The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 28, 2015

2015 AFC South Preview

Indianapolis and the Three Dwarfs:  Since the AFC South was formed, all four member teams have had their turn as the top banana, but there has been one consistent theme.  When Tennessee was dominant in the early 2000’s, the Colts were the chief competitor usually finishing a game behind or ahead of the Titans.

When Jacksonville was tough with their stable of tough running backs, it was Indianapolis that was 14-2 when the Jags were 12-4.

When Houston began to shine a few years ago, once again, their competition was the Colts.

Now, the Colts have no competition in the South.  Houston lacks a quarterback that can get them to the playoffs, and J. J. Watt cannot make 30 sacks to level the playing field.  Jacksonville has more rebuilding to do before they can even challenge for an 8-8 record.  Tennessee has been down for six years, and the Titans have as many holes in their roster as a piece of Swiss cheese.  The Colts could go 6-0 in divisional play, while the other three teams all finish 2-4.

 

Houston surprised the football world by rebounding from 2-14 to go 9-7 and almost make the playoffs.  The Texans’ schedule goes from one of the easiest with all the last place teams to one of the more difficult with two extra second place teams (Kansas City and Cincinnati instead of Oakland and Cleveland).  The Texans lose their star receiver in Andre Johnson, and Brian Hoyer passing to Cecil Shorts and Nate Washington as options to DeAndre Hopkins does not have the look of a playoff contender.

Andrew Luck compares with Peyton Manning in that he has taken over this team and led them to divisional dominance.  He also compares a little to Andy Dalton in that the Colts keep coming up short in the playoffs.  However, as we stated about Dalton, it is not his fault when the Colts’ defense gives up 45 points to the Patriots.  This year, Indianapolis’s offense is set to take a step up to the very top of the AFC.  The Colts add Andre Johnson to a roster already stocked with offensive stars.  An improved defense should give Indy a strong chance at competing for the best overall record in the AFC and a good shot at playing in February.

Jacksonville has been number 31 or 32 in the league for multiple seasons.  At one time, the Jaguars were the leading team to relocate to Los Angeles.  At one time, they were more than 21-point underdogs in a game.  Jacksonville might have been picked to contend for an 8-8 record this year had bad luck not hit this team in the Spring.  Top draft choice Dante Fowler was lost for the season with an ACL injury.  Fowler could have been the Jags’ Watt and improve the defense by a touchdown per game.  Now, they have little pass rush, and enemy quarterbacks will be a lot more comfortable on Sunday.

Tennessee puts all their eggs in the Marcus Mariota basket.  Eventually, we believe Mariota will prove to be the right choice for the Titans, but as a rookie with a vulnerable offensive line, we expect backup Zach Mettenberger to be the starter by midseason and possibly Clay Whitehurst by December.  The Titans defense made a couple of key additions by signing Brian Orakpo and adding legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau as assistant head coach.  LeBeau might wish he had retired with the liabilities in the line and in the secondary.

 

HOUSTON TEXANS

Texans Starting Lineup
Offense
WR DeAndre Hopkins
WR Cecil Shorts
WR Nate Washington
TE Garrett Graham
LT Duane Brown
LG Xavier Su’a-Filo
C Ben Jones
RG Brandon Brooks
RT Derek Newton
QB Brian Hoyer
HB Alfred Blue
FB Jay Prosch
   
Defense
DE Jared Crick
DT Vince Wilfork
DE J. J. Watt
LB John Simon
LB Brian Cushing
LB Mike Mohamed
LB Jadeveon Clowney
CB Kareem Jackson
S Rahim Moore
S Stevie Brown
CB Johnathan Joseph
N5 A. J. Bouye
   
Special
Kicker Randy Bullock
Punter Shane Lechler
KR Chandler Worthy
PR Chandler Worthy
Houston Texans
Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Off. Coordinator George Godsey
Def. Coordinator Romeo Crennel
2014 W-L-T 9-7-0
Pts 23.3
Opp 19.2
   
Ratings  
PiRate 97.6
Mean 99.1
Bias 97.5
Average 98.1
   
Grades  
Running B+
Passing D
Vs. Run A
Vs. Pass C+
Special Teams C
Coaching + Intangibles C
   
Predicted W-L 7-9-0
Division Rank 2
Conference Rank 11
Overall Rank 22
Postseason No

 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Colts Starting Lineup
Offense
WR Andre Johnson
WR T. Y. Hilton
TE Dwayne Allen
TE Coby Fleener
LT Anthony Costanzo
LG Lance Louis
C Khaled Holmes
RG Todd Herremans
RT Jack Mewhort
QB Andrew Luck
HB Frank Gore
FB (NONE)
   
Defense
DE Kendall Langford
DT Josh Champan
DT Arthur Jones
LB Trent Cole
LB Jerrell Freeman
LB D’Qwell Jackson
LB Erik Walden
CB Greg Toler
S Mike Adams
S Dwight Lowery
CB Vontae Davis
N5 Darius Butler
   
Special
Kicker Adam Vinatiari
Punter Pat McAfee
KR Dan Herron
PR Phillip Dorsett
Indianapolis Colts
Head Coach Chuck Pagano
Off. Coordinator Pep Hamilton
Def. Coordinator Greg Manusky
2014 W-L-T 11-5-0
Pts 28.6
Opp 23.1
   
Ratings  
PiRate 104.7
Mean 105.8
Bias 104.9
Average 105.1
   
Grades  
Running B
Passing A+
Vs. Run C
Vs. Pass C
Special Teams A
Coaching + Intangibles B-
   
Predicted W-L 10-6-0
Division Rank 1
Conference Rank 4
Overall Rank 7
Postseason Yes

 

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Jaguars Starting Lineup
Offense
WR Allen Robinson
WR Allen Hurns
TE Julius Thomas
TE Marcedes Lewis
LT Luke Joeckel
LG Zane Beadles
C Stefen Wisniewski
RG Brandon Linder
RT Jermey Parnell
QB Blake Bortles
HB T. J. Yeldon
FB (NONE)
   
Defense
DE Andre Branch
DT Ziggy Hood
DT Tyson Alualu
DE Jared Odrick
LB Telvin Smith
LB Paul Posluszny
LB Dan Skuta
CB Davon House
S Craig Loston
S Sergio Brown
CB Aaron Colvin
N5 Josh Evans
   
Special
Kicker Josh Scobee
Punter Bryan Anger
KR Denard Robinson
PR Rashad Greene
Jacksonville Jaguars
Head Coach Gus Bradley
Off. Coordinator Greg Olson
Def. Coordinator Bob Babich
2014 W-L-T 3-13-0
Pts 15.6
Opp 25.8
   
Ratings  
PiRate 89.8
Mean 95.2
Bias 88.5
Average 91.2
   
Grades  
Running C-
Passing D
Vs. Run C-
Vs. Pass C-
Special Teams C
Coaching + Intangibles C-
   
Predicted W-L 5-11-0
Division Rank 4
Conference Rank 16
Overall Rank 32
Postseason No

 

TENNESSEE TITANS

Titans Starting Lineup
Offense
WR Kendall Wright
WR Harry Douglas
TE Delanie Walker
TE Anthony Fasano
LT Taylor Lewan
LG Byron Bell
C Brian Schwenke
RG Chance Warmack
RT Jeremiah Poutasi
QB Marcus Mariota
HB Bishop Sankey
FB Jalston Fowler
   
Defense
DE DaQuan Jones
DT Sammie Hill
DT Jurrell Casey
LB Derrick Morgan
LB Zach Brown
LB Avery Williamson
LB Brian Orakpo
CB Perrish Cox
S Da’Norris Searcy
S Michael Griffin
CB Jason McCourty
N5 Coty Sensabaugh
   
Special
Kicker Ryan Succop
Punter Brett Kern
KR Dexter McCluster
PR Dexter McCluster
Tennessee Titans
Head Coach Ken Whisenhunt
Off. Coordinator Jason Michael
Def. Coordinator Ray Horton
2014 W-L-T 2-14-0
Pts 15.9
Opp 27.4
   
Ratings  
PiRate 93.9
Mean 93.7
Bias 94.5
Average 94.0
   
Grades  
Running C
Passing C+
Vs. Run C
Vs. Pass B-
Special Teams B
Coaching + Intangibles C
   
Predicted W-L 7-9-0
Division Rank 3
Conference Rank 14
Overall Rank 28
Postseason No

 

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August 27, 2013

2013 AFC South Preview

2013 A F C South Preview

The PiRate Ratings kickoff our coverage of the National Football League with our AFC West Division preview.

 

We have added a new wrinkle to our coverage this year.  In the past, friends of ours have asked us if we knew how to recreate the exact colors of their favorite team so that they could print those colors on their computer.  We have found this information from multiple sites in the last couple of months, and we are going to show you the RGB numbers so you can replicate those colors.  These can be used in graphics programs, but it can easily be used in MS-Word and MS-Excel.

 

Here are the official colors for the AFC South

 

South

Color

Red

Green

Blue

Houston Texans

Dark Blue

0

19

63

 

Red

214

48

58

Indianapolis Colts

Royal Blue

0

35

149

 

White

255

255

255

Jacksonville Jaguars

Teal

0

105

131

 

Gold

184

139

0

 

Black

17

28

36

Tennessee Titans

Navy

0

33

71

 

Light Blue

75

146

219

 

2012 Final Standings & PiRate Ratings

AFC West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

WLT

Pts

Opp

Houston Texans

102.9

103.6

104.0

12-4-0

416

331

Indianapolis Colts

97.0

99.6

101.4

11-5-0

357

387

Tennessee Titans

92.6

93.2

93.6

6-10-0

330

471

Jacksonville Jaguars

90.5

90.5

90.5

2-14-0

255

444

 

 

2013 Preseason PiRate Ratings

 

 

 

 

South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

Houston Texans

105.4

105.7

106.0

Indianapolis Colts

101.3

100.5

101.5

Tennessee Titans

97.5

96.0

98.1

Jacksonville Jaguars

91.9

92.0

92.3

 

PiRate Previews

Team

Houston Texans

               
Head Coach

Gary Kubiak

O-Coord.

Rick Dennison

D-Coord.

Wade Phillips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projected Starting Lineup

Position

Player

 

Offense

Quarterback

Matt Schaub

Running Back

Arian Foster

Fullback

Greg Jones

Wide Receiver

Andre Johnson

Wide Receiver

DeAndre Hopkins

Tight End

Owen Daniels

Left Tackle

Duane Brown

Left Guard

Wade Smith

Center

Chris Myers

Right Guard

Brandon Brooks

Right Tackle

Derek Newton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defense

Left End

J. J. Watt

Nose Tackle

Earl Mitchell

Right End

Jared Crick

Left OLB

Brooks Reed

Left ILB

Brian Cushing

Right ILB

Joe Mays

Right OLB

Whitney Mercilus

Left CB

Kareem Jackson

Right CB

Johnathan Joseph

Strong Safety

Danieal Manning

Free Safety

Ed Reed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Teams

Kicker

Randy Bullock

Punter

Shane Lechler

K-Return

Keshawn Martin

P-Return

Keshawn Martin

 

 

Predictions

 

Record

11-5

Division

1st

 

 

Team

Indianapolis Colts

               
Head Coach

Chuck Fagano

O-Coord.

Pep Hamilton

D-Coord.

Greg Manusky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projected Starting Lineup

Position

Player

 

Offense

Quarterback

Andrew Luck

Running Back

Vick Ballard

Fullback

Stanley Havili

Wide Receiver

Reggie Wayne

Wide Receiver

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Tight End

Dwayne Allen

Left Tackle

Anthony Castonzo

Left Guard

Donald Thomas

Center

Samson Satele

Right Guard

Mike McGlynn

Right Tackle

Gosder Cherilus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defense

Left End

Cory Redding

Nose Tackle

Aubrayo Franklin

Right Tackle

Ricky Jean-Francois

Sam LB

Erik Walden

Mike LB

Pat Angerer

Will LB

Jerrell Freeman

Rush LB

Robert Mathis

Left CB

Greg Toler

Right CB

Vontae Davis

Strong Safety

Antoine Bethea

Free Safety

LaRon Landry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Teams

Kicker

Adam Vinatieri

Punter

Pat McAfee

K-Return

Kerwynn Williams

P-Return

Ty Hilton

 

 

Predictions

 

Record

9-7

Division

2nd

 

 

Team

Jacksonville Jaguars

               
Head Coach

Gus Bradley

O-Coord.

Jedd Fisch

D-Coord.

Bob Babich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projected Starting Lineup

Position

Player

 

Offense

Quarterback

Blaine Gabbert

Running Back

Maurice Jones-Drew

Fullback

Will Ta’ufo’ou

Wide Receiver

Cecil Shorts

Wide Receiver

Justin Blackmon

Tight End

Marcedes Lewis

Left Tackle

Eugene Monroe

Left Guard

Will Rackley

Center

Brad Meester

Right Guard

Uche Nwaneri

Right Tackle

Luke Joeckel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defense

Left End

Jason Babin

Left Tackle

Sen’Derrick Marks

Nose Tackle

Roy Miller

Right End

Tyson Alualu

Sam LB

Russell Allen

Mike LB

Paul Posluszny

Will LB

Geno Hayes

Left CB

Dwayne Gratz

Right CB

Alan Ball

Strong Safety

Johnathan Cyprien

Free Safety

Dwight Lowery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Teams

Kicker

Josh Scobee

Punter

Bryan Anger

K-Return

Jordan Todman

P-Return

Jordan Shipley

 

 

Predictions

 

Record

3-13

Division

4th

 

 

Team

Tennessee Titans

               
Head Coach

Mike Munchak

O-Coord.

Dowell Loggains

D-Coord.

Jerry Gray

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Projected Starting Lineup

Position

Player

 

Offense

Quarterback

Jake Locker

Running Back

Chris Johnson

H-Back

Craig Stevens

Wide Receiver

Nate Washington

Wide Receiver

Kenny Britt

Tight End

Delanie Walker

Left Tackle

Michael Roos

Left Guard

Andy Levitre

Center

Fernando Velasco

Right Guard

Chance Warmack

Right Tackle

David Stewart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defense

Left End

Derrick Morgan

Left Tackle

Sammie Hill

Right Tackle

Jurrell Casey

Right End

Kamerion Wimbley

Sam LB

Akeem Ayers

Mike LB

Colin McCarthy

Will LB

Zach Brown

Left CB

Jason McCourty

Right CB

Alterraun Verner

Strong Safety

Bernard Pollard

Free Safety

Michael Griffin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Teams

Kicker

Rob Bironas

Punter

Brett Kern

K-Return

Darius Reynaud

P-Return

Darius Reynaud

 

 

Predictions

 

Record

5-11

Division

3rd

 

December 4, 2012

PiRate Ratings and Spreads For NFL Week 14: December 6-10, 2012

Playoff Scenarios

 

A F C East

New England has secured the AFC East title and has a chance to earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs if they can run the table, and Houston loses to somebody else besides the Patriots.

 

The other three teams have mathematical chances of sneaking in as wildcards, but to say they are slim is still overstating those chances by a large margin.  Buffalo could rebound to finish 8-8.

 

A F C North

This race became much more interesting with the Steelers upsetting the Ravens in Baltimore.  Now, the Ravens lead is two games and is no longer infallible.  We see the second place teams Cincinnati and Pittsburgh both winning their next two games, and they should both be 9-5-0 when they face off at Heinz Stadium in week 16.  The winner of that game will be playoff bound, while the loser will need help or be out of the picture.

 

The winner of that week 16 game could finish tied with Baltimore, but the Ravens hold the tiebreaker edge over both teams.

 

A F C South

Houston can secure home field advantage for the playoffs if the Texans win at New England and don’t crumble afterwards.  We see the Texans losing this week and possibly in week 17 at Indianapolis.

 

Speaking of the Colts, Andrew Luck and company are in excellent shape in the wildcard race, and with games remaining with Tennessee and Kansas City, we see this team winning at least 10 games.  They must face Houston twice in the final three weeks, but we believe they will split those games to lock up a wildcard spot.  If they could somehow sweep the Texans, Indy could still emerge as division champs.

 

A F C West

Denver essentially took over command in this division when they came from behind to beat San Diego.  The Chargers collapsed, and the Broncos have run away with the division.  We are a bit concerned about their game at Oakland, because the Raiders always have their A-game against the Broncos.  If they can top the Raiders, the Broncos can run the table and possibly squeeze into the number two spot or even the top spot in the conference.

 

N F C East

Hail to the Redskins!  Washington has bested its two key division rivals in back-to-back games, and now RGIII and his Capital Punishers look to grab a division title.  We think the Redskins and Giants will finished tied for the division lead at 9-7, and if that is so, Washington will win the tiebreaker based on better division record.

 

The Giants can never be counted out, but they are not hitting on all cylinders.  With Atlanta and Baltimore still on the schedule, Eli Manning may not be able to win three more games to clinch a playoff bid.

 

Dallas looks like a stereotypical 8-8 team.  Only if the Giants and Redskins totally collapse will the Cowboys sneak into the playoffs.

 

N F C North

This division has begun to fade rather than improve as the northern chill takes over in the old Black and Blue Division.  Green Bay and Chicago will decide who is the division champ and who is the wildcard when they face off at Lambeau Field in two weeks.

 

Minnesota still has a remote chance to be a wildcard, but at 6-6, the Vikings must win out.  Their final four games include tough road games against Houston and St. Louis, as well as home games against the Bears and Packers.  It’s not happening this year.

 

N F C South

Atlanta almost has home field advantage wrapped up to the Super Bowl.  The Falcons own a 2 ½ game lead over San Francisco and could secure the number one seed in two weeks.  That would leave Atlanta with two meaningless games, but that week 17 game could be very important.

 

The Falcons’ week 17 game comes against Tampa Bay, and the Buccaneers are fighting for a wildcard spot.  The Bucs have a shot at entering that game at 9-6, and then that finale becomes very important.  Tampa Bay almost has to be 10-6 to make it as a wildcard.

 

N F C West

San Francisco may be the best team in the NFC, but the St. Louis Rams believe otherwise.  At 8-3-1, the 49ers are almost a lock to win the division, but they cannot be considered an overwhelming favorite to advance to the Super Bowl.

 

Seattle proved they can win on the road with a key victory in Soldier Field over the Bears.  The Seahawks have three remaining home games and a road game against Buffalo.  The opportunity is there for Pete Carroll’s team to run the table and possibly steal the division title away from San Francisco, but we believe the Seahawks will lose at least one time and have to settle for the wildcard.

 

PiRate Playoff Projection

 

A F C

1. New England

2. Houston

3. Denver

4. Baltimore

5. Pittsburgh

6. Indianapolis

 

N F C

1. Atlanta

2. San Francisco

3. Green Bay

4. Washington

5. Seattle

6. Chicago

 

Wildcard Round

Indianapolis at Denver

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Chicago at Green Bay

Seattle at Washington

 

Divisional Round

Pittsburgh at New England

Denver at Houston

Seattle at Atlanta

Green Bay at San Francisco

 

Conference Championship

Denver at New England

San Francisco at Atlanta

 

Super Bowl

New England vs. Atlanta

 

New England wins Super Bowl

 

Here are this week’s PiRate Ratings

NFC East PiRate Mean Biased Vintage HFA
New York Giants 105.9 104.7 104.1 103.5 3
Washington Redskins 100.5 101.1 101.4 102.0 2
Dallas Cowboys 98.8 99.3 99.5 100.0 1.5
Philadelphia Eagles 93.6 92.5 92.0 91.5 3.5
           
NFC North PiRate Mean Biased Vintage HFA
Chicago Bears 106.2 104.6 103.7 103.0 2.5
Green Bay Packers 105.4 103.9 101.8 102.5 2.5
Detroit Lions 98.5 97.5 98.5 96.5 2.5
Minnesota Vikings 96.7 97.7 98.1 99.0 3.5
           
NFC South PiRate Mean Biased Vintage HFA
Atlanta Falcons 105.6 106.8 106.6 108.5 2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 102.2 101.5 99.7 101.0 2.5
New Orleans Saints 101.5 100.9 100.8 100.5 2.5
Carolina Panthers 94.5 94.2 96.2 94.0 1.5
           
NFC West PiRate Mean Biased Vintage HFA
San Francisco 49ers 108.3 107.1 104.2 106.0 2.5
Seattle Seahawks 104.4 104.3 104.3 104.5 5
St. Louis Rams 97.8 98.5 98.8 99.5 3.5
Arizona Cardinals 96.6 94.6 95.9 92.5 2
           
AFC East PiRate Mean Biased Vintage HFA
New England Patriots 111.2 109.4 106.0 107.5 1.5
Miami Dolphins 98.9 98.8 98.6 99.0 1.5
New York Jets 97.9 96.9 96.2 96.0 2
Buffalo Bills 96.7 97.7 101.0 99.0 3.5
           
AFC North PiRate Mean Biased Vintage HFA
Baltimore Ravens 103.6 104.4 104.8 105.5 4.5
Cincinnati Bengals 102.6 103.1 103.2 104.0 3
Pittsburgh Steelers 101.7 103.1 102.6 105.0 4
Cleveland Browns 95.6 96.1 97.8 97.0 2
           
AFC South PiRate Mean Biased Vintage HFA
Houston Texans 107.8 108.3 108.5 109.0 3
Indianapolis Colts 95.6 99.4 101.3 104.0 4.5
Tennessee Titans 93.5 93.9 94.0 94.5 2.5
Jacksonville Jaguars 91.2 91.7 91.9 92.5 0.5
           
AFC West PiRate Mean Biased Vintage HFA
Denver Broncos 108.3 108.1 105.9 108.0 3
San Diego Chargers 98.0 97.4 99.2 97.0 2.5
Kansas City Chiefs 90.8 91.0 91.1 91.5 2.5
Oakland Raiders 90.0 91.5 92.3 93.5 3.5

 

Here are this week’s PiRate spreads

Favorite Underdog PiRate Mean Bias Vintage Vegas Totals
Denver OAKLAND 14.8 13.1 10.1 11.0 10 1/2 49 1/2
Baltimore WASHINGTON 1.1 1.3 1.4 1.5 -2 1/2 47   
CLEVELAND Kansas City 6.8 7.1 8.7 7.5 5 1/2 37 1/2
PITTSBURGH
San Diego
7.7 9.7 7.4 12.0 NL NL
INDIANAPOLIS Tennessee 6.6 10.0 11.8 14.0 5 1/2 48   
New York Jets JACKSONVILLE 6.2 4.7 3.8 3.0 2 1/2 38 1/2
Chicago MINNESOTA 6.0 3.4 2.1 0.5 3    39 1/2
Atlanta CAROLINA 9.6 11.1 8.9 13.0 3 1/2 47 1/2
TAMPA BAY Philadelphia 11.1 11.5 10.2 12.0 7    47   
BUFFALO St. Louis 2.4 2.7 5.7 3.0 3    42   
CINCINNATI Dallas 6.8 6.8 6.7 7.0 3    45 1/2
SAN FRANCISCO Miami 11.9 10.8 8.1 9.5 10    39   
NEW YORK GIANTS
New Orleans
7.4 6.8 6.3 6.0 5    53 1/2
SEATTLE
Arizona
12.8 14.7 13.4 17.0 10 1/2 34 1/2
GREEN BAY Detroit 9.4 8.9 5.8 8.5 6 1/2 52   
NEW ENGLAND Houston 4.9 2.6 -1.0 0.0 3 1/2 51 1/2

 

October 12, 2011

PiRate Ratings: NFL For Week 6–October 16-17, 2011

Could Thanksgiving Day Become The NFL Equivalent Of Turkey Day 1971?

