Pac-10 Football Season Preview
NOTE: Individual team previews can be found via links below.
THE RETURNEES: A total of 154 starters return to Pac-10 football squads in 2010. That's out of a possible 240 (including kickers and punters). That is above the norm, as the average over the last 10 years has been 148 returnees. And check out the Pacific Northwest teams with defending Pac-10 Champion Oregon and Washington returning the most starters with 19 and 18, apiece, followed by Oregon State and Stanford with 17 each. Arizona
State returns the fewest starters with nine, followed by USC with 13. Some other interesting numbers--seven Pac-10 teams return their starting quarterbacks from a year ago, with only Arizona State, Oregon and Oregon State losing starters. Every starting punter from last year is back, plus eight of 10 placekickers, all except Oregon and USC. The "average" Pac-10 team returns 15.5 starters--7.5 on offense, 6 on defense and two kickers. Here is a breakdown of who has what coming back:
THE HEADLINERS: Among those 153 returning starters are a number of headliners. A total of nine first-team and nine secondteam All-Pac-10 performers return. One of the most decorated returnees is UCLA PK Kai Forbath, who earned the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top placekicker. Forbath also was a unanimous first-team All-Pac-10 pick and the consensus first-team All-America kicker ... The Rodgers brothers of Oregon State also picked up some accolades last year. TB Jacquizz Rodgers and WR/KR James Rodgers each were first-team All-Pac-10 selections for the second straight year and both were named second-team All-America selections. Two other players also parlayed first-team All-Conference and second-team All-America honors--Stanford kick returner Chris Owusu and UCLA FS Rahim Moore. Moore, who led the nation in interceptions with 10, also was named Sporting News Pac-10 Defensive MVP ... Other notable first-team All-Pac-10 selections returning include Oregon State DT Stephen Paea, voted winner of the Morris Trophy as the top defensive lineman in the Pac-10, and California LB Mike Mohamed, who doubled up by making first team on both the All-Pac-10 team and Pac-10 All-Academic team. Newcomers hauling in awards last year included Oregon RB LaMichael James, who finished second in the league in rushing with 1,546 yards to merit Pac-10 offensive freshman of the year honors and third-team All-America recognition, and Arizona State MLB Vontaze Burfict, voted by the coaches as Pac-10 defensive freshman of the year.
QUARTERBACKS ON HAND: Seven teams return last year's starting quarterback, with only Arizona State, Oregon and Oregon State needing to install new signal-callers.
1,000-YARD RUSHERS: The Pac-10 was loaded at running back last year with five 1,000-yard rushers and three of those return for 2010. Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart led the league in rushing and has taken his talents to the NFL, but the number two, three and four rushers were all underclassmen in 2009. Second to Gerhart in rushing was Oregon freshman LaMichael James, who burst on the scene by rushing for 1,546 yards and 14 TDs. Following James was two-time All-Pac-10 performer Jacquizz Rodgers, who jetted for 1,440 yards and 21 TDs. The other returning 1,000-yard rusher is Washington's Chris Polk, who picked up 1,113 yards as a freshman last year.
STAT LEADERS RETURN: 2009 stat leaders return in 16 of the 23 individual statistical categories compiled by the Pac-10. Among them, Washington QB Jake Locker led the league in total offense (265.7), Stanford QB Andrew Luck was the league leader in pass efficiency (143.5), Oregon State WR James Rodgers led in both receptions (91) and all-purpose yards 179.1), UCLA PK Kai Forbath led the Pac-10 (and the nation) in field goals (2.15 per game) and field goal percentage (90.3), Oregon State PK Justin Kahut led in kick scoring (8.5), Arizona State P Trevor Hankins in punting (44.2), Arizona's Bug Wright in punt returns (17.5) and Stanford's Chris Owusu in kickoff returns (31.5). On the defensive side of the ball, returning stat leaders include California LB Mike Mohamed in tackles (112), Oregon DE Kenny Rowe in sacks (11.5), UCLA FS Rahim Moore led the Pac-10 and the nation in interceptions (10) and Washington LB Mason Foster led the league in fumbles forced (6).
DUCKS SNAP STREAK: Oregon won its first Pac-10 championship since 2001 and in doing so snapped the USC record string of consecutive conference championships at seven in a row. The Ducks finished at 8-1 in Conference play for a two-game cushion over a trio tied for second at 6-3 (Arizona, Oregon State, Stanford). The two-game margin was the widest spread between first and second since Washington won the league by two games in 1991.
BOWL PARTNERS FOR 2010-11: A new four-year bowl cycle kicks in this season and the Pac-10 welcomes a new addition to the lineup. The Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio will feature the Pac-10's first selection after the Rose Bowl/BCS participant against an opponent from the Big 12 Conference. Other members of the Pac-10 bowl lineup are familiar faces as renewals have been inked with the Holiday Bowl, Brut Sun Bowl, MAACOBowl Las Vegas and the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl (formerly the Emerald Bowl).
ONE NEW COACH: Just one new head coach in the Pac-10 this season and he is a familiar face. Lane Kiffin returns to USC to take over for Pete Carroll after Carroll ended his remarkable nine-year Trojan tenure by accepting the head coaching position with the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL. Kiffin was an assistant coach for the first six years of the Carroll regime, working his way up to offensive coordinator before being tabbed as head coach by the Oakland Raiders. He served last year as head coach at Tennessee. Kiffin was on staff when USC captured national titles in 2003 and 2004.
TURNSTILES CLICKING: Pac-10 football has never been more popular as the Conference has posted its biggest attendance years ever over the last seven years. The 2009 total attendance figure was 3,467,899, the fifth year in a row the Pac-10 has topped the 3.4 million mark, and the eighth year in a row over three million. USC led the way with an average turnout of 84,799 at Trojan home games.