Since our site is generally pro-gambling, I figured we would start previewing some of the conferences with a gambling spin. Thanks to the good people at www.vegasinsider.com, I pulled the over/under futures on wins, so let's run through the Pac 10 and make some picks.
Pac 10 overview - Before we start with the picks, I just wanted to say that the Pac 10 is probably the toughest league to predict year in and year out. After USC, it seems like all of these programs are interchangeable. They've all had highs and lows in the last decade or so. Honestly, who has been the second best program in the Pac 10 in the last 15 years?? Oregon?? Cal?? Washington?? I have absolutely no idea. Half these teams are 9-3 one year and then 5-7 the next year. If you are looking to make some money on over/under futures this year, I would probably stay away from the Pac 10. You can do research and take some educated guesses, but you never really know who is going to rise out of the middle or the bottom of this league and surprise people.
One other random tip that occurred to me while looking at these teams. Since the Pac 10 plays 9 conferences games, half the teams are going to get 5 home conference games and half the team are only going to get 4 home conference games. Might be something to look at if you're on the fence. Give a little boost to the teams with the extra home game.
Just one additional thought for you Pac 10 fans out there. I think the Pac 10 might be a little down this year, especially compared to the great year the league had last year. The league has lost a lot of talent, and there don't appear to be a lot of veteran teams in the Pac 10 this year.
Arizona State - 8.5 wins - OVER - As Jimmy pointed out in his response to the best coaches in the game post, Dennis Erickson is no joke as a head coach. If you hire Dennis Erickson, he is going to bring in athletes and win you a lot of ballgames. The team he put together at Oregon State of all places was downright scary (just look at the Cincinnati Bengals roster under the WR section if you need any other info), and I expect him to do the same at Arizona State. Let's be honest, which places is easier to recruit?? Tempe, Arizona or Corvallis, Oregon?? Erickson might have the Sun Devils on probation in five years, but he is going to win games along the way.
Anyway, I expect to see Arizona State continue on their 10-3 record from last year with more success in 2008. Rudy Carpenter is back, and Erickson will have them flying around the ball. Go ahead and mark your calendars now for that September 20 Arizona State-Georgia game in Tempe. Could have huge implications for the national title race. I don't know when that game was scheduled, but I would imagine that Georgia did not expect to get a Dennis Erickson-coached team when they scheduled that game out in Tempe.
Arizona - 6.5 wins - UNDER - Seems like everyone has Arizona on sleeper alert this year, which usually makes me a little nervous. Haven't we been waiting for Mike Stoops to break through for about 5 years now?? If his last name wasn't Stoops, would anyone be that excited about this guy?? Something tells me that Stoops would have been fired by now if he had a different last name. It's not like last year was some big breakthrough. They lost home games last year to Stanford and New Mexico. I know they have players returning and all, but I'd like to see it before I go and put money down on them to go to a bowl game. As far as I'm concerned, they are probably going to be down near the cellar yet again this year.
Washington State - 4 wins - OVER - Hey, it's our 2009 neutral site opponent coming to you live from San Antonio, Texas in front of 37 fired up fans!! Good to see that they are currently projected at the 4 win mark for this year. This is a "marquee" game?? I digress.
I'm not going to pretend to know anything about Washington State football, but this new coach Paul Wulff sounds like he has given this program a shot of life and brought some energy back to Pullman. Interesting first game of the season for the Cougars against Oklahoma State in Seattle. If they win that game, the schedule looks somewhat favorable for a 6-ish win season.
Since I don't have much else to add about Wazzou football, I'll throw in a nugget about Washington State basketball. Sounds like Tony Bennett is really excited about this recruiting class coming in led by SF Klay Thompson, son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson. I know ND was on this guy, and it sounds like he is a big time sleeper. Might want to keep an eye on him this year.
Oregon State - 6.5 wins - UNDER - You gotta love any team with a wide receiver named James Rodgers. Jimmy, I expect to see you in a James Rodgers Oregon State jersey some time this fall.
Oregon State has a brutal nonconference schedule this year with road games at Penn State and Utah (probably will lose both those games) and Hawaii at home, so it is going to be tough for them to get to 6 wins. Is it me or do all of the Pac 10 teams play tough nonconference schedules?? They are already playing 9 games in the league, and then all of the Pac 10 teams seem to add at least one and often two quality nonconference games. Never thought I would say it about the Pac 10, but they are by far the gutsiest league out there when it comes to football scheduling.
UCLA - off (weisnd over/under will be set at 6) - OVER - For some reason, the over/under is not listed for UCLA, so we'll just go ahead and set it at 6 for them. SLEEPER ALERT!! Say what you want about Rick Neuheisel being a rat, but he is no joke as a coach and has brought in a top notch coaching staff with Norm Chow as offensive coordinator and DeWayne Walker as defensive coordinator. It might taek a little while for Chow's system to get going In Westwood, but they could be a major sleeper in the Pac 10 this year.
Remote control alert: UCLA and Tennessee square off in the Rose Bowl to open the season. WOW. We're going to find out a lot about both those teams in a hurry.
How the heck has Norm Chow never had an opportunity to be a head coach in college football?? The guy is widely regarded as one of the best offensive minds in college football, and he has a great reputation for developing quarterbacks. You're telling me that there isn't a WAC team out there that would love to have Chow's high-flying offense in place??
