This Week in Pac-10 Football
Aug. 20, 2007
LET THE GAMES BEGIN: All the teams in the Pac-10 jump into action over the Labor Day weekend, highlighted by an early Conference matchup as UCLA opens at STANFORD and two non-conference affairs against Top 15 teams. Two teams get an early jump on the weekend as OREGON STATE opens action with a home game against Utah on Thu., Aug. 30, and WASHINGTON travels to Syracuse for a game on Fri., Aug. 31. On Sat., Sep. 1, in addition to UCLA at Stanford, non-conference contests find San Jose State at ARIZONA STATE, Tennessee at CALIFORNIA, Houston at OREGON, Idaho at USC, ARIZONA at BYU and WASHINGTON STATE at Wisconsin.
PAC-10 NOTES ENTERING THE 2007 SEASON:
CURRENT STREAKS HEADING INTO THE 2007 SEASON:
Longest overall winning streak - 4 games - Oregon State
Longest Conference-game winning streak - 3 games - UCLA
Longest home winning streak - 33 games - USC (Pac-10 record)
Longest road winning streak - 3 games - Arizona
OUT OF OUR LEAGUE: The Pac-10 compiled a stellar mark of 25-12 (.676) against non-conference foes in 2006. The Pac-10 finished 10-7 in games against BCS teams from automatic qualifying conferences. In non-conference matchups against Top 25 foes, the Pac-10 was an excellent 6-7 and in non-conference matchups where both teams were ranked, the Pac-10 held a 5-1 advantage.
ATTENDANCE RECORD: The Pac-10 set a record for overall attendance in 2006 as 3,604,124 fans attended games at Pac-10 stadiums last season. That's an average of 56,314 per game, impressive considering its a higher figure than capacity at five of the league's 10 stadiums.
NFL DRAFT: In the 2007 NFL Draft, the Pac-10 was the only conference in the country to have a player drafted from every team in the league.
NEW COACHES: Technically, two new head coaches in the Pac-10 this year, although Dennis Erickson could hardly be called new to the league. Erickson becomes the first coach in Conference history to be head coach at three different league schools as he takes over at Arizona State. He previously was head coach at Washington State (1987-88) and Oregon State (1999-2002) and won a pair of national championships at Miami in between. Erickson is a two-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year, once at WSU in 1988 and again at OSU in 2000. In 18 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Erickson has posted a record of 148-65-1 (.694), including a mark of 43-27-1 (.613) in six Pac-10 seasons. . . . Jim Harbaugh takes over at Stanford after a very successful stint at University of San Diego, where he compiled a 29-6 (.829) mark in three years, including 11-1 in each of the last two seasons. Harbaugh had a 15-year playing career as a quarterback in the NFL. His father, Jack Harbaugh, was Stanford's defensive coordinator for two years in 1980-81.
ADD COACHES: In addition to the two new head coaches, four Pac-10 schools--Arizona, California, Oregon, UCLA--brought in new offensive coordinators.
NOT JUST QBS: Much has been made of the fact that nine of 10 Pac-10 teams return their starting QBs (all but Oregon State), but don't overlook the fact that eight of the top 10 rushers from 2006 also return. Included are three 1,000-yard rushers in Oregon State's Yvenson Bernard (1,307), Arizona State's Ryan Torain (1,229) and UCLA's Chris Markey (1,107). Jonathan Stewart of Oregon just missed with 981 yards.
ARIZONA: UA looks to get over the hump this year, returning 19 starters to a team that won three of its last four in 2006, including victories against bowl teams California and Oregon. . . . The Wildcats have brought in a new offensive coordinator--Sonny Dykes from Texas Tech--and installed a new,high-flying multifaceted spread offense. Look for the ball to be in the air with QB Willie Tuitama in the shotgun most of the time and plenty of four-receiver sets. . . . Tuitama will have help as nine starters are back on offense, including all five starters on the offensive line. . . . On the other side of the ball, the Cats return 10 starters to a defensive unit that allowed just 19.6 points per game last year. . . . Cats are on the road against four teams that won at least 10 games last year--BYU, California, Oregon State, USC.
