How They'll Finish
This is an article from the Aug. 17, 2009 issue
Players to Watch
Top performers from unranked teams in the conference
DE, Sr., Arizona State
This underrated pass rusher is one of four players who had at least 10 sacks in each of the past two seasons. His career total is 27.
TE, Jr., Arizona
The 6'6" 265-pounder has great hands (47 catches last year), averaged a touchdown for every 4.7 receptions and is a physical blocker.
QB, Jr., Washington
This dangerous runner (1,116 yards in 16 games) has to improve his accuracy (48.7%) in Steve Sarkisian's West Coast offense.
DT, Jr., UCLA
He led Pac-10 interior linemen with 14 tackles for loss in '08, including 12 in the last nine games; he has 21 in his last 16 games.
CB, Sr., Cal
The four-year starter developed into a lockdown corner (four picks, 18 passes defended in '08) and doubles as a punt returner.
UCLA quarterbacks threw nine touchdown passes and were picked off 21 times in 2008 for an offense that ranked 109th in the country. Coach RICK NEUHEISEL will turn things over to redshirt freshman KEVIN PRINCE, who suffered a knee injury in the opener of his senior season at Crespi Carmelite High in Encino, Calif., in 2007 and hasn't played in a game since.... Before he took the job as Cal's offensive coordinator, ANDY LUDWIG had never worked with coach JEFF TEDFORD, but the two do have a history. Ludwig replaced Tedford as Fresno State's offensive coordinator in 1998 and followed Tedford in the same job at Oregon four years later.... Oregon State must replace all four starters in the secondary, who combined for 141 career starts. The last time the Beavers were so inexperienced in the defensive backfield was in 2005, when they finished 117th in the country against the pass.... USC may have lost four linebackers—they were all taken in the first four rounds of the NFL draft in April—but that doesn't mean the Trojans will be short on experience at the position. CHRIS GALIPPO (left), MICHAEL MORGAN and MALCOLM SMITH, all juniors, have appeared in a combined 63 games.
Best offensive player
RB, Jr., Cal
A threat to score every time he touches the ball, Best (left) was second nationally last season in all-purpose yards (187.3 a game).
Best defensive player
FS, Sr., USC
He can cover backs and wideouts with his 4.4 speed, but Mays may be best known for his bone-jarring tackles, which have become YouTube hits.
True freshman to watch
LB, Arizona State
The top prospect at his position, Burfict originally committed to USC. Now he may crack the Sun Devils' experienced starting lineup.
Coach on the rise
After taking over a team that had one win in 2006, he has improved from 4--8 to 5--7. Next up: the Cardinal's first bowl invitation since 2001.
Coach on the hot seat
In his first year the Cougars went 2--11 and were outscored by 31.1 points a game. Will Wazzu fans stand for being the Pac-10's laughingstock?