Top 5 questions in the Pac-10

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

1. Can anyone challenge USC?
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who'd lay $5 on the notion. The Trojans, despite losing 11 starters -- whom will shortly be in NFL camps -- remain Pac-10 and national colossus. In fact, the defense might feature five guys picked on the first day of the 2009 NFL draft.

2. Will Washington and Arizona win enough games to earn Tyrone Willingham and Mike Stoops another year on the job?
The odds are better for Stoops than Willingham for one reason: schedule. Arizona's nonconference schedule -- Idaho, Toledo, at New Mexico -- is set up for a fast start that should help Stoops get to 6 or 7 wins and the program's first bowl game since 1998. Willingham's Huskies, meanwhile, start the season at Oregon, then play BYU and Oklahoma. An 0-3 start could severely damage a team trying to rebuild its confidence.

3. Will Rick Neuheisel's fire, enthusiasm and superb coaching staff make up for UCLA's apparent lack of talent?
Neuheisel has his critics, but the critics who aren't dimwits know it's only a matter of time before the Bruins are again battling at the top-third of the conference. Just don't expect much this season, not with this offensive line. If the Bruins reach a bowl game, Neuheisel should be a Coach of the Year candidate (and he should split the award with coordinators Norm Chow and DeWayne Walker).

4. Is Nate Costa going to make Ducks fans forget Dennis Dixon?
Many Oregon fans insist that the Ducks 2007 season fell apart as much because of Costa's season-ending knee injury as Dixon's. The theory is the talented, dual-threat QB would have stepped in seamlessly when Dixon went down, and he would have led the Os to a victory over LSU in the national title game. Helping Costa's transition will be a solid supporting cast and a potentially stout defense.

5. Can Arizona State protect Rudy Carpenter?
It's as good a question to ask if Carpenter can protect himself, because Sun Devils offensive coaches are quick to point out that many of the 55 sacks ASU surrendered in 2007 were due to Carpenter holding the ball too long. That's why spring practices emphasized a quick release in coach Dennis Erickson's spread offense, which will be fully incorporated this season.