LOS ANGELES, Calif.--Four-time defending Pac-10 champion USC is a unanimous selection to win the 2007 Pacific-10 Conference football title in a preseason poll of West Coast media members who regularly cover the league. It marks the fifth consecutive year the Trojans have been the choice to win the title. It is only the third time in 46 years of the poll that a team has been a unanimous pre-season pick to win the title, but all three times have been recent, as USC was also a unanimous pick to win in 2004 and 2005 as well as this year. The Trojans did not disappoint in those previous two years, winning outright Pac-10 crowns by going undefeated in league play as part of a Pac-10-record 34-game winning streak and playing in consecutive BCS National Championship Games. USC has won the last four Pac-10 titles and has two National Championships and a national runner-up finish in the last four years. The Trojans fashioned an 11-2 mark last season, capped by a 32-18 win against Michigan in the Rose Bowl. For the fourth consecutive year, CALIFORNIA has finished second in the poll behind the Trojans. The media poll has correctly selected the Conference Champion in 24 of 46 previous polls, including the last seven years in a row. Following are the results of the preseason media poll (points 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, first-place votes in parentheses):
1. USC (39) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 390 2. California . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 323 3. UCLA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305 4. Arizona State . . . . . . . . . . . . 242 5. Oregon State . . . . . . . . . . . . . 237 6. Oregon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226 7. Arizona . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 162 8. Washington State . . . . . . . . . . . 115 9. Washington . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98 10. Stanford . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
POLL NOTES: Preseason media poll has correctly picked the Conference champion 24 of 46 times and has been very accurate of late in correctly identifying the Conference champ the last seven years in a row. . . . USC becomes the first school to top the media poll for five straight years since the Trojans had an 18-year run atop the poll from 1965-1982. . . . CALIFORNIA has been picked to finish second for the fourth consecutive season. In the past three seasons, the Golden Bears have finished second, tied fourth and tied first.
Arizona Head Coach Mike Stoops & Senior Cornerback Antoine Cason Quotes:
ARIZONA Head Coach Mike Stoops
General Remarks: "We are very excited for this day and for our football team. When you look at the entirety of last season, to win six games shows constant growth in our program. To win some of the games we won, after what our kids went through and then to win our last three road games was good for us. But we didn't finish the way we had liked too. The loss against Arizona State cost us a lot, including a bowl game. Hopefully that will have an impact. Our expectations are much different going into this season. The way we persevered last season, winning against top teams, I think that gives us some legitimate confidence and our work habits really match those expectations. Our attitude matches our expectations. We are healthy, we have great experience coming back, it is by far and away our most experienced and talented football team."
On the new spread offense: "We are going to implement the whole system. Our biggest challenge will be in utilizing the personnel we have on our team. Whether we go four wides, three wides, we'll have to see. I think the system gives us a unique protection of our quarterback. If we keep Willie [Tuitama] healthy our chance of winning goes up dramatically. All of those things are important to our success."
ARIZONA CB Antoine Cason
On Spencer Larsen: "He brings an intensity to the team. He is a likable guy and he pushes everyone on the team to work as hard as he does, especially this summer. He is a great leader and I feel that Spencer Larsen is one of the most underrated linebackers in the league."
In inconsistencies in the program the last couple of years: "That was a big key of ours that we tried to get away from. We were practicing a lot better later in the season and that helped. Last year will carry over to this year and we will be more consistent as a team."
On being a corner against nine returning QBs: "It's a great challenge to know that everyone is coming back. It brings the best out of me as a player and the best out of them as a player. I like the challenge against every receiver in this league."
Pac-10 Coaches and Player Quotes:
WASHINGTON Head Coach Tyrone Willingham
General Remarks: "It is a pleasure for us to kick off the Conference this morning because as the Commissioner just said, the Pac-10 plays one of the most demanding schedules in the nation and I think we have all of those tough teams on our schedule. We don't think there's anyone that has a tougher start than our first three games, but we also think our Conference schedule is demanding. Syracuse is an important game for us to play on the road, and then we have to turn around and play against Cinderella darling Boise State, followed by Ohio State. There is no question that it will be very challenging, but it is an opportunity for us to go out and prove ourselves."
