The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 8, 2019

2019 Conference USA Football Preview

Welcome to the 2019-2020 College Football season on the SS Touchdown, your favorite PiRate ship of analytical merriment.

The PiRates have spent hours upon hours doing research this summer getting ready for another football season.  2018 was an incredible year for our ratings, as we finished at the top of the Prediction Tracker against the spread in college football, and the best against the spread and at picking winners in NFL football.  We have seen a steady bump in additional readers, so we hope we can follow up with another great year.

Today, we begin previewing one NCAA FBS conference per day for the next 11 days.  In past years, we published lengthy previews, but after hearing from a lot of you tell us that you come here for the stats, we are going to try to become the Sergeant Joe Friday of football, “Just the Stats.”  Oh, we’ll throw in a little Joe Gannon and include something from out of left field when something warrants it.

We begin with Conference USA, the #11 rated conference to begin the PiRate Ratings season.

The Official Media Poll

Conference USA Media Poll
East Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes
1 Marshall 14
2 Florida Int’l. 9
3 Florida Atlantic 3
4 Middle Tennessee 0
5 Western Kentucky 0
6 Old Dominion 0
7 Charlotte 0
 

 

West Division
Pos. Team 1st Place Votes
1 North Texas 20
2 Southern Miss. 4
3 Louisiana Tech 0
4 UAB 2
5 UTSA 0
6 Rice 0
7 UTEP 0

For some reason, Conference USA did not release the total vote count by the media.  We only received the First Place Votes and position each team finished in the voting.  Additionally, the media did not vote on an overall champion.

 

The PiRate Ratings

Preseason PiRate Ratings–CUSA
East Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Florida Int’l. 93.6 93.7 94.4 93.9
Marshall 92.9 92.6 93.8 93.1
Florida Atlantic 91.7 91.1 92.4 91.7
Middle Tennessee 90.5 90.0 90.6 90.4
Western Kentucky 87.5 88.7 89.0 88.4
Charlotte 86.6 87.0 87.0 86.9
Old Dominion 75.1 76.0 75.1 75.4
 

 

West Division
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Southern Miss. 93.4 92.2 93.7 93.1
North Texas 92.5 92.3 93.4 92.7
Louisiana Tech 90.7 90.8 90.8 90.7
U A B 88.2 89.1 88.7 88.7
U T S A 77.5 80.0 77.2 78.2
Rice 77.7 78.8 77.0 77.9
U T E P 67.9 72.6 68.3 69.6
CUSA Averages 86.1 86.8 86.5 86.5

Note:  These preseason ratings are accurate as of August 1, 2019, and subject to change before the first week of the season due to personnel changes prior to the first week of the season.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

The PiRate Ratings were not created to forecast won-loss records like other ratings might attempt.  Our ratings are valid for just the next game on the teams’ schedules, and we have pre-set adjustments built into our ratings on many teams.  For instance, if a team has exceptional starting talent but little depth, their rating has a pre-set reduction per week of the season, so that even if they win or lose a game by the exact expected margin, they will lose some of their power rating due to their depth issues.

If a team has exceptional, but inexperienced talent, their rating will have a pre-set addition per week of the season, and even if their performance may be exactly what was expected, their power rating will rise.

What you see in these predicted won-loss records are our opinion and not calculated from the ratings.  These are the estimated records based on a vote, with the Captain having 50% of the vote and the crew having the other 50%.  Then, if the Captain didn’t like the result, he swung his sword and chose them by himself.  Actually, the conference records had to be balanced, and all the half-win votes made it a mess, so it’s probably 100% his opinion.

PiRate Members Predicted Won-Loss
East Division
Pos Team CUSA Overall
1 Florida Atlantic 6-2 8-5
2 Marshall 6-2 9-3
3 Florida Int’l. 5-3 7-5
4 Western Kentucky 4-4 5-7
5 Middle Tennessee 4-4 5-7
6 Charlotte 3-5 5-7
7 Old Dominion 1-7 2-10
 

 

West Division
Pos Team CUSA Overall
1 Southern Miss. 7-1 9-4*
2 Louisiana Tech 6-2 9-3
3 North Texas 6-2 7-5
4 UAB 5-3 8-4
5 UTSA 2-6 3-9
6 Rice 1-7 1-11
7 UTEP 0-8 1-11
* Southern Miss. picked to win CUSA Championship

 

Bowl Projections

Bowl Team
Bahamas Southern Miss.
First Responder Marshall
Gasparilla Cincinnati
New Mexico Louisiana Tech
New Orleans UAB
 

 

Alternate Bowl Teams
Frisco Florida Int’l
Independence North Texas

Coaches That Could Move To FBS Power Conference Schools

Seth Littrell–North Texas

Lane Kiffin–Florida Atlantic

Jay Hopson–Southern Miss.

 

Coaches on The Hot Seat

Dana Dimel–UTEP

Frank Wilson–UTSA

Bobby Wilder–Old Dominion

 

Top Quarterbacks

Mason Fine–North Texas

Tyler Johnson III–UAB

James Morgan–Florida Int’l.

 

Best Offense

North Texas

Florida Int’l.

Marshall

 

Best Defense

Marshall

Louisiana Tech

Southern Miss.

 

Coming Tomorrow–The Mid-American Conference

 

 

 

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August 11, 2018

2018 Conference USA Preview

Note: The preseason ratings you see in the previews may not be the same as the ratings you see for the first game. We update every team’s rating based on player injuries, changes to the depth charts, and other factors that may change during preseason practice.

Some of our Group of 5 Conference won-loss predictions were figured before the beginning of August preseason practices. Thus, it could be that a player or players on some teams have already suffered season-ending or multiple game injuries or have left their teams, and these won-loss predictions no longer accurately reflect our ratings. We hope that by the time we preview the Power 5 conferences, we will know who is not going to be available (players and head coaches).

 

Conference USA is an interesting league. Annually, it comes in as the second weakest conference overall to begin each season, sometimes just a fraction ahead of the Sun Belt. Yet. this league produces a plethora of bowl-eligible teams. Last year was no different, as 10 of the 14 schools earned bowl eligibility, and nine received bowl invitations.

Last year, after a slow start that saw his team lose big to Navy and Wisconsin and then suffer a heartbreaking loss at Buffalo, Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic team caught fire and won their final 10 games. Included in the season-ending sweep were a CUSA Championship Game title and a victory in the Boca Raton Bowl, both by fat margins. The Owls finished the season averaging better than 40 points and almost 500 total yards per game, but Kiffin will have to rebuild on this side of the ball. Expect defense to help FAU contend for another conference title.