In our college ratings entry earlier this week, we discussed the various “Game of the Century” games since 1946.  We concluded that the 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma game was the best of the best.  Could Thanksgiving Day this year prove to be the NFL equivalent of 1971?

 

Green Bay and Detroit both sit at 5-0 with five more games to play before they face off in Detroit on Thanksgiving morning.  The NFL has never had a contest of 10-0 teams.  The chances that both the Lions and Packers will both win their next five games are infinitesimal, but it is okay to look forward to that small possibility.

 

In 1990, the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers both started 10-0 and faced off two weeks later.  Unfortunately, both teams lost in game 11, making them 10-1 when they played.  The 49ers won that game, but the Giants won the Super Bowl.

 

In 1967, the Los Angeles Rams hosted the Baltimore Colts in the season finale, with the Rams entering the game at 10-1-2 and the Colts at 11-0-2.  The Rams won, knocking the 11-1-2 Colts out of the playoffs!

 

On Thanksgiving Day of 1962, the Lions were 8-2 when they upset the 10-0 Packers 26-14, after leading 23-0 at the half.  Bart Starr was sacked 10 times that day, but the Packers recovered to win out and take their second consecutive NFL Championship, while the Lions missed out on the Championship Game at 11-3-0 and had to settle for a Playoff Bowl win over Pittsburgh.

 

No Offense, But

Offense is dominating defense after five weeks in the 2011 NFL season.  The 32 NFL Teams are averaging greater than 370 yards per game and passing for more than 259 yards per game.  The average quarterback playing every snap, or close to it, will top 4,100 passing yards this season.

 

Tom Brady is on pace to pass for almost 6,000 yards, while Drew Brees is on pace to become the first quarterback to pass the ball 700 times in a season.

 

Wes Welker is on pace to catch 144 passes and gain 2,368 yards, while Calvin Johnson is on pace to catch 29 touchdown passes.

 

The average NFL team is scoring just over 23 points per game, which means it is taking more than 16 yards to score a point.  That number is quite high.  13 yards is the norm.

 

Keep Losing and We Might Get LUCKy

To the worst team in the league goes the first pick in the 2013 draft, and barring a devastating injury, that first pick will be the most important pick since the Indianapolis Colts selected Peyton Manning in 1998.

 

Andrew Luck has the capability of becoming the next Manning, next John Elway, next Tom Brady, and next Drew Brees. After five weeks, Miami, Indianapolis, and St. Louis are still winless.  The Colts should have Manning back next year, and he should be good for another two or three years.  The Rams have Sam Bradford, and even though Luck is better than Bradford, it would be like the St. Louis Cardinals trading away Stan Musial for Ted Williams.  The Dolphins need a quarterback, and Miami is a great location for a celebrity player of his caliber.  Of the one-win teams, Minnesota and Arizona could take an upgrade at quarterback, but they have large investments in Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb.

 

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

NFC East

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

New York Giants

102.5

99.2

101.5

1

3

2

0

127

123

Dallas Cowboys

101.2

102.8

99.2

1

2

2

0

99

101

Philadelphia Eagles

100.4

98.9

98.0

1.5

1

4

0

125

132

Washington Redskins

97.1

99.5

102.2

3.5

3

1

0

83

63

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFC North

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

Green Bay Packers

110.9

109.1

110.3

3

5

0

0

173

111

Detroit Lions

105.1

106.3

107.3

4

5

0

0

159

89

Chicago Bears

100.4

100.9

101.7

2

2

3

0

107

122

Minnesota Vikings

99.3

97.1

96.2

4

1

4

0

111

106

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFC South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

New Orleans Saints

108.0

104.7

105.7

2

4

1

0

157

125

Atlanta Falcons

101.3

99.3

100.2

3

2

3

0

104

130

Tampa Bay Bucaneers

97.1

97.6

97.8

4.5

3

2

0

87

125

Carolina Panthers

94.6

95.6

96.0

3

1

4

0

116

132

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NFC West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

San Francisco 49ers

102.3

104.1

103.0

2.5

4

1

0

142

78

Seattle Seahawks

94.5

96.8

95.5

3.5

2

3

0

94

122

Arizona Cardinals

92.0

94.7

94.8

3

1

4

0

96

121

St. Louis Rams

91.5

91.0

89.5

3

0

4

0

46

113

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC East

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

New England Patriots

108.3

107.6

106.3

3.5

4

1

0

165

119

New York Jets

102.3

102.4

99.8

4

2

3

0

121

125

Buffalo Bills

100.1

103.3

106.4

3

4

1

0

164

120

Miami Dolphins

97.5

95.0

93.7

1.5

0

4

0

69

104

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC North

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

Baltimore Ravens

109.3

108.0

108.2

3

3

1

0

119

57

Pittsburgh Steelers

107.8

104.3

102.2

4.5

3

2

0

102

89

Cincinnati Bengals

97.1

100.9

102.0

2

3

2

0

110

94

Cleveland Browns

93.5

95.8

96.1

1

2

2

0

74

93

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC South

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

Houston Texans

104.8

102.2

104.0

2.5

3

2

0

127

95

Tennessee Titans

100.1

101.1

102.3

3.5

3

2

0

105

94

Indianapolis Colts

96.0

93.5

92.7

2.5

0

5

0

87

136

Jacksonville Jaguars

92.3

93.9

92.1

2

1

4

0

59

115

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AFC West

PiRate

Mean

Biased

HFA

Won

 

Lost

 

Tied

Pts

Opp

San Diego Chargers

103.6

101.3

102.0

2

4

1

0

120

109

Oakland Raiders

100.5

102.5

102.0

2

3

2

0

136

133

Kansas City Chiefs

96.6

94.8

95.2

1

2

3

0

77

150

Denver Broncos

92.6

95.8

96.2

1

1

4

0

105

140

 

This Week’s Games  

 

 

 

 

 

Home Team in CAPS (N) Denotes Neutral Site

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

Week 6: October 16-17, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Vegas Line as of Tuesday, October 11

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

Favorite Underdog

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Vegas

Totals

GREEN BAY St. Louis

22.4

21.1

23.8

15   

48   

PITTSBURGH Jacksonville

20.0

14.9

14.6

12   

40   

WASHINGTON Philadelphia

0.2

4.1

7.7

-1   

47 1/2

DETROIT San Francisco

6.8

6.2

8.3

5   

46 1/2

ATLANTA Carolina

9.7

6.7

7.2

4   

51   

CINCINNATI Indianapolis

3.1

9.4

11.3

7   

40 1/2

NEW YORK GIANTS Buffalo

3.4

-3.1

-3.9

3 1/2

50   

BALTIMORE Houston

7.5

8.8

7.2

7 1/2

45   

OAKLAND Cleveland

9.0

8.7

7.9

6   

44 1/2

NEW ENGLAND Dallas

10.6

8.3

10.6

7   

55   

New Orleans TAMPA BAY

6.4

2.6

3.4

4 1/2

49 1/2

CHICAGO Minnesota

3.1

5.8

7.5

3   

42   

NEW YORK JETS Miami

8.8

11.4

10.1

7   

43   

 

 

 

October 2, 2011

PiRate Ratings: College Football for October 6-8, 2011

Three Conferences Head And Heels Above The Rest

Five weeks into the 2011 season finds that three leagues have pulled away from the pack in PiRate Ratings Average.

 

The Southeastern Conference (112.8), Big 12 (112.4), and Pac-12 (111.6) are basically in a statistical dead-heat at this point.  The Big Ten (105.9) and ACC (105.8) come in at fourth and fifth, while the four Independents (102.6) come in sixth.

 

The Big East (101.0) is at an average that should not be rewarded with an automatic BCS Bowl bid.  The Mountain West (96.8) is eighth.

 

There is another gap back to ninth with the Western Athletic Conference (93.6).  The bottom three leagues have averages under 90.0.  Conference USA (89.3) is 10th; The Mid-American Conference (84.8) is 11th; and The Sunbelt Conference (81.5) is 12th and last.

 

The 15 Unbeatens

There are still 15 teams without a loss five weeks into the season.  Eight are 5-0, while seven are 4-0.  Let’s look at each team and gauge their chances for running the table.

 

ACC: Clemson and Georgia Tech: These two face off in Atlanta on October 29, so one team has to be removed from the list.  Clemson’s next toughest game will be the finale at rival South Carolina, and then whoever they would face in an ACC Championship Game.

 

Georgia Tech’s path to 13-0 is significantly more difficult.  The Yellow Jackets must visit Miami the week before hosting Clemson.  They still must play Virginia Tech on a Thursday night, and they close at home with Georgia.  If they get to 12-0, they would then probably have to defeat Clemson a second time at the ACC Championship Game.  They did just that two seasons ago.

 

Big Ten: Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan: The Badgers have the toughest remaining schedule, as they must face Michigan State, Ohio State, and Illinois on the road.

 

Illinois has virtually no chance of running the table with a team that is not even a full touchdown better than the average FBS team.  The Illini host Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and they play at Penn State.

 

Michigan was 5-0 at this point last year, but the Wolverines are much better than they were a year ago.  Of all the teams in this league, they have the best chance at running the table if Denard Robinson remains healthy.  Their toughest opponents remaining are at Michigan State, at Iowa, at Illinois, home with Nebraska, and home with Ohio State.  At this moment, they would be favored in all these games.  They would probably have to defeat Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Ten Championship Game.

 

Big 12: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech, and Kansas State: For a league that is on life support, the Big 12 has five undefeated teams.  One of those five will lose this week, as Oklahoma and Texas face off at the Cotton Bowl.

 

Oklahoma would appear to be the overwhelming favorite to run the table in this league, but the Sooners have been in this position before and failed.  They have actually averaged 3.2 losses per year in the last six seasons, so do not count on OU running the table as a matter of fact.  Still, this team has the best chance in this conference.  Their toughest opponents include Texas this week, at Kansas State on October 29, Texas A&M on November 5, at Baylor on November 19, and at Oklahoma State on December 3.

 

If Texas upsets Oklahoma this week, the Longhorns would face a stiff test the following week at home against Oklahoma State.  Road games at Missouri, Texas A&M, and Baylor would probably prove to be too much to conquer.

 

Oklahoma State may be the one team that can prevent Oklahoma from getting to 12-0, but the Cowboys’ defense is not 12-0 caliber.  OSU must still play Texas, Missouri, and Texas Tech on the road and Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma at home.

 

Kansas State has a couple of nice wins over Miami and Baylor, but they Wildcats have yet to play a power.  KSU will be playing after December 3 this year, but it will not be in a BCS Bowl.  The Wildcats host Missouri this week, and then play at Texas Tech the following week.  If they are 6-0, they should be 7-0 when they host Oklahoma on homecoming.  They follow that up with a game at Oklahoma State, a home game with Texas A&M, and at Texas.  They should be no better than 8-3 after that stretch and possibly 7-4.

 

Texas Tech is one of the weakest undefeated teams.  The Red Raiders have not defeated a quality team yet.  They host Texas A&M this week, and this game will tell us if they have a chance at a nine-win season.  They face Kansas State the following week and play at Oklahoma the week after.  In November, they play at Texas, host Oklahoma State, play at Missouri, and head to Cowboy Stadium to play Baylor.  Not only will they not run the table, they could be looking at a 6-6 season.

 

Pac-12: Stanford: The Cardinal may not have the top scoring offense in the nation (Georgia Tech leads them 51.6 to 45.8), but they may have the most unstoppable attack unit in quite some time.  Combine the top passer in the nation with a dominating power running game, and Stanford looks to be stronger than last year’s team that went 12-1.  There are three difficult games left on The Cardinal’s schedule.  They face Southern Cal at the Coliseum on October 29.  They host Oregon on November 12, and they conclude the regular season at home against Notre Dame.

 

SEC: LSU and Alabama: The nation’s top two teams appear to be headed on a collision course for what would be the next incarnation of the “Game of the Century.”

 

Alabama has a breather homecoming game with Vanderbilt this week and another breather at Ole Miss the following week.  The Crimson Tide return home to face Tennessee on October 22, and then they get a week off before hosting LSU on November 5.

 

LSU’s path to November 5 includes a home game against Florida this weekend, a trip to Tennessee the following week, and a home game with Auburn the week after.  The Tigers also get a bye week heading into the big game in Tuscaloosa.

 

Both teams have tough final games, and whichever team wins the big one, they will have to win a tough game on the last weekend in November.  Alabama plays at Auburn, while LSU hosts Arkansas.  Assuming one of these two teams wins the SEC Championship Game, if the other goes 11-1, there is a small chance they could finish one-two in the final BCS poll and face off again in the Superdome on January 9.

 

The Non-AQ Unbeatens: Boise State and Houston: The Broncos have beaten Georgia in Atlanta, won at Toledo, and defeated Tulsa and Nevada at home to open 4-0.  They have home games with Air Force and TCU, and they have a road game against San Diego State.  With TCU down this year, it will take a huge upset for any team to beat them.  Whether a 12-0 record in the MWC will get them into the national title picture, we do not know.

 

Houston’s defense is not going to allow them to run the table.  The Cougars have given up 33.3 to FBS teams, including 42 to UTEP.  Their toughest remaining games are against SMU at home and at Tulsa plus a possible Conference USA Championship Game.  Even if they go 13-0, Houston will not earn a trip to the Superdome on January 9.

 

This Week’s College Rankings

#

Team

PiRate

1

Alabama

136.5

2

Oklahoma

132.2

3

Stanford

129.7

4

L S U

128.9

5

Oregon

127.6

6

Wisconsin

126.3

7

Oklahoma St.

126.2

8

Boise St.

123.9

9

TexasA&M

123.1

10

Notre Dame

122.1

11

Arkansas

120.0

12

Florida 

119.3

13

Florida St.

118.9

14

Clemson

118.6

15

Michigan

118.2

16

Missouri

116.6

17

Texas

115.4

18

Arizona St.

115.3

19

Washington

114.3

20

S. Carolina

113.6

21

Nebraska

113.6

22

Michigan St.

113.3

23

Georgia 

112.3

24

Southern Cal

112.1

25

Mississippi St.

111.7

26

Virginia Tech

111.6

27

Cincinnati

111.4

28

Miami(FL)

111.0

29

Utah

110.6

30

W. Virginia

110.3

31

California

109.7

32

Pittsburgh

109.2

33

Tennessee

109.1

34

Ohio St.

108.7

35

Georgia Tech

108.3

36

Auburn

108.3

37

Iowa

107.8

38

Baylor

107.4

39

Arizona

107.0

40

T C U

106.6

41

Penn St.

106.6

42

TexasTech

106.0

43

N. Carolina

105.6

44

Illinois

105.5

45

U C L A

105.5

46

Kansas St.

105.5

47

Washington St.

105.1

48

Air Force

104.0

49

WakeForest

103.5

50

Vanderbilt

103.4

51

S M U

103.0

52

S. Florida

102.9

53

Oregon St.

102.8

54

Nevada

102.4

55

Navy

102.3

56

San Diego St.

102.0

57

Hawaii

101.7

58

Maryland

101.5

59

N. Carolina St.

101.4

60

B Y U

101.1

61

Northwestern

100.4

62

Tulsa

100.3

63

Iowa St.

99.8

64

Southern Miss.

99.2

65

Colorado

98.9

66

Houston

98.3

67

Duke

98.3

68

Western Michigan

97.9

69

Toledo

97.5

70

Central Florida

97.4

71

Ole Miss

97.3

72

BostonColl.

96.8

73

Utah St.

96.4

74

Connecticut

96.3

75

Rutgers

96.0

76

Temple

95.0

77

Purdue

94.5

78

Virginia

94.3

79

San Jose St.

94.2

80

LouisianaTech

94.0

81

Fresno St.

93.9

82

Minnesota

93.3

83

East Carolina

93.2

84

Syracuse

93.1

85

Kentucky

92.6

86

Kansas

91.7

87

FloridaInt’l

90.5

88

Colorado St.

89.9

89

Arkansas St.

89.5

90

Wyoming

89.5

91

Louisville

88.7

92

OhioU

88.4

93

Northern Illinois

88.2

94

Miami(O)

87.5

95

Rice

87.4

96

Marshall

86.9

97

Bowling Green

86.6

98

UL-Monroe

85.4

99

Army

84.7

100

Idaho

84.5

101

Troy

83.9

102

Ball St.

83.1

103

Indiana

83.1

104

U N L V

82.9

105

U A B

82.4

106

Central Michigan

82.0

107

New Mexico St.

81.8

108

U T E P

80.9

109

UL-Lafayette

79.4

110

Tulane

78.2

111

Buffalo

77.7

112

North Texas

77.4

113

Kent St.

77.1

114

FloridaAtlantic

76.2

115

New Mexico

75.8

116

MiddleTennessee

75.6

117

WesternKy.

75.3

118

Eastern Michigan

74.3

119

Akron

66.9

120

Memphis

64.0

 

 

The Teams By Conference

 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Atlantic Division

 

 

 

Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

FloridaState

0-1

2-2

118.9

Clemson

2-0

5-0

118.6

WakeForest

2-0

3-1

103.5

Maryland

1-0

2-2

101.5

North CarolinaState

0-2

2-3

101.4

BostonCollege

0-2

1-4

96.8

       
Coastal Division

 

 

 

Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Virginia Tech

0-1

4-1

111.6

Miami-FL

0-1

2-2

111.0

Georgia Tech

2-0

5-0

108.3

North Carolina

1-1

4-1

105.6

Duke

1-0

3-2

98.3

Virginia

0-1

3-2

94.3

 

 

Big East Conference

 

 

 

 

Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Cincinnati

0-0

4-1

111.4

West Virginia

0-0

4-1

110.3

Pittsburgh

1-0

3-2

109.2

South Florida

0-1

4-1

102.9

Connecticut

0-0

2-3

96.3

Rutgers

1-0

3-1

96.0

Syracuse

0-1

3-2

93.1

Louisville

0-0

2-2

88.7

 

 

Big Ten

       
Leaders Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Wisconsin

1-0

5-0

126.3

OhioState

0-1

3-2

108.7

PennState

1-0

4-1

106.6

Illinois

1-0

5-0

105.5

Purdue

0-0

2-2

94.5

Indiana

0-1

1-4

83.1

       
Legends Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Michigan

1-0

5-0

118.2

Nebraska

0-1

4-1

113.6

MichiganState

1-0

4-1

113.3

Iowa

0-0

3-1

107.8

Northwestern

0-1

2-2

100.4

Minnesota

0-1

1-4

93.3

 

 

Big 12

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Oklahoma

1-0

4-0

132.2

OklahomaState

1-0

4-0

126.2

TexasA&M

0-1

2-2

123.1

Missouri

0-1

2-2

116.6

Texas

1-0

4-0

115.4

Baylor

0-1

3-1

107.4

TexasTech

1-0

4-0

106.0

KansasState

1-0

4-0

105.5

IowaState

0-1

3-1

99.8

Kansas

0-1

2-2

91.7

 

 

Conference USA

East Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Southern Mississippi

1-1

4-1

99.2

Central Florida

0-0

2-2

97.4

East Carolina

1-0

1-3

93.2

Marshall

1-0

2-3

86.9

U A B

0-2

0-4

82.4

Memphis

0-0

1-4

64.0

       
West Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

S M U

2-0

4-1

103.0

Tulsa

1-0

2-3

100.3

Houston

1-0

5-0

98.3

Rice

0-1

1-3

87.4

U T E P

0-2

2-3

80.9

Tulane

1-1

2-3

78.2

 

 

Independents

       
Team

 

Overall

Rating

Notre Dame  

3-2

122.1

Navy  

2-2

102.3

B Y U  

3-2

101.1

Army  

2-3

84.7

 

 

Mid American Conference

East Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Temple

1-1

3-2

95.0

OhioU

1-0

4-1

88.4

Miami(O)

0-1

0-4

87.5

Bowling Green

1-0

3-2

86.6

Buffalo

0-1

1-4

77.7

Kent St.

