Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Week 1 danger in the Pac-10
By ESPN.com staff
A bad start stinks. It can be overcome -- see Oregon's implosion at Boise State in 2009 -- but it still stinks.
Every Pac-10 team carried optimism into the summer because that's what teams do. But it is more than likely that after the season's opening weekend at least one team will be 0-1 and just a bit less optimistic.
Which teams are at risk for 0-1? Here's a ranking of first-weekend danger.
1. Washington State at Oklahoma State: Both teams are rebuilding. But the Cougars are rebuilding a program that has been 3-22 over the past two seasons, while the Cowboys are transitioning from a team that has been 18-8 during the same span. Oh, and the Cougars haven't won on the road since 2007.
2. Oregon State vs. TCU (Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas): The Horned Frogs welcome 18 starters back from a team that went 12-1. They almost certainly will be ranked in the preseason top 10. And this one functions as a road game-plus for the Beavers. If the game were played at TCU, then the Beavers would face just 44,000 hostile fans. At Cowboys Stadium, they'll see 80,000. Beyond all this, Oregon State has been a notoriously slow-starting team over the past few seasons, last posting a 3-0 start in 2002.
3. Washington at BYU: BYU is rebuilding, while Washington welcomes back 18 starters, including Jake Locker. Still, this is a road game at a tough venue. Moreover, the Huskies haven't posted a winning season since 2002, while the Cougars have won 43 games over the past four seasons. And, by the way, the Huskies haven't won on the road since 2007 at Stanford.
4. UCLA at Kansas State: UCLA didn't have much trouble with the Wildcats in 2009, winning 23-9, but it's never easy to win on the road. And here's a hunch that Bill Snyder, in the second year of his second tenure in Manhattan, will have a much saltier team in 2010.
5. Arizona at Toledo: Sure, Toledo is a MAC program that welcomes back only 13 starters from a 5-7 team. But the Rockets beat Colorado in the Glass Bowl last year 54-38, and the players figure to be a bit more comfortable with second-year coach Tim Beckman. Moreover, this will be the first test of a rebuilt Wildcats defense.
6. USC at Hawaii: Hawaii has 15 starters back from a 6-7 team, but the Warriors' only chance is if the Trojans spend too much time at a luau on Sept. 1. USC hasn't lost a nonconference road game since 2002.
7. New Mexico at Oregon: New Mexico welcomes back 10 starters from a 1-11 team. Oregon welcomes back 18 from the defending Pac-10 champions, though running back LaMichael James will sit this one out because of an offseason legal scrape. Ducks will win.
8. Northern Arizona at Arizona State: The Lumberjacks are an FCS team that went 5-6 last year. If the Sun Devils lose, the ASU campus in Tempe will be relocated here.
9. UC Davis at California: UC Davis. I C Davis. We all C Davis! But U won't C a Davis win.
10. Sacramento State at Stanford: Not to sound like a know-it-all, but Sacramento isn't a state. Unless you're in a Sacramento state of mind, which might look something like this.