Washington Picked First in Pac-10 Football Media Poll
Washington has been picked to win the 2000 Pacific-10 Conference football title in a pre-season poll of West Coast media members that regularly cover the league. The Huskies nipped USC by just three points, equaling the second-closest voting since the pre-season poll began in 1961. Washington garnered 16 of 30 first-place votes, followed by USC with 11, ARIZONA STATE with two and OREGON one. Washington tied for second in the Pac-10 last season with a 6-2 league mark in Coach Rick Neuheisel's first year at the helm. The media poll has correctly selected the Conference Champion in 17 of 39 previous polls.
Following are the results of the pre-season media poll (points 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1), with first-place votes in parentheses:
1. WASHINGTON (16) 275
POLL NOTES: Pre-season media poll has correctly picked the Conference champion 17 of 39 times. Poll has correctly selected the champion just two times in the last seven years ... It might be wise to read this poll upside down. In four of the last seven years, the eventual Conference champion was picked to finish in the bottom half of the league in the pre-season media poll ... The three-point edge Washington has over USC in the poll equals the second-closest poll ever. USC was picked by two points to edge UCLA for the championship in 1989 and the Trojans did, indeed, go on to claim the title ... OREGON STATE has been picked for its highest finish since the Conference expanded to 10 teams in 1978 ... Defending champion STANFORD is picked to finish seventh this year. It is only the second time since 1978 that the defending champion has been picked to finish in the second division the following year. Of all teams, the pollsters seemed to have the most difficulty predicting how the Cardinal will fare this season. Stanford was picked to finish as high as second and as low as 10th ... Washington was last picked to win the league in 1997, but ended up in fourth place. The Huskies claimed their last Pac-10 title in 1992 ... Seven different teams have won the Pac-10 title in the last eight years.
Pac-10 Football Media Day
MIKE PRICE, WASHINGTON STATE HEAD COACH
"Our secondary is led by Lamont Thompson and Chris Martin. The other corner is Marcus Trufant, a freshman who started the last few games as a true freshman last year. Bill Newman is the leader at strong safety. We have a couple of transfers to come in and help.
"(Quarterback) Jason Gesser reminds me a lot of Jake Plummer at the same time in his career. He's backed up by Matt Kegel. Kegel is really an athlete, a Fran Tarkenton type of guy who runs all over the place. He's exciting and fun to watch and will back up Jason. A lot of our success depends on keeping Jason healthy. If he stays healthy he can be a real catalyst for us. I'm not nervous about injuries and his health because he's such a rambler and gambler.
"We'll move Jason (Gesser) much more than we have other quarterbacks. He's not the typical Washington State quarterback, that stands back and strong-arms it, so we'll do some things differently."
LAMONT THOMPSON, WASHINGTON STATE FREE SAFETY
"Everyone stayed in Pullman for the summer and I thought it was really important for our team to work on the team aspect. I think we have a good chance of competing in the Pac-10 if we stay healthy."
BOB TOLEDO, UCLA HEAD COACH
"Defensively, we feel we're as good as we've been since I've been at UCLA. We've had the same defensive coordinator for two years, which will give us some continuity and some consistency. We have eight returning starters on defense.
"We have not made a decision at quarterback and won't until a week to 10 days into camp. We want both guys to work hard. Cory Paus had surgery, has recovered and is much improved. Ryan McCann filled in for Cory in the Washington game and did a good job. Spring ball gave him a lot of experience because Cory wasn't there.
About playing a strong schedule early on: "We'd all rather play someone good and beat them than someone not good and beat them. It does something for your program. When we beat Texas 66-6, it jump-started our program."
KENYON COLEMAN, UCLA DEFENSIVE END
"We have tremendous athletes on defense. Our offense is talented and so are our skill players. We have a tough schedule -- both the nonconference and the Pac-10."
TOM HOLMOE, CALIFORNIA HEAD COACH
"Our offense needs to improve. A lot remains to be seen and we need to produce. Our offensive line returns one senior but four starters. The younger kids are all guys that will be around for two or three more yeas.
"(Quarterback) Kyle Boller is as tough a kid as I've ever seen. For a kid that had to carry a Pac-10 team on his shoulders offensively, I thought he did a pretty good job. He would step in front of the media and take responsibility for his team last year and I respected that.
"I like our chances and I like our team and that gives me a lot of hope. I want to win each week and take it from there. Our defense finished first in the Conference statistically last year. I don't know if that will happen again but I can't see there being a big drop off. Our offense can make all the difference this season."
ANDRE CARTER, CALIFORNIA DEFENSIVE END
"As far as the defensive side of the ball, we've lost a lot players. But the current players have stepped it up and this year is very exciting for myself and the team."
DICK TOMEY, ARIZONA HEAD COACH
"We all have a terrible feeling about a year ago, but that feeling has been eradicated by watching this team working in the offseason and becoming a disciplined group. They have worked so had to be as good as they can be."
"The Conference as a whole this year will be better. I have great respect for the coaches, players, and quality of play in this Conference. We have more balance from top to bottom than any other conference in the country. I was in the league as an assistant coach when there was dominance and it wasn't that much fun. It's more fun to let everyone have their day."
ORTEGE JENKINS, ARIZONA QUARTERBACK
"We need to make the adjustment from going to being a preseason top team to ending the season 6-6 . It doesn't matter what the media say about how good you are. You have to come out and play to win each week. Each year is different. Those are some of the things I've emphasized with our team this year.
