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Times reporter Bob Condotta keeps the news coming about the Montlake Dawgs.

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July 23, 2008 10:32 PM

Official Husky blog picks

Posted by Bob Condotta

Wow, I'm overwhelmed by the response to the earlier post today to send in your Pac-10 picks.

So much so, I'm not sure I was able to tabulate every single one as they are still rolling in.

So consider this an unofficial tally, but one that I'm fairly confident captures the general consensus.

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

As should be expected, UW was picked higher here than it has been in every other poll I've seen, and probably higher than it will be when the official Pac-10 poll is released tomorrow (I'm expecting Washington to be eighth in that poll, ahead of Stanford and WSU).

But much of the rest of it is about how the rest of the world has called it, including what seems to be an earnest attempt to give Oregon its due --- the Ducks even got three first-place votes from people (though one from an admitted Ducks fan). Arizona State was the only other team to get a first-place vote, garnering two.

As has been the case with the, uh, pros who do this for a living, Arizona was the biggest enigma among those of you who posted. Arizona was slotted everywhere from second to 10th with everyone unsure exactly what to expect out of Mike Stoops' crew. Second seemed too high for me until I looked at UA's Pac-10 schedule again. The Wildcats have five home games and the four road contests are at UCLA, Stanford, Washington State and Oregon. Arizona could conceivably be favored to win three of those. But 10th may not be out of the realm either. Struggle early, and the bottom could fall out of that team.

Washington State and Stanford were near unanimous picks for the bottom two slots, though UCLA and Oregon State each got last-place votes, as well (I'm throwing out the seemingly non-serious votes that Oregon got for the bottom).

Speaking of the Ducks, after I released my poll this morning, a couple of you sent me questions about Oregon. Namely: why do I and others assume RB LeGarrette Blount will make a big splash for Oregon this year but don't have similarly high expectations for UW's incoming running backs; and why does everyone seem to think Oregon's secondary is so good when the Huskies scored 34 points on the Ducks last season?

First, on Blount. Consider his history: He was one of the top-rated RBs out of high school, signing with Auburn, but didn't make it in academically. He went to a JC in Mississippi where he had two big years and was then rated as the No. 1 JC RB (if not recruit) in the country. Then once at Oregon, he reportedly tore it up in spring ball. Point being, he's so far lived up to the hype at every turn and RB is one spot where JC guys can come in and dominate immediately. Frankly, he sounds like Corey Dillon, who might have had 2,000 yards in his one year at UW except he didn't arrive until August and then had to win the job from a pretty good back in Rashaan Shehee (who got injured early in the season). Everybody could be wrong, but JC RBs are generally one of the easiest to project. UW's backs just strike me and others as more unproven at the moment.

As for Oregon's secondary, no, the Ducks weren't the most statistically impressive group last season, ranking seventh in passing defense in the conference (which is based solely on yards allowed) and sixth in pass efficiency defense (a better stat encompassing yards, percentage, interceptions and touchdowns). But the hype is emanating from the fact that Oregon has three starters back, one of whom is potential All-American senior safety Patrick Chung and a pair of cornerbacks who each earned conference honorable mention last year.

UW did throw a couple of long TDs against Oregon last year, but Jake Locker also completed just 12-31 passes in that game. Stats can also be a little misleading --- Oregon gave up more than 300 passing yards only once last season, but that came in a game it won fairly handily (379 against ASU), which is common. Teams that fall behind always start throwing the ball all over the place, so winning teams often have lower pass defense ratings than maybe they deserve. Also, the Ducks play a style of defense that often leaves the corners on islands, and can result in a few big plays when things break down (as happened on the one long TD from Locker to Anthony Russo last year). A more conservative style would likely help the numbers a bit, but being able to rely on the secondary that way can help mask some problems elsewhere.

Mostly, observers are assuming a steady rate of improvement from the returnees, same as fans of any team expect that their starters from one year will be better the next. Not to say everyone viewing it this way won't be wrong, of course. We'll all begin to find out for sure come Aug. 30.

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