The 2010 rise of the Pac-10

Updated: December 18, 2009, 5:32 PM ET
By Bruce Feldman

Here is this week's mailbag and our first batch of bowl picks. A little reminder: Last year, I had a shockingly fortunate run picking bowl games; this likely means I'm going to be nearing the Mendoza Line this time around.

From Kristen in Chicago: I've been thinking about this. Oregon is going to be good next year. So will Arizona. Washington returns 17 or so. Stanford gets (Andrew) Luck back. So, could USC finish like No. 4 in the Pac-10 again? Or do you think it will be a revenge tour?

Next year the Pac-10 could be the top conference in college football because you'll have a lot of programs returning some terrific young quarterbacks. USC is one of them. The Trojans should have as much talent as anyone, but it remains to be seen what kind of leaders the team will have in 2010.

Now, in advance of the outrage from SEC fans about how the Pac-10 could possibly trump the SEC, keep in mind Florida is not only losing Tim Tebow but potentially could lose a lot of big-time juniors. Alabama should be loaded again, even if it does lose junior LB Rolando McClain, but the rest of the top of the SEC may not be so strong. And if you look at the defections the Big 12 is going to have -- Colt McCoy, Zac Robinson, Sam Bradford and Ndamukong Suh -- that league too should be depleted.

The USC O-line, which was supposed to be the team strength, was a disappointment this season. The front seven on D were inexperienced and it really, really showed. How much better can it be? We can't say for sure. You look at the team and you see a bunch of promising individual players, but as a group they did not play well together this year. The chemistry on this team just wasn't there; getting that sorted out doesn't happen overnight. I do think they should be better next year and I know it helps that in those even years they get most of their toughest opponents at home. But I don't see them dominating the Pac-10 like they used to because the rest of the league is better now.