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Originally published Tuesday, August 31, 2010 at 10:00 PM

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Pac-10 teams ready to open season

Teams open against nonconference opponents this week.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Oregon State opens up against Texas Christian, into the teeth of one of the nation's most feared defenses. Stanford begins against Sacramento State, into the teeth of, well, the best college football team in Sacramento.

Tuesday, Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh called it "daunting." Kind of like going to Baskin-Robbins is daunting.

Only days from liftoff, the spin from Pac-10 football camps:

Arizona: The Wildcats play Friday night at Toledo (5-7 last year) as part of a 2-for-1 agreement, and coach Mike Stoops returns to his home state, where he says he'll have 100 or so supporters from Youngstown. Of his defense, the biggest UA question mark, Stoops says, "There's some unknowns there. But I like the way we're starting to come together."

Arizona State: Sun Devils host Portland State in former Husky Nigel Burton's head-coaching debut. ASU gave Michigan transfer Steven Threet the quarterback start over Brock Osweiler because, says Dennis Erickson, "He was a little more consistent, gets the ball out a little quicker and was a little more accurate. (But) Brock could play at any time."

California: Bears host Cal-Davis, having used a different fall-camp regimen — spotting first- and second-team players on "scout" teams to ramp up the level of preparation.

Oregon: Ducks are a huge favorite against New Mexico. Coach Chip Kelly isn't concerned about replacing tight end Ed Dickson, calling David Paulson of Auburn Riverside "one of the most underrated tight ends in the league." Five-star running back prospect Lache Seastrunk may redshirt, because Kelly loves LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner.

Oregon State: OSU hasn't had a winning September since 2003 and faces not only TCU but Boise State this month. As an antidote, "We've probably had more live work in spring ball and camp, and more blitz periods than ever before," says coach Mike Riley.

Stanford: After Sac State, Cardinal lines up UCLA, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Oregon and USC, in order. Heirs to Toby Gerhart's bull-in-the-china-shop bedside manner are tailbacks Jeremy Stewart (6-0, 218) and Stepfan Taylor (5-11, 208).

UCLA: QB Kevin Prince might be ready Saturday at Kansas State, though you wonder what missing three weeks in August will mean. Coach Rick Neuheisel calls "exceptional" two freshman running backs, Malcolm Jones and Jordan James.

USC: "I don't know that we actually had an offseason," jokes first-year coach Lane Kiffin of the Trojans' turbulent recent months. Backing Kiffin's promise that the past wouldn't matter with him, junior tailback Marc Tyler (270 career rushing yards) will start at Hawaii on Thursday night over Allen Bradford (791), and soph Devon Kennard wins out over junior Chris Galippo at middle linebacker. "If they don't like where they are on the depth chart," Kiffin shrugs, "try to play better."

Washington: Coach Steve Sarkisian, on his defense: "I see a group playing together as a unit, and I don't think we did that last year. They've caused us some problems on offense. They've got a real mentality right now. What I like most is, they've adopted Nick's personality (coordinator Nick Holt): They're aggressive, tough and smart."

Washington State: LB Louis Bland will redshirt and continue to rehab a knee injury. Meanwhile, Bellevue High product Jamal Atofau — listed at 5 feet 10 and 190 pounds — has been moved from safety to linebacker. Gonzaga Prep freshman Jack Wilson (6-1, 187) has been a surprise at safety and on special teams. Freshman WR Kristoff Williams (turf toe) is doing water-jogging but the Cougars are being careful with him.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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