Pac-12: Gary Rogers

Pac-10 lunch links: Update on Oregon's tumbling fan

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

These links have a special "scratch and sniff" feature.

  • Arizona is looking for better defensive tackles.
  • Arizona State's bye week didn't start great. Clint Floyd, a true freshman who has started the past two games at strong safety, is expected to miss two to four weeks because of a lacerated kidney, and, Matt Hustad, a backup offensive lineman expected to break into the starting lineup when he got healthy, won't because he's now out for the season, requiring a second knee surgery.
  • The latest on The Great Falling Fan at Oregon. And quarterback Justin Roper looks fairly healthy as he tries to get his job back.
  • Oregon State safety Al Afalava, who knocked Washington quarterback Jake Locker out in last year's game, said his family is concerned about what might happen to him at Husky Stadium.
  • Is Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh about to become a hot coaching commodity? Note the status of the Bay Area's two NFL teams.
  • More changes for the UCLA offensive line, but will it help the running game against Stanford?
  • USC running back Joe McKnight is questionable for the visit to Washington State.
  • It's almost certain that Washington quarterback Jake Locker won't play again this season.
  • Washington State quarterback Gary Rogers thought he was paralyzed when he went down against Portland State

More QB intrigue in the Pac-10

September, 24, 2008
9/24/08
11:20
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

As if the well-documented quarterback circus at Oregon isn't enough, here's a couple of other items.

  • It's good that Washington State redshirt freshman QB Marshall Lobbestael looked poised and capable when he came off the bench against Portland State after starter Kevin Lopina and backup Gary Rogers went down with injuries, because he's now the man for the Cougars. It was already announced that Rogers was done for the year, but Lopina is now out for two to six weeks with a "fracture of the L-4 transverse process of his vertebrae." So Lobbestael starts against Oregon and his backups will be true freshman J.T. Levenseller and redshirt freshman walkon Dan Wagner.
  • And, according to the Charlottesville Daily Progress, it appears Oregon State has added another quarterback to its roster: Former Virginia QB Peter Lalich. 

Read about Lalich's issues here

Internal affairs: UCLA might find its running game

September, 24, 2008
9/24/08
11:06
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Getting deep into this week's games.

USC needs style points to stay No. 1: It's clear that USC coach Pete Carroll respects and genuinely likes Oregon State coach Mike Riley. But the Trojans can't afford to sleepwalk through the Pac-10 schedule, looking bored and sloppy while winning by seven to 10 points. The nation saw the Beavers get physically manhandled 45-14 at Penn State, and the Trojans need to turn in a similarly dominant performance if they want to remain atop the polls. While this is not a topic that coach Pete Carroll will engage, he's well aware that his team needs style points because he's not going to get much credit for just running the Pac-10 table, considering no other conference team is presently ranked.

California should bounce back: Cal didn't use its bye week to get healthy. It used it to get more physical with a lot of full-go hitting. Of course, considering what happened last year -- the team went into a tailspin when its high-expectations imploded -- the chief concern is making sure that the upset loss at Maryland doesn't ruin the season. While the Cal players and coaches didn't seem to care much about getting a dose of Pac-10 redemption against the Mountain West Conference, which is 5-0 vs. the Pac-10 thus far, the Bears should be pretty gritty for their return home. The Rams, though 2-1, were picked to finish at or near the bottom of the MWC. They don't run the ball well and only beat Sacramento State by three points. If the Bears are angry, this would be a good weekend to take out some aggression.

If the Huskies can't stop Stanford, they can't stop anyone: Washington's 2007 defense was widely considered the worst in program history. But the 2008 Huskies are putting up even worse numbers, despite hiring veteran NFL coach Ed Donatell. They presently rank 118th in the nation in total defense -- just ahead of SMU, which is last -- surrendering an eye-popping 521 yards per game. Stanford, however, will offer a much more manageable offense than Oregon, BYU and Oklahoma (which are ranked Nos. 7, 4 and 13, respectively, in total offense). The Cardinal ranks 109th in the nation in passing, though QB Tavita Pritchard improved enough to hold onto his job in the win against San Jose State. The key to stopping the Cardinal is simple: Keep RB Toby Gerhart in check and force the Cardinal to pass.

