This Week in Pac-10 Football
Aug. 28, 2009
LET THE GAMES BEGIN: The Pac-10 kicks off its 94th season with one Conference game and a full schedule of eight non-league contests. The year begins with a matchup of ranked teams as OREGON travels to Boise State for a Thursday night nationally televised matchup on Sept. 3. Sat., Sept. 5 finds STANFORD at WASHINGTON STATE in an early Conference game, with the seven other Pac-10 squads all hosting non-conference opponents.
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PAC-10 NOTES HEADING INTO THE 2009 SEASON:
CURRENT STREAKS:Longest overall winning streak: 10 games - USCLongest Conference-game winning streak: 8 games - USCLongest home winning streak: 9 games - USCLongest road winning streak: 4 games - USC
RETURNING STARTERS: The average Pac-10 team returns 14 starters (out of 24, including kickers), broken down as seven on offense, six on defense and one kicker. Washington returns the most starters with 18, followed by California, Stanford and UCLA with 17 each. Oregon returns the fewest starters with 10, followed by Oregon State with 11. UCLA and USC each have nine starters back on offense, Washington returns 10 on defense. On the flip side, Oregon State and USC return just three defensive starters. . . . Among the returnees are a total of eight first-team and 13 second-team All-Pac-10 performers.
RETURNING RUNNING BACKS: The Conference had a record six 1,000-yard rushers last year and five of them return for action in 2009. California TB Jahvid Best led the Pac-10 in rushing by a large margin with 1,580 yards, or 131.7 yards per game and an average of 8.1 yards per carry. Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year TB Jaquizz Rodgers of Oregon State was next with 1,253 yards, followed by Stanford RB Toby Gerhart (1,136), Arizona TB Nic Grigsby (1,153) and Oregon TB LeGarrette Blount (1,002).
DRAFT DAY: As usual, the Pac-10 fared well in the most recent NFL draft. The Pac-10 had 11 players selected on the first day (rounds 1 and 2), more than any other conference. Overall, USC led the way with 11 players selected in the draft. Next best with seven players picked were Oregon State, Ohio State and South Carolina.
ARIZONA: Wildcats believe they have turned the corner after making their first bowl appearance in 10 years last season, an impressive 31-21 win against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. . . . TB Nic Grigsby was one of Pac-10's six 1,000-yard rushers last year. He was the Cats' first 1,000-yard rusher since 2001. . . . QB candidates Matt Scott and Nick Foles have a total of 11 career pass attempts between them. Cats hope first two games at home will help get quarterbacks comfortable before hitting the road for tests at ranked Iowa and Oregon State. However, first home game comes against Central Michigan, pre-season favorite to win the MAC. . . . Arizona returns seven starters to a defensive unit that ranked third in the Conference in both scoring defense (21.3) and total defense (313.0). 'Defensively, we have never been stronger,' says UA coach Mike Stoops.
ARIZONA STATE: Sun Devils went 5-7 last year and Dennis Erickson has never had back-to-back losing seasons in 20 years as a college head coach. . . . Senior Danny Sullivan will get the call to fill the shoes of departed QB Rudy Carpenter, ASU's starting quarterback the last four years. Sullivan is the only QB on the roster who has thrown a pass in a college game. . . . DE Dexter Davis is the only returning player in the nation who has recorded double-digit sacks in both 2007 (10.5) and 2008 (11.0). Those 21.5 sacks make him the leading returning QB sacker in the Pac-10. . . . Also back on the defensive side of the ball is OLB Mike Nixon, Pac-10 co-leader in interceptions last year with five. . . . Stellar PK Thomas Weber returns. The 2007 Lou Groza Award winner has been successful on 43 of 50 career field goal attempts.
CALIFORNIA: Golden Bears open the season at home against Maryland. Cal was a perfect 6-0 at home last season. . . . Veteran QB Kevin Riley held off all comers to get the nod as starting quarterback. . . . All-Pac-10 TB Jahvid Best led the Conference and ranked third in the nation last year in rushing at 131.7 yards per game (1,580 yards) and a nation-leading 8.1 yards per carry. You get that kind of per carry average when you produce 19 runs of 20 or more yards, seven of 60 or more and three of 80 or more as Best did in 2008. . . . California has had a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last seven seasons. . . . Bears begin their second year in a 3-4 defense and have eight returning starters on that side of the ball. Cal was second in the Pac-10 in scoring defense last year at 19.9 points per game.
OREGON: Ducks and new head coach Chip Kelly open the season with a much-anticipated game against No. 14-ranked Boise State. Not an easy assignment as Boise State is 64-2 at home since 1999. . . . Broncos are first of three Top 20 teams the Ducks face in September, with No. 19 Utah and No. 12 California also on the docket. . . . The Oregon offense put up some scary-good numbers under then-offensive coordinator Kelly last year leading the Pac-10 in both total offense (484.8 yards per game) and scoring offense (41.9 points per game, with three games over 60). Ducks also led the Pac-10 and were second in the nation in rushing at 280.1 yards per game. . . . TB LeGarrette Blount is one of five returning 1,000-yard rushers in the Pac-10 this season. In 2008, Blount went for 1,002 yards and a school-record 17 rushing TDs despite sharing time with departed Jeremiah Johnson. . . . Senior CB Walter Thurmond III was Pac-10 co-leader in interceptions last year with five.