Marshall and Middle Tennessee should be FAU’s chief competition for the title. Coach Doc Holliday is one of the best recruiters in the Group of 5 conferences, and he has a lot of experienced talent returning to Marshall. If not for the fact that the Thundering Herd will have to break in a new quarterback and has no player that has thrown even one pass for the school in a game. Additionally, there will be a new offensive coordinator, as Tim Cramsey comes to Huntington from Sam Houston State and brings a new offense.  Of course, his 2017 SHU offense merely averaged better than 43 points per game and proved to be powerful running and passing the ball.

Middle Tennessee has the top returning quarterback in the division in Brent Stockstill, but the Blue Raiders have an iffy secondary and could be forced to outscore opponents every week.

The West Division looks like a three-team race. North Texas, Lousiana Tech, and UAB could finish in a three-way tie, with Southern Mississippi a distant fourth. Having two of the weakest FBS teams in the same division in Rice and UTEP, means that the other four division rivals can almost count on two conference victories already.

North Texas has the top overall quarterback in the league and maybe the best overall in the Lone Star State in Mason Fine. As a sophomore last season, he finished 6th nationally in passing yards, and he is the leading passing yardage leader among returning quarterbacks. Fine has most of his receiving corps returning this year, so if he gets just a little better pass protection, he could lead the Mean Green to the best season in Denton since Hayden Fry coached there in the late 1970’s. UNT Coach Seth Littrell is on a fast track to taking over a big time program. Every stop along the way, the team he has coached as an assistant set passing and total offense records. Mentoring Fine is not the first time he has trained a top prospect into a big-time talent. He previously tutored Nick Foles at Arizona.

UAB coach Bill Clark takes a back seat to nobody. How’s this for an incredible feat of wizardry? Clark stayed with the program when the school dropped football for two seasons. With just a handful of recruits to work with and a promise of playing again in the future, he recruited enough talent and then “coached ’em up.” Picked to maybe win two games by most pundits last year in their return to the game, UAB enjoyed an 8-win season and bid to the Bahamas Bowl. With 14 starters returning from last year’s first team back in football and a decent recruiting class, UAB should be right there with North Texas in the West Division race.

Skip Holtz is the big name in the West Division of CUSA, and his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs have to be considered one of the tri-favorites in this division. His team underperformed a bit last year but still managed to win seven times and make an appearance in the Frisco Bowl, where LT looked more like the team people expected them to be, dusting SMU 51-10. The Techsters have a lot of returning talent, and if said talent plays more like they did in the bowl and less like they did against Southern Miss and Rice, then the Bulldogs could make it back to the top of the division.

Here is how the CUSA media voted in the preseason poll.

Team
East Division 1st Place Votes
1. Florida Atlantic 22
2. Marshall 4
3. Middle Tennessee 0
4. Florida Int’l. 0
5. Western Kentucky 0
6. Old Dominion 0
7. Charlotte 0
Team
West Division 1st Place Votes
1. North Texas 18
2. Louisiana Tech 4
3. UAB 3
4. Southern Miss. 1
5. UTSA 0
6t. Rice 0
6t. UTEP 0

There were no votes for overall conference champion.

The PiRate Ratings basically confirm the media’s preseason opinions.

Conference USA
East Division
Team CUSA Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Florida Atlantic 0-0 0-0 102.0 103.0 103.3 102.8
Marshall 0-0 0-0 94.3 97.1 95.0 95.5
Middle Tennessee 0-0 0-0 91.4 93.4 93.0 92.6
Old Dominion 0-0 0-0 87.5 91.3 89.0 89.3
Florida Int’l. 0-0 0-0 82.0 86.8 82.6 83.8
W. Kentucky 0-0 0-0 80.4 84.6 81.2 82.1
Charlotte 0-0 0-0 76.2 78.7 76.3 77.1
West Division
Team CUSA Overall PiRate Mean Bias Average
Louisiana Tech 0-0 0-0 93.8 96.4 95.2 95.1
N. Texas 0-0 0-0 93.0 96.3 93.6 94.3
U A B 0-0 0-0 91.1 93.6 91.5 92.1
Southern Miss. 0-0 0-0 81.6 85.0 82.1 82.9
U T S A 0-0 0-0 80.2 85.6 81.6 82.5
Rice 0-0 0-0 71.4 74.5 69.7 71.9
U T E P 0-0 0-0 69.3 72.5 68.6 70.1
CUSA Averages 85.3 88.5 85.9 86.6

New Coaches

When a large majority of schools gain bowl eliibility, there are not going to be a lot of coaching dismissals. Unless coaches get better jobs, they will return to their respective schools. As mentioned previously, Rice and UTEP ranked in the bottom 10 of all FBS schools last year, and these two teams will welcome new leaders.

Rice hired MIke Bloomgren and hopes to get the same results that Bloomgren produced as offensive coordinator at Stanford. He also has experience coaching with the New York Jets during the Rex Ryan era. The Owls will use power running mixed with play-action passing and hope to improve on 16 points and 330 yards per game on offense. Thanks to home games with Prairie View and UTEP, Bloomgren should double the win total from one to two.

UTEP wore the collar last year, going 0-12 and losing by an average of 25 points per game. The Miners hired 55-year old Dana Dimel, who for the last decade has been the offensive coordinator at Kansas State. Dimel has past head coaching stops at Wyoming and Houston. He succeeded in Laramie but failed in Houston. In year one, he faces a gargantuan rebuilding process, but you cannot really go south from 0-12, unless you repeat with another 0-12 that includes a loss to an FCS team. Northern Arizona will be a tough FCS opponent for the Miners.

Predicted Won-Loss Records

East
Team Conference Overall
Florida Atlantic 8-0 11-2 *
Marshall 7-1 9-3
Middle Tennessee 6-2 7-5
Old Dominion 4-4 6-6
Western Kentucky 3-5 5-7
Florida Int’l. 2-6 3-9
Charlotte 0-8 1-11
West
Team Conference Overall
North Texas 6-2 9-4
UAB 6-2 9-3
Louisiana Tech 6-2 8-4
Southern Miss. 4-4 5-7
UTSA 3-5 5-7
Rice 1-7 2-11
UTEP 0-8 1-11
* Fla. Atlantic picked to win CUSA Championship Game

Bowl Tie-ins
CUSA does not have a set bowl order. They send teams to bowls to create the best overall matchups.

These are the bowls tie-ins for 2018.