UCLA might be able to run against Fresno State: First, the Bruins rushed for a season-high 115 yards in the loss to Arizona, so they moved up from worst in the nation (119th) to 117th. Second, senior TB Kahlil Bell, who's missed essentially the entire season with an ankle sprain, is expected to play. Bell, when healthy, is one of the Pac-10's best running backs. Third, Fresno State's run defense is ranked 95th in the nation (185.7 yards per game). And, finally, the Bulldogs will be without their two starting DTs, Jon Monga (knee), perhaps their best defensive player, and Cornell Banks (ankle). Their replacements are two freshmen and a sophomore.

Things are getting tougher, not better at Washington State: A desperate situation got even more arduous for the Cougars when it was discovered that starting QB Kevin Lopina's shoulder injury was actually a "fracture of the L-4 transverse process of his vertebrae" and he'll be out two to six weeks (and here's a guess it's closer to six). With No. 2 Gary Rogers done for the year with a fractured vertebra, that means redshirt freshman Marshall Lobbestael is now the man. Lobbestael looked great coming off the bench against Portland State, but starting against Oregon is a different story. And things are thin behind him, with true freshman J.T. Levenseller likely the first option ahead of redshirt freshman walk-on Dan Wagner. Oh, by the way, the Cougars also announced that junior linebacker Jason Stripling is done for the year due to a shoulder injury.

    Hey buddy, can you spare a QB?

    September, 22, 2008
    9/22/08
    8:17
    PM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    It seems like UCLA would have the best QB sob story this season -- "Hey, man, we lost our first two QBs on consecutive non-contact plays in spring practice!" -- but Oregon coach Mike Bellotti and Washington State's Paul Wulff might share a supportive hug over their travails during their pregame chat this weekend.

    Oregon's QB woes (curse?) are well-chronicled. For the second consecutive year, the Ducks are answering the question: Just how many QBs do most Division I-A teams have?

    When freshman Darron Thomas took off his redshirt and led a spirited comeback that ultimately fell short for the Ducks, he became the fifth QB the Ducks have used this season.

    Meanwhile, Washington State saw its Nos. 1 and 2 QBs go down to injury against Portland State.

    First, Kevin Lopina was lost to a shoulder bruise and is questionable for this weekend. Then hard-luck Gary Rogers saw his season end with a fractured vertebra.

    Rogers, a fifth-year senior, waited patiently behind Alex Brink for three seasons and began the year as the starter but lost his job when the offense floundered in the early-going.

    Now his career is over.

    Both the Ducks and the Cougars, however, got inspired play from their youngsters previously sitting on the end of the bench.

    Cougars redshirt freshman Marshall Lobbestael, who'd thrown only two previous passes, hurled TD tosses of 14 and 53 yards on his first two attempts -- the technical term for that is "good start" -- and ended up completing 9 of 12 for 149 yards. WSU scored on his first four possessions and he earned Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week.

    And considering how things are going for the Cougars, it's hard to imagine he won't get the start when the Ducks come calling.

    Oregon got a little of the same from Thomas, who pass for three fourth-quarter TDs in the loss to Boise State.

    It appears the Ducks will start Jeremiah Masoli, a first-year JC transfer who went down with a concussion -- suffered on a late hit -- against Boise State. Justin Roper is sill probably a week or two away from returning from his knee injury. True freshman Chris Harper is a good runner, but a nagging shoulder injury is damaging his ability to throw.

    So Thomas, Mr. No. 5, is now in the picture.

    And to all you former high school QBs presently students at Oregon and Washington State: if you ever thought about walking on, now might be the time.