0-1

1-4

77.1

Akron

0-2

1-4

66.9

       
West Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Western Michigan

1-0

3-2

97.9

Toledo

1-0

2-3

97.5

Northern Illinois

0-1

2-3

88.2

BallState

1-0

3-2

83.1

Central Michigan

1-1

2-3

82.0

Eastern Michigan

1-0

3-2

74.3

 

 

Mountain West Conference

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

BoiseState

0-0

4-0

123.9

T C U

1-0

3-2

106.6

Air Force

0-1

3-1

104.0

San DiegoState

0-0

3-1

102.0

ColoradoState

1-0

3-2

89.9

Wyoming

0-0

3-1

89.5

UNLV

0-0

1-3

82.9

New Mexico

0-1

0-5

75.8

 

 

Pac-12 Conference

       
North Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Stanford

2-0

4-0

129.7

Oregon

1-0

3-1

127.6

Washington

2-0

4-1

114.3

California

0-1

3-1

109.7

WashingtonState

1-0

3-1

105.1

OregonState

0-2

0-4

102.8

       
South Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

ArizonaState

2-0

4-1

115.3

U S C

2-1

4-1

112.1

Utah

0-2

2-2

110.6

Arizona

0-2

1-4

107.0

U C L A

1-1

2-3

105.5

Colorado

0-1

1-4

98.9

 

 

Southeastern Conference

East Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Florida

2-1

4-1

119.3

South Carolina

2-1

4-1

113.6

Georgia

2-1

3-2

112.3

Tennessee

0-1

3-1

109.1

Vanderbilt

1-1

3-1

103.4

Kentucky

0-2

2-3

92.6

       
West Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Alabama

2-0

5-0

136.5

L S U

2-0

5-0

128.9

Arkansas

0-1

4-1

120.0

MississippiState

0-3

2-3

111.7

Auburn

2-0

4-1

108.3

Ole Miss

0-2

2-3

97.3

 

 

Sunbelt Conference

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

FloridaInternational

1-1

3-2

90.5

ArkansasState

1-0

3-2

89.5

Louisiana-Monroe

0-0

1-3

85.4

Troy

1-0

2-2

83.9

U.ofLouisiana

2-0

4-1

79.4

North Texas

0-1

1-4

77.4

FloridaAtlantic

0-1

0-4

76.2

MiddleTennessee

0-1

1-3

75.6

Western Kentucky

0-1

0-4

75.3

 

 

Western Athletic Conference

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Nevada

1-0

1-3

102.4

Hawaii

1-0

3-2

101.7

UtahState

0-0

1-3

96.4

San JoseState

1-1

2-3

94.2

LouisianaTech

0-1

1-4

94.0

FresnoState

1-0

2-3

93.9

Idaho

0-1

1-4

84.5

New MexicoState

0-1

2-3

81.8

 

 

Here are the PiRate Ratings for this week’s games.

 

This Week’s Games–PiRate Ratings

   

 

 

 

Thursday, October 6  

PiRate Spread

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Score

Line

OREGON California

21.4

42-21

20 1/2

MIDDLETENNESSEE Western Kentucky

2.8

31-28

9   

   

 

 

 

Friday, October 7  

PiRate Spread

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Score

Line

Boise St. FRESNO ST.

26.5

40-13

19 1/2

   

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Saturday, October 8  

PiRate Spread

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Score

Line

Oklahoma  (n) Texas

16.8

34-17

10 1/2

Illinois INDIANA

19.4

31-12

14   

ALABAMA Vanderbilt

36.6

40-3

29   

CLEMSON BostonCollege

25.3

35-10

20   

WEST VIRGINIA Connecticut

17.5

42-24

14 1/2

Mississippi St. U A B

26.8

45-18

17   

PENN ST. Iowa

1.8

16-14

2   

Pittsburgh RUTGERS

10.7

31-20

6   

PURDUE Minnesota

3.7

31-27

NL

NORTH CAROLINA Louisville

19.9

30-10

12   

NORTH CAROLINA ST. Central Michigan

22.9

37-14

13   

RICE Memphis

25.9

38-12

20   

MIAMI(O) Army

5.3

28-23

Pk

WESTERN MICHIGAN Bowling Green

14.3

31-17

10 1/2

Temple BALL ST.

8.9

28-19

9   

Arizona St. UTAH

1.2

31-30

NL

B Y U San Jose St.

10.4

27-17

16   

TOLEDO Eastern Michigan

26.2

40-14

22   

OhioU BUFFALO

8.2

28-20

8   

NORTHERN ILLINOIS Kent St.

14.1

28-14

18 1/2

ARKANSAS Auburn

15.2

42-27

8   

GEORGIATECH Maryland

9.8

41-31

15   

STANFORD Colorado

34.3

48-14

29   

Georgia TENNESSEE

0.2

26-26 to ot

2   

VIRGINIATECH Miami(Fla)

4.1

28-24

6   

NOTRE DAME Air Force

21.6

35-13

11   

NAVY Southern Miss.

6.1

34-28

4 1/2

NEVADA U n l v

22.0

42-20

19   

CENTRAL FLORIDA Marshall

13.5

31-17

16 1/2

LouisianaTech IDAHO

6.0

34-28

5   

Arizona OREGON ST.

0.7

28-27

1 1/2

OKLAHOMA ST. Kansas

38.0

55-17

29   

Michigan NORTHWESTERN

14.8

38-23

6   

HOUSTON East Carolina

8.1

42-34

13 1/2

BAYLOR Iowa St.

11.1

41-30

14   

SOUTH CAROLINA Kentucky

24.5

38-13

20 1/2

Florida St. WAKEFOREST

12.4

28-16

NL

TexasA&M TEXASTECH

14.1

45-31

6 1/2

Missouri KANSAS ST.

7.6

35-27

2 1/2

Syracuse TULANE

12.4

24-12

8   

UTAH ST. Wyoming

9.9

31-21

12   

L S U Florida

13.1

23-10

NL

NEBRASKA Ohio St.

8.4

31-23

10   

U C L A Washington St.

3.4

31-28

5 1/2

T c u SAN DIEGO ST.

1.6

24-22

6   

FloridaInt’l AKRON

21.1

31-10

19   

Troy UL-LAFAYETTE

2.0

27-25

7   

Arkansas St. UL-MONROE

6.6

30-23

2 1/2

NORTH TEXAS FloridaAtlantic

4.2

28-24

3   

 

September 26, 2011

PiRate Ratings: College Football for September 29-October 1, 2011

Conference Action Gets Into Full Swing

Historically week five is the start of conference action in earnest.  Teams that play eight conference games have either already played one conference foe or will be doing so this week.  Let’s take a look at some of the key games on tap.

 

Atlantic Coast Conference

In an early contest of unbeatens, surprising Clemson visits Virginia Tech.  It’s possible these two teams could meet again in December.  The last time either of these teams were 4-0, they lost their fifth game, which both times happened to come against Georgia Tech.

 

Speaking of Georgia Tech, the 4-0 Yellow Jackets visit a wounded North Carolina State team in Raleigh, where the Wolfpack are reeling from a Thursday night drubbing in the Queen City of Ohio.  Tech lost big at home to State last year, but the Wolfpack lost Russell Wilson to college free agency.

 

Wake Forest appears to be stronger this season and possibly talented enough to gain bowl eligibility.  The Demon Deacons face an important road game at disappointing Boston College.  The Eagles must win this game, or they are virtually assured of suffering their first losing season this century.

 

Big East Conference

South Florida is the only remaining unbeaten team in the Big East, and the Bulls put their 4-0 mark on the line in a Thursday night game at 2-2 Pittsburgh.  The Panthers appeared to be in a malaise against Notre Dame after losing at Iowa the week before.  This is the fourth time in the last five years that USF has opened 4-0.

 

Syracuse, fresh off a controversial win over Toledo (one that was given to them by one of the worst officiating calls in years), hosts Rutgers in a game that will have a lot of Big Apple fans interested.  The loser will have to hustle to find enough wins to earn a bowl bid, while the winner will be in very good shape.

 

Big Ten

There are a few really big games across the land this week, and the primetime highlight game will take place in Madison, Wisconsin.  The 4-0 Wisconsin Badgers will take on the 4-0 Nebraska Cornhuskers in what will be the boys from Lincoln’s very first Big Ten Conference game.  This game could be a preview of the Big Ten’s very first conference championship game in December.

 

Illinois has not been 4-0, or 5-0 for that matter, since they went 9-0-1 and won the Rose Bowl in 1951.  The Illini own a win over Arizona State, so the 4-0 record is not a complete sham.  They host in-state rival Northwestern this weekend.  If you remember last year’s game, these two faced off at Wrigley Field in a game that forced both teams to go in the same direction for the entire day.  After the teams fought to a 24-24 tie, Illinois ran off two touchdowns and a field goal in a short amount of time to put this one away.

 

Michigan State visits the giant horseshoe to take on Ohio State in a battle of once-beaten teams.  Both teams feasted on weak opponents last week, and they should be ready to square off in a hotly-contested conference opener.  Ohio State must go to Lincoln next week to face Nebraska in the Cornhusker’s first ever Big Ten home game, while the Spartans get a week off to prepare for arch-rival Michigan.  The schedule is tailor-made for an MSU run to the division title, if they can get by the Buckeyes. 

 

After a two-year hiatus from the schedule, the Little Brown Jug is up for grabs this week, as Michigan hosts Minnesota.  Brady Hoke has Michigan off to a 4-0 start, and the Wolverines have a good shot at starting 6-0 before visiting Michigan State in Mid-October.  As long as he stays healthy, Denard Robinson has to be considered a leading Heisman Trophy candidate.  Minnesota has rarely had the opportunity of housing the jug, as since Minnesota last earned a share of the Big Ten title in 1967, the Gophers have won this game in 2005, 1986, and 1977, while losing 33 others (they did not play in four different seasons).

 

Big 12

This conference is the cat of college football, as it has nine lives.  Just when it appeared as though final rites were ready to be administered for the second year in a row, an eleventh hour reprieve has saved the league for at least a short time.  We believe Texas A&M is still headed to the SEC, and we won’t believe Missouri isn’t going to be the 14th team until it is carved in stone.

 

Texas visits Iowa State in a surprising battle of unbeatens.  The Cyclones have enjoyed a string of fortunate happenings so far, but we believe that string has reached the end of the line.  Texas is not the powerhouse of old, but the Longhorns’ defense should be tough enough to move Mack Brown’s boys to 4-0 before the Red River Rivalry game a week later.

 

Baylor visits the Little Apple to face Kansas State in another surprising game of unbeatens.  The winner of this game is almost assured of an eight-win season with the possibility of getting to nine, while the loser is likely to fall back to 7-5 with the possibility of falling to 6-6.  BU quarterback Robert Griffin III leads the nation in passing efficiency.

 

Pac-12

After a week off, Stanford hosts a mediocre UCLA team.  For a leading Heisman Trophy contender, Andrew Luck has almost remained anonymous through three games.  He may have to wait four more weeks until the Cardinal face Southern Cal at the L.A. Coliseum before he gets a big enough stage to state his case.  He is currently number 11 in passer efficiency rating.

 

The Utah Utes play their first Pac-12 Conference home game when the Washington Huskies visit Salt Lake City.  While neither team is likely to figure in their respective divisional races, both should be bowl eligible at the conclusion of their schedules.

 

Arizona State is in the driver’s seat in the Southern Division after blitzing Southern Cal Saturday night.  Coach Dennis Erickson has been there before, and his Sun Devils take on one of his former teams this week in winless Oregon State.  The Beavers have not been this weak since they were this weak every year from about 1970 to 1998.

 

Southeastern Conference

Outside of Madison, Wisconsin, the other big conference headliner this week finds Alabama going to the Swamp to take on Florida.  Both teams are 4-0.  Both teams rank near the top in both total offense and total defense.  Florida averages 40.3 points per game with 462 yards of total offense, while yielding nine points and 232 yards per game.  Alabama averages 38.5 points and 456 yards per game, while yielding just eight points and 184 yards per game.  The winner of this game will need to get by LSU to have a chance to play for the national title later in the season.

 

It will be a Bulldog battle in Athens, when Georgia faces Mississippi State.  The loser will have three losses, and if that team is the home team, it could be the beginning of the end for Coach Mark Richt.  A Georgia win keeps the Bulldogs in contention for the SEC East title, especially if Florida loses to Alabama.  Georgia does not play Alabama, Arkansas, or LSU.

 

South Carolina hosts Auburn, and the Gamecocks will be looking for revenge after losing twice to the defending national champs last year.  Running back Marcus Lattimore is the co-best rusher in the nation along with LaMichael James at Oregon (not counting Mr. Robinson in Ann Arbor). 

 

L S U owns wins over three top 25 teams in the four games they have played thus far.  The Tigers are home for their next four games, and they could be 8-0 when they visit Tuscaloosa in early November.  This week, Kentucky should be fodder for the Bayou Bengals.

 

Here is a look at this week’s FBS teams ranked from 1 to 120. 

 

#

Team

PiRate

1

Alabama

133.5

2

Oklahoma

131.2

3

Stanford

130.4

4

L S U

129.4

5

Oregon

127.6

6

Oklahoma St.

126.2

7

TexasA&M

125.6

8

Boise St.

124.7

9

Florida 

123.1

10

Wisconsin

123.0

11

Notre Dame

120.3

12

Florida St.

118.9

13

Arkansas

117.7

14

S. Carolina

117.4

15

Missouri

116.6

16

Nebraska

116.5

17

Arizona St.

115.6

18

Virginia Tech

114.4

19

Utah

114.2

20

Michigan

114.1

21

Clemson

113.7

22

Georgia 

112.9

23

Michigan St.

112.7

24

Texas

112.5

25

Southern Cal

112.4

26

Miami(FL)

111.5

27

Mississippi St.

111.3

28

Washington

111.0

29

Cincinnati

109.9

30

California

109.7

31

T C U

109.3

32

Tennessee

108.9

33

Penn St.

108.7

34

Baylor

108.2

35

W. Virginia

107.9

36

Iowa

107.8

37

Arizona

106.6

38

Pittsburgh

106.6

39

TexasTech

106.5

40

Ohio St.

106.4

41

Georgia Tech

106.3

42

Illinois

106.1

43

S. Florida

105.7

44

N. Carolina

105.0

45

Auburn

104.9

46

U C L A

104.7

47

Washington St.

104.5

48

Kansas St.

104.1

49

Air Force

103.6

50

Tulsa

103.5

51

Vanderbilt

103.4

52

N. Carolina St.

102.7

53

Navy

102.6

54

Iowa St.

102.4

55

Oregon St.

102.3

56

San Diego St.

102.0

57

Maryland

101.8

58

WakeForest

101.8

59

Nevada

101.8

60

B Y U

101.6

61

S M U

100.5

62

Northwestern

100.1

63

Houston

99.5

64

Colorado

99.4

65

Connecticut

99.1

66

Duke

99.1

67

Minnesota

98.4

68

BostonColl.

98.4

69

Hawaii

98.4

70

Central Florida

97.4

71

Temple

97.4

72

Fresno St.

97.2

73

LouisianaTech

96.7

74

Southern Miss.

96.6

75

Purdue

96.5

76

Virginia

96.4

77

Utah St.

95.8

78

Rutgers

95.6

79

Western Michigan

95.1

80

Toledo

94.5

81

Ole Miss

94.4

82

East Carolina

93.7

83

Syracuse

93.4

84

San Jose St.

92.1

85

Louisville

91.9

86

Kentucky

91.7

87

Colorado St.

91.7

88

Arkansas St.

91.3

89

Kansas

91.1

90

Northern Illinois

91.0

91

Rice

90.2

92

OhioU

90.2

93

FloridaInt’l

89.6

94

Wyoming

89.5

95

Bowling Green

89.2

96

Miami(O)

88.9

97

UL-Monroe

85.4

98

Marshall

84.3

99

Ball St.

83.9

100

Troy

83.8

101

Tulane

83.1

102

U N L V

82.9

103

U A B

82.5

104

Idaho

82.2

105

Indiana

81.7

106

Army

81.0

107

UL-Lafayette

80.4

108

U T E P

79.9

109

CentrralMichigan

79.5

110

New Mexico St.

79.5

111

New Mexico

78.5

112

MiddleTennessee

77.9

113

Buffalo

77.8

114

Kent St.

75.6

115

FloridaAtlantic

75.6

116

North Texas

75.4

117

Eastern Michigan

74.5

118

WesternKy.

73.1

119

Akron

66.7

120

Memphis

61.9

 

Here are the PiRate Ratings By Conference

 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Atlantic Division

 

 

 

Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

FloridaState

0-1

2-2

118.9

Clemson

1-0

4-0

113.7

North CarolinaState

0-1

2-2

102.7

Maryland

1-0

1-2

101.8

WakeForest

1-0

2-1

101.8

BostonCollege

0-1

1-3

98.4

       
Coastal Division

 

 

 

Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Virginia Tech

0-0

4-0

114.4

Miami-FL

0-1

1-2

111.5

Georgia Tech

1-0

4-0

106.3

North Carolina

1-1

3-1

105.0

Duke

1-0

2-2

99.1

Virginia

0-1

2-2

96.4

 

 

Big East Conference

 

 

 

 

Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Cincinnati

0-0

3-1

109.9

West Virginia

0-0

3-1

107.9

Pittsburgh

0-0

2-2

106.6

South Florida

0-0

4-0

105.7

Connecticut

0-0

2-2

99.1

Rutgers

0-0

2-1

95.6

Syracuse

0-0

3-1

93.4

Louisville

0-0

2-1

91.9

 

 

Big Ten

       
Leaders Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Wisconsin

0-0

4-0

123.0

PennState

0-0

3-1

108.7

OhioState

0-0

3-1

106.4

Illinois

0-0

4-0

106.1

Purdue

0-0

2-1

96.5

Indiana

0-0

1-3

81.7

       
Legends Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Nebraska

0-0

4-0

116.5

Michigan

0-0

4-0

114.1

MichiganState

0-0

3-1

112.7

Iowa

0-0

3-1

107.8

Northwestern

0-0

2-1

100.1

Minnesota

0-0

1-3

98.4

 

 

Big 12

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Oklahoma

1-0

3-0

131.2

OklahomaState

1-0

4-0

126.2

TexasA&M

0-1

2-1

125.6

Missouri

0-1

2-2

116.6

Texas

0-0

3-0

112.5

Baylor

0-0

3-0

108.2

TexasTech

0-0

3-0

106.5

KansasState

0-0

3-0

104.1

IowaState

0-0

3-0

102.4

Kansas

0-0

2-1

91.1

 

 

Conference USA

East Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Central Florida

0-0

2-2

97.4

Southern Mississippi

0-1

3-1

96.6

East Carolina

1-0

1-2

93.7

Marshall

1-0

1-3

84.3

U A B

0-2

0-3

82.5

Memphis

0-0

1-3

61.9

       
West Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Tulsa

1-0

1-3

103.5

S M U

2-0

3-1

100.5

Houston

0-0

4-0

99.5

Rice

0-0

1-2

90.2

Tulane

1-1

2-2

83.1

U T E P

0-1

2-2

79.9

 

 

Independents

       
Team

 

Overall

Rating

Notre Dame  

2-2

120.3

Navy  

2-1

102.6

B Y U  

2-2

101.6

Army  

1-3

81.0

 

 

Mid American Conference

East Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Temple

1-0

3-1

97.4

OhioU

0-0

3-1

90.2

Bowling Green

1-0

3-1

89.2

Miami(O)

0-1

0-3

88.9

Buffalo

0-1

1-3

77.8

Kent St.

0-0

1-3

75.6

Akron

0-1

1-3

66.7

       
West Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Western Michigan

1-0

2-2

95.1

Toledo

0-0

1-3

94.5

Northern Illinois

0-0

2-2

91.0

BallState

1-0

3-1

83.9

Central Michigan

0-1

1-3

79.5

Eastern Michigan

0-0

2-2

74.5

 

 

Mountain West Conference

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

BoiseState

0-0

3-0

124.7

T C U

1-0

3-1

109.3

Air Force

0-1

2-1

103.6

San DiegoState

0-0

3-1

102.0

ColoradoState

1-0

3-1

91.7

Wyoming

0-0

3-1

89.5

UNLV

0-0

1-3

82.9

New Mexico

0-1

0-4

78.5

 

 

Pac-12 Conference

       
North Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Stanford

1-0

3-0

130.4

Oregon

1-0

3-1

127.6

Washington

1-0

3-1

111.0

California

0-1

3-1

109.7

WashingtonState

0-0

2-1

104.5

OregonState

0-1

0-3

102.3

       
South Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

ArizonaState

1-0

3-1

115.6

Utah

0-1

2-1

114.2

U S C

1-1

3-1

112.4

Arizona

0-1

1-3

106.6

U C L A

1-0

2-2

104.7

Colorado

0-0

1-3

99.4

 

 

Southeastern Conference

East Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Florida

2-0

4-0

123.1

South Carolina

2-0

4-0

117.4

Georgia

1-1

2-2

112.9

Tennessee

0-1

2-1

108.9

Vanderbilt

1-1

3-1

103.4

Kentucky

0-1

2-2

91.7

       
West Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Alabama

1-0

4-0

133.5

L S U

1-0

4-0

129.4

Arkansas

0-1

3-1

117.7

MississippiState

0-2

2-2

111.3

Auburn

1-0

3-1

104.9

Ole Miss

0-2

1-3

94.4

 

 

Sunbelt Conference

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

ArkansasState

0-0

2-2

91.3

FloridaInternational

1-1

3-1

89.6

Louisiana-Monroe

0-0

1-3

85.4

Troy

1-0

1-2

83.8

U.ofLouisiana

1-0

3-1

80.4

MiddleTennessee

0-1

0-3

77.9

FloridaAtlantic

0-0

0-3

75.6

North Texas

0-1

1-3

75.4

Western Kentucky

0-0

0-3

73.1

 

 

Western Athletic Conference

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Nevada

1-0

1-2

101.8

Hawaii

0-0

2-2

98.4

FresnoState

1-0

2-2

97.2

LouisianaTech

0-0

1-3

96.7

UtahState

0-0

1-2

95.8

San JoseState

1-1

1-3

92.1

Idaho

0-1

1-3

82.2

New MexicoState

0-1

1-3

79.5

 

 

Here is a look at this week’s games with the PiRate Ratings, Predicted Scores, and Official Opening Lines.

 

This Week’s Games–PiRate Ratings

   

 

 

 

Thursday, September 29  

PiRate Spread

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Score

Line

PITTSBURGH South Florida

4.4

27-23

Pk

Houston U T E P

17.1

45-28

17 1/2

   

 

 

 

Friday, September 30  

PiRate Spread

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Score

Line

B Y U UtahState

8.8

28-19

12 1/2

   

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Saturday, October 1  

PiRate Spread

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Score

Line

NAVY Air Force

2.5

27-24

2 1/2

ILLINOIS Northwestern

9.0

26-17

7 1/2

MICHIGAN Minnesota

19.2

35-16

20   

BOSTONCOLLEGE WakeForest

0.1

27-27 to ot

-1   

SYRACUSE Rutgers

0.3

24-24 to ot

1   

TEMPLE Toledo

5.4

28-23

6   

WEST VIRGINIA Bowling Green

22.2

38-16

17   

VIRGINIA Idaho

18.2

35-17

17   

TENNESSEE Buffalo

35.1

42-7

28   

ARMY Tulane

0.9

21-20

6   

Penn St. INDIANA

24.0

31-7

18   

Georgia Tech NORTH CAROLINA ST.

