This Week in Pac-10 Football

Aug. 20, 2008

8/20 Football Release PDF

LET THE GAMES BEGIN: The Pac-10 kicks off its 93rd season with a Conference game featuring OREGON STATE at STANFORD on Thu., Aug. 28, continues with seven additional league teams opening Sat., Aug. 30, highlighted by the 101st meeting between Washington and Oregon, and concludes with Tennessee at UCLA from the Rose Bowl in a nationally televised primetime game on Labor Day, Mon., Sep. 1.



Longest overall winning streak: 5 games - USC
Longest Conference-game winning streak: 4 games - USC
Longest home winning streak: 3 games - Oregon State and USC
Longest road winning streak: 2 games - Oregon State and USC

OUT OF OUR LEAGUE: Following a 4-2 showing in post-season bowl games, Pac-10 teams finished the 2007 season with an excellent 25-12 (.676) mark against non-conference opponents.

NFL DRAFT: The Pac-10 had 34 players selected in the 2008 NFL draft, a total surpassed only by the 12-team SEC, which had 35 players picked.

RETURNING STARTERS: The average Pac-10 team returns 14 starters (out of 24, including kickers), broken down as 6.5 on offense, 6 on defense and 1.5 kickers/punters. Arizona State, Stanford and Washington State return the most with 16, Oregon State the least at 10, followed by UCLA with 11. Among those returnees are 12 first-team and 10 second-team All-Pac-10 performers.

NEW COACHES: Technically, the Pac-10 features two new head coaches in 2008, although Rick Neuheisel can hardly be labeled new to the league. Neuheisel takes over the helm at his alma mater UCLA. He has compiled a record of 66-30 in eight years as a head coach, four at Colorado (1995-98) and four at Washington (1999-2002), and directed teams to seven bowl games during that span. A member of the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame by virtue of leading UCLA to a stunning upset of Illinois in the 1984 Rose Bowl Game, Neuheisel has spent the last three years on the staff of the Baltimore Ravens. . . . Paul Wulff also takes over as head coach at his alma mater, in this case Washington State, moving up after a very successful stint at Eastern Washington. Wulff compiled a record of 53-40 in eight years as head coach at Eastern Washington and was named Big Sky Coach of the Year three times. Wulff was a four-year starter at center for WSU from 1986-89, where he played under Jim Walden, Dennis Erickson and Mike Price.

ARIZONA: Wildcats implemented a new spread offense last year (Air Zona) and averaged 308.5 yards per game passing behind QB Willie Tuitama. Tuitama threw a school-record 29 TD passes and the offense improved by 12 points and 130 yards per game over the previous year. That offense welcomes back 10 starters this year. . . . Conversely, only three starters return on defense. . . . Six players who caught at least 20 passes last year return, led by All-Pac-10 WR Mike Thomas, who led the league in receptions with 83 for 1,038 yards and 11 TDs. . . . Senior PK Jason Bondzio nailed 8-of-10 field goal attempts of 40 yards or more last year.

ARIZONA STATE: Dennis Erickson begins his 20th year as a college head coach. His 158 career victories places him 10th among currently active head coaches. . . . Sun Devils were Pac-10 co-champs with USC last year at 7-2 in league, 10-3 overall. . . . QB Rudy Carpenter has started 31 consecutive games, posting a 21-10 record in those starts. . . . PK Thomas Weber won the Lou Groza Award by connecting on 24 of 25 field goal attempts last year. Pretty good for a freshman. . . . ASU allowed only 12 fourth-quarter points in 12 regular-season games last year and returns seven starters on defense.

CALIFORNIA: Talent, experience and depth at linebacker will prompt the Golden Bears' to line up in a 3-4 defense this year. Experienced senior LBs Zack Follett, Anthony Felder and Worrell Williams are the heart of Cal's defense. . . . Led by All-America C Alex Mack, the Bears return three starters to an offensive line that allowed only 11 QB sacks last year. . . . Cal has been to five consecutive bowl games under coach Jeff Tedford. That marks the first time ever the Bears advanced to a bowl five straight years. . . . Golden Bears never play more than two home or two road games in a row this year.

