Pac 10 goal: Chasing down Southern Cal

Jul 12, 2005 3:28 AM

The Pac 10 Conference was beaten up last year, but any league would have been if national champ Southern Cal and California lived there.

So as SC fans hope to sing Christmas "Carroll’s" again this winter, let me say publicly that I have already made my wager on an undefeated season. I suppose that means threepeat, but in the BCS world who knows?

Heisman winner Matt Leinart returns along with his buddy, and my choice as the nation’s top player Reggie Bush. For coach Pete to work his magic a third time, the Trojans must negotiate a minefield full of potential blowups.

The Trojans have back-to-back road games in September against Oregon and Arizona State. USC also has to visit Notre Dame and Cal. The Nov. 12 date against the Golden Bears in Berkeley could be for No. 1 and the Heisman.

The Las Vegas Hilton lists the "over / under" win total for the Trojans at 11. Cal is next closest at 8½. Arizona and UCLA are 7½ and 6½ respectively. The others aren’t worth mentioning.

Washington, a major power for years under legendary coach Don James, come off a 1-10 season that included a 1-8 record against the spread. Former Stanford and Notre Dame coach Ty Willingham will bring the program back, but not this year.

That can’t be said at UCLA, where coach Karl Dorrell (12-13 in two years) is at a crossroads. The Bruins threw a mighty scare into the Men of Troy last year — losing 29-24 as a 22½-point underdog.

California and Arizona State must replace big-time QBs Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Walter. The preseason publications say each school is well stocked and could be better. We’ll see.

Caesars Palace has Cal 50-1 to win the national title, while UCLA is 100-1 and A-State 125-1. USC is a scant —130.

If you like longshots, and we love them, try Arizona. There’s some real good defense being played these days in Tucson since the Wildcats "stooped" to hiring the Oklahoma coach’s baby brother Mike.

Arizona held opponents to 28 or less points eight times in 12 games. That may not sound good, but six teams scored at least 40 in 2003 when John Mackovic was there. If the Zona offense can scrape 20, things could get interesting.

As for everyone else in the league, it could be 8-4 or 4-8.