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How They'll Finish
This is an article from the Aug. 20, 2007 issue
PLAYERS TO WATCH Top performers from unranked teams in the conference
A convertedlinebacker, he finished last season with 12 1/2¬†sacks, more than any otherreturning player in the country. The senior is a speed rusher who patterns hisgame after that of the Miami Dolphins' Jason Taylor.
Dennis Dixon, QBOREGON
He missed summerworkouts to play minor league baseball in the Atlanta Braves' system. Althoughhe has been inconsistent in his first three seasons, he has the arm--and thelegs--to make the offense dangerous.
Jake Locker, QBWASHINGTON
The Huskies areturning the offense over to the redshirt freshman, who was an area high schoolstar. Locker has the talent to handle the job, but he faces a murderous earlyschedule that includes Boise State, Ohio State and USC.
Ryan Torain, RBARIZONA STATE
A junior collegetransfer, Torain was a pleasant surprise for the Sun Devils in 2006. He rushedfor 1,229 yards and seven touchdowns despite not moving into the startinglineup until the fifth game of the season.
Ekom Udofia, DTSTANFORD
He blossomed intoa fine run-stopper as a redshirt freshman last season, and now he'll be theanchor of the Cardinal's otherwise suspect defense. His brother, Udeme, asenior, will line up next to him at left end or at linebacker.
TOP OFFENSIVEPLAYER John David Booty, QB, USC His Rose Bowl performance (391 passing yards,four¬†TDs) indicates the senior is capable of carrying the offense.
TOP DEFENSIVEPLAYER Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona Though often unnoticed because the Wildcatshave been mediocre, the 6-foot senior is among the premier corners in thecountry.
TRUE FRESHMAN TOWATCH Everson Griffen, DE, USC The 6' 3" 265-pounder has tailback speed andshould get playing time on a defense intent on forcing more turnovers.
COACH ON THE RISEJeff Tedford, Cal Now in his sixth season, the offensive mastermind was signedto a four-year extension in early 2007 to help fend off interested NFLteams.
COACH ON THE HOTSEAT Mike Stoops, Arizona A 12-22 record isn't what the Wildcats envisionedwhen Bob's little brother arrived from Oklahoma in 2004.
SLEEPER OregonState The Beavers have 17 returning starters, including a hidden gem in wideoutSammie Stroughter. If one of their inexperienced quarterbacks comes through,they'll be tough.
JAY NORVELL, thequarterbacks coach at Nebraska for the past three seasons, replaces Jim Svobodaas UCLA's offensive coordinator. Norvell is the fifth coach to fill theposition for the Bruins in six years. . . . Arizona's offense was so bad lastyear (16.6 points per game) that the Wildcats have installed an entirely newspread attack for highly touted quarterback WILLIE TUITAMA. The junior willcall signals for new offensive coordinator SONNY DYKES, who came to Tucsonafter seven years at Texas Tech. . . . If USC has a weakness, it could be inthe placekicking department. Junior DAVID BUEHLER, who has one career fieldgoal, is the leading candidate for the job. . . . Cal lost six starters ondefense, but the Bears have a player to build around in junior linebacker ZACKFOLLETT, who led the team with 5 1/2 sacks and 12 1/2 tackles for loss in 2006.Follett was the only nonstarter in the Pac-10 to earn all-conference honorslast year. . . . Stanford suffered a major blow on the defensive line whensophomore tackle SIONE FUA decided to leave for a two-year Mormon mission.