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UCLA remains leader of the Pac

By Chris Jackson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 1, 1998
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Ian Mayer
Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA junior offensive lineman, Manuia Savea (67) parts the Iowa defensive line for junior tailback Trung Canidate (30) Sept. 19 at Wildcat Stadium. The unbeaten Wildcats will defend their record this weekend vs. Washington.

The Pacific 10 Conference football season kicks into full gear this weekend as most teams have completed their non-conference schedules. With five teams ranked in the top 25 in both polls and three others receiving votes, the Pac-10 is one of the strongest football conferences in the country. The Pac-10 champion automatically goes to the Rose Bowl, though this year if the Pac-10 champion is ranked No. 1 or No. 2 it gets a bid to the national championship game in the Fiesta Bowl.

The following is a breakdown of the 10 teams, listed in predicted order of finish.

UCLA Bruins

Current record/ranking: 2-0 overall, 0-0 Pac-10, No. 4 in the AP Poll.

Big wins/losses to date: beat Texas 49-31 in Los Angeles

1997 record: 10-2 overall, 7-1 Pac-10 (tied for first place)

1997 bowl result: defeated Texas A&M 29-23 in the Cotton Bowl

Head coach: Bob Toledo (17-8 in three seasons)

Stars: Cade McNown, QB (37 of 62, 654 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT); Jermaine Lewis, RB (38-176, 6 TD); Larry Atkins, SS (16 tackles).

Record vs. Arizona: 13-8-2 (including a 40-27 win in Los Angeles last year)

Game date vs. Arizona: Oct. 10 in Tucson

Prediction: Despite the loss of wide receiver Freddie Mitchell this team still has the most talent position-by-position in the conference. McNown leads an explosive offense with at least as many weapons as UA and perhaps even more depth. The defense has shown a tendency to slow down late in games with the Bruins comfortably ahead, and that might cost UCLA a shot at the Fiesta Bowl. Still, it's enough to come out on top in the Pac-10. Circle the calendar for that game at Arizona. It's the big one.

Arizona Wildcats

Current record/ranking: 4-0 overall, 1-0 Pac-10, No. 14 AP.

Big wins/losses to date: beat Stanford 31-14 in Stanford, Calif.

1997 record: 7-5, 4-4 (tied for fifth place)

1997 bowl result: defeated New Mexico 20-14 in the Bowl

Head coach: Dick Tomey (76-51-4 in 13 seasons at UA, 139-97-7 overall)

Stars: Keith Smith, QB (42 of 60, 636 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT); Trung Canidate, RB (47-234, 2 TD); Dennis Northcutt, WR (23-458, 3 TD); Jeremy McDaniel, WR (22-310, 4 TD); Marcus Bell, LB (37 tackles, 2 sacks); Rafell Jones, FS (32 tackles); Chris McAlister, CB (8 passes broken up, 2 INT).

Prediction: the Wildcats have never had this many skilled position players. Northcutt and McDaniel might be the two best receivers in the conference, and the Smith-Jenkins platoon is working right now. The Wildcats still have young lines and, like the Bruins, seem to lack that killer instinct needed to bury teams and impress East Coast poll voters. If UA can nix the curse of the Huskies, then the Pac-10 could be theirs to lose with UCLA, ASU and Oregon at home.

Washington Huskies

Current record/ranking: 2-1, 1-0, No. 20 AP.

Big wins/losses to date: beat Arizona State 42-38 in Tempe, Ariz.; lost to No. 2 Nebraska 55-7 in Lincoln, Neb.

1997 record: 8-4, 5-3 (fourth place)

1997 bowl result: defeated Michigan State 51-23 in the Aloha Bowl

Head coach: Jim Lambright (40-20-1 in six seasons)

Stars: Brock Huard, QB (61 of 112, 656 yards, 6 TD, 4 INT); Dane Looker, WR (18-185, two TD); Reggie Davis, WR (12-142, two TD); Todd Johnson, LB (22 tackles, 2.5 sacks); Jabari Issa, NG (12.5 tackles, 2.5 sacks).

