Wildcats Picked 10th in Preseason Football Media Poll

July 30, 2003

LOS ANGELES, Calif. - USC has been picked to win the 2003 Pacific-10 Conference football title in a pre-season poll of West Coast media members who regularly cover the league. It marks the first time since 1996 that the Trojans have been selected to win the league title in the pre-season poll. USC narrowly edged out ARIZONA STATE in the media voting. The Trojans garnered 10 of 25 first-place votes, with the Sun Devils getting nine. WASHINGTON (4) and OREGON STATE (2) also picked up first-place support. USC tied for the league title last year with a 7-1 Conference record and finished 11-2 overall, capping the year with a 38-17 win over Iowa in the FedEx Orange Bowl. WASHINGTON STATE won the Pac-10 berth in the Rose Bowl last season, but is picked to finish seventh in the media poll this season. The media poll has correctly selected the Conference Champion in 20 of 42 previous polls, including the last three and four of the last five years. Following are the results of the pre-season media poll (points 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, first-place votes in parentheses):

 1. USC (10)           227 2. Arizona State (9)  224 3. Washington (4)     198 4. Oregon State (2)   172 5. Oregon             139 6. UCLA               138 7. Washington State   107 8. California          68 9. Stanford            5710. Arizona             46 

UA head coach John Mackovic reacted to the poll by pointing out that this year's title hunt could be a wide open affair.

'I see where you picked us,' said Mackovic, 'but I also see that there is no clear-cut favorite. Historically, that's been true of the Pac-10. Clearly the conference championship is wide open.'

Senior offensive tackle Brandon Phillips used a bit of humor to deflect the 10th-place prognostication. 'I'm shocked because we thought we'd be picked to win it all,' Phillips quipped. 'After we get over our shock and disbelief, we'll go about the business of playing the games.'

POLL NOTES: Pre-season media poll has correctly picked the Conference champion 20 of 42 times and has been very accurate of late in correctly identifying the Conference champ the last three years in a row and four of the last five. . . . The last time the poll selected USC to win the league title was 1996. The Trojans finished fifth that season. . . . It is the highest predicted finish for ARIZONA STATE since 1998, when the Sun Devils were picked to finish second behind UCLA. . . . Of all the teams, the pollsters seemed to have the most difficulty predicting how OREGON STATE will fare this season. The Beavers were picked to finish as high as first and as low as ninth. . . . Hope for ARIZONA. The last two years the team picked to finish 10th in the Conference--WASHINGTON STATE (2001) and CALIFORNIA (2002)--has posted a winning record. . . . Six different teams have been the pre-season favorite the last six years. And why not? Five different teams have won the Pac-10 title in the last five years years, and seven different teams have won the title over the last eight years.

2003 PRESEASON PAC-10 FOOTBALL MEDIA POLL

      Media         Actual    Actual       PredictedYear  Poll Pick     Finish    Champion      Finish 1961  UCLA            1st     UCLA            1st1962  Washington      2nd     USC             2nd1963  USC             2nd     Washington      2nd1964  Washington      3rd     Oregon State    6th1965  USC             2nd     UCLA            7th1966  USC             1st     USC             1st1967  USC             1st     USC             1st1968  USC             1st     USC             1st1969  USC             1st     USC             1st1970  USC             6th     Stanford        2nd1971  USC             2nd     Stanford        2nd1972  USC             1st     USC             1st1973  USC             1st     USC             1st1974  USC             1st     USC             1st1975  USC             5th     UCLA            3rd1976  USC             1st     USC             1st1977  USC             2nd     Washington      3rd1978  USC             1st     USC             1st1979  USC             1st     USC             1st1980  USC             3rd     Washington      3rd1981  USC             2nd     Washington      4th1982  USC             3rd     UCLA            3rd1983  Arizona         5th     UCLA            5th1984  UCLA            3rd     USC             3rd1985  USC             4th     UCLA            5th1986  UCLA            2nd     Arizona State   4th1987  UCLA            2nd     USC             4th1988  UCLA            2nd     USC             2nd1989  USC             1st     USC             1st1990  Washington      1st     Washington      1st1991  Washington      1st     Washington      1st1992  Washington      1st     Washington      1st1993  Washington      4th     UCLA            6th1994  Arizona         2nd     Oregon          8th1995  USC             1st     USC             1st1996  USC             5th     Arizona State   2nd1997  Washington      4th     Washington St.  7th1998  UCLA            1st     UCLA            1st1999  Arizona         6th     Stanford        8th2000  Washington      1st     Washington      1st2001  Oregon          1st     Oregon          1st2002  Washington St.  1st     Washington St.  1st 

Arizona veterans and rookies are scheduled to report to Tucson on Tuesday, Aug. 5. The first full team practice takes place Wednesday, Aug. 6.