"We don't need to have as many turnovers as we had last year. Last year we had a lot of interceptions and fumbles that were at crucial points in games. We also need to score more when we're in the red zone. We struggled in the red zone last year."
DENNIS ERICKSON, OREGON STATE HEAD COACH
"The big thing at Oregon State was getting past not winning six games. Now we need to take it to a level where it's consistent. This league tough, and you never know one week to the next what can happen. The bottom line is our players know they can be successful.
"When we were fortunate enough to beat Cal and get that sixth win, there were guys 80 years old with tears in their eyes. The reaction of the town and the students, was really unbelievable. It was a fun year. I've had a chance in coaching to be involved in some great coaching and some great wins, but looking back on last year, it was one of the most enjoyable for me.
About contending for the Pac-10 Championship in 2000: "You never know what can happen as time goes on. If you stay healthy you can beat people. If you get hurt, as a lot of teams do in this league, it's more difficult."
DELAWRENCE GRANT, OREGON STATE DEFENSIVE END
"We dedicated ourselves (during the offseason) and tried to just get it done."
BRUCE SNYDER, ARIZONA STATE HEAD COACH
"We need to be more consistent than we were a year ago. At times we played good and at times we didn't. In terms of the Conference race -- it's an even race. The difference between the top team and not the top team is not very far. One of the things I've witnessed is if you can get on a roll with your attitude, courage and character, you will win a lot of football games on momentum. Overcoming distractions also plays a role.
About the Pac-10 athletic directors' recommendation for a year-round training table: "I think that's a step in the right direction for several reasons. I believe in the offseason the athletes do not eat properly due to their lack of knowledge of nutrition and the fast-food thing. It still has to go to another committee but it's a step in the right direction in my opinion."
ADAM ARCHULETA, ARIZONA STATE OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
"We want the Pac-10 to start making some noise on the national scene. I don't pay a lot of attention to what the media say. We need to help get the Pac-10 back on track to get the recognition it deserves."
RICK NEUHEISEL, WASHINGTON HEAD COACH
"The question mark on our team is defense. Our defensive front returns only one player with experience. That makes you concerned, but I'm sure the kids that are given the opportunity will respond.
About taking a different approach after being picked first in the Conference: "It merits conversation. I don't know that the approach changes. We have to look at what we took to achieve what we did last season and having the mental discipline to handle success and enthusiasm. Humans have trouble maintaining consistency because they relax. It's paramount we don't let that happen."
MARQUES TUIASOSOPO, WASHINGTON QUARTERBACK
About being picked number one in the Pac-10 preseason poll: "A lot of people are saying a lot of things about our team but we just want to work hard. When the season's done we want to be number one.
"We definitely want to do better in the nonconference games to help the image of the Pac-10. I think its a great conference . We beat up on each other and we schedule great teams in nonconference play. We'll play better and be able to improve our image this year.
"It's a long year. We'll have to stay together as a team. The key is to stay together and stay focused. We had a better spring practice and our summer was more efficient since we know what our coaches expect. We understand their philosophies a lot better."
MIKE BELLOTTI, OREGON HEAD COACH
"I'm hopeful despite the loss of an all-time leading receiver (Tony Hartley) and one of best rushers in history of this conference (Rueben Droughns). We have no experience in the backfield whatsoever, but the depth we will have in our receiving corps will be the best it's ever been. The offensive line is a question mark.
"On defense we have huge questions. We return three starters. I feel like our defense has the opportunity to be better than it was last year. It will be important to have that contingent improve to be competitive in the Pac-10.
SAUL PATU, OREGON DEFENSIVE END
"People are starting to realize the caliber of team we are. We don't pay attention to rankings. We know we have to go out and put it down on the field and have a good season. Hopefully there will be a time when we're ranked number one, and that's what we're working toward.
TYRONE WILLINGHAM, STANFORD HEAD COACH
About the quarterback situation: "I think I'm firm today on the quarterback position. Randy Fasani is the starter and Chris Lewis is the backup. The plan was already in place for Randy to get a lot of snaps in the spring in case Joe (Borchard) would not be back. It's a case of us simply accelerating that plan.
About the experience of playing in the Rose Bowl: "There's a tremendous amount of confidence anytime you accomplish something of significance. It has given our program broader visibility around the country, even though I like to believe we've been progressing in the four years previous.
"(Running back) Kerry Carter is 100 percent and ready to go. We are very excited about our backfield with Kerry Carter, Brian Allen and Casey Moore leading the way."
WILLIE HOWARD, STANFORD DEFENSIVE TACKLE
About being picked seventh in the Conference: "It will be a driving force in the back of our minds. It's all about how we produce during the season. Come October we could be a seventh-place or second-place team. It's about how we respond and produce."
PAUL HACKETT, USC HEAD COACH
"We have a core of players who really sense a chance to do something and make a difference. That momentum has carried us into the offseason and the preseason. We're also very excited about the defense.
"(Quarterback) Carson (Palmer) has been teasing us for two years. It was difficult to play without your leader last year. He went through a maturing process being on the sideline. He's worked hard and has a new appreciation for being healthy. I'm excited about him, too, but Carson needs to perform. He has marvelous ability and talent. He missed a whole year and we will have a lot of work to do in camp to figure out the timing and get him caught up."
ZEKE MORENO, USC LINEBACKER
About losing games by narrow margins last year: "They were all tough games. The games came down to the wire and that's just how it goes sometimes. We kept going, kept pushing and hoped the outcome would be great. That's what we expect again this year."