Bahamas Bowl in Nassau, Bahamas
Boca Raton Bowl in Boca Raton, FL
Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, FL
Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu, HI
Heart of Dallas Bowl in Dallas, TX
New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, NM
New Orleans Bowl in New Orleans, LA

There are secondary bowl agreements with the Frisco Bowl in Frisco, Texas, and the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, if those bowl need at-large alternates.

Coming Tomorrow–The Mid-American Conference

September 17, 2013

PiRate Ratings–College Football: September 19-21, 2013

Odds and Ends

This is shaping up to be a season where multiple big-time coaching jobs could become available in the college football world.  As many as five major schools could be searching for a new head man to lead them back to where they think they should be.

 

We’ll start in Austin, Texas, where Longhorn coach Mack Brown appears to be losing control of a team that had enough talent to run the table.  The defense, which should have been vastly improved, has taken a step back.  Numerous media mentions of all the talent that did not sign with the Longhorns, including quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, and Jameis Winston, make the coaching staff look incompetent, even if it isn’t totally so.  The bottom line is that at Texas, 10-2 should be the weakest acceptable won-loss record for a school with all the resources needed to be the New York Yankees of college football.   There is enough quality talent in the Lone Star State to stock an entire BCS conference.

 

Next, let’s venture to Los Angeles, where some clever person has been going around painting the word “Kiffin” on all the fire lanes in the area.  Lane Kiffin might have to beat Stanford in the regular season and Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game to save his job.  USC is not a slam dunk success like Texas, but it should be rather easy to recruit enough talent to compete for the national title three years out of five.  The defense has given up twice as many points per game in Kiffin’s tenure than it did in the last several years of the Carroll era.  The Wild Bunch they are not.

 

Next, we’ll venture to the plains and stop in Lincoln, Nebraska, where Bo Pelini has not turned the Cornhuskers’ program around.  The Cornhuskers believe that every year should be 1971, 1983, 1995, or 1997.  After Tom Osborne left, Frank Solich carried on the tradition with minor slippage.  58-19 was not good enough for the rabid NU fans, and Solich was chased off following a 10-3 season in 2003.  Ten years and two coaches later, the Cornhuskers have not equaled that 10-3 record that was not good enough for Solich to keep his job.  Under Solich, Nebraska’s scoring margin was 15.1 points per game.  In his tenure, they gave up 17.4 points per game.  Pelini’s Cornhusker teams have lost four games every year, and this year’s team looks like it could have a tough time losing just that many.  Throw in a recent audio release that displayed the coach bad-mouthing the Cornhusker fans in an expletive-filled monologue, and it looks like short of Nebraska getting to the Rose Bowl, Pelini’s job is in serious jeopardy.

 

Now, throw in the regular turnover that happens every year, and add these three big jobs that could become open.  The following is a list of schools where coaches could decide to retire or try something else.

 

Steve Spurrier—South Carolina:  Spurrier is 68 years old.  He does not seem very happy this year, as there has been dissension in Columbia.  He may decide playing golf every day is preferable to this.

 

Kirk Ferentz—Iowa: Ferentz has long been known as one of the best pure coaches in the game.  His Iowa Hawkeyes have shared to Big Ten titles, but they have never earned a trip to Pasadena in his 14 previous seasons.  Ferentz has turned down multiple offers to move to the NFL where he was a highly competent assistant under Bill Belichick with the original Cleveland Browns.  At 58, if he ever wants to be an NFL head coach, it needs to be soon.  This could be the year he finally pulls the trigger.

 

Jerry Kill—Minnesota:  This is a sad situation.  Kill is an excellent coach, and he is slowly turning the Gophers’ program around.  He revived the downtrodden program at Northern Illinois in just three seasons, and in year three in the Twin Cities, he has UM off to a 3-0 start with a nine-win season possible.  Unfortunately, Kill suffers from epilepsy, and just last week he had to leave a game for the fourth time due to seizure.  He has received the emphasis “Vote of Confidence” from the administration, but VOCs very frequently prove to be metaphorical for “PYBs” or “Pack Your Bags.”  It is not fair, but other schools are using this in recruiting, and the more events that take place, the more it will be effective.  Kill may have to step aside for another position in the university.  Life is not fair.

 

Mike Gundy—Oklahoma St.: Gundy has a fat record (70-35) in Stillwater, and he has all the pieces he needs (T. Boone Pickens and his money) to build a dynasty at OSU.  However, there is a black cloud hanging over this team as a multiple-part expose emerges detailing how the Cowboys’ climbed almost to the top of the mountain via the illicit trail.  If sanctions come down, Gundy could even receive a show-cause edict, which would basically force him out of coaching at the college level for “x” amount of years.

 

Bob Stoops—Oklahoma: This is crazy, but there are football zealots in Oklahoma that are not satisfied with a 150-37 won-loss record.  They should look closely up north where their former conference rival exiled Coach Solich to Athens, Ohio.  Stoops has not won a second national championship.  It has been 13 years.  Never mind that he brought OU to the National Championship Game twice but lost to teams that were among the 25 best of all time.

 

The Return of the Rebels?

If you are college football fan over the age of 55, you can remember a time when the Ole Miss football team was the equivalent of Oregon in modern times.  Yes, the Rebels once were the most exciting team in college football, and they competed for the national title every year.  They even won three of them back when four to seven polls’ champions were recognized as real champions.

 

Under legendary coach Johnny Vaught, Ole Miss became the first SEC team to emphasize a wide-open style of play with quarterbacks that could pass the ball on any down from any place on the field.  Prior to Vaught, all SEC teams still played caveman football.  They ran the ball 99% of the time until they passed their own 40 yard line.  If it was 3rd and 10 from their own 25 yard line, teams were more likely to punt the ball rather than attempt a pass.  Some teams had four or five passing plays in their playbook and even numbered them as “Pass Number Four.”  Teams ran the ball 90% of the time, and when they did throw, it was usually a play-action pass on first or second down in the other team’s territory.

 

Vaught changed that in Oxford.  He used the Wing-T, Slot-T, T with Flanker, and even a three-receiver set with no tight ends.  Other SEC teams still had two tight ends and no wide receivers, and Tennessee still used the Single Wing.  Under Vaught, Ole Miss made football exciting.  Quarterbacks matriculated to Oxford, because it gave them the opportunity to show off their skills to NFL scouts.  Archie Manning may have been the most widely publicized QB to play for Vaught, but top notch passers like Glynn Griffing, Jake Gibbs, and Charlie Conerly.