    Pac-10: A quick look ahead

    September, 22, 2008
    9/22/08
    11:42
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    A look at this week's Pac-10 slate.

    No. 1 USC (2-0) at Oregon State (1-2, 0-1): Can any team in the beleaguered Pac-10 stop USC? Can any team come close? Oregon State gets the first crack at home on ESPN. Penn State bullied both Beavers lines, so it's hard to imagine the Trojans, after a week of rest, won't do the same.

    No. 25 Fresno State (2-1) at UCLA (1-2): Fresno State coach Pat Hill cherishes every opportunity against BCS teams, but he particularly loves taking on the Pac-10. And California Pac-10 teams? Gosh, that's Christmas for him. And the way the Bruins have looked in their past two games -- combined score 10-90 -- this visit to the Rose Bowl has a big, red ribbon wrapped around it.

    Colorado State (2-1) at California (2-1): Cal gets a chance for a little Pac-10 revenge on the Mountain West Conference, which presently leads the season series 5-zip. The Rams, now 2-1 after beating Houston, are no gimme.

    Oregon (3-1, 1-0) at Washington State (1-3, 0-1): Welcome to "A Journey Through the QB Depth Chart." The Ducks might start No. 5 QB Darron Thomas, a true freshman who doffed his redshirt and was impressive in leading a fourth-quarter comeback that fell just short against Boise State. Or they might go with No. 2 QB Justin Roper, if his knee injury is better. Or someone in between. As for the Cougars, redshirt freshman Marshall Lobbestael, No. 3 on the depth chart, might get the call with starter Kevin Lopina nursing a bruised shoulder and No. 2 Gary Rogers lost for the season due to a fractured vertebra.

    Stanford (2-2, 1-0) at Washington (0-3, 0-1): Stanford could crawl from the bottom third into the middle third of the Pac-10 with a win in Seattle, but to do it the Cardinal will have to leave footprints on the Washington career of their former coach, Tyrone Willingham. This contest, the first against an unranked foe for the Huskies, figures to be critical for Willingham's survival.

    Pac-10 power rankings

    September, 22, 2008
    9/22/08
    10:00
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    At this point, the only certainties here are USC and Washington State. The rest feels like a muddle.

    1. USC: The Trojans had an off week and gained huge ground on the rest of the conference because Oregon and Arizona State went splat at home. The Trojans might need to be worried about how bad their conference looks.

    2. Oregon: Think about this: the Ducks lose at home to a non-BCS team and have huge issues at QB, yet who else should be rated No. 2? Should California be promoted because it had an off-week following its loss at Maryland? Or should Arizona perk up because it beat UCLA a week after losing to New Mexico? Somebody's got to be No. 2, and the Ducks still seem to have the most fire-power.

    3. California: By not playing, the Bears had a good week compared to most of the rest of the conference. We're choosing to believe the real Cal is the one that took care of Michigan State, not the one that looked feckless for three quarters at Maryland.

    4. Arizona: The Wildcats certainly didn't look like a well-oiled machine while whipping UCLA, but that might actually mean something positive. Perhaps this squad took a first step toward learning how to win.

    5. Arizona State: The Sun Devils, a week after losing to 23-point underdog UNLV, looked overmatched against Georgia, in large part because they couldn't run the ball worth a pooh. They figure to use an off-week to try to figure some things out. Of course, it would help if starting tailback Keegan Herring were healthy.

    6. Stanford: Solid defense -- eight sacks -- and 23 unanswered points in the victory over San Jose State move the Cardinal up. RB Toby Gerhart returned to form, but the passing game still is lukewarm, at best.

    7. Oregon State: The Beavers, off this weekend, will get first crack at USC on Thursday night. Enjoy.

    8. UCLA: Got a feeling that UCLA will settle in down here. The Bruins have the unfortunate task of playing host to a very good Fresno State team this weekend, so the WAC figures to take another whack at the Pac.

