Below is our handicapping columnists' 2009 Pac 10 conferenc preview!
**2009 Pac 10 Conference - Preseason Preview**
The USC Trojans will enter as big favorites in the Pac-10 this season. After all that has become tradition considering the team has been to four straight Rose Bowls. The Trojans dominated the nation with one of the best defenses in recent memory in 2008, but they lost numerous starters from that impressive unit heading into the new season. The Trojans surprisingly return 9 starters on the offensive side of the ball. However with the early departure of QB Mark Sanchez, the Trojans will not have a true leader behind center. The Trojans have load of talent in the back field and receiving groups to work with, but either Aaron Corp or Mitch Mustain must step up behind center if USC will be dominate again in 2009.
Over the past few years that has not been any teams to step up and challenge the Trojans in the Pac-10. However, this could be the year all that changes. One big reason is the California Golden Bears. The Bears return 17 starters from 2008 along with possibly the best running back in the nation in Jahvid Best. Best rushed for nearly 1600 yards last season including a 311 yard school record performance in the final game of the regular season against Washington. However, it could be the Golden Bears defense that is the true difference maker this season. The Golden Bears return many starters from a unit that ranked in the top 25 in both total and scoring defense in 2008.
The Oregon Ducks will be another team in the Pac-10 that could contend. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli racked up 718 rushing yards last season to go along with another 1,700 plus yards through the air. Masoli and running back LeGarrette Blount will lead a ferocious rushing attack. Blount shared carries with Jeremiah Johnson last season as both backs tallied over 1,000 yards. Blount will now be the main guy in the backfield and ready for a big season in 2009. The main problem surrounding the Ducks is they simply lost too many starters from last season and it will be interesting to see how well they play early in the season. Oregon State is a final team to keep your eye on in the Pac-10. The Beavers are a long shot, but running back Jacquizz Rodgers gives the team explosiveness in the backfield. For the Beavers to be successful, they will have to overcome losing 8 starters on the defensive side of the ball.