On being picked to finish ninth: "Is it a fair assessment? I don't know, it's never crossed my mind. It is important where we finish at the end of the season and I think that some years ago, projections had been slightly off as far as who finished where. But we are excited. The team is starting to understand the character it takes to be a champion."
On USC: "You have a very positive situation when you have a nationally dominant team, as well as a Conference that is as competitive as we will be this year. I said this when I came back from Notre Dame, I think the teams have gotten better and you have to be prepared to play your best games no matter who you are facing each game. It is a very competitive Conference."
WASHINGTON DE Greyson Gunheim
On the season openers: "It is a challenge, a big opportunity for us to play three big teams in three huge games. We are excited to go out there and prove how hard we've been working this summer."
On if there are any teams he is looking forward to facing: I think the Conference is so competitive, every game if you don't bring your "A" game, you are in a lot of trouble. Games go down to the last second or one big play. I think we are the best Conference and I'm really excited, I love playing the big games."
STANFORD Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
General Remarks:"It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here, we are tremendously excited to get this season started. I guess the only issue is that now I have to make good on all those promises I made during the interview process. So, here is the plan. We are relying on seniors to lead the way. We have a group of those committed seniors at every position. Also in our plan to win this year at Stanford is to win on defense, that is our number one goal. We are putting as much talent on the defensive side of the ball as we can and loading up on that side. The three things we want our players to do is to play hard, play hurt and play to win. The love of the game must be genuine and a lack of earnestness will eliminate any man from a football team. We will work like dogs and have fun doing it. Football tests a man's courage and it becomes a brotherhood and a love. I want these guys to expect to win and they must earn the right by how they prepare. One day at a time to improve the culture of our team."
STANFORD QB T.C. Ostrander
General Remarks: "When coach Harbaugh came in, we committed to turning around the losing culture that we've had the past couple of years. We are looking forward to starting camp in a couple of weeks."
On any added pressure of turning things around: "I don't feel any added pressure because I've always put pressure on myself. It has been a blessing where I've grown up and to be in athletics. I don't look at it as any added burden because the quarterback position is hard enough. Any outside pressure I don't focus on."
WASHINGTON STATE Head Coach Bill Doba
General Remarks:"We are looking forward to the year, these senior guys want to win. We have excellent leadership and have had good summer workouts. Offensively, our strength is in Alex Brink who is about to break every school record this year. He knows more about this offense than I do. He has a good, solid receiving group. Defensively we have to find a couple of corners. Our front is solid, our linebackers are solid and our kicking game is solid. It is a tough Conference. USC obviously is the cream of the crop, but the rest of the league is a toss up. The key is staying healthy."
On taking over the defensive coordinator duties: "I really looked at our staff and realized I had a lot more time on my hands. I will tell you I had more fun this spring coaching the linebackers and coordinating the defense than I've had in all four years. We'll be good because we have good players. But at the same time I've always coordinated by committee so it's not a one-man show."
WASHINGTON STATE QB Alex Brink
On the quarterbacks in the league: "Like coach Doba said, the defensive backs will have a tough time because guys like John David Booty and Nate Longshore are going to throw the football and you have to do as much as you can to control the football. I'm looking forward to playing against those guys."
On his receiver Michael Bumpus: "I've been around Michael now for four years so we have a real good relationship. We have real good chemistry. I think our receivers are the best in the Conference and the work we have done this summer will only improve that chemistry we have."