    9. Washington: This is a HUGE weekend for Washington and coach Tyrone Willingham. The Huskies had a bye week to get healthy, which also should have helped them forget the miserable first three games and get ready for Stanford, a team they beat a year ago and could beat again. But a loss at home to the Cardinal could be the last straw for Willingham.

    10. Washington State: Even the great news of a dominant performance in a victory -- albeit over a FCS team, Portland State -- came with bad news, with the Cougars top-two QBs going down to injury. Moreover, backup Gary Rogers situation was scary at first: The fifth-year senior is now out for the season with a "stable cervical spine fracture," according to the Seattle Times, but the injury won't require surgery.

    Ten things to watch for on Saturday

    September, 12, 2008
    9/12/08
    9:00
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    Lots to look for in a big nonconference weekend:

    1. USC RB Joe McKnight may be ready for his close-up: McKnight was burdened with stratospheric of expectations last year as a true freshman, most notably folks calling him the next Reggie Bush. He flashed some fanciness at times but didn't break through. Watching him during practices this week, however, there were a few "Reggie who?" moments. Dude's got some wheels. Saturday's game would be a nice stage for a breakout performance.

    2. Good Craft or Bad Craft? UCLA can show the nation the victory over Tennessee was no fluke by beating No. 18 BYU on the road. The Bruins D will be challenged by a balanced, veteran Cougars offense playing at home, but the game likely will turn on QB Kevin Craft's ability to exploit a mediocre secondary. To do that, two things have to happen: One, he needs time to throw; Two, he needs to avoid the brain cramps that caused him to toss four first-half interceptions against Tennessee.

    3. Ducks got Painter's number: Purdue QB Curtis Painter has piled up some big numbers, but he hasn't faced many secondaries as athletic as Oregon's. If the Ducks get good pressure up front, count on the DBs getting their belated first picks of the season.

    4. Will the Huskies D finally show up?: Based on what it's done in the first two games -- 486 yards and 36 points per game -- Washington's defense looks poised to give up 50 or more to the third-ranked Sooners. That won't go over well in Husky Stadium, where an 0-3 start needs to arrive as softly as possible -- as in, not a five-TD spread -- or the already simmering talk about coach Tyrone Willingham will reach a boil.

    5. Another round of Best highlights: See what we said last week -- California RB Jahvid Best broke out against Washington State with a pair of 80-plus yard TD runs. If he gets fancy again, such as matching his average of 240 yards of total offense per game, he officially will earn a new lead-in in media reports: "Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best."

    6. Is a Cougar QB change on deck? Gary Rogers has been mostly terrible in the first two games, so Kevin Lopina will get a shot at Baylor in a rescheduled Friday night game. Will Rogers respond to the challenge, or will new blood inspire the anemic offense? Or is there just no hope in 2008?

    7. Speaking of QB issues, er, Stanford: The Cardinal is only saved from having the Pac-10's worst passing offense by the Cougars (105.5 yards vs. 96 yards per game). Starter Tavita Pritchard only has one TD pass in two games. He needs to step up at TCU, or he'll find Jim Harbaugh not just platooning his backups. And perhaps touted freshman Andrew Luck will get a shot.

    8. Your nationally ranked Arizona Wildcats: If Arizona dispatches New Mexico with prejudice, as it should, then the Wildcats will start to win over skeptical believers. They already are getting Top 25 votes, which landed them 38th in this week's AP poll. Big number Saturday could have them sniffing the Top 25.

    9. Don't get sloppy, Sun Devils: Arizona State needs to come out and stomp on UNLV early and get QB Rudy Carpenter safely on the sidelines by the middle of the third quarter. Don't screw around and risk any more injuries with Georgia coming to town next weekend.