Record vs. Arizona: 10-3-1 (including a 58-28 win in Tucson last year)

Game date vs. Arizona: Saturday in Seattle

Prediction: most of last year's Aloha Bowl champions are now playing in the NFL, but the Huskies' depth has kept them near the top of the Pac-10 yet again. Huard is still one of the best quarterbacks in college football, and if this team develops a running game to go with his air assault the offense could reach incredible levels. Nebraska proved that Washington is vulnerable to the option, so national title hopes should be all but gone from the Huskies' minds.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Current record/ranking: 2-2, 1-1, unranked

Big wins/losses to date: lost to Washington 42-38 in Tempe; lost to BYU 26-6 in Provo, Utah

1997 record: 9-3, 6-2 (third place)

1997 bowl result: defeated Iowa 17-7 in the Sun Bowl

Head coach: Bruce Snyder (43-29 in seven seasons at ASU, 111-90-5 overall)

Stars: Ryan Kealy, QB (64 of 120, 923 yards, 8 TD, 4 INT); J.R. Redmond, RB (76-341, 5 TD); Adam Archuleta, LB (35 tackles, 1 sack); Joe Cesta, LB (31 tackles); Mitchell Freedman, CB (17 tackles).

Record vs. Arizona: 29-41-1 (including a 28-16 loss in Tempe last year)

Game date vs. Arizona: Nov. 27 in Tucson

Prediction: preseason hype launched ASU into the top 25, but reality hit them like a Mack truck and knocked them into limbo. Two unimpressive wins over two unimpressive foes haven't helped. This weekend's tilt with USC will decide the Sun Devils' season. With a win they're back in the thick of the Pac-10 title race, but a loss will almost certainly relegate them to languishing in the Wildcats' and Bruins' shadows for the rest of the season.

Southern Cal Trojans

Current record/ranking: 3-1, 1-0, No. 21 AP.

Big wins/losses to date: beat Oregon State 40-20 in Los Angeles; lost to No. 9 Florida State 30-10 in Tallahassee, Fla.

1997 record: 6-5, 4-4 (tied for fifth place)

1997 bowl result: no bowl

Head coach: Paul Hackett (3-1 in one season at USC, 16-21-1 overall)

Stars: Todd Van Raaphorst, QB (37 of 83, 457 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT); Chad Morton, RB (76-350, 4 TD); Chris Claiborne, LB (37 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT); David Gibson, LB (31 tackles, 3 sacks).

Record vs. Arizona: 19-4 (last won 14-7 in 1996 in Los Angeles)

Game date vs. Arizona: the Trojans and Wildcats do not play each other this year

Prediction: the Trojans have a solid defense and a good back in Morton, but the passing game needs work. The offense was completely shut down by Florida State, so expect some retooling there before ASU comes to town. This early game will decide which of those two teams can contend and which will be stuck in the middle of the pack for the remainder of the season.

Oregon Ducks

Current record/ranking: 4-0, 1-0, No. 17 AP.

Big wins/losses to date: beat Michigan State 48-14 in Eugene, Ore.; beat Stanford 63-28 in Eugene

1997 record: 7-5, 3-5 (tied for seventh place)

1997 bowl result: defeated Air Force 41-13 in the Las Vegas Bowl

Head coach: Mike Bellotti (26-13 in four seasons at Oregon, 49-38-2 overall)

Stars: Akili Smith, QB (58 of 98, 1,138 yards, 12 TD, 2 INT); Reuben Droughns, RB (48-435, 5 TD); Damon Griffin, WR (18-332, 3 TD); Aaron Cheuvront, MLB (37 tackles); Dietrich Moore, LB (32 tackles).

Record vs. Arizona: 12-11 (including a 16-9 win in Eugene last year)

Game date vs. Arizona: Oct. 31 in Tucson

Prediction: Smith has raised hopes high in Eugene, but the Ducks have yet to be tested by a quality opponent. Bellotti needs to keep his QB focused on and off the field, since Smith's past personal problems have hurt him. The Ducks' first test will come at UCLA, where they could either hang tight if Smith keeps his head or they could get buried. One man is the key to Oregon's season, so far he looks like he can take them to the promised land. But it's a long season and until he's tested no Duck fan should start looking into Rose Bowl tickets.

