2009 Preseason Conference Analysis- Pac 10

Now we arrive in our series to the mighty conference from out west, the Pac 10. They came off a pretty rough regular season last year. The conference went 1-6 against the Mountain West, a non-BCS conference. But they totally redeemed themselves in bowl games, going a perfect 5-0.

Some would call this the Pac-9 and USC. Lately it has seemed like that to be honest. USC has won the conference at least 5 years in a row now, probably more. Last year it was close though, as Oregon State had only their game against Oregon to win and they would have been conference champions. Too bad for them they got pummeled when it counted…

So what is our outlook for the 2009 season? Not good, not bad. The bad news is USC lost Mark Sanchez and probably their best class ever was sent to the draft. They lost a lot of key players to replace. But as usual, great recruiting has them easily able to fill those holes.

But they need to watch out for rising powers Cal, Oregon and Oregon State. And that’s the good news. While the Pac-10 won’t likely have an undefeated or one-loss contender in USC like they usually do, they will be a better all around conference. Cal is returning Jahvid Best, who is arguably going to be the best running back in the country now that everyone else entered the draft. Oregon State returns Jacquizz Rogers as their running back, you know, the guy who ran well over 100 yards last year all over the best defense in the country. Oregon has their core coming back as well, but a coaching change could shake things up.

Of course the bottom dwelling Washington and Washington State will likely repeat last year’s performances. Washington should win some games with Steve Sarkishian as their new coach. Washington State will still lose most of theirs, if not all. Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State look to be mediocre and average, and Arizona is a wild card. So here’s my prediction for the final standing of the conference at the end of the season:

1. Cal
2. USC
3. Oregon State
4. Oregon
5. Arizona
6. Arizona State
8. Stanford
9. Washington
10. Washington State

Cal gets USC at home this year, and with a lot of starters coming back, I’m giving Cal the edge in the conference this year. I can see them running 10-2 into the Rose Bowl this season.

The thing the Pac-10 needs to do this year is win some non-conference games. USC has carried that load, winning some crazy number like 25 straight non-conference games. If some of the other stronger programs could go 3-0 in the non-conference schedule, then the Pac-10 could become a truly elite conference, sending 6 or maybe 7 teams to bowl games.

Of course, the Pac-10 did go 5-0 in their bowl games last year, so the bar is set kind of high and the expectations are great. I think they will live up to it, as it looks to be a down year for the WAC and MWC, the Pac-10’s primary non-conference schedule. Oregon plays at Boise State, and USC plays at Ohio State, but those seem to be the only really challenging non-conference opponents this year.

If Cal or USC does run the table and the conference performs well top to bottom, then this could be the year the Pac-10 pulls away from the Big 12 and SEC as the elite conference of college football.