Ranking the Pac-10, or any conference, by position in the preseason is one of those less than meaningful pursuits that most of the media goes through as we approach the college football season.
The teams with the most returning talent get ranked higher than the teams with the less experienced talent. Not a lot of brain surgery salad going on here.
The joy of college sports is change, and change happens every season. USC always gets rewarded because it is a given that they are refilling spots with High School All-Americans.
A team like Washington gets penalized even though they are currently replacing lesser talent with greater, but less experienced talent in the skill positions. To get the respect of the media, you need to win some games.
The kids with no experience are always discounted, and rightly so, but they can be the difference makers that turn losers into winners. It really doesn't matter in the preseason because it all shakes out as the season goes on.
Overall Offensive Team Ratings
The team with the best defense will win the conference title in 2008, but having the fourth-best offense could hurt the Trojans in 2008. I put Washington in the middle this year with Jake Locker at the helm surrounded by an unknown cast of talented newcomers.
The Ducks may have a new QB, but they have the best offensive line, and debatably the best stable of running backs in the Pac-10.
I think everyone is overrating California by prior reputation. The Bears are very similar to UW, and behind at QB. Nate Longshore really has to rebound in 2008 for the Bears to excel.
- Oregon...The Ducks have all the tools if Costa clicks at QB.
- Arizona...Tuitama has a decent offensive line, great receivers, and an All-American tight end.
- Arizona State...Erickson is an offensive genius, and he has the best QB in the Pac-10. The offensive line is the Achilles' heel of this outfit.
- USC...The Trojans have been declining in offense, and a suspect offensive line could stifle the running game. Despite that, they have exceptional skill guys and depth at QB.
- Washington...You have Jake Locker, a very good offensive line, and talent at the skill positions that needs to mature.
- Washington State...The Cougs are loaded at receiver and on the OL, but they are breaking in a new QB.
- California...Longshore is in a slump, and the Bears are rebuilding.
- Oregon State...Problems at QB will knock the Beavers out of a bowl this year.
- UCLA...The Bruins have questions at QB, and a potentially poor offensive line.
- Stanford...The Cardinal needs to put up some points this year to climb out of the basement.
The Pac-10 QB class is average this year, with ASU senior Rudy Carpenter leading the bunch. UW sophomore Jake Locker has the most potential and could have a breakout season that could lead to a Heisman campaign in 2009.
- Arizona State...Rudy Carpenter is probably the best returnee coming in to start the year. With Erickson as a tutor, he will only get better this season. I really like his makeup.
- Washington...I don't think it is going out on a limb to pick Jake Locker at No. 2, since he has more talent than any other QB in the league. His increased accuracy is going to pay off in 2008.
- Arizona...Willie Tuitama has the potential to put up some big numbers in 2008. He has a great stable of receivers.
- USC...The combo of Sanchez and Mustain have some things to prove. USC's offensive numbers have been going down, and neither of these guys is better than Booty. I am not bullish on the USC offense.
- California...Nate Longshore had a poor year in 2007, but most expect him to rebound under Tedford in 2008. I am not so sure. I think Cal is rebuilding and on an even par with UW this year.
- Oregon...I think Nate Costa is going to surprise some people in 2008. If he can stay healthy he may be one of the better QBs by midseason. Oregon has a machine that tends to reload, and the RBs are going to take pressure off the new QB.
- UCLA...Ben Olson has experience, but if Cowan were healthy, he would be No. 2 at UCLA. I don't expect Ben to last the season. Expect him to be knocked out early. I expect when UW plays UCLA, they are down to a walk-on at QB.
- Oregon State...Moevao and Canfield are simply mediocre.
- WSU...Not much known about Rogers until he gets a game or two under his belt. Gary could surprise because he has a lot of skill players around him.
- Stanford...Pritchard beat USC, but he will have to fight to keep his job. The QB situation won't sort itself out until the opener.
As usual, the Pac-10 has some real studs who will be lining up in 2008. USC and Oregon are loaded on paper.
I actually favor the Ducks, since I know what Crenshaw and Johnson can do, but the addition of the powerful J.C. Blount puts them over the top. Joe McKnight at USC could be primed for a big year, but SC hasn't been rushing well lately, and a rebuilding OL could hurt them.
I rank Cal and UW somewhere in the middle. The young kids they have are talented, but they need experience.
- Oregon...Jeremiah Johnson, LaGarette Blount, and Andre Crenshaw add up to one of the best backfields in the nation. They may be as good as the Trojans on paper.
- USC...There is a possibility that every RB on the USC roster could start at any Pac-10 school not named Oregon. The Trojans are loaded and will headline Stafon Johnson and Joe McKnight in 2008.
- ASU...Keegan Herring and Dimitri Nance are very solid, and they put up great numbers in 2007 running behind a less than stellar offensive line. That line returns, but Erickson is a miracle worker.
- UCLA...Kahlil Bell and Raymond Carter will carry most of the load for a Bruin offense that will be challenged in 2008. Bell pounded UW last year in the fourth quarter.
- WSU...Dwight Tardy can be a money back for the Cougs, and they are going to need that with a new QB coming in. The key for WSU is keeping him healthy.
- California...I like Jahvid Best, and if he can stay healthy, he may go over 1,000 yards in 2008. The Bears have plenty of talent waiting to prove itself.
- UW...I think Brandon Johnson will do very well between the tackles running behind a veteran offensive line. Add the speed of Chris Polk and you have a changeup that may surprise teams. Paul Homer is the best FB in the league. UW also has some decent unproven depth that will come to light this season.
- Oregon State...Ryan McCants is a bruiser, and don't forget slotback James Rogers, who can break some big ones. The questions are, can the QB create enough of a diversion, and can the OL open some holes?