 

After Vaught retired at the end of the 1970 season, Ole Miss fell on hard times.  Multiple losing seasons followed with the occasional rebound to 6-5 or 8-4.  Eli Manning brought the Rebels a short-term window where they faced off against LSU in 2003 with the winner taking the conference championship, but alas, the Bengal Tigers nipped them by a field goal and went on to capture the national title as well.

 

Now, Hugh Freeze has the Rebels on track to return to the times when everything was gravy in Oxford.  Ole Miss looks like a team capable of scaring Alabama, LSU, and Texas A&M.  Freeze took a 2-10 team in 2011 and won seven games including an impressive blowout of Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl last year.  After demolishing Texas in Austin last week, Ole Miss has its first 3-0 start since 1989.  The Rebels have the benefit of an extra week to prepare for Alabama in Tuscaloosa on the 28th, and the Tide did not roll all over Ole Miss last year.  If Ole Miss can gain a split in the their next four games (at Alabama, at Auburn, Texas A&M, and LSU), they could earn a Cotton, Capital One, or Outback Bowl bid in year two of the new regime.  And, if they go 3-1, they could be looking at the Sugar Bowl or better.  Oh, and Ole Miss had its best recruiting year since the Vaught days.  Some of the true freshmen are already paying big dividends for Freeze.  Now, a school that has been recognized in modern times as a great place to enjoy a football game and watch a team wearing Harvard Crimson and Yale Blue has become a place to watch the new most exciting team of the Deep South.

 

Previews Of This Week’s Key Games

Clemson at North Carolina St.: The Tigers fortunately had a week off to come down from the high of beating Georgia.  They now have a trap game when they travel to Raleigh Thursday night.  The Wolf Pack will be waiting in ambush, and as much as the Clemson Memorial Stadium crowd helped CU in its big win, the Carter-Finley faithful will help NCSU.  State is 2-0, albeit against two pushovers, but the Pack also had a week off to prepare for this game.  Expect State to play its best game of the entire season, but will it be enough?

 

Arizona St. at Stanford: Stanford has not looked all that impressive in its first two games, while Arizona St. has looked like a team capable of winning the Pac-12 South flag.  The winner of this game will move to the top of the heap of Duck challengers.  It should be as exciting as last Saturday’s ASU-Wisconsin game.  Hopefully, a blown call will not decide this one.

 

North Carolina at Georgia Tech:  We have seen the Techsters easily dispose of Elon and Duke, but can the Yellow Jackets run all over a quality ACC team?  If the answer is yes, then the ACC race just became very interesting.  Tech still has road games against Miami, BYU, and Clemson, and of course, they end with Georgia.  If Paul Johnson is on the verge of taking the one BCS team that runs the spread option offense back toward the top of the league, then the rest of the league’s coaches will not sleep easily.  It is virtually impossible to practice against this offense when your scout team cannot learn to run it in one week.

 

Auburn at LSU: LSU has quietly started 3-0 with three impressive offensive showings.  Auburn is also 3-0 under new coach Gus Malzahn.  LSU should win this game by double digits, but it will be an excellent test to gauge where both programs stand.  Should LSU win handily, and Auburn continue to play well, it could mean that Les Miles has a possible 2011 repeat on his hands.  If Auburn pulls off the upset, then Malzahn will be crowned the new Shug Jordan.

 

Arkansas at Rutgers: This contest allows us to gauge the American Athletic Conference.  Rutgers looks like a middle of the pack team in the new AAC, while Arkansas is probably around 8th or 9th best in the SEC.  Bret Bielema has rapidly installed his style of offense in Fayetteville, and the Razorbacks have two backs topping 100 yards in the same game.  When he finds two tight ends capable of making all-conference at the same time, it will be time to seriously look at Arkansas as a player in the toughest division in college football.

 

Michigan St. at Notre Dame:  The Irish have not put it together for four quarters in their first three games, and Michigan St. may require such an effort for Notre Dame to avoid a 2-2 start.  This game basically becomes a BCS at-large bowl eliminator, as the loser will have virtually no chance to qualify for such.  Notre Dame must finish in the top eight in the BCS standings to automatically earn a bid to one of the big five bowls.  10-2 should be good enough with the schedule they play.  9-3 will be iffy.  8-4 means they will bowl in December.

 

Missouri at Indiana: This one is somewhat similar to the Arkansas and Rutgers game, but with one extra reason to watch.  Missouri underperformed last year with quarterback James Franklin injured.  Is this team capable of playing with Georgia, Florida,  and South Carolina?  If the Tigers win convincingly, we still may not know the answer, but a convincing win will definitely move MU above Tennessee and Vanderbilt as the team most likely to surprise one of the big three.  Coach Gary Pinkel could have Mizzou at 5-0 when they play at Georgia on October 12.  The Tigers will be out for blood in that game after the Bulldogs clawed them by three touchdowns in their inaugural conference game last year.

 

Here are this week’s college football ratings.

PiRate Regular

1

Oregon

133.9

2

Alabama

132.5

3

Ole Miss

124.9

4

Stanford

124.2

5

Oklahoma St.

122.6

6

Texas A&M

122.0

7

Georgia

121.5

8

L S U

121.2

9

Ohio St.

120.7

10

South Carolina

119.9

11

Arizona

119.5

12

Washington

118.9

13

U C L A

118.6

14

Florida St.

118.5

15

Louisville

117.6

16

Baylor

117.5

17

Florida

117.5

18

Arizona St.

117.0

19

Clemson

116.7

20

Texas

116.4

21

Oklahoma

115.6

22

Notre Dame

115.6

23

Michigan

115.3

24

Wisconsin

115.2

25

Oregon St.

115.1

26

Missouri

115.1

27

Michigan St.

114.8

28

Miami

114.6

29

Georgia Tech

114.6

30

Northwestern

114.5

31

T C U

113.1

32

U S C

113.0

33

B Y U

110.8

34

Virginia Tech

110.7

35

Nebraska

110.7

36

Penn St.

110.0

37

Kansas St.

109.1

38

Vanderbilt

108.9

39

Texas Tech

108.8

40

Mississippi St.

108.6

41

Auburn

107.2

42

North Carolina

106.9

43

Cincinnati

105.7

44

Washington St.

105.7

45

Tennessee

105.6

46

West Virginia

103.8

47

Indiana

103.8

48

Central Florida

103.4

49

Fresno St.

103.2

50

Utah

103.1

51

Utah St.

103.0

52

Minnesota

102.0

53

Syracuse

101.6

54

San Jose St.