OREGON: Ducks may have the best cornerback duo in the league in Jairus Byrd, who led the league in interceptions last year with seven, and Walter Thurmond III, who had five picks himself. That duo begins its third year starting and teams with All-Pac-10 rover Patrick Chung, who has made 38 consecutive starts, to give the Ducks a potent secondary. . . . Also back on the defensive unit is All-Conference DE Nick Reed, who led the league with 22.5 tackles for loss, including 12 QB sacks. . . . The Conference schedule is not kind to Oregon this year as the Ducks must travel to expected contenders USC, Arizona State, California and rival Oregon State.

OREGON STATE: Beavers welcome back WR/PR Sammie Stroughter, who missed last year as a medical redshirt. Stroughter led the Pac-10 in receiving yards in 2006 and earned second-team All-America honors as a return specialist for averaging 15.7 yards on punt returns with three brought back for TDs. Add Stroughter to the mix with James Rodgers, who showed explosiveness as both a flanker and running back last year, and the Beavers boast some long distance threats. . . . The bad news on defense is the Beavers must replace the entire starting front seven. The good news is the return of three senior starters to one of the league's best secondaries. . . . Oregon State enters the season having won seven of its last eight games with the lone loss on the road to USC.

STANFORD: Alex Fletcher moves back to center after earning second-team All-Pac-10 honors at guard last year. The veteran Fletcher has 31 career starts. . . . Stanford posted a three-game improvement under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh last season. A similar jump this year would land the Cardinal in a bowl game. . . . S Bo McNally is the leading returning tackler in the Pac-10. McNally posted 114 stops last year, an average of 9.5 per game, and had seven games with double-digit tackles. . . . After home opener against Oregon State, Stanford hits the road for four of its next five games.

UCLA: With both Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan going down with injuries, the Bruins announced JC transfer Kevin Craft will start at quarterback in the season opener against Tennessee. Craft, a junior, passed for 4,231 yards and 44 TDs at Mt. San Antonio College last year and was named California Offensive Player of the Year. . . . No shortage of offensive minds in Westwood with new head coach Rick Neuheisel and highly-acclaimed offensive coordinator Norm Chow on hand. . . . Bruins open the season against ranked teams Tennessee and BYU, but hope transition to new coaching staff will be eased by playing four of first five games at home in the Rose Bowl.

USC: Coach Pete Carroll's winning percentage of .844 (76-14) easily tops the list of currently active head coaches. Carroll's six Pac-10 championships ties him for third place with former Washington coach Don James (1975-1992) for most Conference titles won. Only former Trojan mentors John McKay (9) and Howard Jones (7) have won more Conference football crowns than Carroll. . . . Trojans enter the season having won their final five games last season, capped by a blowout win against Illinois in the Rose Bowl. . . . Trojan defense gave up only nine TD passes last year and has seven starters back, including the safety tandem of All-America FS Taylor Mays and All-Pac-10 SS Kevin Ellison. . . . Trojan O-Line will be young with senior OG Jeff Byers the only returning starter.

WASHINGTON: Dynamic QB Jake Locker earned Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors last season after accounting for 3,048 yards total offense and 27 TDs. Included were 986 yards rushing, a Conference record for a quarterback. . . . Locker's rushing prowess was one major reason the Huskies finished second in the Pac-10 in rushing offense last year at 203.1 yards per game. . . . Plus the offense averaged 29.2 points per game last year, its best mark since 2002. . . . Does any team have a more challenging early schedule than Washington? The Huskies first three opponents--No. 21 Oregon, No. 16 BYU and No. 4 Oklahoma.

WASHINGTON STATE: New head coach Paul Wulff, a former starting center for Washington State, will have the Cougars in an up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense this season. . . . WSU is expected to utilize a 4-3 on defense. . . . Senior QB Gary Rogers will direct the offense, finally getting his opportunity after backing up record-setting quarterback Alex Brink the last three seasons. . . . All-Pac-10 WR Brandon Gibson led the league in receiving yardage last year and was the only receiver to average more than 100 yards per game (107.3). He had 67 receptions for a school-record 1,180 yards.



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