Valentine's Day in the Pac-10

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Typically, I'd tell you that Valentine's Day was the evil creation of greedy florists, greeting card and candy companies.

But inimitable ACC blogger Heather Dinich -- also known as HD-ACC -- handed out roses this morning to her constituency and I thought that was an excellent idea.

So here it is... roses for all Pac-10 teams: Blurbs on why each team will have a shot at the 2009 conference title.


All 10 teams don't have a shot at the Pac-10 title, no disrespect Washington and Washington State.

Then these roses merely point out why fans should be optimistic about their team in 2009.

Arizona: Seven starters are back from the conference's No. 3 scoring defense and it won't matter who starts at quarterback as long as he throws it to Rob Gronkowski, the nation's best tight end.

Arizona State: Seven starters are back on each side of the ball and so is marquee kicker Thomas Weber. Sure, quarterback Rudy Carpenter is gone, but some inside the program whisper that's not the worst thing that could happen. The defense should be sneaky good and the offensive line has to improve (doesn't it?).

California: Seventeen starters are back, including both specialists: Not to pin a rose on the Bears nose or anything, but all the pieces are here for Cal to win the Pac-10 next year. Seriously.

Oregon: No one really thinks running back LeGarrette Blount's suspension will last into the fall, right? And let's do the QB equation: X is quarterback Jeremiah Masoli in September of 2008 and 3X is Masoli in November-December of 2008. That means Masoli, the Cowboy killa', is ... what multiple of X in 2009?

Oregon State: The Beavers have two quality quarterbacks among seven returning offensive starters, including running back Jacquizz Rodgers, and the defense is always good because coordinator Mark Banker is Oscar Goldman to his Steve Austin defense.

Stanford: Seventeen starters are back from a team that was thisclose to breaking through last fall, not to mention an incoming recruiting class that will immediately bolster the Cardinal's athleticism. Bowl team? Absolutely.

UCLA: There's no way the quarterback and offensive line play won't improve. It will. It will. It will. Toss an outstanding recruiting class on top of 16 returning starters and it's abundantly clear that the football monopoly in Los Angeles is, er, perhaps looking more like Standard Oil circa 1910.

USC: Sure, the defense lost a bevy of future NFL stars, but have you seen the depth chart? Please. This will be among the nation's best defenses again, and with eight returning starters on offense it won't matter which former prep All-American plays quarterback. All together now: National Title Contender.

Washington: In 2008, the Huskies were the most talented 0-12 team in the history of college football. In 2009, 17 returning starters will play with more fire and more heart and more intelligence and that will translate to a far more competitive team. And there isn't a defensive coordinator in the conference who doesn't get nervous knowing Jake Locker has the ball in his hands.

Washington State: Fact is, the Cougars played much better over the final third of the 2008 season, and with 16 returning starters with experience under second-year coach Paul Wulff and a solid incoming recruiting class, this squad will play much better this fall.