My deadline has arrived for sending in my ballot in the annual Pac-10 football media poll.
I floated my early thoughts on this blog about a month ago, and have made only one change since then: sliding Stanford ahead of Washington State. Both teams have their flaws, but Stanford has a one-season head start in the rebuilding. Plus, when the Cardinal and Cougars go head to head, it will be at Stanford.
Here's what I ended up sending:
(I hate being so obvious, but I just don't see a way around it.)
2. Arizona State
(An inexperienced offensive line is just too significant a problem for a team looking to end USC's six-season reign.)
(The Ducks lost a lot. But the defense looks solid, and it's hard to imagine that spread won't produce points.)
(The Bears project as the best of the Pac-10's large middle class ... thanks mostly to my enduring faith in Jeff Tedford.)
(This still seems high. But as long as Willie Tuitama is healthy, these Wildcats should score enough points to compensate for what appears to be a shaky defense.)
(This seems high, too, considering how unproven the Huskies are at the offensive skill positions and along the defensive line. But I suspect they'll score enough points where any significant improvement by Ed Donatell's defense could turn a couple of L's into W's. Plus, there are lots of flawed teams in the league this season, and three of the ones that I have ranked below UW -- UCLA, Oregon State and Stanford -- have to visit Seattle.)
(When a team has a reputation for playing soft, Rick Neuheisel isn't necessarily the first coach you think of to fix the problem. Still, I don't have any doubt that Neuheisel, Norm Chow and DeWayne Walker will get it done at UCLA. It's just hard to imagine it happening this season.)
8. Oregon State
(Almost everyone I've seen is picking Oregon State higher than this despite the fact that they have no proven quarterback, holes on the offensive line and have to replace their entire defensive front seven. I can only read that as an indication of the tremendous respect a lot of folks have for Mike Riley. I respect him, too; but I still think they rebuild, not reload, in Corvallis. And this looks like a rebuilding year.)
(The talent gap remains, but the veteran defense looks solid enough to keep the Cardinal out of the basement.)
10. Washington State
(There are enough problems here to challenge any staff. It's hard to imagine a first-year staff installing a brand new system not having to take a step back before moving forward.)
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The overall media poll results will be made public Thursday, which is Pac-10 Media Day in LA.