Think twice before taking the under on a Pac-10 college football game this year with your college football picks. The Pac 10 conference is loaded with talented quarterbacks - USC's Mark Sanchez, ASU's Rudy Carpenter, Arizona's Willie Tuitama, Washington's Jake Locker - and great, flashy college wide receivers - Arizona's Mike Thomas, WSU's Brandon Gibson, Oregon State's Sammie Stroughter, ASU's Michael Jones. So if you like scoring in college football you'll like watching Pac-10 football in the 2008 ncaa football season.
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2008 Arizona Wildcats College Football Preview:
Coach Mike Stoops, the brother of celebrated Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, hopes year five in his Arizona Wildcats tenure ends the school's 10-year bowl vacuum. For the locals, as they say, are becoming restless.
With the 2008 Arizona Wildcats losing eight starters on defense the team will need to rely upon the offense to pump the tires, as it were. Senior quarterback Willie Tuitama will be using his howitzer-like arm to guide the team's lethal spread offense, which last year averaged 309 passing yards per game. All- Pac-10 wide receiver Mike Thomas returns, looking to match or improve on last year's wow-numbers of 83 grabs and 11 scores. And look for Rob Gronkowski, an All-Pac-10 honorable mention as a freshman (28 catches, 6 TDs), to continue his rise as one of the best tight ends in the nation.
Hopefully for the defense speed and athleticism will trump experience. Otherwise every Wildcat game could transform into college football's version of a Score-a-palooza festival. Converted fullback Earl Mitchell impressed during spring ball at defensive tackle, as did junior cornerback Devin Ross.
With the Arizona Wildcats 's burn-rubber offensive attack the defense only needs to be adequate for the Wildcats to finish with a winning record this college football season. If not, the team, at least, will be a gas to watch.
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2008 Arizona State Sun Devils Football Preview:
Dennis Erickson, the coach with Bill Walsh brilliance and Jack Kerouac restlessness, quickly won over the ASU faithful by guiding the team to a 10-3 record in 2007. But whether Erickson can repeat or even improve on this mark remains a question that only the 2008 college football season can answer.
The offensive line, last year's ouch, must improve after yielding an incomprehensible 55 sacks, a school record, in 13 games. Four new starters, including converted defensive lineman Jon Hargis at offensive tackle who opened eyes in spring practice, should be an upgrade. Or at least QB Rudy Carpenter, an All-Pac-10 honorable mention, hopes. If the line gives Carpenter more time he should easily improve on last year's high-five stats (3,202 yards, 25 TDs). Michael Jones (46 catches, 10 TDs) and Chris McGaha (61 catches, 1 TD) lead a talented group of receivers. The running back position, however, remains in flux. As of now it looks like Keegan Herring and third-down specialist Dimitri Nance will be sharing carries.
Last year's attack-style defense looks even more formidable this year. Bronco Nagurski candidate Dexter Davis, who tallied 10.5 sacks last season, will again be terrorizing quarterbacks from his defensive end position. The secondary has shut-down cornerback Omar Bolden and safety Troy Nolan (six interceptions) returning. And linebacker Gerald Munns is a star in the making.
Unlike last year the Arizona State Sun Devils won't have the psychological advantage of playing the role of underdog. The team's ability to handle the pressure of high expectations will be tested midway through the season with consecutive college football games against Georgia, California, and USC.
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2008 California Golden Bears Football Preview:
Coach Jeff Tedford's reputation as a coaching whiz-master lost some its shine last season. The 2007 team entered the year with hopes of passing USC, but sputtered to the end like a rusted Dodge Neon with a cracked engine valve, losing six of its final seven games.
Rebounding won't be easy. The quarterback position remains unresolved. Incumbent starter, Nate Longshore, has never been able to elevate from good to great. Sophomore Kevin Riley, who tossed for three scores in last season's Armed Service Bowl win, could get the nod. Though his decision making is inconsistent, his ability to run with the ball gives Tedford's offense an added dimension. Replacing DeSean Jackson and LaVelle Hawkins will be difficult. The current receiving corps only has 12 career catches among them. Jahvid Best, Tracy Slocum, and Covaughn DeBoskie are in the running, literally, for number one running back status.
The defense will be shifting to a 3-4 scheme, a more suitable alignment in the pass-happy Pac-10. This will allow the Bears to utilize its strength at linebacker, led by senior Zach Follet who registered 5.5 sacks last season.
Tedord's offensive genius alone will get this team back into a bowl game. But whether the Golden Bears can contend for the Pac-10 title depends on how quickly the offense can find reliable college football playmakers.