Pac-10 Media Day Quotes

Remarks from head coach John Mackovic

On the start of a new season:'This is a great opportunity for us to be here as we prepare to kick off the 2003 football season. We are ready to turn the corner from the 2002 season. People experience a lot of ups and downs in life, and now we have learned from them, and we are ready to move ahead. We really turned the corner in the spring. We have a new defense, and we had a terrific spring as a team. It was competitive, enthusiastic and fun for the coaches and players. We came out of spring practice feeling like we had made progress. Now, we are ready to take the next step and take it forward.'

On Arizona's predicted 10th-place finish in the pre-season media poll:'I see where you picked us, but I also see that there is no clear-cut favorite. Historically, that's been true of the Pac-10. Clearly the conference championship is wide open. Any team that plays well on a given weekend can beat any team. There definitely is a competitive balance throughout the conference. If a team is well prepared, it can have a good chance to win the game.'

On senior offensive tackle Brandon Phillips:'As the team's representative today, he certainly reflects our team and what our team is all about. He has played the most plays of our returning players, and he definitely has been in the fray. He has played as much as anybody on our team.

On Arizona's strength of schedule:'If you look at our schedule, we have a very strong schedule, and we play a lot of good teams at home this season. Players like to play good teams, so every game will be a good test for us. We are going to face some very good teams like LSU, Purdue and TCU at home during the non-conference portion of our schedule. And, this year, we play Oregon in the middle of the non-conference schedule, and that is going to be a key game for both teams.'

On UA's assistant coaching changes:'We filled them one by one, and it was not a case of where we had three openings all at once. We compiled as good a coaching staff as anybody has in the conference. We have quality coaches who are proven winners. The chemistry of the coaching staff and the interaction among the coaches has been quite positive.'

On the Pac-10 quarterbacks:'Having the Heisman Trophy winner come out of the Pac-10 last year was great. Carson Palmer proved that a great quarterback from a quality team could be in the race. The key to winning the Heisman Trophy is how well you play in November. The Pac-10 was the best quarterback conference in the country last year, and this year, the conference has a lot of young quarterbacks.'

On Arizona's starting quarterback race:'Nic (Costa) and Ryan (O'Hara) are going to be battling it out to start the season. They came out of spring practice even. They will split time 50/50 in camp as they get back into the swing of things. The battle for the top spot depends a lot on how well they understand what we want them to do and whether they can run the team effectively. We also will look at how proficient they are, and the rest of our decision will be based upon the leadership factor and how well the team responds to both quarterbacks.'

'I don't think that we will have a clear-cut starter going into our first game, but someone will emerge. I am not a proponent of the two-quarterback system. Both Nic and Ryan probably will play in September, but we are confident that someone will emerge and move ahead with the team.'

On senior halfback Clarence Farmer:'Clarence is on board, and he understands what we expect from him this year. He wants to win like we all do. The big question about Clarence is whether he will be healthy all of the time. He has been working out with the team, but our big concern is whether he will be ready to play effectively all of the time. We won't know until camp starts whether he will be 100 percent healthy to play.'

On the run game:'We have to develop a core set of plays and run them and make them work. We made it a priority during spring ball to get back to a core run game so that we could develop some confidence. The offensive line really developed continuity and familiarity in the spring, which is a key factor in our success.'

Remarks from senior offensive tackle Brandon Phillips

On the team's forward progress:'We are done talking about everything that happened last season. We are ready to move forward and put it all behind us. We came together really well in spring ball, and it was very productive. It was probably the best spring since I have been at Arizona. Spirits are high, and we are ready to move forward from everything that happened in the past. We've had so many ups and downs, especially the senior class. The seniors are tough kids, and we have been through a lot over the last few years. Because of that, we have a very tough team.'

On Arizona's pre-season 10th-place prognostication:'I'm shocked because we thought we'd be picked to win it all. After we get over our shock and disbelief, we'll go about the business of playing the games. It really doesn't make a difference, and it is not going to affect the way we play. It is what it is, something to write about and something to show the fans where the teams are at to start the season. There really isn't too much validity in the poll. All of the other teams have to play us first, so we will have to see what happens.'

On the run game:'As an offensive lineman, it was pretty embarrassing to go through the season feeling that we were having so much trouble running the ball. It can weigh heavy on you. There were a combination of factors that made it tough to run the ball last year, and we just did not play well as a unit.'

'With Coach (Mike) Deal, our new offensive line coach, the whole unit improved so much in spring. We switched some things up, and we have a faster-paced and more aggressive style of blocking. We also tweaked our blocking responsibilities, and the style suits us well. Things definitely will be better.'

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