0.6

28-27

10   

CONNECTICUT Western Michigan

7.0

24-17

3   

EASTERN MICHIGAN Akron

10.3

27-17

9 1/2

Cincinnati MIAMI(O)

18.5

42-23

13   

OHIOU Kent St.

17.1

34-17

13 1/2

TexasTech KANSAS

12.4

33-21

9 1/2

BOISE ST. Nevada

26.4

45-19

28   

Washington St. COLORADO

1.6

26-24

-3   

Northern Illinois CENTRAL MICHIGAN

9.0

28-19

10   

STANFORD U c l a

29.2

42-13

21   

Texas IOWA ST.

6.6

30-23

9   

Michigan St. OHIO ST.

2.8

24-21

-2 1/2

Alabama FLORIDA

6.9

24-17

5   

LOUISVILLE Marshall

10.1

28-18

10 1/2

TexasA&M (n) Arkansas

7.9

38-30

3 1/2

SOUTHERN CAL Arizona

9.8

26-16

12 1/2

UTAH Washington

6.7

28-21

7 1/2

COLORADO ST. San Jose St.

2.6

26-23

3 1/2

ARIZONA ST. Oregon St.

16.8

34-17

17   

Baylor KANSAS ST.

0.6

35-34

3 1/2

OKLAHOMA Ball St.

51.3

61-10

38   

LOUISIANATECH Hawaii

2.3

33-31

4   

GEORGIA Mississippi St.

22.0

38-16

7 1/2

SOUTH CAROLINA Auburn

16.0

40-24

11 1/2

SOUTHERN MISS Rice

9.4

37-28

14   

VIRGINIATECH Clemson

4.2

24-20

7 1/2

NEW MEXICO New Mexico St.

1.0

21-20

-1 1/2

North Carolina EAST CAROLINA

8.8

35-26

6   

WISCONSIN Nebraska

10.0

34-24

8   

L S U Kentucky

41.2

48-7

28   

Notre Dame PURDUE

20.8

35-14

13   

FRESNO ST. Ole Miss

6.3

30-24

4   

Arkansas St. WESTERN KENTUCKY

15.7

41-25

10 1/2

Duke FLORIDAINT’L

6.5

27-20

NL

TROY U a b

3.8

28-24

NL

UL-LAFAYETTE FloridaAtlantic

7.8

28-20

9   

MIDDLETENNESSEE Memphis

18.5

39-20

21   

TULSA North Texas

31.1

52-21

21 1/2

T C U S m u

11.3

28-17

11 1/2

 

August 25, 2011

2011 Pac-12 Conference Preview

2011 Pacific 12 Conference Preview

 

Larry Scott didn’t start the fire, but he did ignite it.  After Nebraska bolted the Big 12 for the Big Ten, Scott tried to lure Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado to form the first 16-team super-conference.  Sure, the Western Athletic Conference tried a 16-team setup in the 1990’s but the winner did not receive a bid to a major bowl.

 

Although Scott had to settle for Colorado and Utah, he fired the first shot toward what could become four major conferences of 16 teams.  It isn’t far beyond the imagination to see a four-team playoff down the road with a “plus one” format.

 

The strength of the league is in the North Division this year.  The South is faced with the strong possibility of sending its number two team to the first Pac-12 Championship Game, since Southern Cal is still on probation and prohibited from appearing in post-season games.

 

NORTH DIVISION

Stanford

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Stanford has a reputation for producing great quarterbacks over the decades.  Four past passers are in the College Football Hall of Fame—Frankie Albert, John Brodie, Jim Plunkett, and John Elway.  Add Trent Edwards, Steve Stentstrom, Turk Schonert, and others.  Could the current quarterback actually be the best of the bunch?  If you believe A-Rod is better than Gehrig and Ruth or Pujols is better than Musial, then maybe you can say the same about Andrew Luck.

 

Luck is the best college quarterback in 2011, and he is the prohibitive favorite to cart off the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Davey O’Brien Award, and most importantly, the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.  A joke is already going around NFL circles that one or more teams may deliberately “sandbag” this year in an attempt to post the worst record and take the next Tom Brady or Peyton Manning.

 

Luck completed almost 71% of his passes last year for 3,338 yards and 32 touchdowns.  He averaged almost nine yards per attempt, which is almost unstoppable.  As a runner, he added over 500 yards when sacks are factored out.  As long as he stays 100% healthy, he is the player you want to watch every week—the modern day Babe Ruth of college football.

 

Receivers

Luck lost his top two targets from 2010, but we do not believe it will greatly affect his production.  Great QBs can take average receivers and make them look like stars; just ask Indianapolis Colts fans. 

 

Unlike almost every other college team, Stanford actively includes two tight ends for a considerable amount of playing time.  It allows the Cardinal to get extra blocking for the running game, and it makes it very difficult on diminutive safeties trying to stop 250-pound receivers.

 

The Cardinal have three excellent tight ends capable of making a big play.  Coby Fleener caught 28 passes and averaged 15.5 yards per catch with seven touchdowns last year; he became a star in the Orange Bowl with three touchdown receptions.  Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz will also see significant amounts of playing time.

 

Stanford’s new wideouts will do just fine and will not be a liability.  Griff Whalen and Chris Owusu should average about 14-18 yards per catch and combine for about 90-110 receptions.  There is ample depth here with Jemari Roberts, Jamaal-Rashad Patterson, and Drew Terrell.  Terrell is a sleeper; he could emerge as a star.

 

Running Backs

What makes the offense so unstoppable is the running game.  Defenses cannot forget it is there, because the Cardinal can beat you on the ground.  Stepfan Taylor returns after gaining 1,137 yards with 15 touchdowns.  Taylor is also a big weapon in the passing game, and he grabbed 28 passes.  Defenses forget him on a running fake, but Luck is great at faking to him and then passing to him when the defense covers the downfield receivers.

 

Behind Taylor are three other competent backs that will receive playing time.  Anthony Wilkerson, Tyler Gaffney, and Usua Amanam teamed for 789 yards and seven scores in 2010.  This unit is loaded.

 

Stanford uses a fullback, but he is a blocker 99% of the time.  Last year’s “third guard,” Owen Marecic, was so good, he was a fourth round draft pick.  He also played full-time at linebacker, frequently playing 90-100 scrimmage plays in a game.  The new Marecic will be Ryan Hewitt, but he will only play on this side of the ball.

 

Offensive Line

The line must replace three excellent players from last year, including 1st Team All-American Chase Beeler at center.  Khalil Wilkes and Sam Schwartzstein are battling neck and neck to replace him.

 

David DeCastro is entrenched at one guard spot after earning 1st Team All-Pac-10 honors in 2010.  Kevin Danser will start on the other side.  At tackle, Jonathan Martin earned 1st Team All-Pac-10 accolades last year.  Tyler Mabry and Cameron Fleming are in a heated battle for the other tackle position. 

 

While not as talented overall as last year, this unit will still be an asset.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Stanford gave up just 56 points in their final six games last year, and the defensive line really toughened up down the stretch.  They allowed just 89.7 yards rushing 276.8 total yards per game in that stretch.

 

New head coach David Shaw appointed defensive back coach Derek Mason and former San Francisco 49er defensive coach Jason Tarver as co-defensive coordinators.  With the change comes a switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense.

 

Terrence Stephens will start at the nose.  At 290 pounds, he is a little on the light side for a two-gap defender.  Ben Gardner and Matthew Masifilo start at the end positions.  This unit is the weakest link on the team, and it will be here where Stanford either wins or loses the Pac-12 title.

 

Linebackers

Two starters return from last year, and of course, there will be an extra linebacker in the alignment this year.  Shayne Skov will start at one inside position, while Chase Thomas will start at an outside position.  They led the Cardinal with 84 and 70 tackles respectively.  Both players co-led the team with 7 ½ sacks, and they combined for 22 tackles behind the line.  They also showed prowess for stopping passes, combining for nine passes defended.

 

Trent Murphy and Max Bergen will be the new starters on this unit.  Bergen made 21 tackles in limited playing time last year.  Blake Lueders could crack the starting lineup this year.  Keep an eye on Alex Debniak.

 

Secondary

Three starters return to this unit, and it should be in good shape.  Safety Delano Howell is the stud of this unit.  He led the Cardinal with five interceptions and 10 passes defended.  Michael Thomas returns to the other safety spot after finishing third on the team with 61 tackles.

 

At cornerback, Johnson Bademosi started nine times last year, while Barry Browning takes over for Richard Sherman, another NFL draft choice.

 

OTHER

Stanford lost a lot of talent via graduation, but the biggest loss will be coach Jim Harbaugh, who graduated to the 49ers.  Shaw has never been a head coach, but we believe he has enough talent to learn on the job without losing a game due to inexperience.

 

The Cardinal were one of four teams to average better than 40 points per game and give up less than 20 points per game (Oregon, Boise St., and TCU were the others).  In the 21st Century, any team that can pull off this feat is capable of contending for a national title.  We believe Stanford’s offense could be just strong enough to control the ball and the clock and allow the defense to mature without giving up 25 points per game.  We would not be surprised if Stanford repeats their averages of last year.

 

SUMMARY

Stanford has a dream schedule for a Pac-12 team.  They open the season with area rival San Jose State and then go on the road to Duke.  They should be 2-0 before opening conference play on the road at a rebuilding Arizona.  They then get a week off before hosting UCLA and Colorado.  A road game with Washington State follows, before Washington, without Jake Locker, comes to Palo Alto.  Stanford should be 7-0 when they head to the Coliseum to face Southern Cal in the first of a tough closing schedule.  By then, the defense should be up to snuff.  Following USC, Stanford has a trap game with Oregon State in Corvallis.  Then, on November 12 is the big rematch with Oregon, and this time it is at Stanford Stadium.  Arch-rival Cal comes in the following week, and then the Cardinal close out at home with Notre Dame, in what could be a battle of 11-0 teams.

 

Stanford has not run the table with a bowl win since 1940 when they became the first college team to use the modern T-Formation.  Could it happen again?  We believe it could, but chances are the defense will stumble at least one time.  The Pac-12 does not get its due in the eastern half of the country, but there is a lot of talent spread throughout the teams, and upsets are more prevalent here than in any of the Big Six conferences.

 

Oregon

Oregon is another of the teams that faced off-the-field issues during the summer.  The football program made several thousand dollars in payments to a recruiting service in Texas for what appeared to look like a third grade art project given in return, as well as the delivery of multiple key recruits out of the Lone Star State.  Running back Lache Seastrunk left UO over the controversy.  The NCAA is investigating.

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Darron Thomas made fans forget Jeremiah Masoli.  Thomas made the Ducks fly last year.  He passed for 2,881 yards and 30 touchdowns and rushed for more than 550 yards (sacks not included).  He can only hope for a repeat as a 2nd Team All-Pac-12 choice, but he is the best quarterback in the league after the new “franchise” down the road.

 

Receivers

Like Mr. Luck, Thomas loses his top two targets from a year ago.  Jeff Maehl and D. J. Davis teamed for 119 receptions and 15 touchdowns, but their replacements will be quicker and more elusive this season.

 

One of those speedy guys is not quite 100% as of this writing.  Josh Huff has the talent and potential to play on Sundays.  He is recuperating from an ankle injury.  Rahsaan Vaughn will fill in for him until he is ready.  Justin Hoffman will see significant time and will use his size and speed to make big plays.  Lavasier Tuinei is more of a possession receiver, and he is the leading returning pass-catcher with 36 receptions. 

 

Tight end David Paulson returns after catching 24 passes and showing some ability to run to daylight.  He earned 1st Team All-Pac-12 honors last year.

 

Running Backs

Oregon’s Heisman Trophy candidate is LaMichael James.  James led the league with 1,731 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns.  If Oregon ran the ball 70% of the time (instead of 61%), James might be a serious candidate to top 2,000 yards on the ground.  James also caught 17 passes, with three going for touchdowns.

 

Slot back Kenjon Barner should change his name to “Burner.”  The track sprinter is a hybrid running back/receiver.  He rushed for 551 yards and six touchdowns (6.1 yds/rush) and caught 13 passes with two more scores.

 

This dynamic duo plus the running ability of Thomas gives the Ducks the best running game in the league and one of the best in the nation—the best of the non-triple option teams.

 

Offensive Line

It will be hard to replace the three graduated stars from this unit, but the Ducks could still have the best blocking corps in the Pac-12.  Carson York is a returning 1st Team All-Pac-12 at guard.  Ryan Clanton will be the new starter at the other guard spot.  Mark Asper and Darrion Weems will start at tackle, while the center position is still a two-man race between Hroniss Grasu and Karrington Armstrong.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Here is the first question mark in 2011.  Three starters must be replaced.  End Terrell Turner returns after recording just 32 tackles and 2 ½ sacks.  At the other end spot, Dion Jordan saw limited action in 2010, making 33 tackles and two sacks.  The two new tackles will be Ricky Heimuli and Wade Keliikipi, who combined for 27 tackles.  The defensive line was exposed by Auburn in the Championship Game, but the Ducks gave up only 117.5 rushing yards per game in the regular season.  Expect that number to jump by about 20 to 25 yards this year.

 

Linebackers

This is the second and even bigger question mark.  The Ducks will be without their top two linebackers from last year.  Casey Matthews led in tackles and played both the run and pass better than most.  Spencer Paysinger was almost as talented.

 

Josh Kaddu is the lone holdover.  He was the weakest of the three starters last year and is not a candidate to become an all-conference player.  Dewitt Stuckey and Michael Clay will be the two new starters.  Clay saw as much time as Kaddu and made 42 tackles.

 

Secondary

This was to be the best defensive backfield in the league, but it is not now.  The front seven may not provide a decent pass rush, diminishing the secondary’s effectiveness.  The bigger factor in the decline is the suspension of one of its key components; cornerback Cliff Harris is out indefinitely after running afoul of the law, and Oregon’s defense begins to show a couple of holes and enough vulnerability to be exploited by quality teams (like LSU, USC, and Stanford) with these factors.  Harris was the premier cover corner in the nation last year.  He intercepted six passes and had an unbelievable 23 passed defended.  He is not replaceable.  He also led the nation with four punts returned for a touchdown, so his loss is worth about as much as Stanford losing Luck.

 

Anthony Gildon will start at one corner after seeing limited action last year.  Eddie Pleasant and John Boyett make a decent pair of safeties, but without Harris, this secondary will be lit up against quality passers.

 

OTHER

It is hard to predict what the investigatory cloud hanging over the program might do for team morale.  Oregon figured to be a top contender for the National Championship Game following their narrow loss to Auburn last year.  However, the cloud hanging over is definitely a black one.  It could eventually cost Coach Chip Kelly his job.  Other players could be implicated as the season progresses.

 

SUMMARY

The schedule is a bit more difficult this season, and we cannot see the Ducks running the table in the regular season.  An opener with LSU at Jerry Jones’ Cowboys’ Stadium in Arlington could be interesting if only for the fact that both teams have off-the-field issues.  The Ducks could get lucky if more than one key opponent is unable to play.  Oregon has to play at Stanford, and they host Southern Cal.  We believe at least one of those teams will get them this year.

 

Oregon State

OFFENSE

Quarterback

In a league with multiple NFL quarterback prospects, Ryan Katz gets overlooked.  Katz might be a contender for all-conference designation in other leagues, but in the Pac-12, he does not even challenge for third team.

 

Katz completed 60% of his passes for 2,401 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.  He should improve upon those numbers in his second season as a starter. 

 

Backup Cody Vaz has potential, but he is nursing a bad back and will miss the start of the season.

 

Receivers

Katz’s top three receivers (Markus Wheaton, Jordan Bishop, and tight end Joe Halahuni) are back for more after teaming for 107 catches and 12 touchdowns.  However, the sensation of the August practices has been a true freshman.  Brandin Cooks was challenging for a starting bid until he injured his ankle.  When he is fully recovered, look for him to contribute immediately.

 

James Rodgers caught only 16 passes last year in limited action, as he missed most of the season with knee injuries.  He has undergone two surgeries earlier this year, so he may not be ready to play.  He was a star in 2009 when he was last healthy.  Redshirt freshman Obum Gwachman could start in Rodgers place.  This unit will allow Katz to surpass his stats of last year.

 

Halahuni had shoulder surgery earlier this season, and he will miss all of September.  Backup tight ends Tyler Perry and Connor Hamlett face one game suspensions that will be staggered.  Tight end will be a concern in the early part of the season.

 

Running Backs

“The Quizz” is gone.  Jacquizz Rodgers left early and was a fifth round NFL Draft choice.  There will be a drop in talent and production here this year, as Coach Mike Riley uses the committee approach to replace him.

 

True freshman Malcolm Agnew may be the surprise opening day starter for OSU.  Terron Ward and Ryan McCants are contending with Agnew, but all three should see ample playing time. 

 

Offensive Line

Four of the five positions are set in stone.  The four holdovers from last year are center Grant Johnson, guard Burke Ellis, and tackles Michael Philipp and Mike Remmers.  Philipp and Remmers have the potential to become all-conference blockers.  Joshua Andrews was set to start at the vacant guard slot, but he suffered a concussion in practice and could be out for the opener.  Grant Enger had been moved to tight end but was moved back to guard and may start. 

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Injuries and academics are causing Riley some headaches this pre-season.  Both of his projected starting tackles will not be available for the opening of the season.  Dominic Glover, who recorded 43 tackles with 7 ½ for loss, is not academically eligible, and Riley is not sure when he will be available.  Kevin Frahm injured his meniscus and could be out four weeks. 

 

Redshirt freshman Scott Crichton will start at one end, while Taylor Henry should start at the other spot.  Henry started four games last year.  Rusty Fernando will become the designated pass rusher and come in on passing downs.

 

Manu Tuivailala should start at one of the tackle positions, with the other one still up for grabs as of this writing.  The Beavers will struggle here for the first month of the season.

 

Linebackers

The trio in this unit better overachieve, or else OSU’s defense will give up an increase in points per game for the fifth year in a row.

 

Rueben Robinson returns to the middle linebacker spot after registering 35 tackles in seven starts.  Cameron Collins started twice and saw considerable action in the other games.  He made 39 tackles.  Michael Doctor played in every game as a reserve and registered 11 tackles.  This group is not a top trio, but it is the best unit on this side of the ball.

 

Secondary

Once again, here is a unit that has been hit with injuries.  Top cornerback Brandon Hardin suffered a shoulder injury that required surgical repair.  He is out until October.  Two reserves are out for the season.

 

Safety Lance Mitchell finished third with 74 tackles last year.  He intercepted two passes and knocked away three others.  Anthony Watkins will start at the other safety position.  He got in on 27 tackles as a key reserve last year.  Ryan Murphy should see plenty of playing time.

 

Jordan Poyer figures to start at one cornerback position.  As a reserve in 2010, he had six passes defended.  Rashaad Reynolds will replace Hardin at the other corner.  He made 14 tackles and had no passes defended last year.

 

OTHER

The Beavers have seen their points allowed increase from 22.2 to 22.6 to 23.1 to 25.0 to 26.8 in the last five seasons.  The possibility of extending that negative streak to six is very high.  OSU could give up more than 28 points per game this season with all their injury troubles and a tough schedule against high-scoring opponents.

 

SUMMARY

The Beavers took a step backward last season, finishing with seven losses for the first time in over a decade.  This program has been on a small decline since 2006. 

 

Oregon State was once one of the weakest programs in major college football.  They went close to three decades without a winning season.  There was a quick transition from winning seasons in the 1960’s to losing seasons for the next 30 years.  Could the Beavers be on the cusp of repeating history?  We don’t know the answer, but we are a little pessimistic about 2011.

 

Katz is going to have to improve to a level similar to Thomas at Oregon if the Beavers are to score enough points to win most games.

 

The schedule gives them one cupcake—the opener with Sacramento State.  Conference games at home against UCLA, Arizona, and Washington are winnable, and road games with Cal and Washington State are winnable.  The Beavers must win all five of these games to become bowl eligible, and we cannot see this happening.

 

Washington

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Jake Locker had his critics.  He threw too many off-target passes; he held onto the ball too long and took a lot of sacks; he ran the ball when he could have passed it, etc.

 

A quarterback at Southern Mississippi in the late 1980’s had many of the same criticisms bestowed on him.  His name was Favre.  Locker is Favre redux, and the Huskies will quickly realize how much he is missed.  Locker completed just 55.4% of his passes, for 2,265 yards and 17 touchdowns in his final year at UW.  He added over 500 rushing yards (sacks removed) and six touchdowns. 

 

Keith Price takes over after completing 19 of 37 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman.  He has talent and potential, but he will not duplicate Locker’s performance.

 

Receivers

Coach Steve Sarkisian welcomes back two stars on this side of the ball.  One of them is wideout Jermaine Kearse.  Kearse hauled in 63 passes for 1,005 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2010. 

 

Devin Aguilar and Kevin Smith will supplement Kearse.  Aguilar caught 28 balls and averaged 12.6 yards per catch. 

 

The Huskies have two young, but inexperienced, quality tight ends; Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the top incoming recruit and should play right away, while redshirt freshman Michael Hartvigson will see significant playing time.

 

Running Backs

The other star on this offense is Chris Polk.  As a sophomore, he rushed for 1,415 yards and nine touchdowns, and he nabbed 22 passes for 180 yards.  Polk recently underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss the start of the season.  Jesse Callier will replace him.  Callier rushed for 400+ yards and actually averaged a little more per rush than Polk.  Fullback Jonathan Amosa will open holes for Polk and Callier.

 

Offensive Line

Three starters return to the blocking corps.  Center Drew Schaffer, guard Coline Porter, and Tackle Senio Kelemente combined for 36 starts with Kelemente earning some all-conference consideration.

 

Erik Kohler should start at the vacant tackle position, while redshirt freshman Colin Tanigawa will take the vacant guard position.  Overall, this is a fair unit. 

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

The Huskies gave up more rushing yards last year than the year before, but four tough opponents accounted for most of that deterioration. 