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2008 Oregon Ducks NCAA Football Preview:
Head coach Mike Bellotti should mimic LA Laker coach Phil Jackson and burn a sage rope in the locker room. He needs to do something to exorcise the injury hex that haunts his team. Last year's championship aspirations got derailed by key injuries, and still plague the team going into the 2008 campaign.
Quarterback-to-be Nate Costa and running-back-to-be Jeremiah Johnson are still recovering from blown-out knees, leaving Oregon looking for answers at king-important offensive positions. Junior-college transfer LeGarrette Blount, a 230-pound brute with good speed and vision, could provide relief at running back. Justin Roper, last year's Sun Bowl starter, looked unsettled under center during spring practice leaving the quarterback door wide open. But not all is grim on the offensive front. The line could be the best in the Pac-10. Center Max Unger and tackle Fenuki Tupuo are both potential Outland Trophy candidates. And last year's leading receiver, Jaison Williams (55 catches, 8 TDs), returns for his senior year.
The defense looks wow-solid. The Ducks' ball-hawking secondary returns CB Walter Thurmond (five interceptions), CB Jairus Byrd (seven interceptions), and SS Patrick Chung (two interceptions). And DE Nick Reed, a Lott Trophy candidate, who led the Pac-10 last season with 12 sacks, will again be anchoring the line.
Despite a difficult schedule with road games at USC, ASU, California, and Purdue, the Ducks could be a factor this season. Success depends on remaining healthy and locking in on a starting quarterback.
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2008 Oregon State NCAA Football Preview:
On paper 2008 looks to be a rebuilding year for the Oregon State Beavers. But Mike Riley coached teams have a habit of surprising the college football world.
The offense received a huge boost in the spring when WR Sammie Stroughter was awarded another year of eligibility. Before getting injured last season he was averaging 17.5 yards per catch and in 2006 was a third-team All-American. His presence will also greatly aid the return game. Don't be surprised if freshman Ryan Katz, who enrolled early, gets the nod at QB. And redshirt freshman, Ryan McCants, looks like a sure-thing at running back. His combination of power and speed is already drawing comparisons to college football great and NFL star, Steven Jackson.
Riley-magic will be needed on the defensive side of the ball. Gone are seven starters, including all three second team All-Pac-10 linebackers. The addition of DE Simi Kuli, the nation's number one rated junior-college defensive player, will help the defensive line. And safety Al Afalava, who is suspended for the first game, will provide needed stability in the secondary. But otherwise the unit has plenty of question marks.
Repeating last year's nine-win season will be a challenge for the Beavers. In addition to OSU's brutal Pac-10 schedule the team also has non-conference road games against NCAA football teams, Penn State and Utah. But because of the "Riley-factor" the Beavers can never be underestimated.
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2008 Stanford Cardinals College Football:
Coach Jim Harbaugh, better known in the NFL as "Captain Comeback," appears to be guiding Stanford's football program to a comeback of its own. After taking over a 1-11 program he led the team in his first year to a 4-8 record, which included an improbable win over USC. And with most of the team's starters returning this season, Harbaugh's legend should grow even more in 2008.
The entire offensive line returns intact, led by college football's Outland Trophy candidate Alex Fletcher who will be switching from guard to center this year. Quarterback Tavita Pritchard's inconsistency issues make him a tenuous starter. Should he falter Harbaugh won't hesitate in inserting Michigan transfer Jason Forcier. Richard Sherman (73 catches, 7 TDs) returns as the team's number one aerial target. And Anthony Kimble (509 yards, 8 TDS) gets the nod at running back, provided he can remain healthy.
The Cardinals look stout on defense. Clinton Snyder and Pay Maynor head the linebacking corps. Bo McNally (two interceptions) leads an experienced secondary. And DE Pennal Egboh, a projected 2009 second-round NFL draft pick, spears a disruptive front line.
Don't look for the Stanford Cardinals to challenge for the Pac-10 title. But with a splash of luck Stanford could be bowl-eligible.
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2008 UCLA Bruins College Football Preview:
The good vibes UCLA was feeling over the hiring of head coach Rick Neuhiesel and offensive coordinator Norm Chow ended on April 24th when starting QB Pat Cowan shredded his ACL, and backup QB Ben Olson busted his foot. It marked a dubious start for a new regime intent on emerging from USC's enormous college football shadow.