OREGON STATE: Beavers' opener against Portland State is Mike Riley's 99th game as OSU head coach. Riley has a mark of 56-42 in eight years at the Beavers' helm. . . . OSU has won 25 consecutive non-conference home games. . . . Only 10 teams have been ranked in the final AP Top 25 in each of the last three seasons and Oregon State is one of them. The Beavers have won 28 games over that three-year span and capped each season with a bowl win. Among Pac-10 teams, only USC has won more games in that span. . . . While many Pac-10 teams are going to be very young at quarterback this season, QB Sean Canfield and QB Lyle Moevao, who is coming off shoulder surgery, give the Beavers two quarterbacks with extensive starting experience. . . . Returning Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year TB Jacquizz Rodgers set a Conference freshman rushing record last year in going for 1,253 yards despite missing the final two games of the season.
STANFORD: Touted redshirt freshman QB Andrew Luck will be under center for the Cardinal in its opener at Washington State. He tossed five TD passes in the Stanford spring game. . . . His security blanket will be bruising RB Toby Gerhart, who rushed for a school-record 1,136 yards last year. He will get plenty of carries this season. As a team, Cardinal ranked second in rushing offense in the Pac-10 last year at 199.6 yards per game. . . . Stanford is shooting for its first bowl game since 2001 and the optimism would seem warranted with 17 starters back from last year's squad that finished 5-7, including three losses by a TD or less. . . . Stanford plans to play a number of players on both offense and defense this year. Most notable might be Richard Sherman, a former starter at wide receiver, who may get the starting nod at cornerback, but also take some snaps on offense.
UCLA: Redshirt freshman QB Kevin Prince has won the starting quarterback job and will open the season in the Rose Bowl against San Diego State. . . . UCLA has never lost to San Diego State compiling a mark of 20-0-1 against the Aztecs (13-13 tie in 1924). . . . Prince will have some tall receivers as five members of the Bruin wideout rotation are 6-3 or taller. . . . That being said, Bruin coach Rick Neuheisel has vowed improvement to a UCLA running game that was last in the Pac-10 last year at 82.8 yards per game. 'We're going to be able to run the ball or die trying,' says Neuheisel. Four starters returning on the offensive line should help. . . . Seven starters return to a defensive unit many feel will be among the best in the Pac-10 this year. . . . Bruins have a big leg in PK Kai Forbath, who earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore last year. Forbath has connected on 6 of 6 from 50-plus yards in his first two seasons.
USC: Like Stanford and UCLA, USC will start a freshman at quarterback in its opener vs. San Jose State. In this case, it's a true freshman as the Trojans have tabbed Matt Barkley to start the opener. He is believed to be the first true freshman to ever start the season opener at quarterback for SC. . . . Despite having 11 players selected in the NFL draft (and 21 in the last two drafts), the Trojans are Pac-10 preseason favorites and expected contenders for the National Championship. . . . And why not? USC has finished in the AP top four in seven consecutive seasons and played in a BCS bowl each time. . . . Troy enters the season riding a 10-game winning streak. . . . The Trojans have lost just seven games in the last six seasons. Six of those seven losses have come at the hands of Pac-10 foes with the only non-conference loss in that span coming in the dramatic National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl against Texas following the 2005 season. . . . The Trojans open the season at home against San Jose State. The Spartans were the opponent in Pete Carroll's first game as USC head coach, a 21-10 home victory in 2001.
WASHINGTON: In addition to a new head coach, Washington has installed a new FieldTurf synthetic playing surface in Husky Stadium, replacing the nine-year old field installed in 2000. . . . Stellar QB Jake Locker is reported in full health after missing most of last season with a thumb injury suffered in the fourth game. That fact alone spells improvement for the Huskies. . . . Locker is expected to throw more and run less in new head coach Steve Sarkisian's pro-style offense. . . . The Husky coaching staff is also high on TB Chris Polk, a redshirt freshman who earned the starting tailback job last year before being injured in the second game. . . . Sarkisian brought with him from USC defensive coordinator Nick Holt, who held a similar position at SC. Holt has 10 returning starters to work with, including DE Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, who was the only Washington player named to the Pac-10 All-Conference Team last year.
WASHINGTON STATE: Early indications are sophomore QB Marshall Lobbestael and senior QB Kevin Lopina are running neck-and-neck for the starting QB job and both are expected to see action in the Cougars' opener against Stanford. . . . Coach Paul Wulff hopes his quarterbacks are far along enough to successfully execute a no-huddle spread attack, which he hoped to implement last year, but did not feel the Cougs had the experience level to run it. . . . The Cougars expect OLB Andy Mattingly to thrive in returning to outside linebacker after spending last season at defensive end. . . . Former WSU head coach Jim Walden will be inducted into the Washington State University Athletic Hall of Fame this fall. Walden coached the Cougars from 1978-1986 and in 1981 led WSU to the Holiday Bowl, which marked the Cougs' first bowl appearance since the 1931 Rose Bowl. Walden was the second-winningest coach in WSU history when he left and has been a member of the Cougars' football broadcast team since 2001.