Prepackaged and just waiting for the MSM to use them wholesale as a roadmap--here's the Pac-10 bubbling hype for 2006 as determined by our own purely subjective reading of what columnists, pundits, and bloggers alike are divining eons ahead of the actual season.
Stanford Big shrugs for the most part in the early running for the fix on Stanford's season, which means no one seems to a.) care much, or b.) have driven out to Palo Alto to see what Walt Harris is up to out there. Generally agreed that their run game is pathetic, with ESPN providing the best description of the morning:
The bad news is these guys were as soft as an overripe avocado in 2005.
Mmmm...guacamole. Good on chips. Bad if you're an offensive line coach, which led to Stanford replacing John McDonnell with Doug Sams. McDonnell left for Purdue, a team shedding coaches like scales, so unless McDonnell's got some seriously brilliant and unanticipated counterintuition going on here...well, we don't want to say it was a bail job that Harris happily acquiesced to, but we just did.
Preseason bubble-hype rating: Tepid. Walt Harris makes noise with offense, so it's hard for him to earn much a Q rating in a conference known for parabolic fades and the skinny post.
Oregon State Thinking "Mike Riley" doesn't google up "excitement" in your head, unless we're talking about gay sheep and beating up cab drivers as "excitement." Using that definition, excitement's been on the downlow in Corvallis, right where we imagine it usually is: no felonies, no extravagantly weird crimes, and no excuse for us to type the name Jimtavis when posting. (Shame, actually--as a commenter pointed out, the name "Jimtavis" itself should come with a Fulmer Cup point.)
Mike Hass is gone, so OSU qbs must learn how to throw to other receivers, but besides that we've heard nary out of the Beaver Nation aside from OregonLive's dogged Behind the Beaver Beat Blog, one of the best paper-anchored blogs around. They're the ones pimping the storylines: a three way battle for qb, the Hass-placebo story, and the dangerously large size of O-lineman Jeremy Perry's arms.
Preseason bubble-hype rating: cold stove. Aside from almost losing to Boise State last year, OSU's got little to no buzz surrounding it. Remember when they were on the cover of SI? That team's coach is in Idaho now, and OSU's back to baseline when it comes to prominence. One gay sheep theft, though, and that could all change in an instant.
USC Metric tons of hype, mostly of the imperial variety, surround USC. Booty. Sanchez. Tailback. Linebacking battles. The general read splits one of two ways: USC will plug and play with new parts, or USC will plug and flub as big programs sometimes do when retooling.( Retooling is what really good teams do; rebuilding is what gets coaches of bad teams fired.)
Preseason bubble-hype rating: Rolling boil. The marquee media team of 2005 and ESPN's darling, they'll be superseded by Notre Dame for the crown of most scrutinized team--"OMG what's on Brady Quinn's IPod I have to know GIMME GIMME GIMME"--but not by much. The qb battle would have boosted them to "frothing and boiling out of control," but Sanchez for the moment has the snaps locked down thanks to Booty's bad disk.
Brady Quinn: set to get the Leinart treatment in 2006. Complimentary starlet Alyssa Milano included.
UCLA. At least they don't have to make a new jersey for the qb: it's Olson again, this time with a "Ben" in front of it, and he's looked great in scrimmages. He is playing against UCLA's defense, though, which made quick-twitch geniuses out of every qb they faced last year. Lots of bluster about UCLA improving their defense has been bandied about with the arrival of new DC Dewayne Walker, who's going to go pro-style and throw the kitchen sink at offenses. This could just mean big plays given up in the teeth of very interesting blitzes instead of big plays yielded to bland blitzes.
Preseason bubble-hype rating: simmer Dorell's got media attention, but the writers and community follow the fans' lead on Dorell: cautious optimism reigns.
Arizona Probably making the greatest gains in terms of media attraction, and seating themselves firmly at the potential dark horse candidate table in the eyes of the media. Stoops got the recruiting class and made just enough racket in the Pac-10 last year to generate some momentum, including the 52-14 embarrassment of UCLA in Tucson and nearly beating Oregon. Willie Tuitama gives everyone a marquee name to develop and hang on, while Stoops' influx of jucos and blue-chippers fortifies the defense.
Preseason bubble-hype rating: simmer No one seems to be expecting a complete renaissance, but call them the Ole Miss of the West: a 3-8 team with a toughass coach, a developing defense, and a qb who's just athletically freakish enough to garner media interest. Like the Orgerons, only without the ritual sacrifice and pitfighting sessions.
Pitfighting: not a required part of the Arizona training regimen.
Coming tomorrow: the remainder of the Pac-10's bubblicious hype ratings.