Voters narrowly pass over Southern Cal in favor of last season’s champion Ducks
The media picks Oregon as Pac-10 preseason favorite
Oregon coach Chip Kelly said Thursday that his team won’t put much stock in their preseason ranking.
PASADENA, Calif. — Even without their star quarterback, the Oregon Ducks ended Southern California’s sevenyear reign as the Pac-10’s pre- season favorite.
A year after breaking USC’s seven-year stranglehold on the Pac-10, coach Chip Kelly’s defending champions were picked to win it again in the preseason media poll Thursday. Oregon edged longtime darling USC by three points, underlining the balance in a conference race that usually was all about chasing the Trojans in recent years.
Don’t expect Kelly to get giddy about added expectations, though. Not after dismissing troubled passer Jeremiah Masoli from his team before heading into what’s expected to be the most wide- open season in nearly a decade for a growing league striving to prove it belongs with the nation’s best.
“Last year, you picked us third and Arizona eighth,” Kelly said at the Rose Bowl on Thursday for the annual media day. “I learned from last year’s poll that we probably weren’t going to put a lot of stock in it. The teams that win in this league are the teams that keep their playmakers healthy.”
Or keep them out of trouble with the law, which Masoli couldn’t manage. Kelly is looking forward to a preseason competition between Darron Thomas and Nate Costa, who led the Ducks to a win last season over UCLA on the same Rose Bowl field.
The Ducks edged USC 314311 in the poll’s second-closest voting since it began in 1961. After returning the league’s fewest starters last season, Oregon will rely on its experience to get through any personnel shortages in another competitive season.
Oregon State was picked third with 262 points, with Stanford fourth and Arizona — which finished in a secondplace tie and made the Holiday Bowl last season — fifth.
After a record seven teams received at least one first-place vote, every Pac-10 coach realizes there’s no clear favorite this fall. That parity has sent a burst of energy throughout a league that once strived to avoid its reputation as the Pac-1 during USC’s dominant decade.
“We’ve been the left-coast conference and perceived as a finesse conference for years,” said UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, whose Bruins were picked eighth. “You get into conversations with somebody east of the Mississippi River and they’ll tell you, ‘You play that throwing-the-ball-around football, not the three-yardsand-a-cloud-of-dust, tough-guy stuff.’”
Thursday, much of the Pac10 talk revolved around the Trojans, who are still eligible to win the conference but are banned from a bowl game. USC finished fifth last year.
New coach Lane Kiffin isn’t surprised most media members didn’t pick USC to win another title.
“I wouldn’t have, either,” he said. “We went 5-4 in the conference, lost four guys early to the draft, and lost the best coach in the country. I was surprised we were second.”