101.0

55

Arkansas

100.9

56

Boise St.

100.3

57

Boston College

100.2

58

Iowa

99.9

59

Illinois

99.8

60

Toledo

99.7

61

Pittsburgh

99.4

62

Maryland

99.2

63

Bowling Green

99.2

64

Rutgers

99.0

65

Kentucky

99.0

66

East Carolina

98.2

67

Iowa St.

98.1

68

Northern Illinois

98.1

69

Rice

97.7

70

Duke

97.6

71

Navy

97.6

72

Ball St.

97.5

73

Purdue

96.8

74

Marshall

96.8

75

North Carolina St.

96.7

76

Wake Forest

96.6

77

Louisiana–Monroe

96.4

78

California

96.3

79

Louisiana–Lafayette

94.4

80

Arkansas St.

93.9

81

Virginia

93.7

82

Kansas

93.7

83

Tulsa

93.6

84

S M U

93.5

85

North Texas

92.8

86

San Diego St.

92.5

87

Colorado

92.0

88

Ohio

91.6

89

Houston

91.2

90

Wyoming

91.0

91

Colorado St.

90.0

92

Buffalo

89.7

93

Connecticut

89.6

94

Western Kentucky

89.4

95

South Florida

89.3

96

U T S A

88.7

97

Kent St.

88.1

98

Memphis

87.6

99

Nevada

87.4

100

U A B

87.3

101

Middle Tennessee

86.8

102

Troy

86.8

103

Temple

86.7

104

Hawaii

85.6

105

Florida Atlantic

85.5

106

U T E P

85.3

107

Western Michigan

84.8

108

Tulane

84.7

109

Army

84.4

110

U N L V

84.3

111

Louisiana Tech

82.9

112

South Alabama

82.9

113

Akron

82.8

114

Central Michigan

82.7

115

Southern Miss.

81.3

116

Texas St.

81.2

117

Eastern Michigan

79.3

118

New Mexico

79.3

119

Air Force

79.0

120

Miami (O)

78.4

121

New Mexico St.

73.7

122

Massachusetts

71.0

123

Idaho

69.7

124

Florida Int’l

67.8

125

Georgia St.

60.1

 

PiRate Mean

1

Oregon

129.8

2

Alabama

125.1

3

Florida St.

122.2

4

Ole Miss

120.5

5

L S U

120.4

6

Arizona St.

118.8

7

Georgia

118.6

8

Ohio St.

118.0

9

South Carolina

117.9

10

Texas A&M

116.6

11

Wisconsin

116.5

12

Clemson

115.7

13

Miami

115.7

14

Louisville

115.6

15

Michigan St.

115.3

16

Stanford

114.6

17

Washington

114.6

18

Arizona

114.6

19

Georgia Tech

114.2

20

Michigan

113.8

21

Florida

113.3

22

Penn St.

113.0

23

Oklahoma St.

112.6

24

Missouri

112.2

25

Northwestern

112.1

26

Notre Dame

111.7

27

Oklahoma

111.4

28

Virginia Tech

111.0

29

U C L A

110.9

30

U S C

110.5

31

North Carolina

109.2

32

B Y U

109.0

33

Baylor

107.8

34

Nebraska

107.7

35

Indiana

107.5

36

T C U

107.4

37

Arkansas

107.4

38

Auburn

107.0

39

Texas

106.6

40

Maryland

106.5

41

Cincinnati

106.2

42

Texas Tech

106.2

43

Vanderbilt

106.0

44

Central Florida

105.6

45

Washington St.

105.1

46

Tennessee

105.0

47

Mississippi St.

104.8

48

Oregon St.

104.0

49

Illinois

103.7

50

North Carolina St.

103.0

51

Utah

102.7

52

Fresno St.

102.6

53

Rutgers

102.4

54

Minnesota

102.2

55

Houston

102.1

56

Kansas St.

101.5

57

Marshall

101.2

58

Rice

100.6

59

Ball St.

100.4

60

East Carolina

100.3

61

Toledo

100.3

62

Utah St.

99.9

63

Navy

99.8

64

Kentucky

99.6

65

Wake Forest

99.5

66

Northern Illinois

99.3

67

Bowling Green

99.0

68

Iowa

98.9

69

S M U

98.6

70

Syracuse

98.6

71

Boston College

98.5

72

Duke

98.3

73

Colorado

97.5

74

Pittsburgh

97.3

75

Virginia

97.1

76

West Virginia

96.0

77

San Jose St.

95.9

78

Memphis

95.8

79

Louisiana–Monroe

95.2

80

Ohio

95.1

81

North Texas

95.0

82

Boise St.

94.0

83

Louisiana–Lafayette

94.0

84

Purdue

93.1

85

Middle Tennessee

92.8

86

Wyoming

92.3

87

Army

92.1

88

California

91.8

89

U T E P

91.5

90

Kent St.

91.3

91

Tulane

91.2

92

Western Kentucky

91.0

93

Kansas

90.9

94

Tulsa

90.6

95

Colorado St.

90.3

96

U T S A

90.2

97

Nevada

90.1

98

Buffalo

90.0

99

U A B

89.4

100

San Diego St.

89.4

101

Texas St.

88.6

102

Arkansas St.

88.3

103

Iowa St.

88.0

104

Troy

88.0

105

Akron

87.9

106

South Alabama

87.4

107

U N L V

86.9

108

Hawaii

86.3

109

Western Michigan

86.0

110

New Mexico

85.5

111

Temple

85.1

112

Florida Atlantic

84.9

113

Central Michigan

84.9

114

Connecticut

84.6

115

Louisiana Tech

84.5

116

Eastern Michigan

84.2

117

Air Force

83.6

118

South Florida

82.3

119

Miami (O)

82.3

120

Southern Miss.

80.7

121

Massachusetts

80.2

122

New Mexico St.

80.0

123

Idaho

79.1

124

Florida Int’l

70.6

125

Georgia St.

69.3

 

PiRate Bias

1

Oregon

135.5

2

Alabama

133.6

3

Ole Miss

125.2

4

Oklahoma St.

123.4

5

Stanford

122.9

6

L S U

122.2

7

Texas A&M

122.1

8

Georgia

122.0

9

Ohio St.

121.0

10

Florida St.

120.4

11

Washington

119.9

12

South Carolina

119.6

13

Louisville

119.3

14

Arizona

118.3

15

Baylor

117.9

16

U C L A

117.9

17

Clemson

117.8

18

Arizona St.

