The Pac-10 made a lot of noise during the offseason from player suspensions at Oregon and conference expansion adding Utah and Colorado to NCAA sanctions for USC. Now, the Pac-10 is ready to make some noise on the field. Here are five questions for the upcoming season.
1. Who will win the conference? USC Trojans/Oregon State Beavers. On paper, USC will have the best record and be atop the standings. However, the NCAA will not allow USC to play in a bowl game this year. The honor of representing the Pac-10 in the Rose Bowl will fall to Oregon State. Depending on how you define conference champion, it will be one of these two teams.
2. Who is the top returning player? Jaquizz Rodgers, Oregon State. The diminutive Rodgers logged 1,440 yards on the ground in 2009 and found the end zone 22 times. Rodgers is capable of turning a routine run into a big gain at anytime. He is on everyone's Heisman Trophy watch.
3. Which team will be the most improved? Washington Huskies. For the second straight year, Washington will show marked improvement from the year before. Jake Locker's decision to stay for his senior year and Steve Sarkisian now in his second year as head coach are big reasons why. Make no mistake, though, these are not the only reasons why Washington will be in the hunt for the Pac-10 title late in the year. This Washington team has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball.
4. What will be the biggest surprise? With the consensus being that Oregon's off the field issues will have little effect on the Ducks success this year (Oregon is ranked number 11 in both the AP and USA Today polls), the biggest surprise will be that those off the field issues will greatly effect Oregon. This is going to be a four loss year for Chip Kelly and his crew.
5. Which coach is on the hottest seat? Dennis Erickson, Arizona State. After an impressive 10-3 season in 2007, the Sun Devils have only won 9 games, combined, the last two years. If things don't turn around so Arizona State is in the top tier of the Pac-10 this year, Erickson will find himself back in retirement.