 

The Huskies have depth here.  All four starters return from last year, but one or two may be supplanted by others.  Alameda Ta’Amu is the big man in the trenches.  The 6-3, 330-pound tackle plugs multiple gaps.  True freshman Danny Shelton could start opposite him.  Hau’oli Jamora and Everette Thompson should start at end, with Josh Shirley serving as a designated pass rusher.  Providing depth in the line are Sione Potoa’e and Talia Crichton.  This unit will perform better in 2011.

 

Linebackers

Here is Sarkisian’s headache, and the reason the defense may not improve overall.  Middle linebacker Cort Dennison is a good defender, having made 93 tackles with 8 ½ behind the line and defending five passes.  John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono are untested.  Garret Gilliland is available here as well.  This is the weakest trio in the Pac-12, and replacing Mason Foster and his league-leading 161 tackles will be impossible.

 

Secondary

When healthy, this is a tough unit.  However, as of this writing, one of its key components is recuperating from an ankle injury that may prevent him from starting the season opener.  Cornerback Quinton Richardson intercepted two passes among his 10 passed defended, and he will likely be replaced by Greg Ducre for the Eastern Washington game.

 

Safety Nathan Fellner led the Huskies with five interceptions and 13 passes defended.  Cornerback Desmond Trufant posted 48 tackles and defended five passes.  His counterpart will be sophomore Sean Parker, who picked off one pass in limited duty.

 

OTHER

2011 presents UW with a tough schedule.  The non-conference slate includes games with Hawaii and Nebraska (in Lincoln).  In conference play, the Huskies must play at Utah, Stanford, USC, and Oregon State.  The Apple Cup game with WSU has been moved to Qwest Field and will not be as much of a home field advantage.

 

 

SUMMARY

We have a lot of confidence in Sarkisian and his two coordinators, Doug Nussmeier on offense and Nick Holt on defense.  They have just enough talent to compete against everybody but Stanford and Oregon.  UW could win six or seven games again even without Locker at quarterback.

 

California

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Coach Jeff Tedford has developed some outstanding quarterbacks here, including current Super Bowl Champion QB Aaron Rodgers, Kyle Boller.  As OC at Oregon, he had Joey Harrington, A. J. Feely, and Akili Smith.  At Fresno State before that, he tutored Trent Dilfer, David Carr, and Billy Volek.  In other words, Tedford knows a thing or two about quarterback development.

 

This year, he welcomes Zach Maynard from the University of Buffalo.  Maynard has beaten out last year’s starter Brock Mansion and sophomore Allan Bridgford.  Look for Maynard to easily surpass last year’s off-season for Cal in yardage and touchdowns (2,101 yards and 15 touchdowns).  Look for a return of 200+ yards through the air and 20 touchdowns or more.

 

Receivers

The Bears’ top two receivers return in Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen, who teamed for 96 receptions and 1,255 yards.  Michael Calvin started three times and caught 13 passes.  Anthony Miller returns at tight end after hauling in 13 passes.  Look for steady improvement here with Maynard throwing the pigskin.

 

Running Backs

Tedford is also known for developing 1,000-yard rushing backs.  Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, and the just departed Shane Vereen are prime examples.  Vereen does not have a likely 1,000-yard back replacing him this year.

 

This could be a year in which Cal uses a running back by committee.  Isi Sofele, Covauhgn DeBoskie-Johnson, and C. J. Anderson could split the carries, but the freshman Anderson has the skills to eventually become the feature back.  Cal averaged just 159 yards on the ground, which is a multi-year low in the Tedford era.  Look for better overall results, with the new trio combining for about 175 yards per game.

 

Offensive Line

This will be an improved unit in 2011.  Three starters return, including 1st Team All-Pac-12 tackle Mitchell Schwartz.  Guards Brian Schwenke and Matt Summers-Gavin are the other two veterans of the line.  Dominic Galas will start at center.  He started once in 2009.  Matt Williams is a famous sports name in the Bay area; Cal’s version will start at the vacant tackle position.  This group could give up less than 20 sacks and block well enough for the backs to average better than 4.5 yards per rush.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

There is rebuilding to do all throughout the defense this year, and the Bears will take a step backward on this side of the ball.  The line returns just one starter from the 3-man unit and loses a 1st team all-conference player in Cameron Jordan.

 

DeAndre Coleman returns at end after registering 18 tackles as a platoon player.  He did not make a sack or hurry a quarterback.  Trevor Guyton started four games and played in seven more, getting in on 29 tackles with 8 ½ for loss.  At the nose position is a human eclipse.  Viliami Moala is 6-3 and 350 pounds.  The true freshman is one of Cal’s most prized recruits, and he has won the starting job from day one.

 

Linebackers

Two starters return to this four-man unit, one of whom is a legitimate star.  The Bears lose another star with the departure of leading tackler Mike Mohamed to the NFL Draft.

 

Mychal Kendricks led the Bears with 8 ½ sacks and 15 total tackles for loss.  His fellow inside linebacker mate, D. J. Holt, returns after making 85 tackles.  On the outside, redshirt freshman David Wilkerson will man one spot, while the other one is up for grabs between Chris McCain, Ryan Davis, and Cecil Whiteside, none of whom have played here.

 

Secondary

Two starters return to the back line of defense.  Safety Sean Cattouse is the closest thing to a star on this unit.  He intercepted a pass and broke up seven others last year.  D. J. Campbell will start opposite him after making 21 tackles in reserve last year.

 

Marc Anthony returns at one cornerback slot.  He was credited with eight passes defended with two interceptions.  The new corner will be Steve Williams, who intercepted a pass and knocked away four others in reserve.  Overall, this is a reliable but not spectacular secondary.

 

OTHER

The kicking game is in good shape with the return of two quality players.  Bryan Anger narrowly missed leading the league in punting, while Giorgio Tavecchio has a strong leg and was 4-6 on field goal attempts from beyonf 40 yards.

 

Cal will have to play its home games away from campus this season, as Memorial Stadium undergoes some surgery.  The Bears will host Fresno State at Candlestick Park and play the rest of their home games at AT&T (Giants baseball) Park.  If the Giants are in the NLCS, Cal will have to move its game with USC.

 

SUMMARY

It all depends on the rebuilt defense.  Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast knows his stuff, and we believe he will mold the new players into a cohesive unit.  They will not stop everybody on the schedule, but just remember what Cal did to Oregon’s offense last year—15 points and 317 yards (Oregon gained almost 450 yards against Auburn).

 

The offense will be much improved and will easily top last season’s averages.  We would not be shocked if the Bears top 28 points per game and 400 total yards per game.

 

The schedule has just one cupcake—a week three game with Presbyterian.  Cal opens with Fresno State at Candlestick Park, and that is a trap game for sure.  Through a quirk in the schedule, the Bears will play 10 conference games this year.  The Colorado game will not count in the league standings, as this game was already on the schedule before the Buffs joined the Pac-12. 

 

Here is the catch.  Cal was 1-4 on the road last year, and in effect, all 12 games this year will be on the road.  If the two municipal parks provide them with the same homefield advantage as Memorial Stadium, then the Bears will go bowling in El Paso, Las Vegas, or a similar venue.  If not, then Tedford could be sitting on a hot seat.

 

Washington State

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Jeff Tuel is not another Jason Gesser or Alex Brink, but he is going to have a year not too different than the two former stars.  Tuel completed almost 60% of his passes for 2,780 yards and 18 touchdowns last year, and he has the potential to top 3,000 yards in 2011.

 

Marshall Lobbestael has starting experience, and if Tuel is injured, all will not be lost.  He does not have the accuracy of Tuel, but he will not be a deer in the headlights if he must go in.

 

Receivers

The Cougars return three starters here, one of whom was a Freshman All-American last year.  Marquess Wilson could be a 1st Team All-Pac-12 member this year after taking in 55 passes for 1,006 yards and six touchdowns.  He is a threat to take even a one yard pass and turn it into a long touchdown bolt.

 

Jared Karstetter hauled in a team-leading 62 passes and scored seven times.  He is strictly a possession receiver and uses his height to his advantage over smaller cornerbacks.  Isiah Barton and Gino Simone teamed up for 32 receptions and will supplement the two primary options.  Look for true freshman Henry Eaddy to challenge for a starting spot early in the season.

 

A new tight end/h-back must be found.  Coach Paul Wulff will choose between Jared Byers, Andrei Lintz, and Aaron Dunn.  This unit is in good shape overall.

 

Running Backs

WSU has not been able to generate a running game in six years.  The last three seasons have seen the Cougars rush for an average of less than 86 yards!  Of course, giving up 51 sacks in a season is enough to skew those rushing stats.  Removing the sacks, WSU rushed for about 115 yards per game with an average of 3.8 yards per rush.

 

Wulff will rely on a three-man platoon this year and hope to take enough heat off Tuel to prevent defenses from lining up and coming with five and six pass rushers.  Rickey Galvin, Logwone Mintz, and Carl Winston will split the load.  Look for the Cougars to top 100 yards rushing, but only by a little bit.

 

Offensive Line

This won’t be a major asset, but the blocking corps is going to be quite a bit improved in 2011.  Three starters return to this unit, but the new starters have enough experience to be considered quasi-starters.

 

Guard B. J. Guerra is the leader of this unit. He could challenge for 1st team all-conference honors this year.  Fellow guard John Fullington takes over on the other side after starting six times as a freshman.

 

Wade Jacobson and David Gonzales will man the tackle positions.  Jacobson started every game last year, while Gonzales has started seven games in the past.  He missed last season with an injury.

 

Andrew Roxas will be the new starting center.  He has nine career starts under his belt. 

 

This unit is not the equal of Oregon’s or Stanford’s, but they are no longer the weakest in the league here.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

The Cougars are still in need of a lot of improvement on this side of the line.  They gave up 220 yards per game on the ground (average of 5.6/rush) and made just 23 sacks. 

 

Two starters return to the trenches this year.  End Travis Long led the team with five sacks and 10 ½ tackles for loss.  Tackle Brandon Rankin made just 19 stops, but five were for losses.  The new starters figure to be Anthony Laurenzi at tackle and Adam Coerper at end.  Coerper is a fast developer; he moved from number four to number one in just a couple weeks.

 

Linebackers

This unit is a little stronger than the one in front.  Two starters return here.  Alex Hoffman-Ellis finished second on the squad with 81 tackles, while middle linebacker C. J. Mizell added 57 stops with six for loss.  Sekope Kaufusi is the new starter at the Sam position.  He made 22 tackles in a limited role last year.

 

Secondary

If there is a strong unit on this side of the ball, this is it.  However, it is hard to call this quartet a major asset. 

 

It is never great when your leading tackler is your strong safety.  Deone Bucannon led WSU with 84 tackles.  He intercepted a couple passes and knocked away five more.  Tyree Toomer is the other starting safety.  He is adequate against the pass but better supporting the run.

 

Cornerbacks Daniel Simmons and Nolan Washington combined for 62 tackles but only seven passes defended.  Washington is nursing a sore hamstring, so he will be slow to start the season.

 

OTHER

Washington State’s last winning season was 2003, which was the third consecutive 10-win season.  The Cougars have fallen on rough times since.  Defense has been the major problem, as WSU has given 35 or more points per game the last three years.  We believe that streak will come to an end this season, but not by much.

 

SUMMARY

The schedule should allow Wulff’s Cougars to start 2-0 after they open with Idaho State and UNLV.  Game three will be the bell-weather game.  When the Cougars go to San Diego State, they might even be favored.  If they win the game to move to 3-0, then there is a chance, albeit small, that they could find a way to win three in the conference and make it to a bowl.  We tend to believe they will fall short this year, but they could easily double their win total from last year.

 

SOUTH DIVISION

Southern California

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Matt Barkley is the best second best quarterback in a league since Colt McCoy at Texas in 2008 and 2009.  He might be the top quarterback in every other conference in America.  Last year even though he missed a game and parts of another, he completed 62.6% of his passes for 2,791 yards and 26 touchdowns. 

 

The Trojans are stocked here with three other quality passers.  Jesse Scroggins is out indefinitely with an injured hand, but true freshmen Max Wittek and Cody Kessler have star potential.  The Trojans will rely more on the pass this year, and we expect them to average more than 250 yards per game through the air.

 

Receivers

As a freshman, Robert Woods may have been one of the three best receivers in the league.  He finished with 65 receptions and six touchdowns last year and could top 80 receptions this season.

 

Behind him, the Trojans are inexperienced.  Marqise Lee could start as a true freshman.  Kyle Prater is a redshirt freshman, but at 6-05, he will be a tough matchup problem.  Brice Butler has played sparingly in two seasons.

 

Tight end/H-back Rhett Ellison hauled in 21 passes and scored three times in 2010.  Look for him to get more balls thrown his way this year.

 

Running Backs

Who would have thought that an internet gossip site could affect a college football team?  Starting tailback Marc Tyler ran his mouth off to TMZ.com, and it cost him his spot in the lineup.  Coach Lane Kiffin suspended him indefinitely over his remarks.  Funny, Kiffin’s name has been dragged through the mud from coast to coast in numerous internet sites, yet he still has a job.

 

Tyler led the Trojans’ ground game with 913 yards and nine touchdowns.  Curtis McNeal figured to be his replacement, but he injured his knee and is doubtful for the season opener.  Dillon Baxter and C. J. Morgan will share the reps at running back until one of the other two is able to play again. 

 

Offensive Line

The Trojans are deep here.  Their two-deep is almost as good as Oregon’s, even though just two starters return.  Center Khaled Holmes is one of the best in the league.  Ditto for tackle Matt Kalil.  John Martinez and Abe Markowitz will start at the vacant guard positions, while Kevin Graf will man the vacant tackle spot.  Look for this group to provide excellent pass coverage for Barkley and surrender less than 20 sacks for the seventh year in a row.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Any defense with Monte Kiffin and Ed Orgeron coaching is going to be tough up front.  The Trojans have the top defensive line in the league and one of the best in the country.

 

Three starters return, but nose tackle Armond Armstead will have to share his spot with newcomer George Uko, and DaJohn Harris may be relegated to the second team in favor of Christian Tupou.

 

Nick Perry starts at one end, while Wes Horton inherits the other end spot.  Devon Kennard and Kevin Greene will spell the two starters and allow the Trojans to have fresh anchors on the edge.

 

Linebackers

If there is an Achilles’ heel in the defense, it is in the linebacker unit.  It would be hard to find the heel here, because the Trojans’ linebackers are going to make a lot of plays this year.

 

Devon Kennard returns to the middle after making 72 tackles with seven for losses.  Chris Galippo was a part-time starter and made 29 tackles.  Marquis Simmons will split time with Hayes Pullard at the other outside spot.

 

Secondary

This unit is almost as strong as the front line.  The loss of Shareece Wright and his 10 passes defended will be hard to overcome, but new starting cornerback Tony Burnett saw a lot of action last year and made 26 tackles.  He will join Nickell Robey, who led the team with four picks.

 

The two starting safeties are back for more.  Jawanza Starling and T. J. McDonald combined for 126 tackles and nine passes defended.

 

Nickel back Torrin Harris is good enough to be a regular for most teams.

 

OTHER

Kiffin was cleared in the recent investigation of the Tennessee football program.  The Trojans will be off probation after this season, and they will not be eligible for the Pac-12 Championship Game this year.

 

SUMMARY

USC should be 6-0 when they travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame on October 22, although they must face Arizona State in Tempe on September 24.  They follow that game with Stanford at the Coliseum. A trip to Eugene to face the Quack Attack in November is followed by a visit from cross-town rival UCLA. 

 

Southern Cal should win at least eight games this year, and we would not be surprised if they go 10-2.

 

Arizona State

OFFENSE

Quarterback

When healthy, Brock Osweiler is an effective quarterback.  At 6-08, he has no trouble seeing over the line, but he is mobile enough to be an effective runner.  In limited action last year, he completed 57% of his passes for 797 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.

 

The Sun Devils will be in a heap of trouble if Osweiler is absent for any length of time.  Redshirt freshman Taylor Kelly is the next best option, but he is not ready for Pac-12 football.

 

Receivers

Coach Dennis Erickson has loads of depth here but no true stars.  His projected three starters, Aaron Pflugrad, Mike Willie, and Gerell Robinson, all topped 25 receptions and combined for 94 total with 13 touchdowns.  T. J. Simpson caught 29 passes for 481 yards, but he is still recovering from ACL surgery in the spring.  Juco Transfer George Bell could see action early.

 

Tevor Kohl and Christopher Coyle could form a double tight end set, but ASU does not throw to their tight ends and uses them basically for blocking.

 

Running Backs

The Sun Devils have some depth here.  Cameron Marshall returns after leading the team with 787 yards and nine touchdowns.  James Morrison saw limited action in 2010, but he will move to number two on the depth chart.  Deantre Lewis will not be ready for the start of the season after suffering a gunshot wound that damaged his hamstring.  He finished second with 539 rushing yards.

 

Look for Marshall to threaten the 1,000 yard mark if Lewis does not see the field this year.

 

Offensive Line

Arizona State welcomes back all five starters from 2010, and this is why the Sun Devils have an excellent shot of advancing to the first Pac-12 Championship Game.

 

Center Garth Gerhart is a Remington Trophy contender.  Tackle Evan Finkenberg could contend for all-conference honors.  Guards Andrew Sampson and Mike Marcisz and tackle Aderious Simmons round out the unit.  Look for the total number of sacks allowed to drop by 5-10 from a rather high 31 in 2010.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Erickson’s front four performed admirably last year, giving up just 120 rushing yards, but they did not provide enough of a pass rush.  Both ends, Junior Onyeali and Jamaar Jarrett, return after teaming for 22 tackles for loss and 11 sacks.  Bo Moos and William Sutton will be the new tackles.  They are one-gap aggressors and not big beefeaters.  Corey Adams is making a charge to replace Moos.

 

Linebackers

This could have been one of the top units in the nation, but the loss of key starter Brandon Magee with a torn Achilles’ tendon has dropped it several rungs on the national ladder.  Vontaze Burfict led the team with 90 tackles last year, but he did not record a sack and only knocked away three passes.  Colin Parker made 57 tackles, while Oliver Aaron made 47 with 7 ½ for losses.  Aaron replaces Magee.  Shelly Lyons could crack the starting lineup in place of Parker.

 

Secondary

Here is the problem with the defense.  ASU gave up 245 passing yards per game and allowed a completion percentage of 63.2%.  Two full-time and one part-time starter must be replaced.  Cornerback Deveron Carr started part-time and made just eight tackles.  At the opposite corner, Osahon Irabor made 40 tackles with three passes defended.  Safety Eddie Elder registered 64 tackles with 5 ½ stops for loss and five passes defended.  Clint Floyd will start at the other safety spot after recording 30 tackles.

 

OTHER

The Sun Devils had a -6 turnover margin last year, and a lot of that had to do with a defense that could not create turnovers.  Expect some improvement on that side of the ball but not much.

 

SUMMARY

This is Arizona State’s year to shine, but injuries could hamper the process.  With Southern Cal ineligible for the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Sun Devils are the best of the rest in this weaker division. 

 

ASU may not have a gaudy record, because their out of conference slate includes games against Missouri and Illinois.  They could easily start 1-3, because their first conference game is against the Trojans.  Even if that happens, the Sun Devils can still rebound and go 6-3 in the league.  That should be good enough for second in this division, and at 7-5, they would be playing Oregon or Stanford for the Pac-12’s automatic BCS bowl berth.

 

Arizona

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Nick Foles returns after passing for 3,191 yards and 20 touchdowns.  He completed 67+% of his passes.  The situation is muddled after Foles.  Expected backup Bryson Beirne sprained his ACL and is out for several weeks.  Last year’s backup Matt Scott plans to redshirt this year, and that leaves true freshman Daxx Garman as the only other choice should Foles go down.

 

Receivers

Coach Mike Stoops has quality talent here with the return of his top four receivers.  Juron Criner, David Douglas, David Roberts, and Terrence Miller teamed for 207 receptions and 18 touchdowns.  Criner was the breakaway threat, while the other three were excellent possession receivers.

 

Dan Buckner joins the group after transferring from Texas.  He had starting experience with the Longhorns.

 

Running Backs

One of UA’s two platoon backs return this season.  Keola Antolin rushed for a team-leading 668 yards; he scored seven times.  Antolin also caught 28 passes with two more touchdowns.  The talent behind him is average.

 

Offensive Line

Oh no!  That’s the best way to describe this unit, as all five starters are missing.  Center Kyle Quinn is the only player to ever start a game, and he started a grand total of one.  Guards Trace Biskin and Chris Putton are as green as any starter in college football.  Tackles Fabbians Ebbele and Mickey Baucus are redshirt freshmen.  ‘Zona is going to regress by a considerable amount, and Foles is in danger of having to run for his life.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

The front line is almost in the same boat as the offensive line.  The Wildcats lose two NFL Draft choices.  Tackle Justin Washington is the lone returnee.  He made 46 stops with 11 ½ for loss and will contend for 1st Team All-Pac-12 honors this year. 

 

Sione Tuihalamaka starts at the other tackle position.  He made 23 stops with three going for losses.  The ends will be Mohammed Usman and C. J. Parrish.

 

Linebackers

Paul Vassallo returns to his Will linebacker position after leading the team with 102 tackles and eight for loss.  Derek Earls returns at the middle spot after making 44 tackles.  David Lopez will be the new starter at the Sam position.  This is an average unit.

 

Secondary

If Arizona has a strength on this side of the ball, it is in the secondary.  Free safety Robert Golden finished tied for third in the league with 13 passes defended, but he only intercepted one pass.  He’ll team with Marquis Flowers, who made 11 tackles as a freshman.

 

At Cornerback, Trevin Wade needs to improve on his four passes defended, while Shaquille Richardson becomes a full-timer after coming up with nine passes defended.  Without a strong pass rush, this unit will struggle a little.  

 

OTHER

Arizona has to visit Oklahoma State just prior to playing Stanford, Oregon, and USC in consecutive weeks.  This four-game losing streak could damage the morale of the new starters and doom Arizona to a losing season.