    10. Lyle Moevao, your Beavers need you: Oregon State looks out of sorts. Over the previous three seasons, a guy like Yvenson Bernard would have stepped up and made sure that the team stayed focused after a bad loss. Thus those famous Beavers second-half surges. Who steps up now? We nominate Moevao, who's got a lot of charisma. But he needs to step up with his play first. With the defense struggling, Moevao and the Beavers offense may have to win a scoring fest vs. Hawaii.

    Pac-10 Morning: Tree sitters grounded

    September, 10, 2008
    9/10/08
    10:14
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    Your hump day links.

    WSU coach Paul Wulff: QB is game-time decision

    September, 9, 2008
    9/09/08
    2:25
    PM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    Washington State coach Paul Wulff said that quarterbacks Gary Rogers and Kevin Lopina will get equal reps with the first-team offense this week and he might not choose a starter until game day at Baylor.

    Rogers, a fifth-year senior, was 10-of-21 with two interceptions in the 66-3 loss to California. Lopina was 3-of-7 with an interception. Rogers was 12-of 24-for 82 yards and one interception in the opener against Oklahoma State.

    The Cougars, running a new, no-huddle spread offense, rank 113th in the nation in passing with 96 yards per game.

    Trent leads surprising WSU D, tackle's arrest doesn't help

    September, 4, 2008
    9/04/08
    6:23
    PM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    Washington State's hope for a miraculous burst of success upon the arrival of new coach Paul Wulff was quashed by a 39-13 defeat to a middling Oklahoma State team in Seattle's Qwest Field last weekend.

    The reality is the Cougars are thin, and preseason injuries -- among other issues -- have made them thinner.

    "It was rough how it turned out," linebacker Greg Trent said. "It hurts because losing never feels good but we know it's something we can build on and fix. It's not going to keep us under water or nothing."

    Trent was one of the bright spots. He led the Cougars with nine tackles and a sack, and the defense as a whole played fairly well despite getting little or no help from special teams or an anemic opening effort from the new non-huddle, spread offense.

    "I think our defense played pretty good," Wulff said. "They were put in some terrible situations throughout the ball game and they responded."

    News today wasn't great for the D, though. Defensive tackle A'i Ahmu, the Cougars best interior lineman, turned himself in to the WSU Police Department on Wednesday after a warrant for his arrest was issued because he missed a court date on a minor-in-possession of alcohol charge, according to the Seattle Times.

    Wulff told the newspaper that he wasn't sure yet whether Ahmu's issue would keep him out of the game Saturday against California in Martin Stadium.

    If Ahmu can't go, his replacement is senior walk-on Adam Hainline.

    Cal's offense figures to offer an even stiffer test than the Cowboys. It rolled up 467 yards against Michigan State, including 203 yards on the ground. The Bears offensive line is physical, and tailbacks Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen are as speedy a combination as any in the conference.

    "They've got powerful, strong, explosive offense," Trent said. "Cal is a pretty good team."

    How is WSU going to stop them? "Nothing that I can say -- don't want to give away the game plan," Trent said.

    In the preseason, even though eight starters were back on defense, most thought the offense would lead the way for Washington State. The Cougars ranked last in the Pac-10 in scoring defense a year ago (32.4 ppg), while the offense looked fairly skilled, even if it was breaking in a new QB to a new scheme.

    That feeling is now mostly reversed. At least until Wulff's plan starts to click with QB Gary Rogers.

    "There a lot of optimism," Wulff said. "And it starts with our defense. They are going to keep us in ball games."

    How many of those games will the Cougars end up winning, though? They were almost universally picked to finish last in the conference during the preseason, and their performance in game one did little to alter that perception.

    "We don't pay much attention to that -- they always pick the Cougs to finish last but we always end up shocking some people," Trent said.

    Ten things to watch for Saturday

    August, 29, 2008
    8/29/08
    11:00
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    Ten big issues to consider as we enter the first weekend of action.

