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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pac-10 Breakdown

Non-Arizona players to watch

The headliners:

Jacquizz Rodgers, RB Oregon State

Since the minute he stepped on the field, Jacquizz Rodgers has been a scoring machine. Rodgers burst onto the scene in 2008 when he single handedly beat USC and he’s shown that the outburst was no fluke. The junior has already scored 32 touchdowns in his career and Pac-10 defenses should prepare to watch that number rise in 2010.

Jake Locker, QB Washington  

The only way to beat Locker is to outscore him. The guy can literally do it all: throw with authority as well as run with speed and power. It seems to be very likely that he will be a top pick in the next NFL Draft. The only thing missing from his resume? A bowl appearance and a Heisman Trophy. Both of which  might happen this year.

Andrew Luck, QB Stanford  

The other headliner in the loaded Pac-10 quarterback class, Luck is primed for a breakout year. After spending much of 2009 playing second fiddle to all-world running back Toby Gerhart, Luck is set to grab his redshirt-sophomore year by the reigns. Head coach Jim Harbaugh’s prized possession is smart, accurate and has a strong arm — but he can also run if he has to.

LaMichael James, RB Oregon

Oregon found out that it didn’t need LeGarrette Blount in 2009, and it might find out that it doesn’t need Jeremiah Masoli in 2010 — all because of LaMichael James. The freshman was an absolute stud last year, rushing for 1,546 yards and 14 touchdowns despite only having double-digit carries in 11 games.

The old reliables

Owen Marecic, FB/LB Stanford

It must’ve been pretty flattering for Marecic when his head coach called him the “”perfect”” football player in 2009, but nothing is more flattering than being asked to start on both offense and defense. Just like when two-way players existed beyond high school, Marecic is a throwback. A classic football player — not flashy, not overly athletic, but a hard-nosed, hit-you-in-the-mouth masher.

Jeff Maehl, WR Oregon

In an offense that stresses the run more than the pass, Maehl established himself as one of the most consistent and trustworthy receivers in the Pac-10 last year. He’ll be essential to the success of new quarterback Darron Thomas.

Rahim Moore, S UCLA

When coaches talk about defensive players as “”having a nose for the ball,”” they are probably picturing Rahim Moore in their heads. After picking off three passes in 2008, Moore intercepted an incredible 10 balls in 2009 – good for the most in the country. He’ll anchor UCLA’s defense in 2010.

The wildcards:

Darron Thomas, QB Oregon

You know you’re in 2010 when a coach of one of the most relevant football programs in the nation breaks the news that Darron Thomas will start at quarterback on Twitter. While Twitter represents a new form of journalism, Thomas represents  the embodiment of a new trend in quarterbacks — fast and athletic runners who can also pass. His three touchdowns in Oregon’s final scrimmage likely showed Kelly that he was a capable enough thrower to handle the job.

Shane Vereen, RB California

Jahvid Best was supposed to be the man last year, but after injuries slowed his once-promising season, Vereen didn’t miss a beat.

Matt Barkley

The true freshman struggled at times during his first season — including throwing at least one interception in his final nine games and seven in his last four — but he also showed why he was so highly-touted out of high school. New head coach Lane Kiffin might not have many believers, but he did turn Jonathan Crompton, once a lost cause at Tennessee, into an NFL prospect in one year. Let’s see what Kiffin can do with Barkley.

The new guys:

Dillon Baxter, RB USC

Just do a quick YouTube search for “”Dillon Baxter”” and you’ll see what Pac-10 defenses are about to deal with. The kid was a menace in high school and was breaking ankles in college as early as USC’s spring game. Baxter won’t start right off the bat, but you better believe Kiffin will do what he has to do to get the ball in his hands.

Keenan Allen , WR California

Landing Allen over the winter was the first big win of the season for the Golden Bears. The 6-foot-3 freshman was a 5-star recruit ranked as the fifth best prospect in the nation by Rivals.com and is expected to start immediately at wide receiver.

 

Non-Arizona games to watch

 

Nebraska at Washington, Sept. 18

This game won’t mean anything as far as the conference race goes, but it will tell us a lot about how real of a contender Washington is. Nebraska’s defense is tough – just ask Arizona – and the Huskies will be pushed to the brink early and often.

Stanford at Oregon, Oct. 2

Another early game that will show the true colors of a possible Pacific 10 contender. Stanford shocked Oregon last season when the Ducks had national championship dreams, but the Cardinal’s trip to Eugene, Ore., to start the Pac-10 season will be a huge test.

Oregon at USC, Oct. 30

Speaking of Oregon, its biggest test before The Civil War might be this trip to the Coliseum. The Trojans won’t have anything to play for, but they’re still the most talented team in the conference and would love nothing more than to spoil the Rose Bowl chances of the team that snapped their streak last year.

Stanford at Washington, Oct. 30

If Oregon and USC are grouped together as the best team’s in the conference, Arizona, Washington, Stanford and Oregon State would be grouped together as the next best. This game should help clear-up an otherwise cluttered picture.

Oregon at Oregon State, Dec. 4

The Civil War had huge Rose Bowl implications in 2008 and then served as a proverbial conference championship game in 2009. It’s possible the same thing could happen in 2010.

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