117.0

19

Oklahoma

115.6

20

Georgia Tech

115.5

21

Florida

115.5

22

Wisconsin

115.2

23

Texas

115.1

24

Miami

114.8

25

Michigan

114.6

26

Northwestern

114.0

27

Missouri

114.0

28

Notre Dame

113.6

29

Oregon St.

113.5

30

T C U

113.3

31

Michigan St.

112.9

32

U S C

112.8

33

B Y U

112.0

34

Virginia Tech

110.3

35

Penn St.

109.3

36

Texas Tech

109.1

37

Nebraska

109.0

38

Vanderbilt

108.4

39

Mississippi St.

108.0

40

Kansas St.

107.7

41

North Carolina

107.5

42

Washington St.

106.5

43

Cincinnati

106.4

44

Auburn

106.3

45

Utah St.

105.0

46

Tennessee

104.9

47

Central Florida

104.3

48

Indiana

104.1

49

Fresno St.

104.1

50

Utah

102.5

51

West Virginia

102.1

52

San Jose St.

101.6

53

Maryland

101.5

54

Boise St.

101.1

55

Minnesota

100.9

56

Syracuse

100.7

57

Boston College

100.5

58

Illinois

100.4

59

Bowling Green

100.4

60

Toledo

100.2

61

Rutgers

99.6

62

Iowa

99.6

63

East Carolina

99.5

64

Arkansas

99.4

65

Pittsburgh

99.1

66

Rice

99.0

67

Northern Illinois

98.8

68

Marshall

98.7

69

Ball St.

98.2

70

Navy

97.7

71

North Carolina St.

97.5

72

Kentucky

97.5

73

Louisiana–Monroe

97.1

74

Wake Forest

96.5

75

Duke

96.4

76

Iowa St.

96.2

77

Purdue

94.3

78

California

94.3

79

Virginia

94.0

80

Louisiana–Lafayette

93.8

81

Arkansas St.

93.4

82

Wyoming

93.2

83

North Texas

93.0

84

S M U

92.9

85

Ohio

92.9

86

Kansas

92.6

87

Tulsa

92.6

88

Houston

92.5

89

San Diego St.

92.5

90

Colorado St.

90.4

91

Colorado

90.1

92

Connecticut

90.0

93

Buffalo

89.8

94

Western Kentucky

89.8

95

Kent St.

88.7

96

U T S A

88.4

97

Troy

88.3

98

Memphis

88.2

99

South Florida

88.0

100

U A B

87.5

101

Middle Tennessee

87.0

102

Western Michigan

87.0

103

Nevada

86.8

104

Hawaii

86.7

105

U T E P

86.0

106

Florida Atlantic

85.8

107

Army

85.7

108

Temple

85.4

109

Tulane

84.9

110

U N L V

84.7

111

South Alabama

83.9

112

Akron

83.2

113

Central Michigan

82.4

114

Louisiana Tech

82.1

115

Southern Miss.

81.3

116

Texas St.

80.4

117

New Mexico

79.5

118

Eastern Michigan

79.3

119

Air Force

79.0

120

Miami (O)

76.8

121

New Mexico St.

73.2

122

Massachusetts

70.9

123

Idaho

69.3

124

Florida Int’l

67.7

125

Georgia St.

61.5

 

 

PiRate Ratings By Conference

American Athletic Conference

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Louisville

0-0

3-0

117.6

115.6

119.3

Cincinnati

0-0

2-1

105.7

106.2

106.4

Central Florida

0-0

3-0

103.4

105.6

104.3

Rutgers

0-0

2-1

99.0

102.4

99.6

S M U

0-0

1-1

93.5

98.6

92.9

Houston

1-0

2-0

91.2

102.1

92.5

Connecticut

0-0

0-2

89.6

84.6

90.0

South Florida

0-0

0-3

89.3

82.3

88.0

Memphis

0-0

0-2

87.6

95.8

88.2

Temple

0-1

0-3

86.7

85.1

85.4

 

 

 

 

 

 

League Averages

 

 

96.4

97.8

96.7

 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Atlantic Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Florida St.

1-0

2-0

118.5

122.2

120.4

Clemson

0-0

2-0

116.7

115.7

117.8

Syracuse

0-0

1-2

101.6

98.6

100.7

Boston College

1-0

2-1

100.2

98.5

100.5

Maryland

0-0

3-0

99.2

106.5

101.5

North Carolina St.

0-0

2-0

96.7

103.0

97.5

Wake Forest

0-1

1-2

96.6

99.5

96.5

     

 

 

 

Coastal Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Miami

0-0

2-0

114.6

115.7

114.8

Georgia Tech

1-0

2-0

114.6

114.2

115.5

Virginia Tech

0-0

2-1

110.7

111.0

110.3

North Carolina

0-0

1-1

106.9

109.2

107.5

Pittsburgh

0-1

1-1

99.4

97.3

99.1

Duke

0-1

2-1

97.6

98.3

96.4

Virginia

0-0

1-1

93.7

97.1

94.0

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

104.8

106.2

105.2

 

Big 12 Conference

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Oklahoma St.

0-0

3-0

122.6

112.6

123.4

Baylor

0-0

2-0

117.5

107.8

117.9

Texas

0-0

1-2

116.4

106.6

115.1

Oklahoma

1-0

3-0

115.6

111.4

115.6

T C U

0-1

1-2

113.1

107.4

113.3

Kansas St.

0-0

2-1

109.1

101.5

107.7

Texas Tech

1-0

3-0

108.8

106.2

109.1

West Virginia

0-1

2-1

103.8

96.0

102.1

Iowa St.

0-0

0-2

98.1

88.0

96.2

Kansas

0-0

1-1

93.7

90.9

92.6

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

109.9

102.8

109.3

 

Big Ten Conference

 

Leaders Division

 
Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

 
Ohio St.

0-0

3-0

120.7

118.0

121.0

 
Wisconsin

0-0

2-1

115.2

116.5

115.2

 
Penn St.

0-0

2-1

110.0

113.0

109.3

 
Indiana

0-0

2-1

103.8

107.5

104.1

 
Illinois

0-0

2-1

99.8

103.7

100.4

 
Purdue

0-0

1-2

96.8

93.1

94.3

 
     

 

 

 

 

Legends Division

 
Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

 
Michigan

0-0

3-0

115.3

113.8

114.6

 
Northwestern

0-0

3-0

114.5

112.1

114.0

 
Michigan St.