    1. Is USC QB Mark Sanchez's dislocated knee cap in the past or will it riddle him much of the season? Trojans coaches aren't shy about pointing out the vast distance between the way Sanchez is playing and the way the other QBs are. He's the guy. So, it's a blow if his knee doesn't hold up. He's an athletic guy who is unafraid to scramble, but he probably should play things fairly safe at Virginia.
    2. Oregon QB Justin Roper needs to take control in the huddle and show his teammates he's the man. By most accounts, one of Nate Costa's primary edges in the Ducks QB competition was leadership. Coaches always talk about taking charge in the huddle, and Costa did -- and Roper sometimes didn't. With Costa out for the season with a knee injury, Roper needs to grab his teammates by their figurative lapels and show them he's in charge. Otherwise, coaches might look to backup Jeremiah Masoli.
    3. We'll get a good measure of California's new 3-4 defense right out of the gate. Michigan State has a huge (average weight: 308) and experienced offensive line leading the charge for one of the most explosive running backs in the country in Javon Ringer. The Bears new linebacker-heavy defense needs to thwart the Spartans running game, or this one probably won't go well.
    4. Will UCLA QB Kevin Craft be able to manage the offense and avoid major mistakes? The Bruins won't win a track meet with Tennessee. The only way this one stays tight is if Craft and the offense play safe and smart and lean on their defense and special teams, which then need to do their part. If the Bruins consistently win the field position battle, the defense could force new Vols starting QB Jonathan Crompton to make his own gaffes, which could give Craft and company the short field they need.
    5. Will Washington State's new no-huddle offense be just the ticket for QB Gary Rogers? Rogers, a fifth-year senior, has waited a long time to take over the offense. New coach Paul Wulff's fast-paced, spread scheme doesn't seem like the ideal fit for the 6-foot-7 senior, but coaches surely mixed and matched parts to fit his skill set. Oklahoma State's defense isn't very good. The Cowboys figure to run all over the Cougars thin defense -- might the Cougars and Rogers return the favor?
    6. Arizona shouldn't just mail it in against overmatched Idaho; make a statement Wildcats! Arizona has the softest schedule in the conference, and these types of nonconference patsies are supposed to help a team build its confidence. But what if Arizona wins 27-24? That message is little more than a whimper. QB Willie Tuitama and his veteran offense should be satisfied with no less than 40 points, and the rebuilt defense should want to hold Idaho to no more than half of that.
    7. Arizona State's offensive line can start shutting up the so-called pundits by not allowing a sack against Northern Arizona: It's as easy as that. Last season's 55 sacks -- the oft-repeated stat of ignominy in Tempe -- will no longer be brought up as soon as the line shows QB protection problems are a thing of the past. The Lumberjacks aren't USC, but they certainly will come after QB Rudy Carpenter. If Carpenter's pants are free of grass stains after the final gun, mission accomplished.
    8. Give me the, er, darn ball! USC coach Pete Carroll has repeatedly -- endlessly -- insisted that he sees no problem in trying to give as many as four TBs carries in a game. That means Joe McKnight, Stafon Johnson, C.J. Gable and Allen Bradford will each get touches at Virginia. McKnight, due to his versatility, is a sure-thing. But how will the ball be distributed among the other three?
    9. All eyes are on QB Kevin Riley, but don't be surprised if TB Jahvid Best steals the show: Best is one of the nation's fastest football players. My guess is he's a step (or two) faster than Michigan State's Javon Ringer. So it's possible Spartans defenders will be shocked when the pursuit angles they've taken on Ringer leave them looking at Best's rear end.
    10. Washington's defense will be better, but by how much? The Huskies don't have amazing talent, but the biggest thing veteran NFL coach Ed Donatell can do to improve the defense is install a sound scheme the players understand. Last season, the Huskies often didn't know where to go and didn't understand why they were asked to do things. Without a sound plan, a team has no hope against Oregon's potent, elusive spread option.

