Tuesday, August 25, 2009
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The final piece of Pac-10 day: Superlatives, awards and predictions
1.Offensive player of the year: California running back Jahvid Best: If Best stays healthy he should post huge numbers. And if his team wins and he stays healthy, he should get an invitation to join all those quarterbacks in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
2. Defensive player of the year: USC safety Taylor Mays. He's a two-time All-American with something to prove: Can he make plays on the ball? Here's a guess he'll make plenty of those and continue to be one of the biggest hitters in all of college football.
3. Newcomer of the year: Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck, a redshirt freshman, is a smart guy with talent and leadership skills. He's going to bring balance to a run-heavy offense and lead Stanford to a bowl game.
4. Comeback player of the year: Washington quarterback Jake Locker. A year after missing most of the season with a thumb injury, Locker will ride again. He might not pile up a lot of wins for the Huskies, but he will thrive in Steve Sarkisian's pro-style offense and still get his licks while scrambling.
5. Freshman of the year: Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The Sun Devils are deep at linebacker, but Burfict, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound true freshman is too special to remain on the bench. He'll be a playmaker for a defense that already has a couple of those.
6. Most exciting player: Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli: There are a lot of possibilities here -- Best, James or Jacquizz Rodgers or a playmaker from USC -- but Masoli will be the premier pass-run quarterback in the nation by the end of the year, at least outside of Gainesville, Fla. He'll thrill with his scrambles -- like last year -- but this season he's going to make more plays in the downfield passing game.
7. Coach of the year: California's Jeff Tedford. While we're not ready to claim he will break USC's seven-year stranglehold on the Pac-10 title just yet, Tedford has a team that's good enough to earn a BCS bowl berth even if USC manages to remain on top.
8. Game of the year: USC at California, Oct. 3. We won't have to wait long for the Pac-10 game of the year. And it's worth noting both teams will be tested before this date. USC visits Ohio State and California must survive consecutive road games at Minnesota and -- egad! -- Oregon.
9. Surprise team of the year: Arizona. While a handful of pundits have projected a top-half conference finish for the Wildcats, most believe the Wildcats are headed for a fall, see their being picked eighth in the Pac-10 preseason media poll. We think that's way low, so we won't be surprised when they win eight or nine games. But some folks will be.
10. Team that will disappoint: USC. I'd say "might" disappoint because I obviously picked USC to win the conference. Part of this is annual expectations that are stratospheric. But it's not hard to imagine the Trojans losing three games, which they haven't done since they lost six in 2001. For a team that many are projecting as a possible national title contender, the Holiday Bowl would be a huge letdown.