August 28, 2008

Pac-10: Inexperienced QBs the focus of Week 1

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One old quarterback and several new ones will be the focus in the Pac-10 in the season's opening week.

The old one Rick Neuheisel led UCLA to a Rose Bowl appearance in 1983.

He is the Bruins' new coach this season, and he has expectations of ending crosstown rival USC's Pac-10 dominance.

A recent ad in a Los Angeles newspaper showed an image of Neuheisel next to bold type proclaiming: THE FOOTBALL MONOPOLY IN LOS ANGELES IS OFFICIALLY OVER.

That would be news to the rest of the Pac-10, especially considering Neuheisel is down to his third-string quarterback. Injuries to Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson have thrust junior college transfer Kevin Craft, who began his career at San Diego State, into the starting lineup against Tennessee on Monday.

Craft is one of seven starting Pac-10 quarterbacks with fewer than eight career starts. Stanford's Tavita Pritchard has made seven, while Oregon State's Lyle Moevao has four, USC's Mark Sanchez three and California's Kevin Riley and Oregon's Justin Roper one each. Washington State's Gary Rogers will make his first career start in the Cougars' opener against Oklahoma State.

By the way, Washington State also has a new coach who was a former player. But Paul Wulff was a center for the Cougars.

  • Tennessee at UCLA on Monday. Even in this age of wide-open offenses, some games can still be won the old-fashioned way in the trenches. Tennessee-UCLA could be one of them. Last season, the Vols' offensive line led the nation by allowing just four sacks in 14 games. Four starters return up front. They will be charged with protecting a new starting quarterback Jonathan Crompton in a new offense against a solid UCLA defensive front. Tackles Brigham Harwell and Brian Price will be among the Pac-10's best. The Bruins must get pressure up front to help an inexperienced secondary.

    Oregon State at Stanford, 9 p.m.
    USC at Virginia, 3:30 p.m.
    Oklahoma State vs. Washington State at Seattle, 3:30 p.m.
    Michigan State at California, 8 p.m.
    Washington at Oregon, 10 p.m.
    Idaho at Arizona, 10 p.m.
    Northern Arizona at Arizona State, 10 p.m.
    Tennessee at UCLA, 8 p.m.
    USC QB Mark Sanchez. Specifically, watch his left knee. He dislocated his kneecap three weeks ago and still has swelling, but is expected to start against Virginia. Sanchez still has to prove himself after the Trojans went 2-1 with him as the starter last season. Those wins were against Arizona and Notre Dame, which were a combined 8-16 in '07.

  • "With a capital 'C.' It is what it is ... We are who we are." UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel asked if he's concerned with Craft starting at quarterback against Tennessee.

    "We need to put our foot on the throats of our opponents and put it there the whole game. We lacked that last year. We got a big lead and we got satisfied. This year we don't want to get satisfied. We have to play full force every minute." Arizona wide receiver Delashaun Dean, to the Arizona Daily Star.

    "The players don't like each other. They went to Oregon. We came to Washington. They wish they could have come to Washington." Washington guard Casey Bulyca to the Seattle Times.

    "He's had a couple good days under his belt. His knee is still a little bit swollen and kind of black and blue, but he's not in any serious pain at all. He's managed very well." USC coach Pete Carroll on quarterback Mark Sanchez, to The Associated Press.

    "Coach told us we can't wait to open the gates this year. We're going to kick down the gates." Oregon State guard Adam Speer, to the Oregonian of Portland

  • ETC.
  • Oregon State is the only team from a "Big Six" conference that opens the season with back-to-back road games. After traveling to Stanford on Thursday, the Beavers go to Penn State on Sept. 6. Arizona will be without sophomore tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has been diagnosed with strep throat and is besting tested for mononucleosis. Gronkowski had 28 catches for 525 yards and six touchdowns last season. Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter, fully recovered from offseason surgery on his throwing hand, has added about 15 pounds and has worked extensively on holding the football higher and closer to his body. USC is making its first appearance in the state of Virginia. The Trojans have won their past 10 season-openers and their past eight non-conference (and non-neutral site) road games. USC coach Pete Carroll and Virginia coach Al Groh both were coach of the NFL's New York Jets for one season. Carroll was on the Jets' sideline in 1994, when they went 6-10. Groh was the head man in 2000, when they went 9-7. UCLA tackle Micah Kia took reps with the first-team offense for the first time in more than a week despite having a bulky bandage on his broken left hand. His status for the opener against Tennessee is uncertain. Oregon players will wear helmet stickers with the initials of Todd Doxey. Doxey, a redshirt freshman safety, drowned July 13. A different player will wear his No. 29 each week. Oregon has won four in a row over Washington. That's the Ducks' longest winning streak over the Huskies since taking four in a row from 1928-1931. Reducing penalties is a priority for Arizona, which ranked eighth in the Pac-10 in penalties last season. The Wildcats were 0-5 in games in which they were penalized more than their opponents.

    MORE PREVIEWS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC

    Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for He can be reached at

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