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NO. 12 CALIFORNIA
Last season: 10-3. Defeated Texas A&M 45-10 in the Holiday Bowl. Final AP ranking: No. 14.
Returning starters: offense 8, defense 5, kickers 0.
Key player: Cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson. Thompson was burned by Tennessee's receivers, particularly Robert Meachem, in last season's 35-18 opening loss to the Volunteers. But he improved markedly as the season went on and should be well prepared when the Bears open at home against Tennessee.
Headed for Bourbon Street if: Quarterback Nate Longshore and the Pacific-10's top playmaker (including anyone from USC) DeSean Jackson hook up enough to pile up points to make up for a rebuilding defense. That defense must continue to be effective in the red zone.
Predicted finish: 10-2. Ties UCLA for second place in the Pacific-10 and plays Missouri in Holiday Bowl.