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2007 Pac 10 Conference Preview

2007/08 NCAA Football Previews
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College Football Preview: Pac-10 - Can USC go undefeated?


Philadelphia, PA (My Sportsbook) - The Trojans head into 2007 as the clear- cut number one team in the nation, but unlike last season, they have four tough contests away from Memorial Coliseum where they have not lost since 2001. Both UCLA and Oregon State got the best of Southern Cal last season when the Trojans were double-digit road favorites so anything can happen.

The Pac-10 fared poorly as a whole in non-conference games, winning only 63% as opposed to 74% in '06. The league barely finished above .500 ATS at 16-15-1, but posted 10 SU wins in 17 games vs. other BCS schools. With Arizona State, Oregon and Arizona on the way up, there's a good chance the league can improve on last year's records.

Here is my take on the Pac-10, with odds to win the National Championship in parenthesis:

1) USC (5-2 favorite) - Last season, the Trojans had to replace 13 starters. This year that number falls to six, which is why many in the media are calling for USC to reach the title game.

Strengths - John David Booty had a fine season replacing Matt Leinart, throwing 29 TDs with nine picks. The running game, which fell below USC standards due to multiple injuries, will rebound to help offset the lack of veteran receivers. Ten starters return to a defense which in many circles is rated the best in the land.

Weaknesses - It will be up to Patrick Turner, Vidal Hazelton and David Ausberry to replace the 141 catches for 2,098 yards from Dwayne Jarrett and Steve Smith. That's asking a lot from a junior, sophomore and redshirt freshman. USC averaged +20 in turnover differential from 2003-05, but only produced a +4 last season.

Bottom line - The Trojans are the best in the country, but will not finish the regular season 12-0. Nevertheless, 11-1 (8-1) should be good enough to make it to the BCS National Championship Game unless Louisville and LSU both go undefeated. Southern Cal has finished an even 13-13 ATS the past two years and won't be that much better in '07 since Pete Carroll's club will be heavy favorites on a weekly basis.

2) ARIZONA STATE (50-1) - Mediocrity is the exact word that described the Sun Devils during the Dirk Koetter era. Arizona State will be a completely different team under Dennis Erickson.

Strengths - Last year was a nightmare from the start, with Koetter's pathetic handling of QBs Sam Keller and Rudy Carpenter. Still, his decision to hand Carpenter the reins will have a much more positive effect in 2007. His receiving core was a merry-go-round of players last season and that position will improve dramatically. There's no denying that the defense was the reason the Sun Devils went bowling, as the unit gave up just 305 yards per game in Pac-10 play and held opposing league QBs to a 49.5% completion rate.

Weaknesses - One area that must be rebuilt is on special teams. ASU lost their kicker and top return man.

Bottom line - The new coaching staff will mold this talented squad to a 10-win season and a second place tie with Oregon at 7-2. Arizona State will be one of the top-rated clubs ATS, so stick with the Sun Devils on a week-to-week basis.

3) OREGON (50-1) - The Ducks sandwiched a 10-2 campaign in '05 with two putrid seasons of 5-6 in '04 and 7-6 last year. With 14 starters returning, look for a return to dominance for the fans in Eugene.

Strengths - Despite the step backwards in '06, Oregon still averaged 28 ppg, good for second-best in conference play. Incidentally, that's where the Ducks finished in their 10-2 season. The Ducks sport the top 1-2 running back combo in the league in Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson, and the odds of QBs Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf under-performing like they did a year ago is extremely low. Defensively, the team finished second in Pac-10 play in yards allowed for the second straight season.

Weaknesses - With numbers like those, it's a wonder how this team lost its last four games. The reason? Turnovers. Oregon ended up last in league play with 25 offensive miscues, and after forcing 24 in '05, the Ducks could only gain 13 last year.

Bottom line - Mike Bellotti will lead his team to 10 victories, seven in the Pac-10 and the Ducks will be a great team to bet on throughout the season, even at Michigan in week two.

4) UCLA (30-1) - Run defense was the number one story in Westwood last year, especially against USC. The Bruins held the Trojans to 55 yards rushing on 29 carries in their 13-9 upset victory.

Strengths - No team in college football improved as much on defense as UCLA did, allowing two TDs less per game, and the "D" returns 10 starters. The Bruins offense averaged just 23 ppg, down 16 points from '05, but that was mainly due to the losses of Drew Olson and Maurice Jones-Drew. Look for much- improved numbers in '07 with 10 returning starters.

Weaknesses - The Bruins finished 5-4 in the Pac-10 outscoring their conference opponents 22-19, but were outgained by an average of six yards per contest. Interestingly enough, the year before they were outgained by 73 yards despite a 6-2 league mark! Despite the 20 returning starters, UCLA loses a prime weapon in kicker Justin Medlock, who nailed 31-of-42 FGs from 40 yards and out.

Bottom line - The offense will be better, but it's doubtful the defense will sustain its monster numbers. Look for eight wins, five in the conference. Bettors have loved the Bruins the previous three seasons, with 23 covers and only 14 defeats.

5) ARIZONA (300-1) - The last two years the Wildcats have upset two top 10 teams in UCLA and California, and should have their best season in almost a decade.

