1. The Slickster: He's back and he's here to stir up Westwood, L.A., That School Down The Road and the Pac-10. Rick
Neuheisel will be the freshest thing to hit the league since, well, Pete Carroll. Get ready for the USC-UCLA rivalry to reignite.
2. Curse of the Trojans: A dislocated knee is one thing (quarterback Mark Sanchez) but it's getting ridiculous at
USC. Offensive lineman Jeff Byers is being treated for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Running back Joe McKnight
smashed his fingers in a doorjamb last year (ouch!). Don't forget an outbreak of jock itch.
3. Curse of the Trojans II: USC has developed a nasty habit of a conference loss that defies explanation. Last year, it was Stanford. The year before that it was Oregon State. Put a shotgun (formation) to my head and I'd have to say
the Oct. 25 game at Arizona qualifies as this season's head scratcher.
4. Intersectionals: Never let it be said the Pac-10 is ducking the competition. It plays that brutal nine-game
round-robin league schedule. It doesn't fill the non-cons with cream puffs either. The Pac-10 was 5-3 against BCS
conference schools in non-conference games last season (No. 1 in the country). We'll know a lot about the Pac-10
(and a lot of other conferences) early on. Consider these intersectional doozies ...
USC at Virginia, Aug. 30
Oregon State at Penn State; BYU at Washington, Sept. 6
Oklahoma at Washington, Ohio State at USC; UCLA at BYU, Sept. 13
Georgia at Arizona State, Sept. 20
A case can be made for the Pac-10 being favored in only two of those games, both USC games (Ohio State, Virginia).
5. The end of an era: Commissioner Tom Hansen ends more than a quarter century of service when he steps down after
this academic year. An NCAA veteran of 16 years, Hansen joined the league in 1983. Things have been great -- the
re-emergence of USC -- and embarrassment -- the recent officiating snafus -- but Hansen always added class and dignity to a tough job.
His replacement could signal a small crack in the staunch Pac-10 position against a plus-one depending on who is
hired. The short list: Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson, WAC commissioner Karl Benson and former
Pacific/Dartmouth/Stanford AD Ted Leland.