Letter from Travis Pederson: Last year, USC needed help from Oregon in the final week of the season to reach the Rose Bowl and, after losing so much talent to the NFL, seems to be ever-so-slightly down from its lofty standards. Meanwhile, Oregon, Cal and Oregon State all look improved from last season. So is this finally the year USC's streak of Pac-10 titles comes to an end?
Stewart Mandel’s reply: It's highly unlikely the Trojans will be as dominant as last year, when they boasted a top five NFL quarterback (Mark Sanchez) and a world-class defense. Nevertheless, I still have more faith in a USC team featuring an untested QB and eight new defensive starters than in any of the teams you mentioned.
Of the three, Cal is the only one I feel reasonably certain will be improved. The Bears return the entire starting front four and secondary from the nation's 26th-ranked defense, a third-year QB (Kevin Riley) and a Heisman-caliber tailback (Jahvid Best). But not since Aaron Rodgers' 2003-04 tenure has Cal put any sort of scare into the Trojans, and we have to wonder at this point whether Jeff Tedford's otherwise successful program will ever get over that hump.