ARIZONA STATE: New coach Dennis Erickson has 10 starters returning on offense, including QB Rudy Carpenter, who passed for 2,523 yards and 23 TDs in what was considered an 'off' season, and TB Ryan Torain, who had a breakout season last year in rushing for 1,229 yards and averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Torain is the second-leading returning rusher in the Pac-10, and the first 1,000-yard ASU rusher since 2001, and Carpenter has more touchdowns (40) and passing yards (4,796) through his first two years than any passer in ASU history. Included are seven 300-yard passing games, more than any other active Pac-10 QB. . . . The ASU offense also returns all five starters on the offensive line, four of whom have already earned their undergraduate degrees, making it the most experience O-line in the Conference. . . . If past history is any guide, Erickson will have a quick, attacking defensive unit. . . . Erickson and ASU hope to get off to a fast start with the first four games at home at Sun Devil Stadium and a total of eight home games.
CALIFORNIA: The Golden Bears, Pac-10 Co-Champions in 2006, compiled a 10-3 mark last year to post a fifth consecutive winning season for the first time since 1947-51. Cal has played in a school-record four straight bowl games, winning three of them, and posted Top 10 national rankings the last three years. . . . DeSean Jackson earned first-team All-America honors as a punt returner last year after leading the nation in return average (18.2 yards per return) and punt returns for a touchdown with a Pac-10-record four. His five career punt returns for TDs also is a Pac-10 record. The five punt returns for TDs have come in just 26 career returns. . . . On the receiving side of the equation, Jackson, a junior, needs just three receptions to hit 100 for his career. . . . WR Robert Jordan has caught passes in 30 straight games entering the season. . . . Cal has had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last five seasons. . . . The Golden Bears topped the Pac-10 in scoring offense last year at 32.8 points per game, but overlooked is the fact Cal has ranked in the top two in the league in scoring defense in each of the last three years. . . . QB Nate Longshore was the only player to earn Pac-10 Player of the Week honors three times last season.
OREGON: The Ducks led the Pac-10 in rushing last year (for the first time since 1955) at 182.2 yards per game and are a good bet to do so again with the TB tandem of Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson returning. The duo combined for 1,625 yards and 20 TDs rushing last year while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Stewart also led the Pac-10 in kickoff returns with a 28.1 yard average last year. They may be used in the same backfield more this season. . . . But you know it won't be all run with the Ducks, particularly after a breakout year by WR Jaison Williams, who ranked second in the league in receiving with 68 catches for 984 yards as a soph last season. . . . Also on that side of the ball, look for the Ducks to go with more no-huddle offense. . . . With 60 Pac-10 wins to his credit, coach Mike Bellotti is tied for eighth place all-time on the career list for Conference wins.
OREGON STATE: Beavers are looking to ride the momentum on an 8-1 finish in 2006 and hope to post first back-to-back 10-win seasons in school history. . . . TB Yvenson Bernard is the leading returning rusher in the Pac-10. He has topped the 1,300-yard mark rushing in each of the last two seasons and has 25 career rushing TDs. Bernard looks to become just the seventh rusher in Pac-10 history to post three 1,000-yard rushing seasons (OSU's Ken Simonton was the most recent in 1998-1999-2000). . . . Bernard will be aided by four starters returning on the offensive line. . . . Senior PK Alexis Serna has an OSU-record 62 career field goals and is the active field goal leader in the NCAA entering the season. The Pac-10 record for career field goals is 85 (John Lee, UCLA, 1982-85). Serna may take over punting duties for the Beavers as well this season. . . . OSU is the only Pac-10 team entering the season without an experienced quarterback. There is a total of one career start (by Ryan Gunderson) among the quarterbacks on hand. . . . SE Sammie Stroughter led the league in receiving yards last year (1,293 on 74 catches), plus returned three punts for TDs.
STANFORD: Cardinal hopes to get the Jim Harbaugh era off to a good start with four straight home games to open the season and eight of 12 overall at Stanford Stadium. However, the Cardinal schedule includes nine teams that advanced to bowl games last year, including their first six opponents, and only one team that posted a losing record last season. . . . Harbaugh has installed a pro-set West Coast offense and has switched the defensive alignment from a 3-4 to a 4-3. . . . T.C. Ostrander takes over as starting QB after serving as Trent Edward's backup the last three seasons. Ostrander has seen a lot of action, playing in 22 games and starting seven, including the final five games of last season after an injury to Edwards. . . . Cardinal offense received a boost when veteran WRs Mark Bradford and Evan Moore both decided to return for another season. . . . Stanford boasts a pair of experienced hands on the offensive line where Allen Smith has made 20 consecutive starts, 19 of them at left tackle, and Alex Fletcher has posted 20 starts at either guard or center over the last two seasons. . . . Austin Yancy, a six-game starter at receiver, has been switched to safety.
