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December 9, 2006

Postseason Breakdown: Pac-10

Prior to the college football season we offered up an inside look at what to expect in the Pac-10.

As expected, we pegged some things right and were off the mark on a few others.

Here is our look back at the Pac-10 season:

Pac-10 Standings
Rivals.com's Preseason Predictions:
1. USC 6. Arizona
2. Cal 7. Stanford
3. Oregon 8. Washington State
4. UCLA 9. Oregon State
5. Arizona State 10. Washington
Actual Pac-10 Standings:
1. USC 6. Arizona State
2. Cal 7. Washington State
3. Oregon State 8. Arizona
4. UCLA 9. Washington
5. Oregon 10. Stanford
Offensive MVP: DeSean Jackson, WR, Cal
The sophomore was the big-play threat of the Pac-10 with 13 total touchdowns. He tied with teammate Marshawn Lynch for the league lead. In 2005, Jackson was the Bears' best most reliable target and the country's most dangerous punt returner. He set a Pac-10 record with four punt returns for touchdowns. With 1,491 all-purpose yards, Jackson averaged 17.3 yards per touch. Dating back to last season, Jackson had a streak of eight consecutive games with a touchdown before Washington State kept him out of the end zone in the seventh game of the year.
Defensive MVP: Daymeion Hughes, CB, Cal
What Jackson was to the Cal offense and special teams, Hughes was to the defense. A Rivals.com first-team All-American, Hughes was tied with Florida's Ryan Smith with eight interceptions to lead all BCS conference players. From his cornerback position, Hughes was second on the team in tackles with 67 while defending 11 passes on the year. He started the season with five interceptions in the first four games and returned two for touchdowns.
Coach of the Year: Mike Riley, Oregon State
After Oregon State went 5-6 last year, Riley turned the program around to a 9-4 finish. The Beavers will also be making a Sun Bowl appearance. The season seemed to be heading downhill in Week 2 when the Beavers lost to Boise State 42-14. OSU struggled to a 2-3 start, but Riley led the Beavers to a 7-1 mark in the final eight games - including wins over USC and Oregon. Riley withstood the fans' calls for backup quarterback Sean Canfield and stuck with senior Matt Moore, who led the Beavers to wins over Stanford, Oregon and Hawaii over the last three weeks of the season.
Freshman of the Year: Taylor Mays, S, USC
The true freshman Mays stepped in for an injured Josh Pinkard in the opener and started the final 11 games at free safety. Mays, a five-star prospect in the class of 2006, led the team in interceptions with three. He came up big during USC's stretch run in November. Mays had an interception against Oregon and another against Cal during a span when the Trojans allowed only 19 points to Stanford, the Ducks and the Bears.
Coordinator of the Year: DeWayne Walker, Defensive Coordinator, UCLA
The former Washington Redskins assistant turned one of the worst defensive units in the country into one of the better groups in the nation. UCLA led the Pac-10 in rushing defense while finishing second in scoring defense. His signature game as defensive coordinator came in the finale when the Bruins shocked No. 2 USC to a 13-9 loss. UCLA held USC to fewer than 20 points, ending a streak of 63 games in which the Trojans hit that mark an NCAA record.
Surprise team: Oregon State. By the end of the season, Oregon State proved its 33-31 upset of USC in October was no fluke. After missing the bowl season last year, the Beavers were picked to finish in the bottom half of the conference. Instead, they finished third behind USC and Cal. At 9-4, the Beavers are having their best season since 2000 when they went 11-1. Another 10-win season could be on the horizon with a Sun Bowl appearance against Missouri.
Disappointing team: Oregon. Oregon (7-5) was one of several Pac-10 teams with hopes of knocking off USC for the conference championship. The Ducks appeared to have a chance after starting 4-0, including a controversial win over Oklahoma, but that turned out to be an illusion. The Ducks lost to Cal and Washington State before ending the season on a three-game losing streak to USC, Arizona and Oregon State.
Team on the rise: UCLA. The year wasn't entirely pretty for the Bruins. A four-game losing streak at midseason hurt UCLA, but the Bruins ended on a high note with three consecutive wins - including a shocking upset of USC. The Bruins will lose only two senior starters next season and should get a full year from quarterback Ben Olson, who missed the last seven games. The future on defense is also bright with Rivals.com freshman All-American cornerback Al Verner and linebacker Reggie Carter leading the way. Ending that seven-game losing streak to USC can only help coach Karl Dorrell on the recruiting trail.
Best game: Oregon State defeats USC, 33-31. UCLA is the only team keeping Oregon State out of the biggest upset category. Oregon State did what other teams couldn't earlier in the season break open a close game with USC. The Beavers took a 16-10 halftime lead and broke the game open with 17 points in fewer than 5 minutes to start the second half. Receiver Steve Smith - with 11 catches, 258 yards and two touchdowns - kept USC in striking distance until a last-ditch two-point conversion try fell short in the final seconds. The win ended USC's 27-game win streak in the Pac-10.
Biggest upset: UCLA over USC. USC restarted its Pac-10 win streak after the Oregon State loss, but it ended after only three games. The 6-5 Bruins were given little chance to upset No. 2 USC, who needed a win to seal a spot in the national championship game. Along the way, UCLA ended a seven-game losing streak to the Trojans. Even more surprising than the win was UCLA's dominant defensive effort. The Bruins, one of the worst defensive teams in the country last year, held USC's offense to only one touchdown.
Most likely to win bowl game: Oregon State over Missouri. The Beavers, who ended the regular season on a three-game winning streak, enter the bowl game needing one more win for a 10-win season. Since starting the season 2-3, Oregon State has rebounded to wins over four bowl teams in the last eight games. On the other hand, Missouri crumbled after a 6-0 start. The Tigers went 2-4 over the last half of the season. One of those losses included a setback to 4-8 Iowa State.
Most likely to lose bowl game: Oregon to BYU. The Ducks ended the season with only one win over a Division I-A team in the last six games. Along the way, Oregon made a switch at quarterback - putting Brady Leaf in for Dennis Dixon. Behind the arm of John Beck, No. 19 BYU has won its last nine games. The Cougars' only losses have come at Arizona and at Boston College by a combined total of 10 points.
Worth noting: USC won a share of the Pac-10 title with Cal. The Trojans have won at least a share of the title for a record five consecutive seasons. After the Pac-10 did not have a coaching change last year, the conference will have at least two new coaches in 2007 with Arizona State firing Dirk Koetter and Stanford firing Walt Harris. Three of the last four Heisman Trophy winners were from USC. That won't happen this year. The Pac-10 was 22-9 against out of conference opponents and a 3-1 record when both teams were ranked. The drawback to that record was a 1-3 mark against the SEC. USC wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett set the Pac-10 career record for touchdown receptions with 39. Washington State receiver Jason Hill is tied for second with Stanford's Ken Margerum with 32.
Season prediction record: 54-20. Season against the spread: 5-8.

Rivals.com All-Pac-10 Team



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