Strengths - It's a new era in Tucson, as offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes comes over from Texas Tech to institute the spread offense. Expect QB Willie Tuitama to have an explosive campaign with the changeover. The defensive backfield received great news earlier in the year when top cover corner Antoine Cason announced he would return for his senior season. Nine starters return from a defense that finished second in conference play allowing just 18.6 ppg.

Weaknesses - The Wildcats are also 8-17 in the Pac-10 under Mike Stoops so history is not on their side.

Bottom line - The schedule is immensely difficult with road games at BYU, Cal, Oregon State, USC and ASU, but the 'Cats are moving in the right direction. If the offense jells quickly, look for an 8-4 (5-4) record and a solid ATS mark.

6) CALIFORNIA (50-1) - Last season opened on a sour note as the Bears got hammered at Tennessee, but they rebounded to finish 10-3, with a victory over Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl.

Strengths - The running game will not drop off as one might think without Marshawn Lynch. Remember, Justin Forsett gained 999 yards back in '05. The combo of Nate Longshore and the top receiving corps in the conference will guide California to another successful offensive season.

Weaknesses - There's no doubt the defense underachieved last year. After ending up third in league play in '05 allowing 375 ypg, they finished eighth last year with seven starters returning! The Bears bring back just two starters from their front seven in '07, including just one career sack from its defensive line. Pass defense was a problem in '06 after Tim Mixon was lost prior to the season, and this season will be even tougher without top cover man, Deymeion Hughes.

Bottom line - The offense will sparkle and the defense will fizzle. Cal falls to 7-5, 4-5 in the Pac-10 and will fail to finish above .500 ATS for the third straight year.

7) OREGON STATE (300-1) - The Beavers posted 10 wins for the first time since 2000, but will falter this season as they did in '01 when they won just three conference games.

Strengths - Sixteen starters return, including 1,307-yard rusher Yvenson Bernard, and the receiving unit is extremely deep. The defense led the nation with 47 sacks and OSU returns 87% of them in '07.

Weaknesses - The Beavers were a +8 in turnover margin. The last two seasons they finished at that number or higher, they fell to -7 and -8 the following years. Quarterback Matt Moore must be replaced, as well as the top defensive player, safety Sabby Piscitelli.

Bottom line - A lot of things went right for Oregon State last season, including winning its final three games by a combined six points. Mike Riley's club will not be as fortunate in '07, but will still finish over .500 at 7-5, 4-5 in the Pac-10. The Beavers are 6-1 as road favorites the last three years.

8) WASHINGTON (100-1 - Field) - Can the Huskies improve on their 5-7 record with perhaps the toughest schedule in the nation?

Strengths - If redshirt freshman QB Jake Looker is the real deal, look for Washington to have its most productive offense since 2002. The Huskies running game will be solid with Louis Rankin and J.R. Hasty, and the offensive line is the biggest in school history.

Weaknesses - Of the eight defensive backs in spring practice, three were walk- ons. Not a good sign in the pass happy Pac-10. In addition, the club lost five of its top six tacklers to graduation.

Bottom line - Washington will be lucky to win five games, as the team must face Ohio State, Boise State, Hawaii out of conference. Expect a 4-9 record, with three of those victories coming in league play. If Looker looks sharp early on, the Huskies will be a viable team to follow ATS.

9) WASHINGTON STATE (100-1 - Field) - The Cougars look to rebound from losing their final three games in '06 after starting the campaign with six wins in their first nine games.

Strengths - Alex Brink rarely pleases the Pullman faithful, but all he does is produce "W's" and improve each and every season. Washington State was number one in Pac-10 play with 24 forced turnovers and third in sacks with 26.

Weaknesses - Unfortunately for Cougar fans, most of the defensive playmakers have departed, especially in the secondary, which will leave the unit in a state of flux. The offensive line must improve after allowing 22 sacks the final seven games.

Bottom line - The Cougars have five conference road games, which will leave them at 2-7 in the Pac-10 and four wins overall. They are 11-11 ATS the last two years, but will fall below the .500 mark in '07.

10) STANFORD (100-1 - Field) - Nowhere to go but up after a miserable 1-11 season.

Strengths - The run defense improved as the year went on allowing 908 yards on 3.8 ypc the last six games after giving up 1,618 yards on 5.8 ypc the first six. In addition, the "D" produced 10 sacks the final six contests after registering just four in the first six.

Weaknesses - The offense didn't help the improved defense any with just 10.6 ppg and 232 ypg. Those numbers were even worse (8 ppg and 199 ypg) in Pac-10 play.

Bottom line - It will be another long season in Palo Alto with only one win, a home victory over San Jose State. Stanford finished 0-4 as a home underdog last year, but could pick up one or two ATS victories later in the season.

August 10, 2007, at 10:13 AM ET

2007 College Football Conference Previews cont...
NCAA Football
1. 2007 Team By Team Previews
2. 2007 WAC Conference Preview
3. 2007 Mountain Conference Preview
4. 2007 Conference USA Preview
5. 2007 Big East Conference Preview
6. 2007 ACC Conference Preview
7. 2007 Big 12 Conference Preview
8. 2007 Pac 10 Conference Preview
9. 2007 Big 10 Conference Preview
10. 2007 SEC Conference Preview
11. 2007 CFB Independants Preview

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