UCLA: Bruins return 21 starters, most of any Pac-10 team. Included are 10 starters back on both offense and defense, plus the punter. On the defensive side, that's 10 returning starters to a unit that ranked second in the Pac-10 in total defense. . . . Bruin schedule features five opponents that won at least 10 games in 2006--BYU, USC, Notre Dame, California and Oregon State--and a total of eight opponents that played in a bowl game. . . . UCLA opens the season at Stanford. The last two times (1993 & 1997) the Bruins have opened the season with a Conference opponent they have gone on to tie for the league championship. . . . DE Bruce Davis was Pac-10 co-leader in QB sacks last year with 12.5. That figure makes him the leading returning sack specialist in the nation this year. . . . Karl Dorrell is the first UCLA coach to lead the team to a bowl in each of his first four seasons. . . . Last year RB Chris Markey became the first player since 1962 (Kermit Alexander) to lead the team in both rushing (1,107 yards) and receiving (35 receptions). . . . OG Shannon Tevaga has started 31 straight games, the longest streak on the team. . . . Look for more shotgun formation and deep passes from the Bruins this year.
USC: Trojans are shooting to play in their sixth consecutive BCS bowl after three Rose Bowls and two Orange Bowls in last five seasons. In so doing, SC has run up a streak of five consecutive top-four finishes in the final AP poll. . . . The Trojans also are going for an unprecedented sixth consecutive Conference championship. . . . QB John David Booty is being touted as a Heisman Trophy candidate, and why not considering predecessors Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer both walked off with the coveted statue. Booty is making his own case. Taking over as the starter last year, Booty earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors after leading the league in total offense, passing yards, passing efficiency and TD passes. . . . Deep Trojans return 10 starters to the defensive unit that led the Pac-10 in scoring defense (15.2) and total defense (295.8) last year. Among those 10 starters are six players who were voted either first- or second-team All-Conference by the league's coaches. . . . Trojans get four of first six opponents at home, but then hit the road for four of final six, with all of those final six being bowl participants last season.
WASHINGTON: Heralded freshman QB Jake Locker will line up under center for the Huskies. 'The sky's the limit for him potentially,' says UW offensive coordinator Tim Lappano. . . . Huskies will be looking for their first winning season since 2002 against what may be the most challenging non-conference slate in the country with Ohio State and Boise State visiting Seattle and road games at Hawai'i and Syracuse. Ohio State, Boise State and Hawai'i are all ranked in the pre-season Top 25. The Huskies schedule includes nine teams that played in bowl games last season and six teams that won at least 10 games. Only two of the Huskies' 12 opponents had losing seasons last year. . . . It's a great year to have season tickets at Husky Stadium. In addition to Ohio State and Boise State, Pac-10 foes USC, California, Oregon, Washington State and Arizona all visit Seattle. . . . Three returning starters on the defensive line, led by DE Greyson Gunheim, might make this unit the strength of the UW team. . . . Dawgs also have three starters back on the offensive line.
WASHINGTON STATE: While nine Pac-10 teams enter the season with a returning starter at quarterback, WSU senior Alex Brink is the 'dean' of the Pac-10 QBs having started his last 28 games dating back to his freshman season. Brink was a second-team All-Pac-10 selection (and first-team All-Academic pick) last year after ranking second in the conference in total offense at 242.2 yards per game. He has 50 career touchdown passes and with 7,095 career passing yards, Brink has a shot at becoming just the eighth QB in league history to throw for 10,000 yards. . . . Head coach Bill Doba has added the jobs of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach to his duties. He served as Cougar defensive coordinator before becoming the head coach in 2003. . . . Cougars face four teams that won at least 10 games last year and are on the road against three of them (at Wisconsin, USC and California, home to Oregon State).
THEY SAID IT:
Fourth-year Arizona coach Mike Stoops, entering the season with 10 returning starters to a sturdy defense and a new spread attack on offense: 'We have not been able to win as consistently as we would have liked. I think we are on the cusp.'
Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson on his plans for TB Ryan Torain, who last year became ASU's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2001 with 1,229 yards: 'We are going to wear him out. We'll hand the ball to him as many times as we can.'
More Erickson, on becoming the first to be head coach at three different Pac-10 schools: 'I know two fight songs and I'm about to learn a third here.'