College Football Haven continues its year end review by looking at the Pac-10.
Early in the year, the Pac-10 commanded a lot of respect as a league full of high powered offenses. By season’s end, only Oregon and Stanford were ranked in the top 25. Here is how the season turned out in comparison to the preseason predictions in the 5 Step Drop: Pac 10.
1. Who will win the conference?
Preseason answer: USC Trojans/Oregon State Beavers.
2010 Champion: Oregon Ducks.
Even with all the suspensions and dismissals, which included starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, the Ducks were better than ever in 2010. They finished with a perfect 9-0 record in the Pac-10.
2. Who is the top returning player?
Preseason answer: Jaquizz Rodgers, Oregon State.
2010 Best Player: LaMichael James, Oregon.
James was nearly unstoppable as he piled up 1,731 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns, despite missing the season opener. He eclipsed the 100 yard mark in 9 games, and he went over 200 yards in three of those nine games. James ran his way all the way to New York City as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
3. Which team will be the most improved?
Preseason answer: Washington Huskies.
2010 Most Improved: Arizona State Sun Devils.
Arizona State only improved by two wins (4 to 6), however, four of their six losses were by four points or less—including a one point loss to Wisconsin and a four point loss to Stanford. The Sun Devils were one of the more competitive teams with Oregon this year “holding” the Ducks to 42 points and losing by “only” 11.
4. What will be the biggest surprise?
Preseason answer: Oregon’s off the field issues will greatly effect Oregon (four losses).
2010 Biggest Surprise: Only 4 Pac-10 teams qualified for bowl games.
I couldn’t have been more wrong about this one in the preseason. With USC on probation and Arizona State scoring two wins over FCS opponents, the Pac-10 failed to fill all of its bowl commitments. Oregon State and Cal both flopped regressing from 8 win seasons in 2009 to just 5 wins in 2010.
5. Which coach is on the hottest seat?
Preseason answer: Dennis Erickson, Arizona State.
2010 Hot Seat: Rick Neuheisel, UCLA.
Dennis Erickson showed enough progress and promise to keep his job safe, for another year. Rick Neuheisel, on the other hand, is in the pressure cooker after watching his Bruins go from bowl champs in 2009 to winning just four games in 2010. He is being proactive by shaking up his staff, but he better deliver next season or he will be sent packing.
The Pac-10 has much to be proud of this year. For the first time since 2005, the conference had a representative in the BCS national championship game. For the first time since 2000, two Pac-10 teams finished ranked in the top 4. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck finished second in the Heisman Trophy ballot and LaMichael James was third.