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The Wildcats fell to just under .500 last season and went only 2-6 in PAC 10 play, good enough for an eighth place finish. This year looks a little brighter though, as nine offensive and six defensive starters return for the 2002 season. Both kickers also return. Both WRs are back this season, and four members of last year’s OL return. Two of these linemen, Freitas and Sampay, have a shot to make the all-conference team. The QB, TE, and RB spots are being filled by returning starters while the FB spot is looking for a new head man. RB Farmer was the only TB in the PAC 10 to average over 100 yards per game and could make a huge statement this season if he leads UA to a winning season. Defensively, only one DL returns from last season, but all three LBs are back, including Lance Briggs who is one of the best in the conference. The two returning members of the secondary are led by Jolivette who could also be an all-conference player. K Sean Keel and P Ramey Peru should be able to get the kicking jobs done. The OOC schedule has two tough home games with Utah and North Texas as well as a road contest at Wisconsin. The Wildcats have seven home games, and I feel ‘Zona can pull out about that many wins. The non-conference schedule will be key; if the ‘Cats pull out three or more OOC games, they’ll need only a few more wins to reach .500.
The Sun Devils had a disappointing 4-7 season last year and finished in ninth place in the PAC 10. They won only one conference game. The future looks a little better though since five offensive and eight defensive starters are back for the ‘02 season. Two starting WRs are back this year, one of which is Shaun McDonald, who led the conference in receiving yards last season and was one of only two WRs in the PAC 10 to catch passes for over 1,000 yards. Only one member of last year’s OL is back. Both the QB and RB spots also have to be filled. Defensively, things look a little brighter. Two players on the DL are back as are two LBs. Bates (LB) and Motesanto (DE) are both all-conference caliber players. Four of the five guys from the secondary also return. Neither kicker returns leaving both the placekicker and punter spots to be filled. The non-conference schedule has a tough road contest at Nebraska and difficult home games with North Carolina and UCF. If ASU comes out of the OOC schedule with three or four wins, a winning season will be in their sights. I see the Sun Devils falling just under the .500 mark.
The Bears have probably been the most consistent team over the past few years; consistently bad. Last year the Bears didn’t win a game until the final contest of the season and finished dead last in the conference. With six offensive and eight defensive starters returning, the Bears hope the future will be a little brighter. New head coach Jeff Tedford hopes to improve upon what was left behind by former coach Tom Holmoe. None of the starting WRs return from last year’s team, and neither does the FB. Three of the five members of the OL return including Scott Tercero who is an all-conference candidate. The QB and RB spots are already filled. Defensively, three DL starters return as well as two LBs. Three of the four members of the defensive secondary are also back, making this one of the more experienced defenses in the conference. Both kickers, who played very well last season, are also back for the 2002 season. The non-conference schedule is one of the weaker ones in the PAC 10. The only tough game is a trip to Michigan State. The game against Baylor should be a good matchup of lowly teams from major conferences. To have any shot at a winning season, the Bears must win at least three non-conference games. I think the Bears will improve upon last year’s record but still come up short of .500.
The Ducks were the best team in the PAC 10 last season, winning eleven games and capturing the regular season conference championship outright. UO capped off the season with a huge win over Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. Six starters from each side of the ball return for this year’s team. Two starting WRs return, one of which is Keenan Howry who is an all-conference type player. Three members of the OL are also back for the 2002 campaign. The QB will have to be filled after the departure of Joey Harrington, but the TB spot is in good hands with all-conference sensation Onterrio Smith. On defense, two DL return from last year’s squad, and two LBs are also back. Two members of the secondary return, but both CBs will have to be replaced. Both kickers are back but will need improvement to continue Oregon’s winning ways in close games. The non-conference schedule has two tough games, both home contests, against Mississippi State and Fresno State. The Ducks should win three and probably all four OOC games, putting them in position to make a run at another 10-win season. I see the Ducks slipping slightly from last year’s record but still easily in the top half of the PAC 10 standings.
After being picked by at least one publication to win the national championship, the Beavers struggled through a losing season in 2001, winning only five games overall and finishing seventh in the conference standings. This year, five offensive and eight defensive starters are back to turn things around. Three WRs are back this season, but only two offensive linemen return this season. The TE, RB, and QB positions will have to be replaced after QB Jonathan Smith and RB Ken Simonton departed after last season. Defensively, three DL return including DT Eric Manning, one of the best in the league. Two of the three LBs are also back. The defensive secondary is very experienced with three of the four players returning from last year’s team. CB Dennis Weathersby is one of the best defensive players in the conference, and maybe in the nation. OSU’s non-conference schedule is one of the weaker ones in the PAC 10. The only tough games aren’t really that tough: home contests with UNLV and Fresno State. Oregon State should be able to win at least three of their OOC games and take a shot at a winning season. The Beavers have a good shot at going bowling again this season.
