The prominent subjects on Thursday's Pac-10 football media day were the Pac-10's rugged nonconference schedules, some rules changes on timing — though not as dramatic as those that caused a stir in 2006 — and the continued dominance of USC, picked first by media again after six straight years of tying or winning Pac-10 championships.
LOS ANGELES — This is it for Tom Hansen, 70, Pac-10 commissioner since 1983. He had his last football media day Thursday in Los Angeles, but you’d hardly have known it.
There was no announcement of Hansen’s retirement next spring — that came earlier this year — and there’s no mention of it in the Pac-10 media guide. Apparently, he chooses to go quietly.
“It’ll be poignant, doing everything [this year] for the last time,” Hansen said. “But I don’t feel bad about it. I’m ready.”
The prominent subjects on this day were the Pac-10’s rugged nonconference schedules, some rules changes on timing — though not as dramatic as those that caused a stir in 2006 — and the continued dominance of USC, picked first by media again after six straight years of tying or winning Pac-10 championships.
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Coach Mike Stoops’ seat is sizzling at a school that hasn’t been to a bowl game in a decade, despite two straight finishing runs of three victories in four games in 2006-07. It should help that Arizona opens at home with Idaho and Toledo.
The big goal is to keep QB Rudy Carpenter upright after a 2007 season when Arizona State allowed 55 sacks.
“When I signed a contract two years ago, they showed me last year’s schedule, not this year’s,” joked coach Dennis Erickson. Last year, the Sun Devils played eight home games; this year, they have a four-game gauntlet of Georgia, California, USC and Oregon.
Coach Jeff Tedford is relinquishing some play-calling responsibility to offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, and Tedford says electric running back Jahvid Best is healthy after a hip injury. But the best long-term news is the impending lifting of a court injunction that has prevented Cal from going ahead with a controversial major facilities upgrade.
The Ducks are mourning the recent drowning death of backup rover Todd Doxey. Says coach Mike Bellotti, “You don’t realize how great some young people are until you see the lives they’ve touched.”
Bellotti, chairman of the NCAA rules committee, says there’s likely a decrease of 4-5 plays a game coming from the new timing rules, which in effect will use the NFL’s 40-second clock — starting at the end of a play — instead of the old 25-second clock that began at the official’s “ready-for-play” signal. “TV, and the commissioners, want to shorten the game,” Bellotti said.
Winner of four straight minor bowls, the Beavers welcome back dynamic WR-KR Sammie Stroughter, who regained his senior year with a medical redshirt. Premier guard Jeremy Perry should be available after winter knee surgery, but has missed lots of conditioning time.
Oregon State’s aspiration as big-time player will be tested by whether it can replace an entire front seven that led the nation in run defense last year.
“I feel something special about this team,” says enthusiastic Jim Harbaugh, the coach. “There’s just something happening.”
Junior Tavita Pritchard, the Clover Park grad who led college football’s biggest upset in history over USC, is in a three-way scrap at quarterback with sophomore Alex Loukas and Michigan transfer Jason Forcier. The story of Stanford’s season might be written in an early (Aug. 28) opener with Oregon State.
The offensive line, charitably, is a mess, which doesn’t help the long-awaited maturation of quarterback Ben Olson, who seems mended from a broken foot suffered late in spring practice. In Rick Neuheisel’s first season, the Bruins can argue toughest-nonleague schedule with anybody, hosting Tennessee to open and playing Brigham Young and Fresno State later in September.
Says coach Pete Carroll, “I’ve never been more pumped about a season starting.” Largely, that’s because of a defense that could be monstrous, especially on the back seven. Carroll says he won’t deviate from the group approach of playing running backs. The Trojans’ Sept. 13 game against Ohio State is widely viewed as one in which the winner takes the pole position for the national title.
Asked about progress by linebacker E.J. Savannah after his broken arm earlier this year, coach Tyrone Willingham said, “There are more things at play there than just the injury. There are certain guys where there are always more things on the table than one simple thing.” Willingham offered no hint as to center Juan Garcia’s possible return from his Lisfranc foot injury, saying, “I don’t think anyone is sure exactly what the pace should be.”
First-year coach Paul Wulff says defensive tackle Andy Roof is a full-fledged member of the team and will take part in camp, pending a review Wulff expects from WSU’s student-conduct board. That’s a result of Roof’s alleged involvement in an assault in Pullman in April. Whitman County prosecutors have studied the case for months without a decision, which, Wulff says, “probably means there aren’t going to be any charges.”
The Cougars were picked 10th by Pac-10 media, or, as Wulff joked, “Right where we want ’em.” Turning serious, he said, “I didn’t expect anything different. Hopefully our players will prove that prediction wrong, and I think we’re capable of proving it wrong.”
|Washington is projected eighth and WSU 10th in the Pac-10 preseason media poll (points 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, first-place votes in parentheses):|
|1. USC (38)||389|
|2. Arizona State||330|
|4. California (1)||274|
|6. Oregon State||192|
|10. Washington State||61|