California Golden Bears

Current record/ranking: 3-1, 1-0, unranked

Big wins/losses to date: lost to No. 2 Nebraska 24-3 in Berkeley, Calif.; beat Washington State 24-14 in Berkeley

1997 record: 3-8, 1-7 (ninth place)

1997 bowl result: no bowl

Head coach: Tom Holmoe (6-9 in two seasons at Cal)

Stars: Justin Vedder, QB (62 of 125, 749 yards, 3 TD, 4 INT); Marcus Fields, RB (64-245, 0 TD); Dameane Douglas, WR (27-370, 2 TD); Albert Dosey, LB (34 tackles, 2 sacks); Sekou Sanyika, LB (26 tackles, 10 for a loss, 2 sacks); Matt Beck, LB (20 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT).

Record vs. Arizona: 9-7-2 (including a 41-38 overtime loss in Tucson last year)

Game date vs. Arizona: Nov. 14 in Berkeley

Prediction: so far the defense has shown moments of glory. The offense has sputtered, but it's very young and still has a long way to go. Holding Nebraska to only 24 points should have been at least a moral victory, but the defense will have to do even better down the road. The schedule-makers are perhaps the Bears' biggest enemies, since they have Cal facing USC and Washington on the road back-to-back, followed by a home game against UCLA. Cal will find out very fast if it has any chance of contending, or whether the words "there's always next year" will be ringing in Berkeley yet again.

Washington State Cougars

Current record/ranking: 3-1, 0-1, unranked

Big wins/losses to date: beat Illinois 20-13 in Pullman, Wash.; lost to Cal 24-14 in Berkeley

1997 record: 10-2, 7-1 (tied for first place)

1997 bowl result: lost to co-national champion Michigan 21-16 in the Rose Bowl

Head coach: Mike Price (56-50 in 10 seasons at WSU, 102-94 overall)

Stars: Steve Birnbaum, QB (59 of 122, 824 yards, 5 TD, 5 INT); DeJuan Gilmore, RB (45-239, 1 TD); Nian Taylor, WR (20-354, 4 TD); James Price, LB (41 tackles, 2.5 sacks); Steve Gleason, LB (33 tackles, 2 sacks); Chris Martin, CB (23 tackles, 3 INT); Lam Thompson, CB (30 tackles, 4 INT).

Record vs. Arizona: 9-17 (including a 35-34 overtime win in Pullman last year)

Game date vs. Arizona: Nov. 7 in Tucson

Prediction: how the mighty have fallen. The Cougars lost Leaf and a whole lot more, and so far their offense has been anemic. Birnbaum has ability, and Taylor gives him a weapon to use, but depth is non-existent and running the ball has been hard behind a young offensive line. The defense has showed up to play so far, but the Cougars will face their first real explosive offense at UCLA this weekend, and that might be too much for them to handle.

Stanford Cardinal

Current record/ranking: 1-3, 0-2, unranked

Big wins/losses to date: lost to Arizona 31-14 in Stanford, Calif.; beat North Carolina 37-34 in Stanford; lost to Oregon 63-28 in Eugene

1997 record: 5-6, 3-5 (tied for seventh place)

1997 bowl result: no bowl

Head coach: Tyrone Willingham (20-18-1 in four seasons at Stanford)

Stars: Todd Husak, QB (86 of 167, 1,096 yards, 8 TD, 3 INT); DeRonnie Pitts, WR (29-336, 3 TD); Dave Davis, WR (24-375, 4 TD); Tim Smith, SS (42 tackles); Riall Johnson, DE (6 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks).

Record vs. Arizona: 5-11

Game date vs. Arizona: lost to UA 31-14 Sept. 12 in Stanford

Oregon State Beavers

Current record/ranking: 2-2, 0-2, unranked

Big wins/losses to date: beat Baylor 27-17 in Corvallis, Ore.; lost to Southern Cal 40-20 in Los Angeles; lost to Arizona State 24-3 in Tempe

1997 record: 3-8, 0-10 (10th place)

1997 bowl results: no bowl

Head coach: Mike Riley (5-10 in two seasons at OSU)

Stars: Terrance Bryant, QB (84 of 161, 716 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT); Ken Simonton, RB (58-257, 4 TD); Bryan Jones, LB (34 tackles, 3 sacks); Jonathan Jackson, LB (38 tackles); Shawn Ball, DT (3.5 sacks).

Record vs. Arizona: 2-18-1 (including a 27-7 loss in Tucson last year)

Game date vs. Arizona: Oct. 17 in Corvallis

Chris Jackson can be reached via e-mail at