Cowan's injury was so severe he'll miss the next two seasons. Olson will return by August, but provides no guarantees given his inability to stay healthy. Over the last two seasons injuries have limited Olson to five games. The team may have to rely on junior college transfer Kevin Craft to deliver the ball. The offensive line returns three starters, but needs to find a center. Kahlil Bell (795 yards, 5 TDs) looks good at tailback. And Dominique Johnson (25 catches, 4 TDs) and Terrence Austin (17 catches) return as the top receiving threats.
The defense features one of the top interior lines in the conference. Backing them will be LB Reggie Carter, a 2008 Lott Award candidate, who moves from the weak-side to the middle. And Alterraun Verner (four interceptions), a lock-down cornerback who led the team with 75 tackles, returns as the stud of the secondary.
The Bruins will need to find a QB fast if they are going to have a successful college football season. They open at home against Tennessee and then follow with a road game against vastly improved BYU team.
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2008 USC Trojans College Football Preview:
Only USC could finish 11-2 last season and view the 2008 college football season as a rebounding year. Yet, despite losing 10 players to the NFL, Pete Carroll's Trojans look even stronger.
Cannon-armed Mark Sanchez, who saw limited action as a sophomore, becomes the team's full-time starter at quarterback. He'll be tossing to an arsenal of receivers that could rival some NFL teams. Patrick Turner (48 catches, 3 TDs), David Ausberry (26 catches, 2 TDs) and Vidal Hazelton (50 catches, 4 TDs) all return. And freshman recruit Brice Butler, a speed-bug out of Georgia, could see time as well. And 2008 could be the year that tailback Allen Bradford finally lives up to his hype.
For the Trojans to be successful the offense only has to be adequate, for the defense is shockingly strong. Last year's unit finished second overall in college football, yielding only 16 points per game. Linebacker Rey Maualuga, a human echo of Junior Seau, returns after leading the team last year with 79 tackles. And the secondary remains fully intact, looking to improve on last season's 12 interceptions.
The team's NCAA National Championship chances should be answered in the second week of the season when the Ohio State Buckeyes lumber into the Coliseum for one of the season's most intriguing college football matchups.
2008 Washington Huskies College Football:
Head coach Tyrone Williams enters his fourth year as Washington's coach knowing the team needs to improve on last year's dead last finish in the Pac-10 conference.
The best hope for improvement lies with the offense. Quarterback Jake Locker, who as a freshman tossed for 2,062 yards and rushed for 13 TDs, is a superstar in the making. The offense will vault forward if Locker can better last year's 47% completion rate. But to do so he must throw to a young group of receivers, led by sophomore D'Andre Goodwin. Brandon Johnson (196 yards, 2 TDs) and freshman Chris Polk, the prize of this year's recruiting class, could give the Huskies an electrifying backfield. Polk possesses superb hands, making him a match-up problem for defensive coordinators in passing situations. And as Williams showed last year with Locker, he's not afraid to lean on freshmen players.
New defensive coordinator Ed Donatell wants to make the defense less predictable. During spring practice the unit consistently showed different looks, often shifting from a 4-3 to a 3-4. Strong safety Victor Aiyewa's wrecking ball mentality will serve this unit well, especially since the defensive line has so many unknowns.
This young squad will need to mature fast. The Huskies open on the road in Oregon and then follow with difficult home games against BYU and Oklahoma.
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2008 Washington State Cougars NCAA Football:
New head coach Paul Wulff hopes his winning ways at Eastern Washington University - seven winning seasons in eight years - transfers to Pullman. For this to happen he'll need a young squad to adapt quickly to new defensive and offensive schemes.
Redshirt senior Gary Rogers currently has the edge at quarterback. But Kansas State transfer Kevin Lopina's elusiveness makes him a much better fit for Wulff's no-huddle, spread offense. This wide-open attack should benefit All-Pac 10 receiver Brandon Gibson, who led the conference last season with 1,180 yards, as well as Michael Willis who looked electrifying in spring practice. Last season's leading rusher, Dwight Tardy (676 yards, 6 TDs), returns to the backfield.
The defense this year will play a 3-4-3 with the hope of improving on last season's woeful numbers. Greg Trent leads an experienced linebacking unit, while Devin Giles (two interceptions) brings guidance to an inexperienced secondary.
Matching last year's 5-7 record will be difficult. Especially with USC, Oregon, California, and Arizona State on the schedule.
2008 Pac 10 Conference Final Words
USC, as usual and without question, is the team to beat in the Pac 10 conference and in college football overall. Arizona State and Oregon should vie for second, with California being a potential dark horse in the 2008 Pac 10 conference. Good luck with your college football picks this season and be sure to read our columnists' other 2008 ncaa football previews.