Trojans the early talk of Pac-10 football, but Bears get some solo backing
The preseason Pac-10 football poll released Thursday featured a major surprise. No, it had nothing to do with USC, which was the overwhelming choice to win a seventh straight conference championship. In fact, the Trojans got 38 of the 39 first-place votes from the panel of media members. The surprise was the one first-place vote USC did not get. That went to Cal. "We have a believer," Cal's all-Pac-10 center Alex Mack said. The Bears were picked to finish fourth, behind USC, Arizona State and Oregon, but Cal picked up one more first-place vote than it received last season when the Bears were picked to finish second and were ranked 12th in the preseason Associated Press national poll. Stanford was picked to finish ninth. Voters' identities are not released, although it is known that the lone Cal vote was not cast by a Bay Area media member. The Bears are not expected to be ranked in this year's national preseason poll, but that will not deter Mack's expectations. "I believe we can win the national championship," he said.
Ready to go: Tedford said Jahvid Best, the presumed starter at running back who missed spring ball with a hip injury, is "100 percent healthy."
Not out of the woods: Tedford is not absolutely sure the legal battle to begin construction of the athletic training center is over, even though a judge ruled this week that the injunction will be lifted Tuesday, barring any further appeals. "I think we're as close as we've been to having some movement," he said, "but it's not over until they say, 'Go.' Over the last month, it's been a big distraction."
Regular fair: USC is the conference's preseason favorite for the sixth straight year, and the Trojans ended up winning or sharing the conference title each of the previous five times. "We're used to that," coach Pete Carroll said. "It doesn't get us out of whack. It feels normal to be in that situation."
Coach Jeff Tedford's immediate concern when preseason camp opens Aug. 4 is to find a quarterback, and he said the competition between Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley probably will continue into the season. "They are both going to get some game time," he said.
Predicted order of finish in Pac-10 media poll conducted Thursday with first-place votes in parentheses:
1. USC (38) 389
2. Arizona St. 330
3. Oregon 295
4. Cal (1) 274
5. UCLA 204
6. Oregon St. 192
7. Arizona 185
8. Washington 139
9. Stanford 76
10. Wash. St. 61