Happy Media Day

See? Everybody’s smiling.

The Prediction: 10th. Meaningless.

The Oddity: One first-place vote for California. The only school other than USC to get that honor. The Golden Bears were fourth in overall voting. Speaking of which, here are the rankings:

1. USC – 389
2. Arizona State – 330
3. Oregon – 295
4. Cal – 274
5. UCLA – 204
6. Oregon State – 192
7. Arizona – 185
8. Washington – 139
9. Stanford – 76
10. WSU – 61

Which means it is about time I offered up my own opinion. So here goes:

1. USC
2. ASU
3. Oregon
4. Cal
5. Arizona
6. UCLA
7. Washington
8. Washington State
9. Oregon State
10. Stanford

Did I mention pre-season rankings are meaningless? Unless, of course, I get this right at the end of the season. In which case I will crown myself as a Pac-10 football guru this winter. That’s just how sportswriting works, folks.

Quote of the Day: “This isn’t a deal where we want to pass first, run second. We want to run the football.” Maybe not the most intriguing sound byte from media day, but certainly the most telling of how the Cougar offense will actually pan out in 2008. And I’m glad. Wulff reminded the media that the new offense is not a spread, rather a hurry-up, and that WSU will look to pound the bound every bit as much as throw it over the top.

This is great news for a few reasons. One, it means there may be some hope for a red zone offense that has been so terrible in recent seasons, I can’t not even describe it with a word. So I am forced to make one up. Craptawfuble. In fact, the goal line portion of the offense has been so craptawfuble that it struggled to score even with the unstoppable force of Jed Collins (occasionally) in the backfield. So, with a solid offensive line this season and Dwight Tardy at halfback, the Cougs should have the ability to run with some confidence. And as the yards on the ground go up, the more the passing game benefits. And the more confidence that Tardy has, the more likely the ball is to actually cross the goal line. It’s science.

The other reason this is good news is for the aforementioned benefits to the passing game. Gary Rogers will be challenged enough this year with a new offense. It would be hard for him to do anything if opposing defenses begin to focus solely on our high-powered passing game. Sometimes the running game can help without even gaining yards. Just keeping the defense honest at the line of scrimmage allows the wide receivers to work on getting open against fewer defensive backs. Since Brandon Gibson is going to be double-teamed a bazillion times this year, we need as many opponents focusing on the running game as possible. Wulff knows this, and knows he has to commit to the running game to make it happen.

Brandon Gibson, Still Awesome: “I believe every time I touch the ball, I want to do something special with it. I think they kind of expect that out of me.”

The last time I believed a player was capable of that statement was Michael Bumpus. Of course, as defenses began to key in on Bumpus or just avoid punting it to him altogether, a lot of the magic was lost. It could be the same problem for Gibson this season. He will be the focus of the defense. If he can still find a way to be a scoring threat every time he touches the ball, then we’re in business.

Losing Bumpus also hurts Gibson’s game, but not as much as you may think. Jeshua Anderson is so ridiculously fast that a lot of teams may consider re-assigning their fastest defensive back to him instead of Gibson. The receiving corps as a whole is also deep enough to be a help. Just hope they stay healthy.

That’s all I have for now. Let’s close with the Pac-10 media member motto:

If you’re not sure, rank Washington State last.

I believe it’s engraved on the side of the L.A. Times building.

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