USC is still the king of the southern California football scene, but it could be interesting over the next few years if Neuheisel starts winning at UCLA. Chow's system is going to be attractive for recruits. Nothing would please me more than to see UCLA gaining ground on the Trojans for the top players in Los Angeles.
Washington - 4.5 wins - UNDER - Just checking in on the Washington 2009 recruiting watch. The Huskies still stand at 0 recruits so far and now are the only BCS team in the country with no recruits. Ladies and gentlemen, the Ty Willingham era!!
The man is literally stealing money from Washington and the good taxpayers of the state of Washington. I'm offended as a college football fan and as a card-carrying member of the Republican Party. Bobby Jindal 2016. Rooting out our fiscal problems one overpaid college head coach at a time. YES WE CAN.
As for the over/under on the Huskies, I'll happily sign up for the under on them. With another brutal schedule and Ty's coaching staff basically packing it in, they are not winning 5 games this year. Locker is a talented player who has a lot of different ways to beat you, but the rest of the team won't give him much help.
The worst part for Washington is that Willingham is killing them not only this year but for the next 3-4 years. Whoever inherits this program is going to be taking over a complete mess. The Jake Locker era doesn't even have a chance to take off.
Stanford - 4 wins - OVER - I've been saying this since the day he was hired, and I'm standing by it now. Jim Harbaugh is a program builder, and they are going to be better than people think starting this year. They were much improved last year, and Harbaugh has elevated their recruiting profile. Beating USC and Cal last year was pretty impressive considering where Stanford was a few years ago. Harbaugh seems like a good coach, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see them in a bowl by next year. At the very least, they are going to be a team that opponents have to take seriously in the Pac 10.
Still doesn't mean that I want them on the ND schedule every year, but I think Stanford is a lot closer to being a winning team than people realize.
Oregon - 8 wins - OVER - No Dennis Dixon and the schedule has 5 Pac 10 road games, but the rest of the schedule is really favorable. Their toughest road game involves a trip to West Lafayette, Indiana to take on the fighting Tillers. Could be an entertaining game. Judging by Oregon's domination over Michigan last year, I don't see any reason why they won't win that game at Purdue next year.
If you're catching a theme here, I'm not all that high on the Big 10 this year. At this point, the Big 10 teams are going to have to prove that they can beat quality opponents outside the league before I start picking them to win these types of games. After watching USC throttle Illinois and Oregon destroy Michigan last year, the Big 10 has a lot of work to do to rebuild its reputation.
By the way, for you Buckeye fans who read this blog, were you nervous at all when Terrelle Pryor started expressing an interest in Oregon as a possible destination for his services?? As strange as it sounded, there was somewhat of a logical fit there with their spread offense and all the Nike ties. Pryor has a little bit of OJ Mayo in him in terms of wanting the spotlight, and nothing really surprises me with Pryor anymore. It's going to be an interesting next few years with him around.
Cal - 8 wins - UNDER - Cal lost a lot of talent last year, but they seem to be flying under the radar a little bit. Let's not forget that Cal has had 8-10-8-10 wins in the four seasons before the 7-6 campaign in the 2007. They have 9 starters back on defense, and Tedford always manages to put together a good offensive team. With that said, their collapse last year was concerning, and I'm a little concerned that Cal might have already peaked as a program. I'm not sure what to make of the Bears this year, but 8 wins seems a little high for them for some reason. With UCLA and Arizona State on the rise, I feel like Cal is about to get passed up for Pac 10 superiority.
USC - 10.5 wins - OVER - Here's all you need to know about USC this year. Their starting QB was the #1 QB recruit in the country, their backup QB was the #1 recruit in the country, their starting running back was the #1 running back recruit in the country, and just about everyone on that offense was a five star recruit. The talent is there for USC to be a dynamic offensive team, but we'll have to see how it plays uout. Seems like a lot will depend on Mark Sanchez. By all accounts, he has had a great spring and summer and appears to be destined to be the next great quarterback at USC. If he has made the leap, USC is going to be in good shape offensively.
Speaking of depth, USC has about 10 running backs this year, and all of them are talented. McKnight, Stafon Johnson, CJ Gable, Allan Bradford, Marc Tyler. How does Pete Carroll keep all these guys happy?? All of these guys would be starting for every other school in the Pac 10, and yet a guy like Marc Tyler is sitting 5th or 6th on the depth chart.
USC's defense is just plain scary this year. Maulaluga and Cushing form the best linebacking crew in the nation, and their secondary is going to be as good as it has ever been in the Pete Carroll era. If you're looking for a breakout star on this defense, look no further than Everson Griffen at defensive end. Anyone who watched this guy shred people at the Army All-American Game is aware of what he can do. The bottom line is that it is going to be very difficult to score on USC this year.
The only question about USC this year is whether they can run the table and get back into the BCS Championship Game. The schedule is pretty favorable with most of their big games at home (Ohio State, ND, Cal, Arizona State, Oregon), so they definitely have as good a shot as any to run the table this year. It brings me no joy to sing the praises of the Trojans and I would love nothing more than to see them go 7-5 this year, but they are what they are. USC is loaded and well-coached and they aren't going away any time soon.
The over is awfully high at 10.5 games and they have had some problems staying focused for 12 games, but I like it anyway. Defense wins championships, and USC has the best defense in the nation.