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THE AFTERNOON PAPER: Could this be the year USC falters?

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I'm just going to throw the links your way with just a little bit of commentary thrown in, as I'm working on a big post for tonight. Lots of good stuff out there today.

The big post I'm putting together is the SBN 2009 Pac-10 Football Preview, which is a collaborative effort between the Pac-10 bloggers here at SBN. Dr. Saturday over at Yahoo! expands on a familiar conference refrain, which I also touch on in the preview:

Clearly, you'd be a lunatic to bet against SC extending its championship streak to eight years under pretty much any circumstances, based on its history, talent and depth (if one five-star, all-world quarterback doesn't pan out, on to the next one ...) alone. But if you were writing a script for the fall of the dynasty -- or at least an unprecedented interruption -- it would probably include most of the factors the Trojans are facing this year.

Be looking for that preview sometime this evening.

There are a pair of WSU previews from abroad out there, one from the inimitable Ken Goe at the Oregonian and another from Athlon Sports. Goe isn't liking the Cougs' chances this year:

It's so bad on the Palouse, the starting quarterback probably will be a guy who threw 11 interceptions and no touchdown passes last year, the best wide receiver is on the shelf with a hamstring injury, the best running back is a Cal wash-out, and one of the starting defensive ends could be a transfer from the defunct Division II program at Western Washington.

However, there is a flip side. Beat reporters typically are overly pessimistic in their assessment of the teams they cover, lest they appear biased. But echoing a familiar sentiment of anyone who has seen the Cougs in person this fall -- which is pretty much limited to a handful of people, as even Ted Miller couldn't see fit to trek to Pullman -- Cougfan.com correspondent Howie Stalwick is almost effusive in his optimism regarding the Cougs and their direction. This, from the same guy who was like a wet blanket over our excitement last summer. (I can't find the Cougfan article I'm thinking of, but trust me, it's there somewhere.)

The reporter in me wants to be pessimistic about our chances this year. But when guys like Grippi and Stalwick are telling us they look really good, I have to listen. (Even though I still think Stalwick's basketball analysis is laughably bad.)

Other good stuff:

  • One sports betting site says the Cougs are one of the top five teams to bet against in 2009. Interesting, I thought. I'm not a betting man -- I know better than to put my hard-earned teacher money on the whims of 20 year olds -- but it seems like this could end up being really backwards. Everyone thinks the Cougs are beyond horrible, which means the lines will be big. If the Cougs are a little better than everyone thinks, they should be able to cover more often than not. But, like I said, I don't pretend to know anything about betting ...
  • Grippi has his "Then and Now" feature on WSU's orthopedic surgeon of choice, Ed Tingstad. Nice story.
  • John Blanchette has what is the latest in a mile-long line of stories on the new Pac-10 commissioner, Larry Scott. The talking points are familiar, but I absolutely love what Scott is saying already:

    "And this is critical in both football and basketball because so much is determined subjectively. It’s not just what you do on the field or court. There’s polls and selection committees. Perception matters at the end of the day – in access, seeding, revenue and exposure. Some of the things that impact that aren’t going to change – geography, media concentration – but it doesn’t tell me there aren’t ways to overcome it. There may be non-traditional approaches – and we may just have to work harder than the next guy to tell our story."

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Tom Hansen was blowing smoke when he said he simply works for the presidents and their whims, and with every move and every quote, Scott proves it. Thank goodness we are moving on.