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Posted: Thursday August 05, 1999 11:21 AM
Over the last few weeks, CNN/SI asked users to forecast their favorite conference. Some Pac-10 fans think UCLA will pick up where it left off the last two seasons, but others are just as sure that Arizona will be making its first Rose Bowl appearance in 2000.
I think the winner of the Pac-10 will be determined Oct. 9th, when USC plays Arizona. USC will be the Pac-10 "surprise" team because of its versatile offense, which features the best young QB in the nation in Carson Palmer and the best WR in the nation in R. Jay Soward. There's also depth at the RB position with Chad Morton, Petros Pappadakis and Sultan McCullough. Also, the experienced O-line will give Carson time.
UCLA will win its third consecutive Pac-10 title this season. The Bruin defense is eager to make up for their embarrassment during the Miami and Wisconsin fiascoes, and Freddie Mitchell, DeShaun Foster and Danny Farmer are going to give opposing defensive coordinators fits. Losing an NFL-caliber QB like Cade McNown does not equal a disappointing season -- just ask Tennessee.
Overturn in the Pac-10 -- Arizona will win easily over USC, Arizona State, and UCLA. UCLA will be done in by a non-existent passing game and porous defense. USC led by Palmer, Morton, and Soward. Defense will need to play up a level--watch out for JUCO transfer LB Markus Steele, Claiborne's replacement
Virtually every top team from the Pac-10 lost either its starting QB or a very significant part of its offense last year. No more Cade, no more Akili, no more Brock. Look for Arizona to pick up where the others fall off. UCLA, Oregon, Washington and USC will fight for second. Also -- and this may floor some of you -- expect Oregon State to finally break into the winning side and possible Cheeseball-bowl contention. The Beavers bring back a lot of offensive weapons and a new coach that knows how to use 'em.
Okay, I really think that Arizona will attend its first Rose Bowl in 2000. I don't see anyone with the possible exception of UCLA giving the Wildcats a game. USC will indeed be an up-and-coming team with a great freshman recruitment. But here is the pick of all picks. Oregon State will enjoy its first .500 season in 1999. The Beavers are primed and ready after their success in 1998.
If that old adage remains true that "defense wins championships," then the California Golden Bears is my pick as the surprise team of the Pac-10 and the nation. Cal returns a majority of its starters on defense and has quality depth at all of the skill positions on defense. The linebacker and defensive line rank as among the best in the nation. However, one should not forget the Bears offense, as they hired as their offense coordinator, Steve Hagen, some say the next offensive guru in the country. Add to the mix Kyle Boller, the all-everything quarterback recruit and the fact that he ran the same offensive scheme in high school that Hagen will employ, and you have the makings of something big.
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