ARIZONA STATE Head Coach Dennis Erickson
General Remarks: "I was looking at the press guide before I came in, reading my biography and it started to look like an obituary. As I was thinking about who I wanted to bring to media day I realized the strength of our football team is our offensive front and I decided to bring Mike Pollak. We have five offensive lineman out of six that have already graduated, it's unbelievable. When you talk about a football team and you talk about the strengths, the biggest part of it is the offensive front and I feel pretty good about it. Mike is a heck of a football player. Our running game is strong too. For us to be successful we must be able to run the football and obviously that starts up front. We have some wide outs that have potential, but they are unproven. Defensively it is more of a question mark. You can not win without being good on defense. We have some good athletes, but we need to get better, play on the edge and have a strong mindset. Our weakness there is depth. Our corners have to step up. I'm very excited to be at ASU. The thing that has changed a little bit since I was at Oregon State is that everybody is even. Everyone can beat everyone. It'll be fun. I know two fight songs and I'm about to learn a third here."
ARIZONA STATE C Mike Pollak
On the shotgun formation: "It hasn't taken me that long to get used to the shotgun, but Rudy [Carpenter] loves it. He did it in high school so if that helps him I'm all for it."
On having eight home games:"As a senior I am looking forward to being at home. You get that advantage of not having to travel, playing in front of your home crowd and playing in the heat which we are used too."
OREGON Head Coach Mike Bellotti
General Remarks: "It's great to get the chance to play more football. I think the way last year ended fueled some thought about what we need to do differently this year. I think we will be very similar, with some tweaking in mode and tempo in the way we play our game. Tom Osborne will join our staff to beef up our special teams. That was very important to us, especially given what happened late in the season. We turned the ball over on special teams which hurt us. The core of our offense returns. Dennis Dixon is the quarterback of our team, even though Brady Leaf will compete. There is nothing written in stone. We have great depth at tailback. Defensively we have some holes to fill and our questions are on the defensive line. We are excited about this football season simply because when you don't put your best foot forward in your last chance, you want to play again."
on TB Jonathan Stewart: "Jonathan is as good of a back as we've ever had. Last year he was knocking on the door of 1,000 yards. What I need to get out of Jonathan is more consistency. Against Oregon State he almost won the game single-handedly. There is no question about what he can do, but what we have to do is keep him healthy. He and Jeremiah [Johnson] are a great duo. Jeremiah might be a better natural back, but Jonathan is an emerging back. We have worked on him being a better mental running back. He is an outstanding player, and is more willing to lead his teammates in the classroom, the weight room and on the field."
OREGON TB Jonathan Stewart
General Remarks:"It's good to be here. The team is hungry. Last year going out like we did in defeat, everyone really wants to get the bad taste buds out of our mouths. This whole year is about opportunity and taking advantage of it. We need to be hungrier than the other team and I think we lacked that last year."
On facing Michigan Sept. 8: "Coach Bellotti instilled in us to take every game one at a time so we are focused on Houston, then Michigan. I don't really even know the whole schedule, but going to Michigan, everyone should be pumped up. I've dreamed of just going to see a game there, so to be in it playing is that much better. I'm really excited for the whole season to get started."
UCLA Head Coach Karl Dorrell
General Remarks: "We are very excited about this season as you know we have a lot of experience coming back. We have great expectations as our team and coaches have worked very, very hard to get ourselves in the position to factor into the Conference race. We have experience on both sides of the ball and that gives us a fighting chance."
On new offensive coordinator Jay Norvell: "Jay Norvell comes from an offensive system that I'm very familiar with. He is excited to come to UCLA and put his stamp on the program. He and I speak the same language. He's the only one who I've had in my career whose expectations are the same as my expectations. He is going to do a tremendous job. There was a question last year at media day about our new defensive coordinator, DeWayne Walker, and I told you all how he is a strong fundamentals coach, is changing the mindset of our defense, how we tackle, etc. and that is exactly what Jay will be. He is very well-organized and a strong communicator. He is demanding and will get our offense up and running."
