This is an article from the Aug. 21, 2006 issue
Top performersfrom unranked teams in the conference
YVENSON BERNARD, RB
Hardly anyoneoutside Corvallis seemed to notice, but Bernard rushed for 1,321 yards lastseason as a sophomore, more than any other Pac-10 back returning this fall. Hecould be even better this year, running behind a line that returns intact.
MKRISTO BRUCE, DE
A speed rusher whospends a lot of time in opposing backfields, Bruce had 10 sacks and 15 tacklesfor loss last season. At 260 pounds, this senior can be overpowered, but hemore than compensates with his knack for the big play.
TRENT EDWARDS, QB
He has had anuneven career, but in his second year in coach Walt Harris's system, and withthe return of wideout Evan Moore, a 6'7" leaper who missed almost all oflast year with a dislocated hip, Edwards could have a breakout seniorseason.
ISAIAH STANBACK, QB
Highly regardedrecruit Jake Locker is waiting in the wings, but Stanback, an outstandingathlete who was chosen by the Baltimore Orioles in this year's baseball draft,has the experience and scrambling ability to energize the offense.
WILLIE TUITAMA, QB
After the Wildcatsstarted 1-4 last year, coach Mike Stoops pulled Tuitama's redshirt. Thestrong-armed Tuitama threw for 335 yards in an upset win at Oregon State andled Arizona to a 52-14 thumping of previously unbeaten UCLA.
The Ducks get achance to avenge their 17-14 loss to the Sooners in the Holiday Bowl lastDecember and give the Pac-10 an early-season boost in stature against anationally ranked opponent. Oregon must slow Oklahoma running back AdrianPeterson, but stopping the Ducks' passing game should be a challenge for theSooners.
ARIZONA STATE ATCAL
The coaches, DirkKoetter of the Sun Devils and Jeff Tedford of the Bears, are among the topoffensive innovators around. They may throw their entire playbook at one other,so aspiring offensive coordinators might want to take notes. The winner couldemerge as the top challenger to four-time defending conference champ USC.
NOTRE DAME ATUSC
The Fighting Irishand the Trojans don't just play entertaining games, they also create collegefootball history. This year the national championship chances of both teams mayvery well be in play, and Heisman voters could be closely watching the exploitsof Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, ready to fill out their ballots.
UCLA, which hastwo new coordinators, is likely to use the shotgun formation more under JimSvoboda and play more man-to-man in the secondary under DeWayne Walker. Svobodawas the Bruins' quarterback coach last season. Walker, a one-time USCassistant, spent the last two seasons as the secondary coach for the WashingtonRedskins. OREGON quarterbacks DENNIS DIXON and Brady Leaf split playing timelast season as sophomores, but Dixon appears to have the edge this year, basedpartly on his superior mobility and impressive spring performance.... STANFORDcoach Walt Harris shook up his staff, bringing in A.J. Christoff, the SanFrancisco 49ers' secondary coach, as defensive coordinator along with threeother new assistants. The coaching instability may be somewhat to blame for arecruiting class that was considered disappointing.... OREGON STATE brought inseveral junior college transfers to improve its defense, which was ranked 115thagainst the pass last season. With a 28-30 record after five years, coach MikeRiley is under pressure to improve his team in a hurry.... WASHINGTON suffereda major blow when redshirt freshman running back J.R. Hasty was ruledacademically ineligible in July. Hasty, a high school legend in the state, wasexpected to emerge as the Huskies' top back by year's end. Louis Rankin, asteady but unspectacular junior (485 yards in eight games last season) islikely to be the Huskies' starter.
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