0-0

3-0

114.8

115.3

112.9

 
Nebraska

0-0

2-1

110.7

107.7

109.0

 
Minnesota

0-0

3-0

102.0

102.2

100.9

 
Iowa

0-0

2-1

99.9

98.9

99.6

 
     

 

 

 

 
League Averages    

108.6

108.5

107.9

 

Conference USA

 

East Division

 
Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

 
East Carolina

1-0

2-1

98.2

100.3

99.5

 
Marshall

0-0

2-1

96.8

101.2

98.7

 
U A B

0-0

0-2

87.3

89.4

87.5

 
Middle Tennessee

0-0

2-1

86.8

92.8

87.0

 
Florida Atlantic

0-1

1-2

85.5

84.9

85.8

 
Southern Miss.

0-0

0-3

81.3

80.7

81.3

 
Florida Int’l

0-0

0-3

67.8

70.6

67.7

 
     

 

 

 

 

West Division

 
Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

 
Rice

0-0

1-1

97.7

100.6

99.0

 
Tulsa

0-0

1-2

93.6

90.6

92.6

 
North Texas

0-0

2-1

92.8

95.0

93.0

 
U T S A

0-0

1-2

88.7

90.2

88.4

 
U T E P

0-0

1-1

85.3

91.5

86.0

 
Tulane

1-0

2-1

84.7

91.2

84.9

 
Louisiana Tech

0-1

1-2

82.9

84.5

82.1

 
     

 

 

 

 
League Averages    

87.8

90.3

88.1

 

Independents

Team

 

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Notre Dame

 

2-1

115.6

111.7

113.6

B Y U

 

1-1

110.8

109.0

112.0

Navy

 

2-0

97.6

99.8

97.7

Army

 

1-2

84.4

92.1

85.7

New Mexico St.

 

0-3

73.7

80.0

73.2

Idaho

 

0-3

69.7

79.1

69.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Avg’s.

 

 

92.0

95.3

91.9

 

Mid-American Conference

East Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Bowling Green

1-0

2-1

99.2

99.0

100.4

Ohio

0-0

2-1

91.6

95.1

92.9

Buffalo

0-0

1-2

89.7

90.0

89.8

Kent St.

0-1

1-2

88.1

91.3

88.7

Akron

0-0

1-2

82.8

87.9

83.2

Miami (O)

0-0

0-2

78.4

82.3

76.8

Massachusetts

0-0

0-3

71.0

80.2

70.9

     

 

 

 

West Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Toledo

0-0

1-2

99.7

100.3

100.2

Northern Illinois

0-0

2-0

98.1

99.3

98.8

Ball St.

0-0

2-1

97.5

100.4

98.2

Western Michigan

0-0

0-3

84.8

86.0

87.0

Central Michigan

0-0

1-2

82.7

84.9

82.4

Eastern Michigan

0-0

1-2

79.3

84.2

79.3

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

87.9

90.8

88.4

Mountain West Conference

Mountain Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Utah St.

1-0

2-1

103.0

99.9

105.0

Boise St.

1-0

2-1

100.3

94.0

101.1

Wyoming

0-0

2-1

91.0

92.3

93.2

Colorado St.

0-0

1-2

90.0

90.3

90.4

New Mexico

0-0

1-2

79.3

85.5

79.5

Air Force

0-2

1-2

79.0

83.6

79.0

     

 

 

 

West Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Fresno St.

0-0

2-0

103.2

102.6

104.1

San Jose St.

0-0

1-1

101.0

95.9

101.6

San Diego St.

0-0

0-2

92.5

89.4

92.5

Nevada

0-0

1-2

87.4

90.1

86.8

Hawaii

0-0

0-2

85.6

86.3

86.7

U N L V

0-0

1-2

84.3

86.9

84.7

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

91.4

91.4

92.1

   

 

Pacific 12 Conference

North Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Oregon

0-0

3-0

133.9

129.8

135.5

Stanford

0-0

2-0

124.2

114.6

122.9

Washington

0-0

2-0

118.9

114.6

119.9

Oregon St.

1-0

2-1

115.1

104.0

113.5

Washington St.

1-0

2-1

105.7

105.1

106.5

California

0-0

1-2

96.3

91.8

94.3

     

 

 

 

South Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Arizona

0-0

3-0

119.5

114.6

118.3

U C L A

0-0

2-0

118.6

110.9

117.9

Arizona St.

0-0

2-0

117.0

118.8

117.0

U S C

0-1

2-1

113.0

110.5

112.8

Utah

0-1

2-1

103.1

102.7

102.5

Colorado

0-0

2-0

92.0

97.5

90.1

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

113.1

109.6

112.6

 

Southeastern Conference

East Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Georgia

1-0

1-1

121.5

118.6

122.0

South Carolina

1-1

2-1

119.9

117.9

119.6

Florida

0-0

1-1

117.5

113.3

115.5

Missouri

0-0

2-0

115.1

112.2

114.0

Vanderbilt

0-2

1-2

108.9

106.0

108.4

Tennessee

0-0

2-1

105.6

105.0

104.9

Kentucky

0-0

1-2

99.0

99.6

97.5

     

 

 

 

West Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Alabama

1-0

2-0

132.5

125.1

133.6

Ole Miss

1-0

3-0

124.9

120.5

125.2

Texas A&M

0-1

2-1

122.0

116.6

122.1

L S U

0-0

3-0

121.2

120.4

122.2

Mississippi St.

0-1

1-2

108.6

104.8

108.0

Auburn

1-0

3-0

107.2

107.0

106.3

Arkansas

0-0

3-0

100.9

107.4

99.4

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

114.6

112.5

114.2

 

Sunbelt Conference

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Louisiana–Monroe

0-0

2-1

96.4

95.2

97.1

Louisiana–Lafayette

0-0

1-2

94.4

94.0

93.8

Arkansas St.

1-0

2-1

93.9

88.3

93.4

Western Kentucky

0-1

1-2

89.4

91.0

89.8

Troy

0-1

2-1

86.8

88.0

88.3

South Alabama

1-0

2-1

82.9

87.4

83.9

Texas St.

0-0

2-0

81.2

88.6

80.4

Georgia St.

0-0

0-3

60.1

69.3

61.5

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

85.6

87.7

86.0

 

Transitioning Teams *

Team

 

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Georgia Southern

 

2-1

85.9

88.3

93.0

Old Dominion

 

1-2

81.7

82.5

88.5

Appalachian St.

 

0-2

78.6

77.3

85.7

Charlotte

 

2-1

56.5

61.1

63.6

           
* Not figured in regular averages to 100      

 

Here Are This Week’s PiRate Ratings Spreads

 

Date:

September 19-21, 2013

   

 

 

 

Home Visitor

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Air Force Wyoming

-9.5

-6.2

-11.7

Akron UL-Lafayette

-8.6

-3.1

-7.6

Alabama Colorado St.

