The Trojans could field one of the greatest offenses in college history, with the return of Leinart, Bush, Jarrett, Steve Smith, Dominique Byrd and five starting offensive linemen, not to mention the addition of Mike Williams-esque freshman Patrick Turner. The middle of the defense may struggle early after losing of stars Shaun Cody, Mike Patterson and Lofa Tatupu, but it might not matter with the offense averaging 40-plus points.
QB Sam Keller proved a more-than-capable replacement for Andrew Walter in the Sun Bowl, and Derek Hagan leads a stacked receiving corps, but the Sun Devils' running game is a question mark. Their defense, which has a new coordinator in Bill Miller, played well at times last season but was susceptible to the big play. LBs Dale Robinson and Jamar Wiliams are tough against the run, but some new linemen need to emerge.
New offensive coordinator Gary Crowton is converting Oregon to a spread attack similar to Urban Meyer's, which should benefit talented QB Kellen Clemens and skill players like RB Terrence Whitehead, WRs Demetrius Williams and Cameron Colvin. NFL-caliber DT Haloti Ngata leads a ferocious front four, but a young linebacking corps and often overmatched secondary may continue to hinder the Ducks defensively.
The Bears, after losing 13 starters, appear to be decimated, but Jeff Tedford plugged many of the holes by signing juco QB Joe Ayoob and other instant-impact newcomers such as WRs DeSean Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins and LB Desmond Bishop. Sophomore RB Marshawn Lynch, running behind a veteran O-line, already looks like a star in the making. Cal sustained too many losses, however, to replicate last season's performance.
After enduring a massive rebuilding season that ended with five wins, the Cougars should be better this season. Settling on a starting QB between Josh Swogger and Alex Brink will be Bill Doba's top priority, but he does have a plethora of quality receivers and a solid RB in Jerome Harrison. The defense slipped considerably last season but returns six starters including star LB Will Derting.
What can you make of a team that came within a hair of knocking off USC and Arizona State, but lost to Washington State and Wyoming? With weapons like RB Maurice Drew and TE Marcedes Lewis, the offense should continue to improve, regardless of which Olson, Drew or Ben, winds up at QB. While the defensive front is getting better, though, the secondary looks like a weakness pass-happy Pac-10 foes will exploit.
Though he won just three games his first season, Mike Stoops showed glimpses of promise, including un upset of Arizona State. With a firmly entrenched QB in Richard Kovalcheck and nine other returning starters, the Wildcats' offense should start gaining respectability, but Stoops' specialty -- the defense -- could become the strength. Several members of his top-20 recruiting class will contribute immediately.
Having lost veteran QB Derek Anderson, All-America DE Bill Swancutt and star CB Brandon Browner, Mike Riley's team picked the wrong year to play mid-major powers Boise State and Louisville. UCLA transfer Matt Moore could step in under center, and he has an elite receiver to work with in Mike Hass, but the Beavers' running game is in tatters. The defense was strong last year but lost most of its stalwarts.
The Huskies' offense can't get any worse than last year, when they finished dead last nationally at 14 points per game. New coach Tyrone Willingham is zeroing in on the mobile Isaiah Stanback, a talented junior who has been turnover-prone, as his quarterback. The UW defense, with nine returning starters, has a chance to be decent under new coordinator Kent Baer, particularly with a solid pass-rusher in DT Manase Hopoi.
New coach Walt Harris had great success with the passing game at Pittsburgh and he inherits a veteran quarterback in Trent Edwards, along with nine other returning offensive starters. Harris needs to find a way to improve the Cardinal's anemic running game, though. Pass defense has been Stanford's downfall in the past, and it must replace three starting DBs. LB Jon Alston is a lone bright spot.