Monday, August 20, 2007
QBs, Oregon RBs will boost Pac-10 power rankings
By Pat Forde ESPN.com
Peering into the crystal ball revealed the following five predictions for the 2007 Pac-10 season:
1. The second half of USC's season will be a legitimate test of a champion.
Four of the Trojans' final six games are on the road, and all six are against '06 bowl teams. The road games: Notre Dame on Oct. 20, Oregon on Oct. 27, California on Nov. 10 and Arizona State on Nov. 22. The two home games will be against the only teams that beat USC last year: Oregon State on Nov. 3 and UCLA on Dec. 1. If the Trojans start 6-0, then run that table, there will be no debate about who is No. 1.
Cal's Nate Longshore passed for 3,021 yards in 2006.
2. Quarterback play will be way up -- and it'll need to be.
Seven of the conference's top eight in pass efficiency last year are back, led by 3,000-yard guys John David Booty of USC and Nathan Longshore of Cal. But only two Pac-10 QBs managed efficiency ratings of more than 140 last season, and nobody was over 145, so these guys all need to step up their games. Especially if they intend to score on USC's defense.
3. Power ratings for Pac-10 teams again will be high -- deservedly.
Last season, the Pac-10 placed seven teams in the final Sagarin top 40 and nine in the top 50. The biggest reasons? They are not afraid to schedule a difficult nonconference game or two, and they play a full nine-game, round-robin league schedule. Nobody else plays nine league games -- how are you going to get Louisiana-Monroe and Florida Atlantic on the slate doing that? But the payoff is in the power ratings at season's end.
4. The RBs in the state of Oregon will be worth watching.
Oregon State senior Yvenson Bernard is Mr. Durable -- his 339 touches last season tied for the most in the nation. Oregon junior Jonathan Stewart is Mr. Explosive -- he averaged 28 yards per kickoff return and 7.8 yards per touch overall. Which one you think is better probably depends on the color of your face paint. For the neutral observers, they will settle it on the field Dec. 1 in Eugene.
5. The new coaches will make an immediate impact.
Stanford's Jim Harbaugh will tick off somebody with his fresh mouth. Arizona State's Dennis Erickson will start 7-0 before things get dicey down the stretch.
Pat Forde is a national columnist for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.