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August 31, 2006
Worst matchup: Utah's offense v. UCLA's defense. UCLA's defense was one of the worst in the country (113th in total defense) last year while Utah's offense was among the best (12th nationally in total offense). Utah's offense should continue to thrive under new quarterback Brett Ratliff.
The pressure is on: Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter and quarterback Rudy Carpenter. After the debacle involving naming and renaming a starting quarterback, Koetter and Carpenter are both under pressure to prove they are the right men for their jobs. It starts this week against Northern Arizona.
Upset alert: Utah over UCLA. UCLA was an unlikely 10-win team last year with one of the country's worst defenses. Utah scored at least 38 points in three of its last four games last year despite a change at quarterback. UCLA will go into the season opener with a new quarterback, a new running back and two new coordinators.
BCS implications: Cal at Tennessee. The Pac-10 has missed out on a second berth in the BCS the last two seasons, with the No. 2 team from the conference going to the Holiday Bowl. Cal will get a head start in proving itself BCS-worthy with a win on the road over the Volunteers.
Most to gain: Marshawn Lynch and Cal. Cal can jump into the BCS race with a win over Tennessee, but running back Marshawn Lynch could pick up some East Coast Heisman votes with a standout performance against the Volunteers.
Most to lose: Arizona. Arizona's early schedule isn't one conducive to turning around the program, coach Mike Stoops has said. However, the Wildcats are favored to beat BYU. If Arizona's veteran defense can shut down BYU's high-powered offense, it will be a boost of confidence for the Wildcats, who play LSU and USC over the next three weeks.
Who's hot: Southern California. USC has won its last eight season openers, including two wins over Auburn and wins over Virginia Tech, Penn State and Purdue. The Trojans' last loss in an opener came in 1997 to Florida State.
Who's not: Cal quarterback Joe Ayoob. Ayoob completed 42.9 percent of his passes and threw 11 interceptions over his last four games of the 2005 season. He could see some time against Tennessee if starter Nate Longshore, who's been nursing a sore back, has to come out.
Must-see TV: Cal at Tennessee.
Newcomers who could have an impact: USC running backs. There probably won't be enough carries to go around for true freshmen Allen Bradford, C.J. Gable, Emmanuel Moody and Stafon Johnson. All four are also pushing junior Chauncey Washington. Look for one of them to separate from the pack in the opener against Arkansas.
Key stat: 6-3. The Pac-10 is 6-3 against the SEC over the last five seasons. USC has won three games (Auburn twice, Arkansas) and Oregon has won two (against Mississippi State). LSU has won three in a row against the Pac-10 (Arizona State, Oregon State and Arizona).
Take the line: Auburn is favored by 15 over Washington State. The Cougars lost five games by four points or less last year. This will not be one of those games.
They said it: "I must have had a weak moment when I agreed to that." ? Washington State coach Bill Doba on scheduling Auburn for the opener.
Injury update: Arizona State defensive end transfers Loren Howard (groin) and Tranell Morant (toe) will not play in the opener. ? Cal starting cornerback Tim Mixon (knee) is out for the season. ? Oregon starting defensive end Victor Filipe (elbow) will miss four to six weeks.
Worth noting: USC still has a number of position battles shaping up, including middle linebacker. Senior Oscar Lua and sophomore Rey Maualuga are competing at that spot. ? Oregon's top returning wide receivers, James Finley and Cameron Colvin, were listed as second-teamers on the Ducks' first depth chart of the season. In their place were Garren Strong, Jordan Kent and Brian Paysinger. ? UCLA true freshman Alterraun Verner, 17, probably will back up starting cornerback Rodney Van. ? The only way to watch Washington's game against San Jose State is to be there. It will not be televised.
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