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Friday, August 15, 2008
Biggest impact item of Pac-10 preseason camp

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

 
 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
 Ben Olson's foot injury could be the biggest impact news item in the Pac-10 so far.

With real, live games now two weeks away (hooray!), I'm trying to identify the biggest impact news item thus far.

Tempted to say it's this: the "jock itch epidemic" at USC -- just because I want to link to the story for, like, the fifth time.

Most folks would say it's USC quarterback Mark Sanchez's injury, but I discount that for two reasons: One, I suspect he will start on Sept. 13 against Ohio State; two, in any event, I think the Trojans can win without him.

While Washington isn't a front-line Pac-10 team this year, quarterback Jake Locker is a front-line player, and when he suffered a hamstring injury, it was big news because the Huskies can't win without him -- and that would immediately damage Tyrone Willingham's chances to put together the sort of season that would save his job. But Locker also looks to be quickly improving and should lead the offense at Oregon on Aug. 30.

That's why I'm going with UCLA quarterback Ben Olson's foot injury.

This is a for-real, needed-surgery, out-for-at-least-eight-weeks injury.

At the start of Rick Neuheisel's first spring session with the Bruins, he was overseeing a competition between two quarterbacks with significant starting experience in a UCLA uniform -- Olson and Pat Cowan.

Now he has neither, though Kevin Craft, the likely starter, saw some action at San Diego State.

Last we checked, QB is an important position, particularly in this conference.

Sure, with Olson's long injury history, it's not surprising he's gone down. But let's face it: More than a few of us probably wondered if offensive coordinator Norm Chow would be the guy to transform Olson's obvious talent into consistent performances.

Neuheisel already was handed a flawed team. The offensive line is pure mix-and-match.

The defense will have to carry this team because the offense is probably going to struggle to score 20 points per game.

And that was before Olson went down.

Toss in one of the toughest schedules in the nation, and it could be a long season.

Of course, it's always possible that Craft -- or maybe even someone else -- will toss around some fairy dust and the Bruins will shock everyone.

Not likely, but possible.