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PACIFIC 10

Five points

September 01, 2007|Chris Dufresne

Quick facts

* AP preseason top 25: No. 1 USC, No. 12 California, No. 14 UCLA.

* AP final 2006 rankings: No. 4 USC, No. 14 California, No. 21 Oregon State.

* 2006-07 bowl record: 3-3.

* 2007 conference projection: 1. USC (11-2 overall, 7-2 in Pac-10 in 2006). 2. California (10-3, 7-2). 3. UCLA (7-6, 5-4). 4. Arizona State (7-6, 4-5). 5. Oregon State (10-4, 6-3). 6. Oregon (7-6, 4-5). 7. Arizona (6-6, 4-5). 8. Washington State (6-6, 4-5). 9. Washington (5-7, 3-6). 10. Stanford (1-11, 1-8).

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* This conference is usually as strong as its quarterbacks, and this season eight with starting experience are back and highly touted prospects fill in the blanks at two other schools. The top four in touchdown passes last season return: USC's John David Booty (29), California's Nate Longshore (24), Arizona State's Rudy Carpenter (23) and Washington State's Alex Brink (19). Two schools return quarterbacks who shared starting time: Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan at UCLA and Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf at Oregon.

* Washington may be better than last season's 5-7 effort but might end up with a worse record thanks to a schedule that appears to have been put out by its worst enemy (Oregon?). Get a load of this opening stretch: at Syracuse, Boise State, Ohio State, at UCLA, USC, at Arizona State, Oregon. Oh, and the Huskies also close the season Dec. 1 at Hawaii, which won 11 games last season. Washington is also breaking in a quarterback.

* This is a must-show-progress season for fourth-year Arizona Coach Mike Stoops, who is 12-24 since taking over for John Mackovic. Stoops took drastic off-season measures to upgrade the offense after finishing ninth (thank goodness for dead-last Stanford) in rushing, passing, total and scoring offense last year. Stoops hired Sonny Dykes from Texas Tech, who designed the Red Raiders' high-octane offense. Arizona has a talented quarterback in Willie Tuitama.

* Stanford may not be better this season, but it figures to be a lot more interesting with Jim Harbaugh. The first-year coach obviously had no interest in taking a self-deprecating approach, but you wonder if he looked at his roster before opening his mouth. "The only issue is now I got to make due on all those promises I made in the interview process," Harbaugh confessed. Harbaugh has already angered his alma mater, Michigan, said he heard from someone inside USC's staff that this was Pete Carroll's last season, and then, at Pac-10 media day, proclaimed this year's Trojans may be the greatest team in the history of college football.

* Mark this down. Dennis Erickson will win at Arizona State. While he failed as a pro coach, Erickson has the magic touch in the college ranks. This is his third tour of duty in the Pac-10. See if you detect a pattern. He took over at Washington State in 1987 and was 3-7-1. The next year, the Cougars were 9-3 and Erickson moved on to win two national titles at Miami. He returned to the Pac-10, at Oregon State, in 1999. The Beavers were 7-5 in his first year and 11-1 the next, beating Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. Erickson, at Arizona State, inherits a team that underachieved last season at 7-6.

-- Chris Dufresne

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