    Pac-10 Morning: Oregon's Costa out for season

    August, 28, 2008
    8/28/08
    10:49
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    And so it begins. Pause for a moment and imagine yourself 14 weeks hence. Are you smiling? Love the optimism!

    Pac-10 Morning: What is Neuheisel pointing at?

    August, 27, 2008
    8/27/08
    10:51
    AM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    Happy College Football Eve!

    One big issue for each Pac-10 team

    August, 22, 2008
    8/22/08
    5:45
    PM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    Starting from the top, we're pointing out a big issue for every Pac-10 team heading into the final weekend before the regular season begins.

    1. USC: While the quarterbacks have received most of the preseason attention, it's the rebuilt offensive line that will determine if the Trojans are indeed national title contenders. Sure, the four new starters have seen game action, but the hope is for more than a mix-and-match unit. The play improved dramatically over the past week, so there's certainly reason to believe this will be a solid group.
    2. Oregon: At the beginning of preseason practices, the biggest issue with the Ducks was their up-the-middle defense due to questions at both defensive tackle positions and at inside linebacker. Yet, QB Nate Costa's knee injury (severity unknown) and his inability to decisively win the starting job outright in any event, leaves the position in flux. Justin Roper, who led the dominant effort in the bowl win over South Florida, could end up getting the starting nod, but that would limit much of the option game that was so effective with Dennis Dixon a year ago.
    3. Arizona State: Hate to sound like a broken record but it's the offensive line. Three starters needed to be replaced from a unit that surrendered 55 sacks in 2007. And then a projected starting tackle quit the team before preseason practices. Even with a new, quick-hitting passing scheme, it's hard to cover for a substandard O-line. Georgia's visit on Sept. 20 surely will provide a stern test.
    4. California: With Kevin Riley named the starting quarterback over Nate Longshore, a question has been answered, but a related issue remains: How sharp will the Bears passing game be with the less-experienced Riley running an offense featuring a completely rebuilt group of receivers?
    5. Arizona: If one can assume that getting 10 starters back from the best Arizona offense in recent memory means the Wildcats will score this fall, then the obvious issue is whether said offense can score enough to cover for a green defense. With only three starters back, the defense is a big question mark. Of course, a lot of folks at Arizona will say losing some of their 2007 starters was the best thing that could happen to the defense.
    6. Oregon State: It's not a question of whether Oregon State's completely rebuilt front-seven will be bad. The Beavers defense under coordinator Mark Banker has earned at least the benefit of the doubt. It's rather an issue of whether it will qualify as a work in progress or come out of the gate putting crazy pressure on opponents, as it did last year.
    7. Washington: There are lots of questions for the Huskies, but all of the ones on offense can be covered up with the expectation that quarterback Jake Locker can make everyone around him better. The defense is another issue. The 2007 crew put up the worst numbers in school history, and only five starters are back, not including suspended linebacker E.J. Savannah, the defense's best player. Sure, new coordinator Ed Donatell should help. But how much?
    8. UCLA: The Bruins issue should read much like Arizona State's, only worse. While the Sun Devils are hoping for their offensive line to be better than the low-end of mediocre, the Bruins would settle for that. UCLA is replacing four O-line starters and it's severely lacking depth and experience.
    9. Stanford: Stanford is the most experienced team in the conference with 16 position players back, including nine on a defense that was impressive in spurts a year ago. The fundamental question though is this: Can the Cardinal score? Stanford finished last in the Pac-10 in scoring (19.6 ppg) and yards per game (322.5) last year. Can't win if you don't score.
    10. Washington State: If the Washington State defense can be deemed adequate, climbing out of the conference cellar likely will depend on how fast QB Gary Rogers & Co. figure out new coach Paul Wulff's no-huddle spread offense. Because of its newness -- and early reviews have been positive -- it might give some teams fits, and that could lead to some upset wins.

