I know football season is just about here when I get an email from the Pac-10 asking for our annual predictions for the coming football season. That email arrived last week.
This year's poll results will be revealed on July 26, but my picks are due in by the end of the week.
I'm not certain on my final vote yet, but I figured I'd go with a tentative list here, which would give me a chance to take in any of your input before sending in my final picks in a few days.
1.) SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: This pick gets no points for originality, but I don't see another way to go. This looks like a clear national championship contender, one of the best teams of the Trojans' ongoing dynasty, and potentially one of the great college defenses ever.
2.) UCLA: The Bruins return 10 starters on offense and 10 on defense from that team that doomed USC's national championship hopes last season. If nine Pac-10 teams are playing for second place this season, UCLA seems to have as good a chance as anyone. And if the Trojans are BCS-bound, that could keep the Bruins are home for the Rose Bowl.
3.) CALIFORNIA: The offense looks loaded again, assuming small/quick Justin Forsett isn't took big of a drop-off from Marshawn Lynch. Defense has some holes to fill, but Jeff Tedford has the program rolling.
4.) OREGON STATE: Everything seems in place on offense except the biggie: The Beavs will be breaking in a new starter at quarterback. Enough talent returns for another first-division finish.
5.) ARIZONA STATE: The offense looks ready. The defense, less so. But I'm a big Dennis Erickson believer. Especially in the short term.
6.) ARIZONA: It looks like Stoops has worked his magic on the defense. The offense remains a question mark. It could need some time to adapt to the new spread. But if it clicks instantly, the Wildcats could make a major jump.
7.) OREGON: The Ducks look spectacular at the skill positions. But they've got lots of questions on defense and special teams. And with a reworked coaching staff, they may take another step back.
8.) WASHINGTON: The Huskies are getting better. But a freshman quarterback and a tough schedule make it unlikely that they will be able to climb far in the standings.
9.) WASHINGTON STATE: See if this sounds familiar: Cougs should score lots of points, but they'll also have trouble stopping people. Injuries could be devastating, because there's not much depth. And the troublesome kicking game could turn some close games the wrong way.
10.) STANFORD: Too many holes to imagine new coach Jim Harbaugh making much progress in his first season.