Stanford has had a few successful seasons in a row, but this season they’ll have to try to succeed with a new coach. Tryone Willingham is out, and Buddy Teevens steps in for the 2002 season. The Cardinal won nine games last season and went bowling while finishing tied for second in the PAC 10. Seven offensive starters but only two defensive starters return for the 2002 season. Two WRs return from last year’s squad, and three OL are back including Kwame Harris, one of the best OL in the conference. The TE and FB positions are already filled, but new starters will have to be found at QB and RB. Kerry Carter should be able to take over the TB spot without a problem. Defensively, the only two starters back are on the defensive line, one of which (Leonard) could be an all-conference player. The rest of the positions at LB and the secondary will have to be filled during two-a-days. The non-conference schedule is fairly tough though it only has three games. Trips to Notre Dame and Boston College will be very difficult games for the Cardinal to win. This, combined with the strenghening of the PAC 10, will make it tough for Stanford to reach .500 this season. I expect the Cardinal to finish the 2002 season just under .500.
The Bruins finished above .500 last season going 7-4 and 4-4 in the conference. However, their sixth place finish in the PAC 10 was not good enough to send UCLA bowling in ‘01. With eleven starters returning, six on offense and five on defense, the Bruins will try to reach a bowl game this season. Offensively, one WR is back as is QB Cory Paus. Four of the five OL are returning as well, including Saffer and Bohlander who are two of the better OL in the league. The TE spot will have a new starter as will the RB and FB positions. On defense, half of the DL is back, but only one LB returns. DT Rodney Leslie should make the all-conference team. The defensive secondary has two returning starters, both of whom (Manning, Jr and Ware) are in the elite class of DBs in the PAC 10. Both the kicker (Griffith) and punter (Fikse) return to make the UCLA kicking staff one of the PAC 10’s best. The non-conference schedule is one of the toughest ones in the conference. A trip to Oklahoma State will not be easy, nor will home matchups with Colorado and Colorado State. The Bruins should be able to compile a similar record to last season and contend for a bowl game.
Southern Cal only finished .500 overall last season but went bowling ahead of UCLA because of their 5- 3 conference finish which put them in fifth place, one spot ahead of the Bruins. Thriteen starters return, eight offensive and five defensive, to try to make the Trojans a repeat bowler. Both WRs are back, and so are all five offensive linemen. The TE, RB, and FB spot will each have a new starter. The QB spot is solved; it has been for what seems like ten years now. But Carson Palmer must come through for this to be a good season for USC; if he continues to not live up to expectations, the Trojans will again be an average, .500 team. If he steps up and plays like he is supposed to, the Trojans could be a heavy contender for the PAC 10 title. Defensively, only one DL is back from last year’s squad, but two LBs return. Pollard is a senior who is one of the league’s better LBs. The only returning starter in the secondary is one of the best players in the conference. Polamalu is a dominant force on the defensive side. The OOC slate is probably the league’s toughest. Home games with Auburn and Notre Dame will be tough as will road contests at Colorado and Kansas State. I think the Trojans will be a few games above .500 and possibly go to a New Year’s Day bowl game.
The Huskies won eight games last season (six in the PAC 10) and finished tied for second in the league. They hope to take another step up in the conference this season, and eight offensive and five defensive starters return to help lead the way for UW. Two WRs return for Washington, and both are great players (Arnold and Williams). Four of the five OL return to reclaim their positions, but the RB and FB spots are looking for new starters. QB Pickett is now a junior and looking to step up even more in his next-to-last season. Defensively, two DL are back, as is LB Ben Mahdavi who is one of the conference’s best LBs. Two members of the defensive secondary return, but there are some uncertainties on defense. Both the kicker and punter return, and the kicking duties look like their under control. The OOC schedule may be the weakest in the conference. The only tough contest is a road trip to Michigan. The other three games are at home against weak Divison-I teams and should be fairly easy wins for UW. The Huskies should finish right around the same mark they did last year, contending for the league title all the way.
The Cougars were one of the nation’s most surprising teams last year as they won ten games, six in the PAC 10, and finished tied for second in the legaue. The future looks just as bright in Pullman this season. Seven offensive and five defensive starters return for the ‘02 campaign. Two WRs return, and one of them, Mike Bush, is a great one. Only one member of the OL needs replacing, and two of the returning players (Armstrong and Hunt) could have all-conference type seasons. QB Jason Gesser had a breakout season in ‘01, and will try to continue his winning ways in his senior season. On defense, the DL appears very strong with three returning starters. Only one LB returns though. Two members of the defensive secondary are back, and Trufant is one of the league’s best at his position. The OOC schedule is in the middle of the pack in the PAC 10. The toughest two games are road trips to Ohio State and Hawaii. The other three contests are very winnable. The Cougars should again be at the very top of the standings this season. If things fall into place just right, WSU could win the conference and head to a BCS bowl.
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