Here it is, the moment you (well, probably at least one of you, anyway) have been waiting for — my official Pac-10 Media Day ballot.
3, Oregon State
9, Arizona State
Yes, I have Oregon first, despite the loss of Jeremiah Masoli. Because of Masoli’s, uh, departure, I would have been tempted to put USC at the top before the sanctions. Now it’s really hard to know how the Trojans will react to that — let alone respond to the coaching change and everything else going on down there.
If Masoli had returned, the Ducks would have been a slam dunk. I don’t suscribe to the theory that they won’t miss Masoli. But Oregon has had lots ot time to prepare, has two seemingly capable replacements, and is strong everywhere else. This isn’t a pick that feels as in-stone as USC most of the last decade. but I still think the Ducks are the team to beat.
The next two picks feel even shakier, making it obvious why this appears to be the most wide-open Pac-10 race in a decade. USC still has loads of talent and a more mature Matt Barkley at the helm. Like most observers, I’d feel a lot better about Oregon State if we knew for sure how Ryan Katz will play as the team’s new starting QB. But OSU will have one of the better set of offensive playmakers around and the Beavers always seem to be good on defense these days.
I’ve got Washington fourth, and I’m sure in some corners I’ll be called a homer and in others maybe not optimistic enough. This is where ranking the teams really gets difficult as there doesn’t seem much separating teams 4-8 in the conference (and maybe even 3-9 if you look really closely). But senior QBs usually make the difference in tight games, and UW has one of those, giving the Huskies my benefit of the doubt here.
Stanford may not have Toby Gerhart but it has an emerging QB in Andrew Luck, a veteran O-line, and a coach who knows what he’s doing.
I may be higher on Arizona than some, and I realize the defense looks a little questionable on paper. On the other hand, most of that explosive offense is back and Mike Stoops appears to have the program at a point where the Wildcats can win every year (we’ll find out for sure this season).
After a few years of being overrated, Cal may be underrated this year. But you get the feeling the Bears like it better that way — if Kevin Riley hits his stride, this could really look like a bad pick.
UCLA at eight also could end up looking really stupid. But the Bruins, while unquestionably loaded with talent, appear a year away.
Arizona State at nine could also end up looking pretty bad, but somebody’s got to go in this slot and the Devils — while possessing a defense that could lift them a lot higher — make the most sense.
The easiest pick is the bottom. WSU may be better, but the Cougars have so far to go it’s hard to see them getting too many wins.
The official Pac-10 media poll will be released tomorrow. In the meantime, go ahead and argue with my picks, or make your own in the comments section. As I have in the past, I’ll tablulate them and publish a readers’ poll from the results.