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Husky Football Blog

The latest news and analysis on the Montlake Dawgs.

May 29, 2007 at 9:26 AM

Lindy’s picks Huskies eighth

What is always one of the better days of the year occurred for me over the weekend as I bought my first college football season preview magazine. What better way to pass a nice spring/summer day than laying in the sun and reading about the upcoming season?.
The one I purchsed happened to be the Lindy’s National College Football preview, which also happens to be the one I do a little writing for (they do send us a free one along with our check, but none of that arrives for a couple months).
For the last few years, I’ve not only written the UW preview that appears in the magazine, but also helped out with some general Pac-10 stuff, such as giving input on the selection of the All-Conference Team and writing the overall conference preview.
Some of you will undoubtedly be unhappy with our picks as we have Washington eighth in the Pac-10 and picked just one Husky for the all-conference team — Greyson Gunheim as a second-team defensive lineman.
Here’s how Lindy’s sees the Pac-10:
1, USC
2, Cal
3, UCLA
4, Arizona State
5, Oregon State
6, Arizona
7, Oregon
8, Washington
9, Washington State
10, Stanford
I understand most of you out there are much more optimstic than that, and I certainly understand the reasons for your outlook.
But let me try to explain how those who take a bigger picture view see it right now.
First, UW returns only 12 starters from last year’s team, which is two fewer than every other team in the Pac-10. Sure, simply looking at returning starters doesn’t tell everything, and in UW’s case, it can be argued that a few positions might be upgrades (Louis Rankin, for instance, isn’t regarded as a returning starter).
But it’s not just the fact that UW has so few starters returning, but that other teams have so many — UCLA has 21, Arizona 19, Stanford 19, USC 18, Arizona State and Oregon State 17. All that returning talent is what has many people thinking the Pac-10 will be a lot better this year than it was a year ago — Lindy’s ranks the Pac-10 third this season, behind the SEC and the ACC.
So when you start assessing the Huskies, you think that sure, they could — and should — be better this season. But will improve enough to be better than, say, Arizona, which has 10 starters back on a defense that last year allowed the third-fewest average points in the conference and figures to be even more stout this season?
And sure, we considered that UW did win at Arizona last season. But we also had to look at the fact that Arizona finished stronger, winning three of its last four and four of its last six, and returns a quarterback (Willie Tuitama) who is now in his third year as a starter and now playing in a revamped offense that on paper, seems to make better use of his skills.
UW’s schedule, which is regarded by everyone as one of the toughest in the nation, also plays a role. Not only do wins figure to be hard to come by early in the season, but playing 13 tough games in 14 weeks also figures to test the depth of a UW team that still isn’t overly deep. An injury or two on either line or in the secondary could be disastrous.
Then there’s the fact that while everyone figures Jake Locker will be really good someday, it’s more than likely he’ll go through some growing pains this season.
Add it up, and on paper, it’s hard to see the Huskies making a big move this season, though that’s obviously not to say that it can’t, or won’t, happen.
As for the all-conference team, the Huskies have a number of players who could make a run at it this season, but some of the more logical candidates are at positions where the conference is particularly deep this season, or are playerse who simply haven’t done enough yet to warrant inclusion.
Linebacker Dan Howell, for instance, was a player we considered. But this is a really strong year for linebackers in the conference. USC is rated by Lindy’s to have the No. 1 linebacking corps in the nation this year, and all three starters are good bets to wind up with All-Conference recognition — Lindy’s put Rey Maualuga and Keith Rivers on the first team and Brian Cushing on the second team. The other all-conference LBs are Arizona’s Spencer Larsen on the first team and Oregon State’s Derrick Doggett and Cal’s Zach Follett on the second team. Larsen and Doggett were each second-team picks by the coaches a year ago, and Follett was honorable mention (Howell wasn’t on any of the teams a year ago).
Receiver Marcel Reece played in the spring like a guy who could end up on the all-conference team. But can you really put him on there now ahead of Cal’s DeSean Jackson and Oregon State’s Sammie Stroughter (Lindy’s first team picks) or Oregon’s Jaison Williams and Arizona’s Mike Thomas (the second teamers)? Each of those guys caught 50 or more passes a year ago.
Center Juan Garcia was another we considered. But the two centers we picked instead — Cal’s Alex Mack on the first team and Oregon State’s Kyle DeVan on the second team — were each members of the all-conference team a year ago (Mack first team, DeVan second team).
I’ll have no problem eating crow should we turn out to be drastically wrong about any of this. But we have no choice but to call it like we see it.

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