 

SUMMARY

The only sure wins on the schedule are the opener with Northern Arizona and the finale with Louisiana.  There are chances for maybe four conference wins, so the Wildcats could get to 6-6.  Who knows?  When Arizona faces Arizona State, if they are 4-4 in league play, the game could even be for a trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

 

U C L A

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Stanford is noted for its great tradition of outstanding quarterbacks.  UCLA is noted for its awful tradition of injured quarterbacks.  It seems like every starter since Cade McNown graduated in the 1990’s has suffered some injury.

 

Kevin Prince is just the latest in that trend.  He made it through five games last year, passing for 384 yards out of the new pistol offense.  His knee was not well enough to allow him to set and throw quickly, and the extra running from the new formation sent him to the sidelines. 

 

Backup Richard Brehaut returns after leading the Bruins with almost 1,300 passing yards.

 

Two more QBs could see playing time this year; that is if tradition holds, and quarterbacks go out with injuries.  Nick Crissman was a highly sought-after passer four years ago, while true freshman Brett Hundley is a dual threat.  Hundley might have challenged for a starting spot, but he tore his meniscus playing basketball and will not be ready at the start of the season.  Even before he suited up, the injury bugaboo hit him.  Expect more of the jinx in 2011.

 

Late Note: Brehaut sprained his foot in practice and will miss a few days.  JINX!

 

Receivers

If a healthy quarterback can get in a rhythm and start several games, he will be happy with the group of receivers on hand.  Nearly everybody that caught or even dropped a pass in 2010 is back in 2011.  Leading receiver Taylor Embree strained a calf muscle and will be slowed to start the season.  Embree made 32 receptions but did not convert any into touchdowns.

 

Anthony Barr and Nelson Rosario will start at the other two receiver spots; they teamed for 38 receptions but just one touchdown.  Tight end Cory Harkey made 14 catches.  How many touchdowns did he score? Zero!  Of course, the Bruins only scored nine times through the air.  Randall Carroll is the one legitimate long ball threat.  He will see a lot of action after averaging 16.2 yards on his 15 receptions—and with two whole touchdowns!

 

Running Backs

At last, here is one position that will not cause Coach Rick Neuheisel nightmares.  Jonathan Franklin rushed for 1,127 yards and eight scores, while averaging 5.3 yards per rush.  Backup Derrick Coleman added 487 yards and five scores.  If the passing game develops like it could, the running game could see its yardage drop a little, but the average per carry could top 4.5 yards.

 

Offensive Line

Additional injuries and academic issues have put a dark cloud over this unit.  Guard Stan Hasiak had to enroll in a junior college due to grades.  His expected replacement, Jeff Baca, will miss the start of the season with an ankle injury.  The other guard spot was expected to be filled by Chris Ward.  He suffered a sprained ankle and will miss some practice time.

 

At least tackles Mike Harris and Sean Sheller are healthy and experienced.  Center Kai Maiava missed all of last year, but his healthy return is the one bright spot here.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

The Bruins are in good shape here with a lot of depth and decent talent.  Damien Holmes and Datone Jones make up a quality pair of ends.  That is, if Jones can make a 100% comeback after a medical redshirt year in 2010.  Justin Edison and Cassius Marsh can plug a lot of gaps from their tackle positions. 

 

Linebackers

Will linebacker Sean Westgate made 90 tackles with four sacks and 11 total for losses.  He played tough against the short pass, knocking away four passes.  The unit will build around him.  Patrick Larimore missed Spring Practice, but he should be ready for the start of the season.  Glenn Love will start at the other linebacker spot after making 16 tackles as a reserve.

 

While not spectacular, this trio will not be the reason UCLA loses games this year.

 

Secondary

What looked like a possible strength has taken a pounding through injuries.  Somebody needs to investigate UCLA’s practice field.  Are they going on pavement or something?

 

Three starters return to the defensive backfield, including strong safety Tony Dye.  Dye led the Bruins with 96 tackles (remember what we said about strong safeties leading in tackles), while breaking up nine passes and pilfering one other.  His counterpart will be Dietrich Riley, who made 21 stops in reserve last year.

 

The cornerbacks are set with Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price.  The duo teamed for 51 tackles and 14 passes defended.  Jamie Graham figured to contend for a lot of playing time after transferring from Vanderbilt, but he suffered a meniscus tear that requires surgery and will be out until at least October.  Anthony Jefferson had to have surgery for a herniated disk in his back and will also be out all of September.

 

OTHER

Neuheisel is on the hot seat.  His three years in Westwood have produced a pair of 4-8 seasons with a 7-6 season in between.  He has two new coordinators this year.  Norm Chow went to Utah, so former 49ers’ offensive guru Mike Johnson takes over.  Joe Tresey is the new DC.  He was Brian Kelly’s DC at Cincinnati for two years.

 

SUMMARY

An opening game against Houston will be very interesting and reveal if UCLA has any chance of moving up from the dregs of the conference.  The next game against San Jose State should produce a win, but game three is against Texas.  The Bruins could be 1-2 and looking at another losing season; they could be 2-1 with a chance to get to seven wins.  If the quarterback play comes around with no injuries, they could even be 3-0.  If that’s the case, and the jinx can be avoided, they could be a dark horse for the South Division title, or at least the eligible team title.

 

Utah

OFFENSE

Quarterback

Welcome to the Pac-12 Jordan Wynn.  Wynn is 1-1 lifetime against conference opponents.  The Utes beat California in the 2009 Poinsettia Bowl, and he almost upset Oregon in the 2009 regular season.

 

Last year in the Mountain West Conference, Wynn completed 62.2% of his passes for 2,334 yards and 17 touchdowns.  He missed Spring Practice, but he should be ready for the start of the season.  With new offensive coordinator Norm Chow tutoring him, he should produce better numbers even in a tougher league.

 

Juco transfer Jon Hayes will be the primary backup this year.

 

Receivers

Utah does not have exceptional talent here this year.  The depth is not there.  DeVonte Christopher is a gem; he led the Utes with 660 yards in receptions, averaging almost 17 yards per catch.

 

H-Back Luke Matthews is another big play receiver, but he only got his hand on 18 passes last year.  He will be called on to block more than catch passes. 

 

Reggie Dunn will split time with Dres Anderson at the flanker position, while Kendrick Moeai starts at tight end.

 

Running Backs

Utah must replace its two-platoon set of runners.  They combined for more than 1,400 yards on the ground and 19 touchdowns.  Juco transfer John White will get first crack at starting, but Tauni Vakapuna should get a lot of attempts in short yardage situations.  He’s 5-09 and 229 pounds, so tackling him will be like stopping a large boulder coming down a mountain.

 

Offensive Line

This is not a strong unit.  Center Tevita Stevens is more than capable after earning 3rd Team All-MWC honors last year.  Tackles John Cullen and Tony Bergstrom have the experience with Bergstrom earning 2nd Team All-MWC honors.  Both projected starting guards will miss the start of the season, and Coach Kyle Whittingham has not yet settled on one of the replacements.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

There is some talent here, but overall, this is not an exceptional unit.  Star Lotulelei may one day live up to his name, but the nose tackle is an unknown commodity at the moment.  The other tackle will see a platoon between James Aiono and Dave Kruger.

 

Derrick Shelby and Joe Kruger will start at end.  Shelby made 6 ½ stops for loss last year. 

 

Linebackers

This is the strongest unit of a weak defense.  All three starters from last year return, and they finished one, two, and four in tackles.

 

Chaz Walker led the Utes with 113 tackles, while making seven for losses.  Hybrid linebacker/safety Matt Martinez made 91 tackles, while Brian Blechen added 67 stops and proved to be excellent against the pass with nine passes defended, four of them interceptions.

 

Secondary

The Utes have to start over here, as all four 2010 starters are gone.  Cornerbacks Conroy Black and Ryan Lacy have some experience, and Lacy has sprinter’s speed, so he will make up for a few mistakes before it can hurt the team.

 

Juco transfer Keith McGill will join true freshman Eric Rowe and sophomore Michael Walker at safety.

 

OTHER

Whittingham has expressed some concerns with his place kickers, as Coleman Petersen and Nick Marsh have been inconsistent in practice.

 

The Utes will miss punt returner Shaky Smithson, who took two back the distance last year, while averaging 19.1 yards per return to lead the nation.

 

SUMMARY

It is going to be a rough first season in the Pac-12 for the Utes.  Their offense will not equal last season’s production of 33 points and 389 yards, and their defense will give up more than 2010’s 20 points and 337 yards.

 

After an opening game with Montana State, Utah faces USC and BYU on the road.  They get a week off before starting conference play in earnest.  Mixed in the middle of the schedule is a trip to Pittsburgh. 

 

We see a 1-2 non-league record and then a struggle to win three more games.  At least, the Utes play neither Oregon nor Stanford.

 

Colorado

OFFENSE

Quarterback

New coach Jon Embree and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy return to their alma mater to light a fire in the Buffaloes’ offense.  They inherit co-starter Tyler Hansen, who completed 68% of his passes but averaged less than 10 yards per completion.

 

Juco transfer Brent Burnette could challenge Hansen for the job.  Overall, this is the weakest QB roster in the Pac-12.

 

Receivers

Paul Richardson is sure to start after leading the Buffs with a 15.1 yard average per catch.  He grabbed 34 passes and scored six times.  Logan Gray, a former QB at Georgia, is immediately eligible and will start.  The other position will be split between Toney Clemons and true freshman Tyler McCulloch.  There is potential here, but they may need another season of experience.

 

Running Backs

Rodney Stewart is “the man.”  He was the Buffaloes’ offense last year, rushing for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Bieniemy may sound like a broken record calling his number over and over again this year.

 

Offensive Line

Three starters return to a rather decent unit.  Ryan Miller and Ethan Adkins form a formidable pair of guards, while David Bakhtiari is a plus at tackle.  Jack Harris earned the other starting tackle nod, but he has never played in a college game in two years at CU.  There is a two-man battle to fill the center spot that would have belonged to Mike Iltis had he not given up football.  Daniel Munyer and Gus Handler are neck and neck.

 

DEFENSE

Defensive Line

The Buffs are hurting on this side of the ball.  They will have a weaker defense than Washington State this year.  However, the four-man D-line is not all that bad.

 

Josh Hartigan and Chidera Uzo Diribe will make a decent pair of ends.  Hartigan made seven QB sacks as a designated pass rusher last year and will be more of a linebacker than end, while Will Pericak will play more like an end than a tackle.  Curtis Cunningham and Conrad Obi will play inside.  This unit has depth and some talent.

 

Linebackers

Unless you count Hartigan as a true linebacker, this unit is in need of a transfusion.  Jon Major made 57 tackles at the Will position last year, but too many of them were after nice gains by the enemy.  Derrick Webb and Douglas Rippy are not the answer and will be exploited.

 

Secondary

CU will be lit up via the passing game, as the secondary is not Pac-12 caliber.  Safeties Ray Polk and Anthony Perkins will make a lot of tackles, but officials will be signaling “first down” on most of them.  Travis Sandesfeld and Greg Henderson are subpar at cornerback.

 

OTHER

Colorado plays at Hawaii, so the Buffs will have 13 games on their schedule.  The contest with California in week two will not count as a Pac-12 game, since it was previously scheduled as a non-conference game.

 

SUMMARY

Because they play 13 games, there is a good chance CU will suffer through a double-digit loss season.  They play at Hawaii and at Ohio State outside of the league, and they face rival Colorado State at Invesco Field in Denver.  It will be a long first year for Embree.

 

2011 Pacific 12 Conference Media Poll

Team

1st Place Votes

Points

North Division

 

 

Oregon

29

239

Stanford

13

220

Washington

 

142

Oregon State

 

120

California

 

110

Washington St.

 

51

 

 

 

South Division

 

 

Southern Cal

24

230

Arizona St.

13

207

Utah

4

170

Arizona

1

140

U C L A

 

89

Colorado

 

46

 

 

 

Pac-12 Championship

 

Oregon

 

28

Stanford

 

11

Arizona State

 

3

 

 

2011 Pac-12 Conference PiRate Ratings

Team

PiRate #

Prediction

North Division

 

 

Stanford

126.4

9-0/13-0*

Oregon

125.6

8-1/11-1

Oregon State

112.9

5-4/6-6

Washington

112.9

5-4/7-5

California

111.3

3-6/6-6

Washington St.

102.8

3-6/5-7

   

 

South Division  

 

Southern Cal

117.2

7-2/9-3

Arizona St.

116.6

6-3/8-5

Arizona

113.1

3-6/5-7

U C L A

110.9

3-6/4-8

Utah

108.4

2-7/3-9

Colorado

101.8

0-9/1-12

   

 

* Stanford picked to defeat Arizona State
in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game.

 Coming Friday Night: A look at what’s left of the Big 12 Conference.

August 18, 2010

2010 Pac-10 Football Preview

Go to www.piratings.webs.com where we beat the spread 60.4% in 2009!

 

2010 Pac-10 Conference Preview

Pac-10 Commissioner Larry Scott attempted to shake the college football world in June by luring Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Colorado to form the Pac-16.  Instead, he had to settle for just CU and Utah.

Southern California made more headlines after the football season than during it, and they continued to stay in the news all summer.  After being placed on major probation, the Trojans will not be eligible for the postseason.  They lost several players who were allowed to become eligible immediately at other schools.  It cost Athletics Director Mike Garrett his job.

Pete Carroll left for the Seattle Seahawks before this all came to a head.  So, who is the honest-to-a-fault replacement?  Who is the guy that has been hired to run a clean program?  LANE KIFFIN!  Yes, the ex-Oakland Raiders coach, who left Alameda County in a cloud of controversy.  The ex-Tennessee Volunteers coach, who left the Vols looking at possible probation.  He brings Ed Orgeron with him.  Is the death penalty still an option in football?

USC is out of the bowl picture, and now the league will need six bowl eligible teams other than the Trojans to fulfill their contractual agreements.  This league is so balanced; any of the top seven teams could win the conference championship.  The Oregon Ducks lost Jeremiah Masoli, and still the PiRate Computer shows them to be the most powerful team in the nation in week one.  That aside, we cannot see Oregon, or any other Pac-10 team running the table in conference play, and we believe that two losses will earn a piece of the title.

Note: The PiRate Ratings are not meant to be used to predict the outcome of future games.  They are usable only as a basis for the current week’s games.  We do not use these ratings to make our selections.  They are only a starting point.  The predictions given below, as for every college conference and NFL division, are not taken from the ratings themselves.

Predictions

Pos Team P10 W-L
1 Oregon 7-2 10-2
2 Arizona 7-2 10-2
3 Oregon State 6-3 7-5
4 California 6-3 9-3
5 Southern Cal 5-4 8-5
6 Stanford 5-4 7-5
7 Washington 4-5 6-6
8 U C L A 4-5 5-7
9 Arizona State 1-8 3-9
10 Washington State 0-9 1-11

 

BCS (Rose) Bowl: Oregon

Alamo Bowl: Arizona

Holiday Bowl: California

Sun Bowl: Washington

Las Vegas Bowl: Stanford

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Oregon State

 

 

Team By Team Breakdown

Team Arizona Wildcats
               
Head Coach Mike Stoops
               
Colors Cardinal and Navy
               
City Tucson, AZ
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-3
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 116.0
               
National Rating 21
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 7-2
Overall 10-2

 

Offense: The biggest loss on this side of the ball is offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, who took over at Louisiana Tech.  Arizona couldn’t move the ball until Dykes brought the “Air Raid” offense to Tucson in 2007.

The Wildcats have two very capable quarterbacks.  Starter Nick Foles led ‘Zona to the brink of the Pac-10 Championship last year, coming up just short in overtime against Oregon.  Foles passed for 2,486 yards and 19 scores and should post better numbers this year.  Backup Matt Scott is a dual-threat runner-passer.  He forces opponents to prepare for two different game plans.

Coach Mike Stoops can call on multiple players to line up at receiver.  He can go with two tight ends or no tight ends and has talented choices both ways.  Juron Criner led the ‘Cats with 582 receiving yards, and he will get plenty of help from David Douglas, Bug Wright, and tight ends A.J. Simmons and David Roberts.

The Wildcats used a trio of backs last year and should continue to split the carries.  Keola Antolin led with 637 on the ground and caught 17 short passes. Nic Grigsby added 567 yards with an eye-popping 7.2 yard average.

A senior-dominated offensive line should continue to open running holes and protect the passers.  Arizona surrendered just 13 sacks in 2009.  Center Colin Baxter earned 1st Team All-Pac-10 honors last year, and he should be an early draft pick next Spring.

Can Arizona continue their dominance on this side of the ball without Dykes calling the plays?  We say they can.  Look for the Wildcats to score 26-30 points and gain 375-400 yards per game.

Defense: Stoops loses his defensive coordinator as well; his brother Mark went to Florida State.  He also loses seven starters, including his top four tacklers.  The biggest concern is at linebacker, where there will be three new players in the starting lineup.  Two of the projected starters were junior college players last year, and the third saw limited action here.  None of the graduated players were top caliber, so the drop in production could be minimal.

The front line should be quite good.  Ends Ricky Elmore and Brooks Reed return to anchor the perimeter.  Elmore finished third in the league with 10 ½ sacks. 

The secondary returns a 1st Team All-Pac-10 performer in cornerback Trevin Wade.  Wade led the team with five interceptions and nine passes broken up.

The Wildcats are expected to take a small step backward on this side of the ball, but we believe the defense will regress less than the offense improves.  Arizona may control the clock more in an attempt to help the defense.  Look for 21-24 points and 300-325 yards allowed, or about the same as last season.

Schedule: Outside of league play, Arizona has one easy game, one difficult game, and one interesting game.  They start off at Toledo on Friday night, September 3.  The Rockets will test the new defense.  They host The Citadel the following week, and they should light up the scoreboard.  The following week, Big Ten contender Iowa visits Arizona Stadium. 

The Wildcats face Oregon in Eugene and Stanford in Palo Alto.  We could see Stoops and company coming up one game short again this season, but win double-digit games, as long as the defense gels.

Team Arizona State Sun Devils
               
Head Coach Dennis Erickson
               
Colors Maroon and Gold
               
City Tempe, AZ
               
2009 Record              
Conference 2-7
Overall 4-8
               
PiRate Rating 99.0
               
National Rating 62
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 1-8
Overall 3-9

 

Offense: The Sun Devils suffered through consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1946-47, and if they don’t right the ship this year, it could be the end for Coach Dennis Erickson.  After starting his ASU tenure at 8-0, he has gone 11-18 since.

A lack of offense has been the reason for the decline in Tempe.  With just three starters returning on this side of the ball, it could spell doom for State this year.  They lost their top runner, top passer, and top two receivers, so you have to consider this a rebuilding season.

The Sun Devils will switch to a no-huddle, wide-open offense under first-year offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.  Piloting that attack could be one of three players.  Former Michigan quarterback Steven Threet was thought to be the front-runner, but Brock Osweiler and Samson Szakacsy are battling for the starting nod.  Look for Erickson to use Szakacsy as a running threat off the bench, and we believe Threet will open as starter.

There will be a two-man platoon at running back as well.  Cameron Marshall should start.  He rushed for just 280 yards and two touchdowns last year as the top reserve.  True freshman Deantre Lewis will get a hard look at supplanting Marshall.  He will see action right away.

Keeping with the program, ASU will rotate receivers, because they have several decent but no great pass catchers.  Kerry Taylor and Gerell Robinson are the two most experienced receivers, but they combined for just 49 catches and 537 yards.

The offensive line took a beating with the unexpected loss of loss of guard Zach Schlink to a career-ending knee injury.  Backup guard Jon Hargis was already out with an ACL injury, so there is going to be some depth issues in the line.  Center Garth Gerhart is the only experienced lineman left.

With a new offense and several new players, it looks grim for the Sun Devils this year.  We don’t believe they can improve on last year’s mediocre numbers.  Call it 17-21 points and 300-325 yards per game this year.

Defense: Things don’t look much better on this side of the ball, as ASU lost five of their top six tacklers, including most of their best pass defenders.  In a pass-happy league, this spells trouble.

Arizona State needs a spectacular pass rush this year, and they have two excellent tackles that could fit the bill.  Lawrence Guy and Saia Falahola combined for 8 ½ sacks.  End James Brooks has the potential to be a pass rushing stud, and we believe he will lead the Devils in sacks this year.

Middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict is nursing a bad ankle in August practice, but he should be ready for the season.  He is the only returning starter to the linebacking unit.  Burfict is strong against both the run and pass.

The secondary was one of the best in the league last year, holding opposing quarterbacks to just 53% completions and 189 yards.  All four starters are gone (combined for six interceptions and 18 passes broken up).  Former starter Omar Bolden returns to his cornerback spot after missing 2009 with an injury.  The other projected saw action last year, so the fall-off shouldn’t be severe.

Arizona State gave up just 21 points and 298 yards per game last year, which would have been good enough for a 9-3 record with a decent offense.  Expect those numbers to suffer some this year.  We’ll call for 23-26 points and 320-340 yards allowed per game.

Schedule: The Sun Devils will go 2-1 outside of the Pac-10.  They host Portland State and Northern Arizona, and they play at Wisconsin.  In conference play, they fortunately host Washington State; that is their only sure win in the league.  They get two bye weeks in conference play, so a road game against Cal and home game with UCLA following those bye weeks will give the coaching staff time to come up with solid plans.  Maybe, they can get one more conference win, but we cannot see ASU sniffing bowl eligibility this year.

Team California Golden Bears
               
Head Coach Jeff Tedford
               
Colors Blue and Gold
               
City Berkeley, CA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 5-4
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 112.5
               
National Rating 31
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-3
Overall 9-3

 

Offense: Coach Jeff Tedford has consistently put together well-balance, high-scoring offenses in Berkeley.  His Bear teams average 30 points per game year in and year out.  He has an experienced quarterback, a running back sure to top 1,000 yards rushing, and a stable of excellent receivers.  His offensive line is talented and very experienced.  So, it is easy to be optimistic about this season’s attack side.

Quarterback Kevin Riley won’t challenge the league’s top passers in passer rating, total yards, or touchdown passes, but the senior knows how to move his team.  Expect Riley to pass for 3,000 yards this year.

The Bears lost Jahvid Best who went to the NFL a year early.  Best was injured last year, and Shane Vereen took his place in the lineup for the last four games.  He finished the season with 952 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns and caught 25 passes.  Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson will get some touches as well.  In limited action last year, he averaged 6.8 yards per rush.