UCLA DE Bruce Davis
On coach Walker and the defensive system: "We're just a lot more comfortable with the system now. We've had a year to develop in it. We've added new things and we've been working hard in the offseason to get better as football players. Coach Walker is always there for us, for our questions if we don't know. We just all want to go out there and work for one cause. We know our coaches work hard for us, so we work hard for them. We're all just more comfortable with each other."
The difference between a year ago and now: "There are two differences. One - we're comfortable with our coaching staff and two - we have 25 seniors on our roster. We know each other really well. We are more mature, we know what it takes to win games. We lost games last year and we don't want to do that this year. There is nothing in college football we haven't seen. We gelled a lot and came a lot closer, and now are ready to play for each other."
CALIFORNIA Head Coach Jeff Tedford
General Remarks: "We are very excited about the upcoming season and to report to camp on the fifth of August. The players' commitment has been great through the summer. We have a lot of experience and I feel that the investment has been made to compete for a championship. We have great leadership, DeSean [Jackson] being one of them and a big part of what we do. Having to replace Daymeion Hughes and Marshawn Lynch, both Players of the Year, will be a challenge. We feel Justin Forsett can move right in and take over and we'll have some young guys competing at corner. We had a rough game at Tennessee last year, and we need redemption. It's not about revenge, we just need to focus on ourselves. This Conference is very balanced so we have to bring our "A" game. I have great confidence in our players and our staff to be prepared each and every week."
On Nate Longshore: "Nate is a student of the game. Starting out last year at Tennessee was about as tough of a look as he's gonna get. But having Nate at quarterback is like having another coach on our field. I'm excited to see how he comes into the season."
On the Conference having two BCS teams: "Well we'll find out. Any given year we are worthy of it, but it depends on how we play. We have to stay healthy and be productive each and every week. You have got to bring your "A" game. We also knock each other off a lot in this Conference. There are so many quality teams, quality coaches and talent. But we have the potential to have two BCS teams every year."
CALIFORNIA WR-PR DeSean Jackson
General Remarks:"All summer we've been at Cal working out, one-on-ones, seven-on-sevens, team drills, etc. We have a solid group of receivers and we are all trying to get each other ready for the season. Nate [Longshore] and I have been working all summer on our timing. We are just working to get on the same page."
On coach Tedford as a play caller: "I honestly don't think too much has changed, he has always been calling some plays. I'm just going to stay used to what he does. He will do it the right way and I'll just be in the right position for us to win games."
USC Head Coach Pete Carroll
General Remarks: "It is exciting to be back and getting the season ready to go. This event always means the season is coming. This is a really exciting season for USC. This football team has enjoyed a really upbeat offseason. They came back to work with the intention of putting together a great team. All the expectations add to the fun, the buildup. We are looking forward to putting together a terrific team, I don't know if we can do it, but we'll go for it. The leadership is on the kids who are coming back, the senior kids. I'm excited about John David [Booty]. A year ago he was recovering from back surgery. Coming out of last season he has had a seamless transition. He is as fast and strong as he's ever been. He's in position for a great opportunity to lead our football team. Our quarterback has never been the guy that we rely solely upon to do everything. He is like the point guard, the delivery man, but he uses all the players around him."
On the excitement of the offseason: "We were very young a year ago but they were able to see what they were capable of. A bunch of guys that were eligible to go to the league, stayed. That all happened in January. It sent the message that they are excited for their senior seasons. They carry the leadership, but the fact that it still seems like a young team keeps things exciting."
USC QB John David Booty
On the lineage of great USC QBs: "There have been big-time players here and it's something I'm willing to try and do. I give my best and work hard and I want to be a winner because of the great players who came before me. If I can be half as good as some of them, I will be happy about my career at USC."
On the offseason: "It's been a big offseason for us. It's not something that we lose sleep over [last year's two losses], but we have brought in new, young guys and we are looking for them to make plays for us. We need to go out there as a unit. It's been a lot of fun coming together, with older guys stepping up and bringing younger guys with us."