- Arizona....Nic Grisby doesn't really impress me that much, but he gained 700 yards last season. Arizona will live on the arm of Tuitama.
- Stanford...Anthony Kimble was very average in 2007, and I expect him to post similar numbers in 2008.
There is always plenty of receiving talent in the Pac Ten every year, but the team with the best bunch of receivers may struggle at QB. The best QB may end up with the best bunch of receivers by the end of the year.
- Oregon State...Darrell Catchings, James Rodgers, and Sammy Stroughter are proven commodities. The only problem will be a QB good enough to get them the ball. The quarterbacking at OSU is very suspect.
- Arizona State...Jones and McGaha return with plenty of depth behind them. Erickson always has kids who can catch the ball, and with the conference's best QB they will put up some numbers.
- Arizona...Mike Thomas leads an experienced crew catching passes from one the better QBs in the West. With Tuitama at the helm, UA can do some damage.
- USC...The Trojans are deep, young, and populated by High School All-Americans who need to show us they can compete. Chances are they will. Keep an eye on Hazleton and Turner.
- Oregon...Jeff Maehl and USC transfer Jamere Holland look good on paper, but the Ducks have some rebuilding to do. Jaison Williams needs to stay healthy in 2008, and if he does, he will be special.
- Washington State...Gibson and Willis looked good this spring, but they need more depth to develop behind them. Gibson may be the best in the Pac-10. We all discount the Cougs with a new coach, but Wulff will get some production with a veteran OL.
- UCLA...Offense is going to be a problem for these guys, and they are going to need to develop some talent behind Everette. Neuheisel and Chow will get it done eventually, but the problems at QB and OL are going to hurt this season.
- Washington....D'Andre Goodwin was the only sure thing to come out of Spring. He will be the go-to man for Locker. Don't discount the addition of Chris Polk and the other young guys. UW has as much talent as anyone—they just need experience.
- California...The Bears are very much like Washington. They are rebuilding the entire unit, but they have the young talent to make considerable progress in 2008.
- Stanford...Richard Sherman is a stud, but the other young guys are going to have to come on in 2008 for Stanford to be respectable.
You have the big three of Gronkowski, Dickson, and Paulsen, followed by a complete crapshoot after that.
- Arizona...Rob Gronkowski is probably the best TE in America going into the 2008 season. He is another big reason why the Arizona offense is going to win enough games in 2008 for Mike Stoops to get an extension.
- Oregon...Ed Dickson is right up there with Gronkowski, and with a new QB who will rely on him in 2008, he is a very good bet to put up some big numbers.
- UCLA...Logan Paulsen will put up big numbers if he can shed the injury bug. His injury last season really hurt the Bruins.
- Oregon State...Howard Croom is a kid that I liked in 2007. He is a dependable receiver who blocks well.
- USC...The Trojans are starting over, but whatever they have on their bench is usually better than most of the starters in league. Keep an eye on Blake Ayles.
- UW...Washington has been in a serious decline at TE. Senior Mike Gottleib, who is simply average, is the only serious returnee. Freshmen Kavario Middleton and Mike Izbicki are going to emerge onto the scene and change all that. The TE position is back at UW if the new kids can block.
- WSU...The Cougs have serious blue-collar depth in addition to senior Devin Frischknecht.
- California...Cameron Morrah should have a good year bailing out Longshore.
- Stanford...Ben Ladner looks like he could make some noise as the Cardinal garbage man.
- Arizona State...The Sun Devils are starting over at this position in 2008. Look for them to go with the kid who can block the best to offset their OL problems.
You can't win without the big uglies, and Oregon has done a great job developing the kids they recruit. If you ever watch them up close, check out the lower bodies on those guys—it is just scary.
Mike Denbrock has done a great job rebuilding the offensive line at Washington, and the Huskies have plenty of depth and experience.
- Oregon...The Ducks have one of the better offensive lines in the country. Unger and Tupou are the anchors of a strong and agile offensive line. Are they as good as Oklahoma? The Huskies will find out early.
- Washington...If Garcia recovers early, this line could be pretty damn good. Even if he doesn't, the Huskies have the depth to make up for it. UW has lots of experience and depth in 2008. Remember, these guys protected Locker well in 2007, and they opened up enough holes to produce a RB who ran for over 1,300 yards.
- California...Alex Mack is one of the best centers in the nation, but the Bears need to replace a tackle and a guard.
- Arizona...The Wildcats bring back four starters from an offensive line that made modest strides, particularly in pass protection. The big void is at left tackle, where all-star Peter Graniello was a four-year starter.
- WSU...The one position of strength for the Cougars will be their offensive line, where they return four starters. Leading the way up front are the junior Kenny Alfred, a member of the Remington Trophy watch list, and the senior Vaughn Lesuma, a junior college transfer a year ago who is just tapping into his potential as an offensive tackle.
- USC...Jeff Byers is the only returnee in 2008, but the Trojans have the usual High School All-Americans to plug in. USC's offense has been declining in production since the Leinart days, and rebuilding the offensive line is priority one at USC.
- Oregon State...The Beavers need to replace a center and a tackle, but they have been one of the better coached units on the coast under Riley.
- Stanford...It takes four to five years to develop an offensive line. Harbaugh is starting on year two but is making progress. Keep an eye on Alex Fletcher, who is a rising star.
- Arizona State...This unit allowed four sacks per game last season. The Devils will be relying on JC's and position changes to fill the gap.
- UCLA...Micah Reed started eight games at guard last season and will shift to center. Tackles Alexis Landis, who was bothered by knee problems, and Micah Kia, who had troubles with consistency, are the only other linemen returning who started a game last season. Ouch!