Marvin Jones and Jeremy Ross will not team to catch 150 passes, but both can get open deep and burn a secondary for a quick score.  Tight end Anthony Miller is one of the top three at his position in the Pac-10, and he should improve on his 26 receptions of 2009.

The offensive line returns four starters that have combined for 70 career starts.  Tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Matt Summers-Gavin form a great pair of outside blockers.

Cal should top last year’s offensive averages by a little.  Tedford’s teams usually score 28-33 points per game, and we will go for 31-35 this year with 400+ yards of total offense per game.

Defense: The Bears were too generous on this side of the ball last year, and it led to a conference average of 28 points allowed.  Six starters return, but there are enough holes on this side to keep Cal from contending for a top 10 finish.

The Bears switched to a 3-4 defense last year, and the front seven performed well against the run.  Even with 31 sacks, the pass defense gave up almost 270 yards per game.

Up front, two starters return to the three-man trench.  Nose tackle Derrick Hill controls the middle and commands more than one blocker to move out of the way.  You won’t see his name high up in the defensive stats, but he deserves an assist every time the inside linebackers get in on a stop.  End Cameron Jordan dumped quarterbacks six times last year, and he will have to step it up with the departure of Tyson Alualu, a first round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Linebackers Mike Mohamed and Mychal Kendricks return after finishing one-two in tackles a year ago (combined for 183).  Both proved dangerous against the run and dropping off into the underneath pass zones.

The secondary was a weak point in 2009, and two starters must be replaced.  Cal picked off just 11 passes, but they knocked away several.  Unfortunately, the top pass defenders have moved on.  Safety Sean Cattouse intercepted one pass and broke up three; he leads the group this season.

Cal just doesn’t have enough talent on this side of the ball to consistently stop the great offenses in this league.  Look for the Bears to surrender 25-28 points and 375-400 yards.

Schedule: Cal should go 3-0 before league play begins.  The Bears host UC Davis and Colorado before jogging over to Reno to take on Nevada in what should be a great game.  Road games with Arizona, USC, and Oregon State will be tough, and home games with Oregon, Stanford, and Washington won’t be easy.  We’ll call for a 6-3 conference mark and 9-3 overall.  In a wild season, 6-3 could actually challenge in the wild Pac-10.

Team Oregon Ducks
               
Head Coach Chip Kelly
               
Colors Green and Yellow
               
City Eugene, OR
               
2009 Record              
Conference 8-1
Overall 10-3
               
PiRate Rating 126.2
               
National Rating 1
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 7-2
Overall 10-2

 

Offense: Is it possible that the Ducks can contend for the national championship after booting Heisman Trophy candidate Jeremiah Masoli off the team?  The PiRate computer says the Ducks are the number one team on September 1 (*–see note at the end about why the PiRate Ratings are used for just the next week of the season and are not meant to be used to look forward).

Second year head man Chip Kelly had to deal with the loss of a key weapon after one game last year and found an even better replacement.  Tailback LaMichael James rushed for 1,546 yards and 14 touchdowns after LeGarrette Blount opted for a boxing career that lasted one punch.  James could carry the ball 300 times this season and threaten the 2,000 yard mark if there wasn’t such great depth here.  True freshman Lache Seastrunk and sophomore Kenjon Barner could top 1,000 yards rushing if they either was the starter.  Look for the Ducks to top 200 yards, maybe 250, on the ground this season.

Making the running game all the more powerful is the return of the entire starting offensive line.  It is the best run-blocking line in the league and ranks with Ohio State and Wisconsin as one of the best run-blocking fronts in college football.  Both guards, Mark Asper and Carson York, should make either 1st or 2nd Team All-Pac-10.  Tackle Bo Thran will do so as well.

Filling the big shoes of Masoli will not be easy, but Kelly has two talented possibilities.  Pure drop back passer Nate Costa has worse knees than Joe Namath, but the senior has started and won in the Pac-10 before.  Sophomore Darron Thomas has the tools to be another Masoli, but he has to learn to cut down on mistakes.

Whoever starts at quarterback will have a decent group of receivers on hand.  D.J. Davis, Lavasier Tuinei, and Jeff Maehl all return after starting last season and combining for 100 receptions.  Oregon will use more play-action passes this year, and we expect the yards per catch to increase.

It looks like another big year on this side of the ball for the Ducks.  We think they can top 40 points per game, but we believe Kelly may try to control the clock a little more this season to help his defense.  We’ll call for 35-38 points and 410-440 yards per game.

Defense: The Ducks gave up 73 scrimmage plays per game last year and still made it to the Rose Bowl.  Expect Kelly to address this and try to hold onto the ball more this year.  If this defense can defend 10 fewer plays, Oregon could run the table.

Eight of the top nine tacklers return from last year including the Pac-10’s sack leader.  End Kenny Rowe made 11 ½ sacks and 15 total tackles for loss.  He knocked down four passes as well.  To the inside, Brandon Bair made 8 ½ tackles behind the line.

Two potential 1st team all-conference players line up at linebacker.  Spencer Paysinger and Casey Matthews can blitz and disrupt plays and can cover their pass zones as competently as anybody.  The duo combined for 162 tackles, 4 ½ sacks, 12 ½ total tackles for loss, and 13 passes defended.

The secondary is better than the other two units and the best in the league.  The move of former starting linebacker Eddie Pleasant to safety makes the Ducks tough against the run and the pass on the back line.  Pleasant will blitz and get to the QB, and he will get his paws on a half dozen or more passes.  Cornerback Talmadge Jackson intercepted four passes and broke up six.

Oregon has the pieces in place to improve considerably on this side of the ball, but the Pac-10 offenses as a whole are even better this year than last.  Look for the Ducks to give up 18-23 points and 325-350 yards per game.

Schedule: Oregon will get off to a quick 3-0 start before Pac-10 play begins.  The Ducks open with New Mexico at home, visit a rebuilding Tennessee in week two, and host Portland State the following week.

We give the Ducks the leg up on Arizona in league play because the two teams face off at Autzen Stadium, one of the best home field advantages in college football (The Ducks’ winning percentage at home is more than 20% better than on the road in the 21st Century).  We think UO will not be able to run the table, because the Pac-10 is just too balanced.  Look for them to stumble once or twice.  The Beavers will be waiting for revenge in the Civil War on December 4.

Team Oregon State Beavers
               
Head Coach Mike Riley
               
Colors Orange and Black
               
City Corvallis, OR
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-3
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 113.7
               
National Rating 24
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 6-3
Overall 7-5

 

Offense: The Beavers have improved offensively the last four seasons, going from 27.8 points and 360 yards in 2006 to 31.5 points and 411 yards last year.  Look for a small retreat this season.

OSU lost quarterback Sean Canfield to the New Orleans Saints, and his replacement is a lightly experienced Sophomore.  Canfield passed for almost 3,300 yards and 21 touchdowns, and new QB Ryan Katz will not duplicate those numbers.

The best running back in the State of Oregon and best in the Pac-10 resides in Corvallis and not Eugene.  Jacquizz “Quizz” Rodgers raced for 1,440 yards and 21 touchdowns and also caught 78 passes last year.  Coach Mike Riley will use Rodgers to take the heat off Katz and force secondary defenders to cheat up.

James Rodgers is to pass catching what Quizz is to running.  He is the best in the Pac-10.  Last year, he led the league in receptions by 21 catches!  His 91 receptions went for 1,034 yards.  His presence will make it easier for Jordan Bishop and Markus Wheaton.

An experienced offensive line returns four starters including Freshman All-American tackle Michael Philipp and senior center Alex Linnenkohl, a three-year regular.

If Katz can develop and take enough heat off the running game, the Beavers have a championship-caliber offense.  We think he will have some growing pains, but by mid-October, OSU will be tough to stop.  Call it 28-33 points and 400-425 yards per game.

Defense: The Beavers have come up short by one game the last three years because they have not been able to stop the elite teams.  Against the rest, their defenses have looked outstanding.

For OSU to challenge this year, the pass rush has to improve.  The Beavers had just 17 sacks last year, and they return three starting linemen who should lead the team and move that number past 20.  Tackles Stephen Paea and Brennan Olander are even better against the run, and opponents will not find much success running the ball inside.  End Gabe Miller needs a breakout year after sharing the lead with Paea for the QB Sacks lead with three.  He needs to approach double digit sacks if the Beavers have a chance to make it back to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 47 years.

Linebacker is a bit of a concern with the departure of their top two tacklers.  Dwight Roberson, Tony Wilson, and Keith Pankey are not all-conference performers.

Three starters return to a better than average secondary.  Safeties Cameron Collins and Lance Mitchell combined 142 tackles and 14 passed defended.  Cornerback James Dockery intercepted two passes and knocked away eight others.  New cornerback Brandon Hardin saw extensive action last year intercepting a pass and batting away four others.

Oregon State has to step it up and come up with better defensive efforts against the top teams in the league.  They padded their stats against the weaker teams.  There is no way their defensive numbers will be as good as last year, but they could still compete for the Pac-10 title.  We’ll predict 25-28 points and 350-375 yards allowed per game.

Schedule: Who made this schedule?  He should be tarred and feathered.  OSU must play both TCU and Boise State.  When this schedule was made, those two teams were already powerful.  The third non-conference team is Louisville, and when they were put in the schedule, they were as good as the other two.  The Beavers will be out of the national title picture before October.

In league play, the best thing going for OSU is that they get USC and Oregon at home.  The bad news is they get Arizona, Washington, and Stanford on the road.  They will need five conference wins to be bowl eligible.  We’ll say they get six.

Team Southern California Trojans
               
Head Coach Lane Kiffin
               
Colors Cardinal and Gold
               
City Los Angeles, CA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 5-4
Overall 9-4
               
PiRate Rating 110.9
               
National Rating 34
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 5-4
Overall 8-5

 

Offense:  Cue the organ music.  It’s time for the daily soap opera brought to you by the makers of Probation Suds.  On today’s episode of How Lame Can You Get, we find Lane Kiffin delaying the signing of papers to release ex-players and recruits who do not want to stay in LA.

Southern Cal received two years probation for numerous recruiting violations, and they brought in a coach that already had the NCAA investigators burning the midnight oil.  Eight key players and recruits left, able to become immediately eligible at other schools.

With all that aside, the Trojans still have lots of talent.  If enough have chips on their shoulders, and the team stays healthy, they could even take it out on the rest of the nation and run the table.  We think that is unlikely.

Quarterback Matt Barkley had a fine freshman season.  He completed 60% of his passes for 2,735 yards and 15 touchdowns.  He also threw 14 interceptions.  Backup Mitch Mustain was once considered the best quarterback prospect in the nation, and he started half a season at Arkansas as a freshman.

While there isn’t a Marcus Allen, Anthony Davis, Ricky Bell, or Charles White on this roster, USC has several talented running backs even with the loss of their 1,000 yard rushing starter from last year.  Junior Marc Tyler may be about to emerge and live up to his press clippings.  Allen Bradford, C.J. Gable, and fullback Stanley Havili will all see action as ball carriers.  Havili is a threat as a pass catcher too.

The Trojans lost their top two receivers, but they have a lot of talent ready to step in.  Ronald Johnson and Brice Butler have some game experience, and tight end Jordan Cameron could emerge as a force in the middle of zones.

Only two starters return to the offensive line, and a projected starter has gone while the getting was good.  All the new starters were highly sought recruits, so the drop in talent won’t be that much.

USC’s offensive numbers could go up a little this year, because Kiffin will run up the score on teams that have no chance.  Expect 27-31 points and 400 total yards.

Defense: The Trojans lost too much on this side of the ball to dominate or even compete for the Pac-10 title in our opinion.  You don’t replace Taylor Mays, Josh Pinkard, Kevin Thomas, and Everson Griffen with untested recruits and expect the same results.

Jurrell Casey and Nick Perry give the Trojans a good base to rebuild the defensive line.  Perry’s eight sacks tied for the team lead.  Wes Horton is a decent end, but he is not all-conference material.

All three starting linebackers return, but the Trojans are now a bit thin here due to a couple of defections.  Chris Galippo, Malcolm Smith, and Michael Morgan are the best trio in the league.

There are no returning starters to the secondary, and in the Pac-10, that will get you beat.  Cornerback T.J. Bryant will be the leader of this unit, but he will not come close to matching Mays or Thomas.  Shareece Wright was supposed to start in 2008 and again in 2009, but he’s been off the field for two years due to injuries and ineligibility.

Southern Cal gave up 11 more points and 118 more yards in 2009 than in 2008.  That trend will continue this year, but the weakening will be less.  Call it 21-25 points and 325-350 yards allowed.

Schedule: USC will play 13 games without going to a bowl thanks to an opening game at Hawaii.  They host Virginia and Notre Dame and play at Minnesota.  The Trojans could go 4-0, but we will call for 3-1.

In league play, USC travels to Stanford, Arizona, and Oregon State.  They host Oregon, Cal, and Washington.  They have the talent and swagger to play spoiler, but we think the personnel losses and general malaise creeping into this program will cause them to settle in the middle of the pack.  Remember, they were tied for 5th last year at 5-4.  We will call for a repeat in 2010.

Team Stanford Cardinal
               
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
               
Colors Cardinal and White
               
City Palo Alto, CA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 6-3
Overall 8-5
               
PiRate Rating 117.9
               
National Rating 18
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 5-4
Overall 7-5

 

Offense: The Cardinal finished in a tie for second last year thanks to an offense that topped 200 yards both on the ground and through the air.  With eight starters returning, even with the loss of their star running back, they should field another excellent offensive squad in 2010.

Expect the Cardinal to look more like many of the great teams from their past this year.  They will pass the ball with great effectiveness thanks to the return of the next Jim Plunkett.  Andrew Luck passed for 2,575 yards as a true freshman with 13 touchdowns to just four picks.  Expect Luck to top 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns this year and challenge Jake Locker for 1st Team All-Pac-10 and 1st Team All-American (like the good ole days when Plunkett and Sonny Sixkiller banged heads).

Coach Jim Harbaugh is licking his chops over the return of both starting wideouts and one of his two starting tight ends from last year.  Chris Owusu is a serious deep threat every time he catches the ball, but he has to cut out all the drops.  When he held onto the ball last year, he averaged 18.4 yards with his 37 receptions.  Ryan Whalen just missed 1,000 yards, ending with 926 on a team-leading 57 catches.  Tight end Coby Fleener caught 21 passes, and he will get more looks this year.

Replacing Toby Gerhart’s 1,871 yards and 28 touchdowns couldn’t be replicated with any back in the NCAA.  He was so consistent, in the manner of Larry Csonka and Jim Taylor, and that will be missed more than anything.  At this point in the preseason, Harbaugh has said that as many as six backs could see the field.  Jeremy Stewart, Stepfan, Taylor, and Tyler Gaffney appear to have a slight edge at the moment, but true freshmen Anthony Wilkerson and Ricky Seale and redshirt freshman Usua Amanam (the quickest back on the team) still have a real shot.  Don’t forget fullback Owen Marecic.  He will see action on both sides of the ball, as he has been moved to linebacker.

The offensive line ranks just behind Oregon for the best in the league.  Four starters return from a unit that gave up just seven sacks and opened holes for backs to run for 5.3 yards per attempt.  Andrew Phillips and David DeCastro make the best guard combo in the league.

Stanford will throw the ball more and run less this year.  The consistency may suffer a bit, but there will be days when this team cannot be stopped.  Look for the Cardinal to challenge for top scoring team in the league and once again score 35-40 points per game while gaining 425-450 yards per game.

Defense: Like many of the contenders in this league, Stanford doesn’t have a championship-caliber defense to match its offense.  As a result, the Cardinal will get in offensive shootouts with four or five opponents.  Remember, they beat Oregon last year 51-42, giving up an amazing 570 total yards and still winning.

Harbaugh brought in NFL veteran defensive coach Vic Fangio to rework the defense.  The Cardinal will switch to the same 3-4 defense Fangio used with the Baltimore Ravens.  He couldn’t bring Ray Lewis, Haloti Ngata, and Terrell Suggs with him.

All 3-4 defenses must have a big, strong nose guard to occupy more than one blocker and defend the middle.  Sione Fua fits that bill.  At 6-2 and 307, he will protect his linebackers behind him.  Ends Brian Buicke and Matthew Masifilo have starting experience, and former end Thomas Keiser dropped back one line.

Keiser anchors a solid quartet of linebackers.  He finished third in the league with 15 total tackles for loss (9 QB sacks) and should be a terror blitzing from outside.  Marecic will start next to him.  We think these two will work well together.

Three starters return to a secondary that gave up 265 passing yards per game last year.  If the front seven can improve on the 21 QB sacks of last year, this quartet should post better numbers.  Cornerback Richard Sherman led SU with 10 passes defended.  Strong safety Delano Howell supplied great run support.

With Gerhart, Stanford still saw opponents run three more scrimmage plays per game than they enjoyed.  The defense had to defend 68 plays per game.  If that number goes up into the 70’s, it is bad news.  The offense needs to help the defense out and have more time-consuming drives. 

We look for SU to give up 23-27 points and 375-400 yards per game this year. 

Schedule: A home game with Sacramento State kicks off the season.  Two weeks later Wake Forest comes to Stanford Stadium.  The Cardinal follow that up with a visit to South Bend to take on Notre Dame.  We figure the Cardinal will be 2-1, but they could be 3-0.

The defense just doesn’t have enough for us to place SU among the top three in the league this year.  We think they will have a chance in every game—a chance to win and a chance to lose.  Only a home game with Washington State is a given.  They should split the other eight Pac-10 contests and finish 5-4, earning another bowl bid.

Team U C L A  Bruins
               
Head Coach Rick Neuheisel
               
Colors Blue and Gold
               
City Los Angeles, CA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 3-6
Overall 7-6
               
PiRate Rating 109.4
               
National Rating 39
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-5
Overall 5-7

 

Offense: Year two saw Coach Rick Neuheisel turn his alma mater’s team around, winning seven games and the inaugural Eagle Bank Bowl after going 4-8 the year before.

The UCLA running game was too weak to take the heat off a very good West Coast passing game.  The Bruins improved slightly from 83 to 115 yards per game, but that mark beat only Washington State.

Watch for UCLA to implement the Pistol Offense into their repertoire this year and run the zone option.  Can sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince run the option?  He’s dealing with a strained back muscle in practice.  He suffered a broken jaw in a game last year, so this may not be the best fit for him.  Richard Brehaut is not a runner either.  Juco transfer Darius Bell is the one true dual threat quarterback on the roster, and he could eventually emerge as the go to guy.

No running backs on this roster will strike fear in the defenses of the league.  Johnathan Franklin led the Bruins with 566 yards.  We expect true freshman Malcolm Jones to eventually become the lead back.

The passing game should continue to be strong thanks to the return of Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree.  They both caught more than 40 passes last year.  Rosario is big and fast, and he can burn defenses with a long gainer any time.

The offensive line welcomes back four starters, and if Micah Kia can regain his effectiveness from 2008.  He missed last year with an ACL injury.  This group doesn’t have a real star, but they will be improved and cut down on the 29 sacks they allowed.

UCLA should improve their scoring average from 22 to about 24-26 points per game.  We expect them to top 350 yards per game as well.

Defense: The Bruins finished second in the league against the pass and fifth overall, but seven starters were lost to graduation.  There is rebuilding to do on this side of the ball.

After an a broken right foot ended end Datone Jones’ season, the Bruins were left with having to replace their entire defensive line.  Jones had four sacks and seven other tackles behind the line, and there isn’t a player on the roster capable of replacing him, much less all-conference end Brian Price.  Price was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year and runaway leader in tackles for loss in the Pac-10.

Only one starting linebacker returns as well.  Akeem Ayers is a borderline all-conference performer.  He defends well against the run and the pass, and he is a fantastic blitzer.

Three starters return to the back line, where the Bruins were tough against the pass last year.  They were greatly helped by a pass rush that recorded 44 sacks.  The one lost starter was a 4th Round NFL draft choice, but UCLA returns a certain 1st Round pick.  Rahim Moore is a difference maker at free safety; he is better than Taylor Mays who went in the 2nd round of this year’s draft.  Moore led the nation with 10 interceptions and batted away seven other passes.

We expect UCLA to be more generous on this side of the ball and give up 26-30 points and 340-370 total yards per game.

The Bruins have one of the best kicking combos.  Punter Jeff Locke and placekicker Kai Forbath will both play in the NFL.  Forbath is the best kicker in college football, and he may be better than 90% of the NFL kickers.

Schedule: The Bruins have a difficult non-league schedule.  They must face Kansas State and Texas on the road and Houston at home.  They will be lucky to go 1-2.

UCLA gets five home conference games and could win three or four of them.  Road games with Cal, Oregon, and Washington won’t be fun.  It looks like a sub-.500 year in Westwood.

Team Washington Huskies
               
Head Coach Steve Sarkisian
               
Colors Purple and Gold
               
City Seattle, WA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 4-5
Overall 5-7
               
PiRate Rating 115.6
               
National Rating 22
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 4-5
Overall 6-6

 

Offense: It has been eight seasons since the Huskies last posted a winning record and went to a bowl.  That 2002 team rode the arm of Cody Pickett tossing to Reggie Williams and won seven games.  With the talent returning in Seattle this year, seven wins would be a disappointment.  UW returns nine offensive starters, including the possible first pick in next year’s NFL Draft, so second year coach Steve Sarkisian could reverse that bowl drought this year.

Jake Locker is a lot like John Elway.  Aside from the accurate rifle arm and great wheels, he could choose to play baseball if a lousy NFL team chose him in the draft.  Let’s hope the comparison ends there.  Elway never played on a winning team nor played in a bowl game at Stanford.  Locker has one more shot to avoid the same fate.  He should top 3,000 yards per game through the air this season and possibly pass for 25 or more touchdowns.  And, maybe some Seattle DJ will right a ballad about him like they did for Sonny Sixkiller.

Just about every wideout that caught a pass last year returns, and that makes UW a very scary team.  This group of receivers ranks in the top five in the nation.  In Jermaine Kearse, Locker has a target to bring out the mad bomber in him.  Kearse averaged 17.3 yards on his team-leading 50 catches.  James Johnson and Devin Aguilar teamed up to make 81 receptions.  Tight end Kavario Middleton will be sorely missed after being dismissed for violating team rules.

