Commentary

Offensive questions won't stop USC from winning the Pac-10 -- again

Originally Published: August 18, 2008
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

Stop me if you've heard this before: USC is favored to win the Pac-10 conference. Though the Trojans shared the past two conference championships, with Arizona State (2007) and California (2006), no one has ventured forth with the argument that the rest of the Pac-10 is catching up with USC. Times have changed since 2001, when USC finished fifth in the league. Miami -- of the Big East -- won the national championship that season. Oregon won the Pac-10, finishing one game ahead of Mike Price's Washington State, Ty Willingham's Stanford and Rick Neuheisel's Washington. But that was a long time ago.

1. USC will win its seventh straight conference championship.
Yes, there are questions on offense. Will quarterback Mark Sanchez be healthy? Will the offensive line mature quickly? Will anyone among the receivers become a downfield threat? But the defense will be so dominant the answers don't matter.

2008 Pac-10 Preview

Will USC be challenged in the Pac-10? Can Rick Neuheisel turn around UCLA? Will Jake Locker elevate Washington? Get ready for the 2008 Pac-10 season:

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Miller: Stable is the USC Way
Miller: Huskies counting on Locker
Maisel: Five Pac-10 predictions
Skill threat: Cal's Jahvid Best
Opportunity knocks: Arizona State
SportsNation: Vote on Pac-10

2. Arizona State will be a disappointment.
How Dennis Erickson coached last season's team to a 10-3 record and a Pac-10 co-championship should be the subject of a Ph.D thesis. But the Sun Devils don't have as potent a mixture of talent and experience (five players drafted last April) as in 2007.

3. Oregon quarterback Nate Costa will be a star.
Under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, one of the best in the game, the Ducks' up-tempo spread will continue to churn out a lot of points in a little time.

4. Tyrone Willingham won't survive the season at Washington.
I take no pleasure in writing that. Willingham is one of the class acts in college football. But the schedule is punitive, the team is inexperienced and the natives are restless.

5. Arizona will start the season 6-0.
Don't get too excited. The first six games include only two bowl teams (at New Mexico, at UCLA), both of which lost a lot from last season. It took coach Mike Stoops five seasons, but he finally got a schedule that will lend a hand. Just in time to save his job, too.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. His new book, "The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated and Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, & Traditions," is on sale now. For more information, go to TheMaiselReport.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com