But me and my imaginary friend Jimmy; we will not be deceived. Also, we refuse to parrot lazy national media scribes who are simply parroting someone else. To do so means no team disappoints; that no team smashes expectations.
As you read in Part I, we strive to predict the teams who fall short and that continues here. Yet we're equally cognizant of teams who will finish higher than popularly forecast. Each year, teams are picked to finish near the bottom yet they wind up near, or at, the top.
Its go time, Part II. And the Dog days of Fall beckon.
No. 6 WASHINGTON (7-5, 4-4)
Arguably best WR in the nation plus a very good QB. And little else. Terrible run-blocking last season - little improvement, if any, so far. Still in doubt, which under-whelming TB starts. Beyond star Reggie Williams, solid Charles Frederick, WR depth and talent is thin. Injuries, defections and tomfoolery further eroded depth on offense.
A dominating defense isn't in the offing. DT Terry Johnson is solid, but not a difference maker. Adequate D-Line; but mislabeled as a ‘great run stopping unit'. Linebacker is a strength; Greg Carothers moves over from safety to join wickedly athletic Marquis Cooper. Derrick Johnson, Roc Alexander will be tested at CB; but won't fare as poorly as the schizophrenic safeties.
Schedule: The main reason the non-losing season streak continues. After expected loss to Buckeyes, some tough games are at home, and they miss ASU. Different year, this weak schedule could mean Roses. In ‘03, it means another season of unfair, and failed, expectations.
PTW: OL Nick Newton. Second in importance only to Pickett's protection, the line must perform better, or even adequately, in the running game.
The Jimmy Notes: Jimmy thinks Bolton too kind. Special teams as a whole will hurt the Huskies - P, K, return coverage, deep snapper, return men. Staff began way behind, plays catch-up all year. Jimmy believes new OL, DB coaches' fiery speeches will have a negligible effect; forgotten with the first snap. Jimmy stresses: OL run-blocking technique still sub-par; despite fluff features heralding optimism. Anyone thinking Williams-from-Pickett is enough is mistaken. Too many holes.. Repeat after Jimmy: Deep.. Yawning.. Chasms. Jimmy's Imaginary Travel Agency gladly booked your New Orleans trip, (permission implied per your memo) But lets catch a Saturday matinee beforehand. Now playing: AirDogs II: The Gilby Tower Years. Laugh track included. Wine & cheese sold separately.
No. 5 USC (7-5, 5-3)
‘SC in a walk? Oh, but issues are being ignored. QB situation is a quagmire. Some are gushing John David Booty should start. Opponents should pray its true. Success in Chow's offense hinges on a learned quarterback, not just an athletically skilled one. Talented O-Line with LT Jacob Rogers but not even the best in league. Star wideout Mike Williams will be less without Palmer, sharp drop-off after the starters. TB Herschel Dennis adequate, but running game under-performs.
Run defense is best in league headed in, but pass rush won't meet expectations. NT Mike Patterson is a brickhouse in the middle but DE not as strong as widely believed. LB Matt Grootegoed, a phenomenal player who causes matchup problems. However, MLB is a concern. True weakness is in secondary, three new starters. When D-Line is held in check, good QB and/or running game exposes flaws. Key: D will be on the field a ton, will tire late.
PTW: DL Shaun Cody. Critical is if his knee is completely healed. Before injury was on track to become one of the best linemen in league.
The Jimmy Notes: Jimmy laughs hearing QB, TB aren't important for ‘SC. Jimmy often gives just as much credit to an O-line when a QB breaks out. Not the '02 Trojans; Palmer was just that good. Deficiencies on the line were masked; they surface this year. Jimmy loves the DTs. But secondary will falter. Jimmy requires a longer look at Pete Carroll before bestowing hysterical accolades upon him. 2002: poetry. 2001: 6-6. Dismiss '01 as somebody else's players, then do the same for '02. Motivation wanes in November with goals out of reach; home venue advantage is offset. Defensive optimism based on last year? 200 rushing yards by WSU.. beat Cal by 2 points.. surrendered 300+ to Fife through the air. Deficiencies. Mask. Exposed. Jimmy's work is done here in the land of Toy.
No. 4 UCLA (7-5, 5-3)
A new coach but tons of young talent, even without Tab Perry. Regardless of starter at QB, concern exists with both Drew Olson, Matt Moore. Undersized Tyler Ebell proved he's for real last season. Manuel White provides straight ahead power at FB. With wideout also now an issue, Craig Bragg is primary. TE becomes even more of focal point, remember the name Marcedes Lewis. Eyoseph Efseaff anchors talented, Senior-less line.
D-Line is solid and underrated. Rodney Leisle looks to have regained 2001 form, sackmaster Dave Ball will attack even more this year at DE. Solid experience at linebacker. Three DB starters return but depth, inconsistent play is troublesome. But CB Matt Ware can take away a team's top WR. Bragg and Ebell lead a very good special teams.
The Jimmy Notes:
Jimmy's not convinced the O-line gels at the start. But young talent will be reenergized by new, enthusiastic staff; unlike previous years' doom & gloom approach to adversity. A solid running attack, significant contribution from TE. But QB, secondary cost UCLA some heartbreakers. With Spongecake Bobby LargePants no longer weighing down the Bruin ship, team makes huge strides. Westwood is abuzz about ‘04 by season's end.
Coming tomorrow: The third and final installment of the CF.C 2003 Pac-10 Preview! Stay tuned!