Pac-10 season predictions

We're going on record with what we think will happen this season -- team-wise and player-wise. Who will shine? Who will surprise? Who will disappoint?

And feel free to disagree and supply your thoughts.

Conference winner: Oregon

It took a while to re-warm up to the Ducks after the, er, departure of He Who Shall Not Be Named. But the Ducks have so much going for them, it's hard to go against the defending champions.

Offensive MVP: Jake Locker, QB, Washington

Huskies fans: Know all those folks who constantly take shots at Locker and call him overrated? They will either apologize or look stupid at season's end.

Defensive MVP: Akeem Ayers, LB, UCLA

Ayers gets the nod because he's the sort who's going to put up a lot of different numbers: tackles, sacks, tackles for a loss, interceptions, fumbles, etc.

Surprise team: Stanford

Stanford might not be a surprise to those in the know, but if the defense steps up -- and here's a bet it will -- then the Cardinal will be in middle of the conference race.

Team most likely to disappoint: USC

The Trojans will still trot out the most talented starting 22 in the conference. There's not a team on the Trojans' schedule that, at this juncture, rates as a "favorite" -- even Oregon because the Ducks must visit the Coliseum on Oct. 30. But with only pride to play for, USC could come apart at the seams.

Surprise player: Steven Threet, QB, Arizona State

Threet is expected to be announced as the Sun Devils starter on Monday. He's going to be good enough to make the offense respectable.

Newcomer of the year (offense): Josh Smith, WR, UCLA

If he stays healthy, Smith, a Colorado transfer, will be a big-play guy for the Bruins on offense and on special teams as a returner.

Newcomer of the year (defense): Brandon Rankin, DT, Washington State

We hate to interrupt your mocking of Washington State, but Rankin, a JC transfer who stuck with the Cougars despite an offer from Alabama, is going to be a force on a surprisingly stout D-line.

Freshman of the year (offense): Keenan Allen, WR, California

The touted true freshman won a starting job in camp. Expect him and Marvin Jones to inspire folks to start to saying, "You know that quarterback Kevin Riley ain't half-bad!"

Freshman of the year (defense): (tie) Marquis Flowers, S, Arizona & Dietrich Riley, S, UCLA

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the next two great safeties in the Pac-10. These freshmen can really play.

Coach of the year: Chip Kelly, Oregon

His Ducks should play in another Rose Bowl, even though they are replacing a quarterback who was projected to be in the Heisman Trophy hunt. If quarterback Darron Thomas shines, this one will be a gimme for Kelly to repeat. So that would be two years, two Coach of the Year trophies. One word: Raise.

Can't miss game: Civil War, Oregon at Oregon State, Dec. 4

Oregon is the conference favorite. Oregon State is a consensus No. 3 pick. USC is No. 2 but ineligible. Expect the Civil War, for a third consecutive season, to decide who goes to the Rose Bowl.