    Best Case-Worst Case: Washington State

    August, 20, 2008
    8/20/08
    12:08
    PM ET

    Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

    This is the 10th in a series looking at potential dream and nightmare scenarios for all Pac-10 teams, starting from the top of our preseason power rankings and working down.

    Up next: Washington State

    Best case: What no one counted on was Washington State quarterback Gary Rogers being so good after finally becoming the starter and the Cougars finally avoiding the injury issues that have ruined past seasons.

    It became clear that Rogers -- and not Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy -- was "a man" when he throws two 40-yard touchdown passes to Brandon Gibson in the opener inside Seattle's Qwest Field. The Cougars shockingly dominant 40-17 romp inspires fans to chant "We're Cougars! We scored 40!" as Gundy trudges off the field.

    The Cougars were poised for another upset in the Martin Stadium opener, but California's Jahvid Best scoots for a 67-yard TD run with less than a minute remaining to save the Bears in a 31-24 victory.

    Oregon comes to Pullman after consecutive victories over Baylor and Portland State. It's another heartbreaker, though, when the Oregon rushing attack wears down the Cougars defense in the fourth quarter and the Ducks pull away 35-24.

    After the game first-year coach Paul Wulff shocks his team with a full-on locker room blow-up: "We will not accept close! Close is for losers! The only thing that matters in this locker room is winning."

    Pure coaching brilliance. The Cougars don't make it close with a solid win at UCLA, 24-13, but they do at Oregon State. Down 24-20 with 2:13 left, Rogers leads a methodical 80-yard TD drive, connecting with tight end Devin Frischknecht for a 9-yard, game-winning scoring pass with 14 seconds remaining.

    Close isn't the problem against USC, which stomps the Cougars 34-10, but the Cougs become bowl-eligible with a 28-24 win at Stanford after a bye.

    The next week, however, the Cougs come out flat against Arizona and can't rally for victory in the fourth quarter. At Arizona State, Sun Devils quarterback Rudy Carpenter throws for four touchdowns in a 40-20 victory.

    So a two-game losing streak adds some motivation as the already motivated Cougars get ready for the Apple Cup with Washington coming to frigid, snow-covered Pullman.

    The Friday night before the game, Wulff shows the team a film of Apple Cup clips through the years, both the good and bad from the Cougars perspective. The video concludes with a series of impassioned pleas from Washington State fans to beat the hated Huskies.

    Which the Cougars do, 30-24, with Gibson catching 10 passes for 137 yards and three TDs.

    The 31-17 win at Hawaii to conclude the season earns the 8-5 Cougars an Emerald Bowl invitation opposite Boston College.

    Cougs roll 33-24.

    Wulff calls a press conference and says "hell will freeze over" before he'd even entertain becoming Washington's head coach.

    This goes over well with the fan base as does a recruiting class that eclipses the Huskies and their new coach, John Mackovic, in the national rankings.

    Worst case: Washington State just didn't have enough talent, and when injuries pile up it became clear that new coach Paul Wulff has a long way to go to bring the Cougars back into the top half of the Pac-10.

    They are competitive for a half against Oklahoma State, but the defense wilts midway through the third quarter in a 44-28 defeat. After a blowout home loss to California, and a turnover-plagued defeat at Baylor, the Cougars get into the win column with a 40-15 blitzing of Portland State.

    Then, when the Pac-10 schedule heats up, everything just falls apart. There are a couple of injuries to the front-seven and the defense can't stop the run, which makes a vulnerable secondary even more vulnerable.

    The Cougars head into the Apple Cup riding a six-game losing streak. Wulff tries to pull out every motivational ploy he can imagine, but the bowl-bound Huskies and quarterback Jake Locker pour it on 38-20.

    The Cougars manage to finish the season on an up note with a 30-27 win at Hawaii, but the 0-9 Pac-10 mark is hard to put a smiley face on.

    It doesn't help when Tyrone Willingham and the resurgent Huskies win the Las Vegas Bowl and then sign a recruiting class rated 17th in the country.

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