Pac-10 preseason rankings (guess who's No. 1!)

July, 11, 2008
7/11/08
7:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

1. USC: Again as talented as anyone and a national title contender. While a seventh consecutive conference title feels like almost a sure thing, BCS title hopes hang on quarterback Mark Sanchez and a talented but inconsistent and/or inexperienced offense finding its mojo.

2. Oregon: Ducks aren't rebuilding, particularly if sophomore quarterback Nate Costa lives up to his hype and the defense finds some hole-plugging presences in the front seven. There's a lot of speed and skill in Eugene, and the Ducks secondary rivals USC for the best unit in the nation.

3. Arizona State: Schedule is a lot tougher than '07, see a visit from Georgia on Sept. 20. But if the offensive line comes through -- albeit a big if -- there really aren't many holes on this team. And a veteran quarterback, such as Rudy Carpenter, goes a long way in the Pac-10.

4. California: Will there be a hangover from 2007's second-half meltdown? Or will the Bears bounce back and challenge for the Pac-10 crown like they appeared to be doing until Oct. 13 last fall? The issue might not be emotional, though. It might be inexperience and uncertainty at quarterback.

5. Arizona: Some of us (who, me?) have been predicting an Arizona turnaround for a few years now. But now we mean it. Promise. The schedule and offensive firepower, led by veteran QB Willie Tuitama, will get 'Cats to a bowl.

6. Oregon State: It's tempting to rank the Beavers higher because they almost always exceed expectation, a fact their fans quite reasonably relish. But OSU is rebuilding its defensive front seven and seems unsettled at quarterback. That said: There's plenty of skill on offense and the secondary is outstanding, so the Beavers could again take a bite out of prognosticators.

7. Washington: The Huskies might well be much improved this season as quarterback Jake Locker, Tim Tebow West Coast, becomes a bona fide star, but the schedule and huge questions on defense make it hard to imagine a winning record. And a without a winning record, coach Tyrone Willingham might lose his job.

8. UCLA: The schedule is brutal (Tennessee, BYU and Fresno State are the nonconference games). The offensive line may be brutalized. New coach Rick Neuheisel didn't inherit much talent, and that figures to show on the field, no matter how good the coaching staff is.

9. Stanford: Those of us who suspect Jim Harbaugh might turn out to be an outstanding coach will be tempted to rate Stanford higher. And 16 starters back from team that mostly played inspired football last season even gives some heft to that hunch. But, I just couldn't pull the trigger on a higher slot.

10. Washington State: New coach Paul Wulff has made a strong first impression in Pullman, but he inherited a thin roster and will be breaking in a new quarterback. If the Cougs get lucky with injuries, they might escape the conference cellar, but young teams don't often do that.

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