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CFN preview: Pac-10 foes won't back down to USC
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Team that will surpriseStanford: The Cardinal has spent the last two seasons building to this point under Jim Harbaugh, when the talent is up to par with the rest of the league and the team makes a long-awaited postseason return. Stanford came close last year before fading over the final month of the season. Now, with a stellar recruiting class on the Farm and the power ground game revved up behind Toby Gerhart, the Cardinal is about to break into the Pac-10's first division. If redshirt freshman QB Andrew Luck can win the job and give the offense some hope in the passing game, the transformation goes into overdrive.
Team that will disappoint
Game of the yearUSC at Ohio State, Sept. 12: No, there'll be no bearing on the league race in Columbus this evening, but go ahead and try to find a Pac-10 game that rises to this level of importance and excitement. In a possible national championship elimination game, the Trojans and Buckeyes will meet in primetime for the second straight September? Troy rolled last summer, but the situation at quarterback has been reversed, with USC now putting its fortunes in the hands of an unproven player. True freshman Matt Barkley has been named the Trojans' starter, and will face a tough test in his second collegiate game.
Five big-time players who deserve a bigger spotlight1. C Kristofer O'Dowd, Jr. USC
2. DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, Sr. Washington
3. DT Lawrence Guy, Soph. Arizona State
4. DE Brooks Reed, Jr. Arizona
5. LB Keaton Kristick, Sr. Oregon State
Coach on the hot seatPaul Wulff, Washington State: Technically speaking, no one is on the hot seat in the traditional sense of the phrase. Even though a few coaches, like Rick Neuheisel, Dennis Erickson, and Mike Stoops, can stem criticism with a winning season, it's unlikely anyone gets the boot at the end of the year. Wulff left little margin for error in his debut on the Palouse, guiding the Cougars to a 2-11 season that was worse than the record indicated, if that's possible. And then in the offseason, Eastern Washington was whacked for NCAA rules violations when Wulff was at the helm. Coaches rarely get canned after two years, but if Wazzu shows no progress, you never know how an embarrassed administration will react.
Five non-conference games the Pac-10 had better take seriously
2. Central Michigan at Arizona, Sept. 5
3. Oregon State at UNLV, Sept. 12
4. Purdue at Oregon, Sept. 12
5. Kansas State at UCLA, Sept. 19
Bold PredictionThe Arizona offense won't skip a beat without Willie Tuitama. A very nice quarterback, who threw for more than 9,000 career yards and 67 touchdowns, he'll prove to be replaceable. Both sophomore successors, Matt Scott and Nick Foles, looked more than capable in the offseason of running Sonny Dykes' offense. Scott has the athletic ability to force renovations to the playbook. Foles can reach Tempe with his passes. Plus, whoever gets the nod in August will be surrounded by a slew of exciting weapons, including TE Rob Gronkowski, WR Delashaun Dean, and backs Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin. The Wildcats are not about to retreat after finally breaking through in 2008. In fact, they'll be better if the rebuilt offensive line can come together quickly.
Five best pro prospects1. S Taylor Mays, Sr. USC
2. TE Rob Gronkowski, Jr. Arizona
3. DT Brian Price, Jr. UCLA
4. RB Jahvid Best, Jr. Cal
5. DE Tyson Alualu, Sr. Cal
Five biggest shoes to fill1. QB Matt Barkley or Aaron Corp for Mark Sanchez, USC
2. LB Chris Galippo for Rey Maualuga, USC
3. C Chris Guarnero for Alex Mack, Cal
4. DE Kenny Rowe for Nick Reed, Oregon
5. DE Ben Terry for Victor Butler, Oregon State