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ATQ's Pac Ten Preview Not-So Spectacular: ASU and USC

After the whole WordPad debacle, I just didn't feel like putting in hours of work to finish the previews.  Instead, you get the condensed version:

Arizona State Sun Devils

I love Arizona State.  Every year they are supposed to turn the corner.  Every year, people place them high in their preseason polls.  Every year they fail.  And not once did fall for it--until now.  Yes, now, the year that nobody is thinking ASU will do much is the year I pick them to shock everybody.  And its all because of Dennis Erickson.  See, talent-wise, Arizona State has always been a Cadillac.  There was a reason that ASU was always picked so highly.  But a Cadillac just doesn't work properly if you don't have somebody that knows how to drive a Cadillac.  And Dennis Erickson is one of the top Cadillac drivers in the game.  ASU has always been an offensive machine, and you can rest assured that Erickson will make them even more efficient.  But its been the soft defense that's always been ASU's downfall.  You can rest assured that Dennis will give that unit a severe attitude adjustment.

On offense, the talent is there.  Rudy Carpenter returns to start in his junior season.  As much criticism he got, especially due to the whole Sam Keller incident, he actually had a pretty good season statistically, completing 60% of his passes and throwing 23 touchdowns.  Without the Keller mess hanging over his head, Carpenter should be even better this season.  

He'll have two good running backs to help take the pressure off.  Ryan Torian is that type of physical runner who is going to run right over you--and did so to the tune of over 1200 yards last season.  And just when you think you've got him figured out, they'll throw Keegan Herring, an elusive speedster out there.  They are a lot like Stewart and Johnson, and are probably the second best running back duo in the league after the Ducks.  The receivers are an inexperienced group, but are immensely talented.  Rudy Burgess and Michael Jones are probably the best out of that group.  The offensive line is massive and should be really good.

I think everyone agrees that the offense will be good, but the questions begin on defense.  The defensive line is thin.  They have two players who should be pretty good--JC All-American Luis Vasquez and senior Michael Marquardt.  Dexter Davis is probably the best pass rusher of the group.  But who's going to step up and start the other position?  And who's going to stop the run?  It doesn't get any better at the other positions, where the linebackers and secondary are both small and untested.  However, a lot of defense is attitude, and I think that Erickson will give them enough attitude to be a respectable defense (they couldn't really be any worse than last year).  And with their offense, respectable is all they'll have to be to win.

Every year, a team comes out of nowhere in this conference to be a factor.  Last year, it was OSU.  In 2005, it was Oregon.  This year, I think that both Oregon and ASU have what it takes to leapfrog some of those teams above them.  If you look at ASU, they have the stellar offense and the Erickson factor.  But also look at their schedule.  Six of their first eight at home, with the road games being Stanford and Wazzu, a weak non-conference schedule, and Cal being the only upper echelon Pac-10 team they'll play in that stretch.  ASU has a real shot to come into the Nov. 3 game at Autzen 8-0.  I think that 7-1 is more likely.  But I really believe that a nine wins heading into bowl season is a real possibility for this group.

USC

USC should win the conference.  Everybody knows that.  In fact, there are only two teams in the conference that even have the talent to compete with them.  But UCLA has a dumbass for a coach, and Oregon has a lot to prove.  Meanwhile, Pete Carroll just keeps bathing in conference titles in Troy.

And USC doesn't rebuild, they reload.  They still have John David Booty at quarterback.  They go ten deep at running back.  At least eight deep at receiver.  And only OSU has a better offensive line.  Defensively, they have the most talent in the conference, and its not even close.

I'm not even going to bother saying any more, because I know that I don't need to convince you.  USC will win this conference.  Even if you don't want to admit it, you have to know it.