strong arm, good scrambling ability, can take off and run on his own. He has all the tools any coach could hope for and will carry this team.Underachievers – Locker could be carrying a very heavy load. His four best receivers from last year are gone, and a defense that was quite terrible last year only returns a few starters. This could be a blessing or a curse for Washington, a chance to start fresh, or too much inexperience leading to more of the same.Academic Suspension – This team continues to slowly get better under Willingham, but that isn’t enough for some folks. Having to open their season on the road against a much better Oregon team, followed by non-conference games against BYU and Oklahoma, plus road games at Cal and USC could mean an ugly year for the Huskies and a new coach by the end of the season. Washington StateCoach: Paul Wulff
2007: 5-7 overall, 3-6 in the Pac-10 (T-7th).
Head of the Class – Here we have another alum returning home in Wulff, formerly the head coach at Eastern Washington, an FCS school. He was most well known for running a no-huddle spread offense that kept opponents off-balance to the tune of roughly 460 yards and 30+ points per game last year. Underachievers – The defense has an excellent, sure-handed, experienced linebacking corps…and not much else to speak of. The secondary wasn’t very good and isn’t going to change personnel much, so we’ll see what Wulff’s new cocktail churns out.Academic Suspension – Wazzu is coming out of the Alex Brink era, so there shall be no ‘leading passer in school history’ under center. That’s either great or terrible, depending on your opinion of talented player vs. system quarterback. The new guy is tall (6’ 6”) and agile, but he’s learning a completely new system, and those growing pains might make for at least one difficult year for the Cougars. CalCoach: Jeff Tedford
2007: 7-6 overall, 3-6 in the Pac-10 (T-7th)Head of the Class – Jeff Tedford won’t be calling the offensive plays this season. Seriously. He promises. He brought in Frank Cignetti, who spent last season as the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach, to run the offense as coordinator. I’ll hold back on the Alex Smith jokes for now.Underachievers – Another big change for the team is the shift from a 4-3 defensive scheme to a 3-4. This is, of course, simultaneously because they have an insanely talented linebacking corps and a seriously underwhelming defensive line. They have enough talent to not get blown off the ball, but losing five yards at a time doesn’t suck any less than losing 20 yards at a time. Academic Suspension – You think of the success Tedford has had at Cal and want to give him the benefit of the doubt, and then you remember that this team had to win their bowl game against Air Force (barely) to finish with a winning record last year. With a relatively easy non-conference slate and every good Pac-10 team except USC visiting Berkeley, this should be a better year, but a lot of new starters could mean otherwise. StanfordCoach: Jim Harbaugh
2007: 4-8 overall, 3-6 in the Pac-10 (T-7th).
Head of the Class – The defense is strong. It wouldn’t be stretch to wind up seeing this be one of the three best defenses in the conference by the end of the season. They return most of their strong defense from last season, including lineman Pannel Egboh, who is pretty much the reason they upset USC last year.Underachievers – Then again, “possibly the best defense of the decade’ on a team that’s regularly in the lower third of Division I is more a moral victory than an actual one, so we will see. The offense also lost its two best receivers and hasn’t received a significant upgrade at tailback, so there could be issues with keeping that defense fresh, especially against the better teams on their schedule.
Academic Suspension – Speaking of that schedule, this team catches no breaks. They play a measly five home games (the only D-I team with that few) and will wind up having traveled almost 10,000 miles by the time they play their third home game of the season and their schedule starts to settle a bit. That amount of travel might crush even a much better team than this one, so temper your expectations.
Bold Prediction: USC will likely take the conference, but there's a definite storm brewing right behind them. UCLA, Arizona State, Cal, and Oregon will all finish the season in the top 25 and the end-of-season rivalry matchups will decide at least one major bowl berth.
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