The Arizona Republic
Coach: Last year, Jeff Tedford led the Golden Bears to their fourth consecutive bowl for the first time in program history. He is 43-20 in five seasons.
Last year: After Tennessee thumped them in Week 1, the Bears won eight in a row to pull within BCS contention. But road losses to Arizona and Southern California altered their plans. A 45-10 win over Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl ended a 10-3 season, 7-2 in the Pac-10, which tied for first.
On offense: Seven starters return from a unit that scored a conference-best 32.8 points a game, topping 40 points six times. QB Nate Longshore (3,021 passing yards, 24 TDs) might be the Pac-10's best quarterback, but WR/PR DeSean Jackson might be its best player. Last year, Jackson averaged 18 yards per catch and led the nation in punt-return average and punt-return touchdowns. He had 21 TDs in 24 games. RB Justin Forsett isn't Marshawn Lynch, but he averaged 5.3 yards per carry last season. TE Craig Stevens is an all-conference talent, and C Alex Mack and OT Mike Gibson anchor the line. Jim Michalczik is the new offensive coordinator, but Tedford will call the plays.
On defense: The Bears lost six starters, including three all-conference performers. LB Zack Follett tied for the team lead in sacks. LB Worrell Williams gets to the ball quickly. DB Syd'Quan Thompson was honored as the team's most valuable freshman last season. Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. rates Thomas DeCoud as the No. 6 pro prospect at safety. The defensive line is thin.
Smelling roses? The defense has concerns, but the offense is explosive enough to overcome any shortcomings. Opening against Tennessee at home is a tough test. And five Pac-10 road games won't be easy. The biggest: Oct. 20 against UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
The word: "Marshawn Lynch was a special talent. He could block, he could catch, he could do it all, but we haven't taken a step back with Justin Forsett, I can tell you that." - Coach Jeff Tedford.
Prediction: 9-3 overall, 6-3 Pac-10.