The task of helping keep defenses honest falls on running back Chris Polk.  Polk rushed for 1,113 yards last year.  Locker rushed for over 500 yards when you factor out sacks and crossed the goalline seven times.

The offensive line is a bit small, but they are quick and rely on zone blocking to open running lanes.  Four 2009 starters return including Ryan Tolar and Cody Habben.  Tolar can play guard or center and will start at center this season.

The Huskies should average around 30-35 points and 400 total yards this season.

Defense: Eight starters return to a defense that improved by eight points and 62 yards per game last year.  Two of those three graduated defenders were last year’s starting ends.  Tackle Alameda Ta’Amu would be the perfect nose tackle in a 3-4 defense.  He will line up next to Cameron Elisara.  Not many teams will run the ball up the middle.

UW returns two quality linebackers in Cort Dennison and Mason Foster.  Both will have to increase their tackles by a couple dozen if the Huskies are to make a run at the Pac-10 title.  Alvin Logan was scheduled to be the third linebacker, but chronic injuries have forced him to give up football.

The secondary returns all four starters and almost the entire second string as well.  Though not among the best in the league, they can rotate and stay fresh.

Washington will once again struggle at times on this side of the ball, but there should be enough improvement to shave a little off last season’s numbers.  Look for 23-26 points and 375-400 yards allowed.

Schedule: The Huskies don’t have any pushover non-conference games this year.  They open at BYU and then host an improving Syracuse and Big 12 North favorite Nebraska.  A 2-1 mark would be an accomplishment.  UW must go on the road to USC (where the Trojans will be out for revenge), Arizona, Oregon, and Cal.  They could lose all four of those games.  Home games with Oregon State, Stanford, and UCLA will be tough as well, and we think they will lose one of them.  Call it a 4-5 league mark, and if they start 2-1, they will return to a bowl game. 

Team Washington State Cougars
               
Head Coach Paul Wulff
               
Colors Crimson and Gray
               
City Pullman, WA
               
2009 Record              
Conference 0-9
Overall 1-11
               
PiRate Rating 92.9
               
National Rating 79
               
2010 Prediction              
Conference 0-9
Overall 1-11

 

Offense: Where have you gone Jason Gesser?  Washington State has been one of the weakest teams in FBS football the last two seasons, finishing with back-to-back 11-loss seasons.  The Cougars have averaged less than two touchdowns per game these last two years.  Their total yardage from the last two years combines was more than 70 fewer yards than Houston gained last year.

WSU will field an improved offense this season, but they are so far behind the rest of the league, they are still guaranteed to finish 10th in scoring and total offense.  Coach Paul Wulff had to take the redshirt off quarterback Jeff Tuel after four games last year, and then Tuel went down for the year five games later.  In those five contests, he completed 59% of his passes for 789 yards and six touchdowns.  Backup Marshall Lobbesteal has never recovered 100% from a knee injury he suffered in 2008.

The Cougars return their three top receivers and four of their top five, led by Jared Karstetter, who grabbed 38 passes for 540 yards and six TDs last year.

WSU has had no semblance of a running game the last two seasons.  Last year’s mark fell to 71 yards per game.  Of course a lot of that can be attributed to the offensive line allowing an astronomical 53 sacks.  But, then again, defenses did not have to worry about the run and could sell out to the pass.  James Montgomery has survived multiple injuries in and around his knees and almost had to give up football.  The former Cal transfer says he is healthy enough to play.  When 100%, he was a game-changing back.  Chantz Staden is another former starter trying to come back after missing all of 2009.

The offensive returns four starters, but it is still the weakest in the conference by far.  Expect this unit to give up a lot of sacks again this year, but they should improve on the horrible showing of last year.

There is nowhere to go but up for this offense.  WSU will top 14 points per game this year.  Call if 16-18 points and 275-300 total yards.

Defense: The defense gave up 38.5 points per game last year, and that represented a five point improvement over 2008!  The Cougars actually gave up 69 more yards per game than the year before.  With a much improved defensive line, State will improve by a couple more points. End Travis Long led WSU with six stops for loss. 

Linebacker Alex Hoffman-Ellis led the Cougars with 84 tackles, but he recorded just 4 ½ for losses.  He’ll have two new starters joining him in the second line of defense, and this remains a weak unit.

The secondary returns half of its 2009 starters, and this remains the weakest pass defense in the league by far.  WSU gave up 276 passing yards per game, and enemy passers completed 66.8% of their passes against them.

Look for an improved line to allow WSU to improve their numbers.  Expect 33-36 points and 450-475 total yards allowed per game.

Schedule: Washington State goes on the road for two of its non-conference games, and they will lose both games.  They open at Oklahoma State and play at SMU two weeks later.  A home game with Montana State is sandwiched in between, and it is a must-win game.  MSU is not a weak FCS team. 

We don’t see the Cougars breaking the losing steak in Pac-10 play.  They beat a winless Washington team in 2008, and that is their only conference victory in the last two years.  We believe it will be their only conference victory in three years.

*–The PiRate Ratings cannot be used to look forward past the next week of the college football season.  These ratings are good for just the current week, because the computer program uses more than game scores to determine the ratings.  Based on depth and personnel, some teams have regression factored into their rating due to predicted depth issues.  Other teams may have an advancement programmed into their rating due to certain personnel issues (star players recovering from injury, new system to learn, etc.)

Coming Tomorrow: The Big 12 almost ceased to exist this summer after losing Colorado to the Pac-12 and Nebraska to the Big Ten.  Can the Cornhuskers conclude their tenure in the league with a title?

September 22, 2009

The Best Week Of The Season For College Football

Every year, there is one week of the college football season where the schedule presents more than a dozen games that are not just interesting, they are foretelling.  While the season’s final two weeks usually mean everything, usually a mid-season week turns out to be the week where teams either put up or shut up.  We here at the PiRate Ratings believe this is that week.  Let’s look at the 25 games where we see a major interest in watching or listening to this week. 

 

Thursday Night

7:30 PM: Ole Miss at South Carolina—The Rebels play their first important game of the year after clobbering two patsies.  The Gamecocks aren’t a Top 25 team, but in Columbia, they are tough to beat.  It won’t hurt that USC had already played a Thursday night game.  This should be a high scoring game, weather permitting (chance of thunderstorms), and it could be another one of those recent SEC “Arena Football League Games.”

The PiRate computer says Ole Miss should win by 13.3, while the old Mean rating picks the Rebels by 5.  Vegas has Ole Miss by 3 as of midday Monday.  PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

Saturday Games (all times EDT)

12 Noon: Indiana at Michigan—This Hoosier team is 3-0, but make no comparison between it and the cardiac kids of 1967, or even the Bill Mallory teams of 1987 and 1988.  We’ll soon find out if it is another version of the 2007 team.  Indiana struggled to beat Eastern Kentucky and Western Michigan.  Michigan could be on the verge of challenging Penn State, Iowa, and Ohio State for conference supremacy.  They proved themselves valid with a win over Notre Dame, and now they get a chance to move upward.  The PiRate computer picks Michigan by 20.3, and the Mean picks the Wolverines by 14.  PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

12 Noon: Michigan State at Wisconsin—In August, it looked like this game could be a battle of unbeaten teams, but the Spartans have slipped up with a 1-2 start.  This game becomes a must-win game for MSU, because they face Michigan next week.  Coach Mark Dantonio’s team could be looking at 1-5 or even 1-6 if they slip up this week.  As for the Badgers, this is their sixth consecutive year starting 3-0.  Except for 2006, the season hasn’t finished up like it started.  This could be the pivotal game in the UW coaching career for Bret Bielema.  A win here sets them up for a huge rivalry match at Minnesota next week where a win would send the Badgers to Ohio State with a chance to move into Rose Bowl contention.  Wisconsin avoids Penn State and gets Iowa and Michigan at home this year.  A loss could start the ball rolling toward 7-5 or even 6-6. PiRate Rating: Wisconsin by 0.6/Mean: Wisconsin by 4/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

12 Noon: South Florida at Florida State—We’ve been looking at this matchup for quite some time.  This should be a hard-fought thriller.  USF has wanted a shot at any of the three big teams in the Sunshine State, and the economy has made this one possible.  Florida State’s opening game loss to Miami could be explained.  The letdown against Jacksonville State wasn’t totally surprising.  The 26-point win at BYU was a shock.  That makes Miami look all the more talented.  USF has yet to play quality opposition, and this game will give us a good gauge of the ACC against the Big East.  If the Bulls can win this one, then they should be 5-0 when they host Cincinnati on Thursday, October 15.  PiRate Rating: FSU by 14.3/Mean Rating: FSU by 9/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

12 Noon: Fresno State at Cincinnati—Fresno State has played well in losses to Wisconsin and Boise State, but now they face the hardest game on their schedule.  We don’t think the Bulldogs have much chance of adding another big upset to their 21st Century resume, but we do see this as a gauge game.  Cincinnati has looked like a Top 10 team and maybe contender for the National Championship Game through three games.  If Cinti can do to Fresno State what they did to Rutgers, they will move into the Top 12.  If they cannot win by more than three touchdowns, then it makes Boise State look all the more better.  PiRate Rating: Cinti by 21.7/Mean Rating: Cinti by 20/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

12 Noon: Southern Mississippi at Kansas—The Golden Eagles aren’t ranked, but Coach Larry Fedora has a strong team in Hattiesburg.  Southern Miss is 3-0 after their great comeback win over Virginia.  Tough road games remain against Houston, Marshall, and East Carolina, so they probably have little or no chance of running the table and sneaking into the BCS Bowl picture.  Kansas will vie with Missouri and Nebraska for the Big 12 North title this year.  They just missed the last two years, and a big win in this game could set the table for finally breaking through.  An impressive win here, followed by wins over Iowa State and Colorado would have the Jayhawks at 6-0 when Oklahoma invades Lawrence on October 24.  KU QB Todd Reesing may be the best passer without much chance of getting drafted.  At 5-11, he’s considered too small for the NFL.  PiRate Rating: Kansas by 17.1/Mean Rating: 14/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

12 Noon: North Carolina at Georgia Tech—This game is interesting because the Tar Heels catch Georgia Tech coming off a disastrous road loss to Miami.  If Coach Butch Davis has UNC ready to challenge on the national scene, then the Heels need to do something close to what Miami did to the Yellow Jackets.  They will stack the box to take away the option and force Josh Nesbitt to beat them through the air.  It can be done, but it won’t be easy.  A Tech win means the winner of the Virginia Tech-Miami game will be in the driver’s seat in the Coastal Division.  PiRate Rating: Tech by 1.9/Mean Rating: Tech by 2/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

12:20 PM: L S U at Mississippi State—The AP and USA Today polls have LSU at number 7, but the Tigers are only the fourth highest-ranked SEC team.  The win at Washington looks much more impressive now, but the lackluster win over Vanderbilt becomes a great comparison here.  New Mississippi State Coach Dan Mullen saw his Bullies stop Vanderbilt in Nashville more impressively than LSU’s win over the Commodores in Tiger Stadium.  This game hasn’t been close since Jackie Sherrill was coaching in Starkville.  We think it might be this year, and with some lucky bounces, MSU could actually be there at the end.  PiRate Rating: LSU by 15.9/Mean Rating: LSU by 12/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

1:00 PM: Marshall at Memphis—Here’s a game that should determine a bowl spot for the winner and doom the loser to the wrong side of .500 for the season.  We think Marshall is primed to break out and save Coach Mark Snyder’s job this year.  It’s been six years since the Thundering Herd last enjoyed a winning season, and we see at least seven wins in their near future.  This is the C-USA opener for both teams.  The schedule sets up well for Marshall if they can win this road game.  They get East Carolina and Southern Miss. at home, and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to us if they could sneak into contention in the East.  PiRate Rating: Marshall by 3.5/Mean Rating: Marshall by 2/PiRate Viewer Rating: B+

 

3:00 PM: UNLV at Wyoming—The Rebels have never been a Division 1-A (FBS) heavyweight.  The 2000 season is the only good year they’ve had since moving up in classification 30 years ago.  UNLV has a chance to get back to a bowl game this year, as long as quarterback Omar Clayton can remain healthy.  On a gimpy knee, he guided the Rebels to a comeback victory over Hawaii.  This becomes a must win game, and Wyoming is beatable.  However, in Laramie, the Cowboys play tough.  Tell Mack Brown that the Cowboys are an easy pushover.  One slip up by UNLV this week makes their bowl hunt much more difficult.  PiRate Rating: UNLV by 3.4/Mean Rating: UNLV by 5/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

3:30 PM: Arkansas at Alabama—Arkansas’s passing game will show everybody whether Alabama’s pass defense is national championship caliber.  We don’t expect the Hogs to threaten an upset here, but this game should tell us whether Alabama is good enough to run the table and get to the SEC Championship Game for a second consecutive season.  To this point in the season, Alabama has actually looked like the top team in the conference if not the nation.  If the Tide is going to rise and become the South’s elite, they need to win this one by 20 or more points.  PiRate Rating: Bama by 20.8/Mean Rating: Bama by 20/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

3:30 PM: California at Oregon—The Bears didn’t look like a championship caliber team in their win at Minnesota last week, while Oregon handled Utah.  Cal has a home date with Southern Cal next week, but the players better concentrate on this game.  Autzen Stadium is still one of the toughest places to play as a visitor, and Oregon isn’t Washington State.  If Cal doesn’t come out ready for bear, the game with Southern Cal could be for 5th place in the standings.  Jahvid Best needs to put two good halves together to move up on the Heisman Trophy list.  PiRate Rating: Cal by 15.5/Mean Rating: Cal by 3/PiRate Viewer Rating: A+

 

3:30 PM: TCU at Clemson—With BYU and Utah losing to BCS conference teams this past weekend, the Horned Frogs may be the last legitimate shot for a Mountain West team to make it to a BCS Bowl Game.  A win at Clemson could move TCU up into the top 12.  We don’t think this Horned Frog team has the same tough defense as the recent teams in Ft. Worth.  Clemson could easily be 3-0 today, but several questionable miscues cost them against Georgia Tech.  After watching Miami destroy Tech, could the Yellow Jackets be overrated, and thus could Clemson not be as tough as they were supposed to be?  This game may not supply the answers, but at least the winner will move up on the early bowl bubble.  PiRate Rating: Clemson by 4.5/Mean Rating: Tossup/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

3:30 PM: Pittsburgh at North Carolina State—We here at the PiRate Ratings must remain impartial, as the only thing we truly root for is to be correct when we pick games.  However, a couple of us would be happy if Dave Wannstedt had a BCS Bowl team.  This may be Pittsburgh’s best team since 1982.  Then, again, this could be another year like 2000.  We should have a lot more evidence to make that call after this game.  The Panthers have a one-two punch in quarterback Bill Stull and blazing fast running back Dion Lewis.  North Carolina State is a little better than average but not the juggernaut they were seven years ago.  It Pittsburgh can win in Raleigh, a double-digit win season is possible.  PiRate Rating: Pitt by 2.0/Mean Rating: 6/PiRate Viewer Rating: B+

 

3:30 PM: Miami (Fla.) at Virginia Tech—This game is the one of the top three of the day.  Two games into the season, this edition of Hurricanes is more like Camille than a tropical depression.  Quarterback Jacory Harris may be the top passer in the ACC, and he may soon move high up on the list of NFL prospects in the next couple of years.  He has a live and accurate arm, and his ability to pass on the run makes it difficult to sack him.  Virginia Tech beat Nebraska last week in a close game, and the Hokies have won 38 of the last 43 games at Lane Stadium.  If Miami can win this game, it will set up an even more interesting battle against Oklahoma next week.  PiRate Rating: Virginia Tech by 6.7/Mean Rating: Virginia Tech by 4/PiRate Viewer Rating: A+

 

4:30 PM: Troy at Arkansas State—There are two key games in the Sunbelt Conference this week.  Troy has been the Southern Cal of the SBC as of late, but the Trojans may not be quite as strong this year.  Arkansas State had an extra week to prepare for this game and gets the Trojans in Jonesboro.  These teams have split the last four games in this series, and the Red Wolves have what it takes to pull off the mild upset.  An ASU win throws this race wide open.  PiRate Rating: Troy by 2.4/Mean Rating: Troy by 1/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

6:00 PM: Florida at Kentucky—Two years ago, Kentucky upset number one LSU in Lexington.  No, we don’t expect a repeat Saturday.  The Wildcats start a grueling stretch of games that call for the Cats to play Alabama, at South Carolina, and at Auburn after this game, so UK could easily be 2-4 when Louisiana Monroe comes to town on October 24.  Florida needs something to show the pollsters and computers that they deserve their lofty ranking.  What should be an unbelievable year like Nebraska in 1995 could fail to materialize over the lack of all-conference receivers.  Can Tim Tebow do it all on the offensive side?  Think Larry Csonka with Bob Griese’s arm.  You bet he can lead the Gators to Pasadena in January.  PiRate Rating: Florida by 32.7/Mean Rating: Florida by 20/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

6:00 PM: Colorado State at BYU—Had the Cougars won last week in a grueling game, we were prepared to check this game as a possible letdown game and go with the Rams and the points.  The Cougars exited Lavell Edwards Stadium thoroughly bewitched, bothered, and bewildered after losing to Florida State 54-28.  Colorado State is 3-0 for the first time since 1994.  That team went 10-1 in the regular season including a 28-21 win at BYU.  We don’t expect a repeat in 2009, but a good showing could be the next step on the long climb back to the top in the MWC.  The Rams should win eight games this year, but this won’t be one of them.  PiRate Rating: BYU by 16.9/Mean Rating: BYU by 16/PiRate Viewer Rating: B+

 

7:00 PM: Arizona State at Georgia—Arizona State has never played in an SEC stadium (unless you count the 1951 visit to then Southwest Conference member Arkansas).  In their only two games against SEC teams, the Sun Devils lost at home to Georgia last year and at home to LSU in 2005.  ASU Coach Dennis Erickson knows a little about winning in the Deep South, having claimed a national title at Miami.  He may have an average squad or some degree better, but wins against Idaho State and Louisiana Monroe has yet to prove anything.  Georgia has already played three tough games, winning two SEC battles already.  The Bulldog defense has yet to shut anybody down, but the offense has looked impressive in wins over South Carolina and Arkansas.  This game will tell us a lot more about these two conferences as the season progresses, but it should be exciting itself.  The weather could be a major factor as well.  PiRate Rating: Georgia by 15.6/Mean Rating: Georgia by 7/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

7:00 PM: Army at Iowa State—Say What?  This game is an important one?  You betcha!  It looks like the “trade” of Gene Chizik to Auburn for Paul Rhoads could prove to be a win-win decision.  Iowa State could be looking at a possibility of sneaking into the eighth or ninth Big 12 bowl slot if they can win this game.  Kansas State, Texas A&M, Colorado, and Baylor present winnable games if the Cyclones can stop the option game of the Cadets.  On the other side of the equation, Army needs only to become bowl eligible to earn a guaranteed bowl bid.  The Cadets are 2-1 and have winnable games left against Tulane, Vanderbilt, Temple, VMI, North Texas, and of course Navy.  If Army wins this game, then we are confident in saying they will earn their first bowl trip since 1996.  This game becomes, in essence, a bowl qualifier.  That’s why it makes our list of the key 25 games this week.  PiRate Rating: ISU by 12.4/Mean Rating: ISU by 10/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

 

7:00 PM: Middle Tennessee at North Texas—This is the second key Sunbelt Conference game this week.  Middle Tennessee is the only SBC team to own four wins on the road against teams from BCS conferences, and the Blue Raiders made it number four last week by winning at Maryland (the second consecutive win over the Terps).  North Texas showed signs of life this year in winning at Ball State and giving Ohio U a great battle, but quarterback Riley Dodge went down with an injury in the third quarter of that game.  He missed last week’s blowout loss at Alabama, but he will return this week.  He gives the Mean Green a chance in this game.  PiRate Rating: Middle Tenn by 8.7/Mean Rating: Middle Tenn by 8/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

7:30 PM: Arizona at Oregon State—Both teams lost to undefeated, out-of-conference opponents last week, but the winner of this game could challenge in the Pac-10.  We don’t think either can go on the road and beat both Cal and USC (both play these two powers on the road), but the winner of this game should stay in contention for one of the Pac-10’s top four bowls.  PiRate Rating: Oregon State by 3.9/Mean Rating: Oregon State by 2/PiRate Viewer Rating: B

 

8:00 PM: Iowa at Penn State—Could this game be for the Big 10 Championship?  It’s possible.  Iowa stumbled out of the gate with Northern Iowa, but impressive wins over Iowa State and Arizona have the Hawkeyes 3-0 for the third time in four years.  This is more than just any big game for Penn State; the Nittany Lions came into this game last year ranked number three at 9-0 and lost 24-23 in Iowa City.  Penn State is undefeated again and ranked number five this time, but Joe Pa’s team has played three patsies.  The winner of this game will be the leader in the clubhouse in the Big 10, but with Michigan, Ohio State, and even Wisconsin still around, they won’t have it wrapped up.  PiRate Rating: Penn State by 5.6/Mean Rating: Penn State by 4/PiRate Viewer Rating: A+

 

9:00 PM: Washington at Stanford—Can you believe this game?  Washington is the second ever team to crack the AP poll rankings in September after being winless the year before (Florida in 1980).  Stanford is close to being 3-0, and the Cardinal have not been this good since 2001.  Simply put, the winner of this contest is going to a bowl game this year.  You’ll see two great quarterbacks in this one.  Stanford’s Andrew Luck is just a freshman, but he’s averaging 9.3 yards per pass attempt and completing 62.3% of his passes.  Washington’s Jake Locker is leading the Pac-10 in total offense.  PiRate Rating: Stanford by 9.5/Mean Rating: Stanford by 8/PiRate Viewer Rating: A

 

9:15 PM: Texas Tech at Houston—These teams haven’t played each other since the Southwest Conference days, and it should be one of the most exciting games of the season.  You have two teams that average better than 400 passing yards per game.  Houston’s Case Keenum has a shot at an NFL career in a couple of years, while Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts may be the best quarterback Coach Mike Leach has placed in his offense.  PiRate Rating: Texas Tech by 6.2/Mean Rating: Texas Tech by 3/PiRate Viewer Rating: A-

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