46.0

38.3

46.7

Army Wake Forest

-9.2

-4.4

-7.8

B Y U Utah

9.7

8.3

11.5

Baylor UL-Monroe

24.1

15.6

23.8

Central Michigan Toledo

-14.5

-12.9

-15.3

Connecticut Michigan

-22.7

-26.2

-21.6

Duke Pittsburgh

0.7

3.5

-0.2

Eastern Michigan Ball St.

-16.2

-14.2

-16.9

Florida Tennessee

14.9

11.3

13.6

Florida Atlantic Middle Tennessee

1.7

-4.9

1.8

Fresno St. Boise St.

5.9

11.6

6.0

Georgia North Texas

32.2

27.1

32.5

Georgia Tech North Carolina

10.7

8.0

11.0

Indiana Missouri

-8.3

-5.5

-6.9

Iowa Western Michigan

18.1

15.9

15.6

Kansas Louisiana Tech

13.8

9.4

13.5

L S U Auburn

17.0

16.4

18.9

Louisville Florida Int’l

52.8

48.0

54.6

Maryland (a) West Virginia

-3.1

12.0

0.9

Massachusetts Vanderbilt

-35.4

-23.3

-35.0

Memphis Arkansas St.

-3.8

10.0

-2.7

Miami (O) Cincinnati

-25.3

-21.9

-27.6

Minnesota San Jose St.

4.5

9.8

2.8

Mississippi St. Troy

24.8

19.8

22.7

Nevada Hawaii

4.8

6.8

3.1

North Carolina St. Clemson

-17.0

-9.7

-17.3

Notre Dame Michigan St.

3.8

-0.6

3.7

Penn St. Kent St.

24.9

24.7

23.6

Rice (b) Houston

6.5

-1.5

6.5

Rutgers Arkansas

1.1

-2.0

3.2

San Diego St. Oregon St.

-19.6

-11.6

-18.0

Stanford Arizona St.

10.2

-1.2

8.9

Syracuse Tulane

19.9

10.4

18.8

Texas Kansas St.

10.3

8.1

10.4

Texas A&M S M U

31.0

20.5

31.7

Texas Tech Texas St.

30.6

20.6

31.7

U C L A New Mexico St.

47.9

33.9

47.7

U S C Utah St.

13.0

13.6

10.8

U T E P U T S A

-0.9

3.8

0.1

Virginia Tech Marshall

16.9

12.8

14.6

Washington St. Idaho

38.0

28.0

39.2

Wisconsin Purdue

21.4

26.4

23.9

   

 

 

 

(a) Game Played in Baltimore

 

 

 

(b) Game Played at Reliant Stadium in Houston

 

 

 

 

PiRate Bowl Projections

GAME

Team

vs.

Team

New Mexico

Wyoming

vs.

Oregon St.

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas

Fresno St.

vs.

Arizona St.

Famous Idaho Potato

Boise St.

vs.

Ohio U

New Orleans

Arkansas St.

vs.

Middle Tennessee

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s

(UL-Monroe)

vs.

North Texas

Hawai’i

Air Force

vs.

Tulsa

Little Caesars Pizza

Northern Illinois

vs.

(Texas St.)

Poinsettia

San Jose St.

vs.

(Washington St.)

Military Bowl

Pittsburgh

vs.

East Carolina

Texas

Nebraska

vs.

West Virginia

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl

U S C

vs.

B Y U

Pinstripe

Rutgers

vs.

(Notre Dame)

Belk

Cincinnati

vs.

North Carolina

Russell Athletic

Central Florida

vs.

Georgia Tech

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Texas

vs.

Northwestern

Armed Forces

Utah St.

vs.

Navy

Music City

North Carolina St.

vs.

Florida

Alamo

Texas Tech

vs.

Stanford

Holiday

Kansas St.

vs.

Arizona

AdvoCare V100 Bowl

(Ball St.)

vs.

Maryland

Sun

Virginia Tech

vs.

Washington

Liberty

Arkansas

vs.

Marshall

Chick-fil-A

Miami

vs.

South Carolina

Heart Of Dallas

Rice

vs.

Minnesota

Gator

Michigan St.

vs.

Missouri

Outback

Texas A&M

vs.

Wisconsin

Capital One

Michigan

vs.

Georgia

Rose

U C L A

vs.

L S U

Fiesta

Oklahoma St.

vs.

Louisville

Sugar

Alabama

vs.

Florida St.

Cotton

Ole Miss

vs.

Baylor

Orange

Clemson

vs.

Oklahoma

BBVA Compass Bowl

Houston

vs.

Auburn

GoDaddy.com

UL-Lafayette

vs.

Bowling Green

BCS Championship

Oregon

vs.

Ohio St.

 

(Teams In Parentheses Are At-Large Selections)

 

August 23, 2013

2013 Pac-12 Conference Preview

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — piratings @ 6:59 pm

2013 Pac-12 Conference Preview

 

Get ready for an exciting season of college football on the West Coast.  The 2013 Pac-12 conference should have two heated races in the divisions.

 

This is a year of transition, and there are no true clear-cut favorites.  On paper, Oregon looks like the class of the league, but the Ducks will not have Coach Chip Kelly on the sidelines, as well as Kenjon Barner and his 1,700+ rushing yards, as well as three of the top five defensive stoppers from 2012.

 

Don’t discount the Ducks.  New coach Mark Elfrich has enough talent to take the Quack Attack back to the National Championship Game.  However, to do so, Oregon will have to win at Stanford.  The Cardinal won at Autzen Stadium last year.

 

Speaking of Stanford, this could be an even stronger edition in Palo Alto this season.  Kevin Hogan proved to be a very capable successor to Andrew Luck, and he will enjoy having the top offensive line  in the league.  However, the Cardinal lost all their key receivers and their key running back.  SU will continue to shine and contend for national honors thanks to a top-notch defense that could yield as few as 15 points per game this year.

 

Oregon St. is lying in ambush of the big two in the Pac-12 North Division.  The Beavers have top 10 talent, albeit third best in this division.  OSU could easily start the season at 7-0 before closing with a brutal stretch of games against Stanford, USC, Arizona St., Washington, and Oregon.  It will be hard topping 4-1 in those five games, and 2-3 may be more likely.

 

Washington is just a step below the big three in the North Division.  The Huskies will take a backseat to nobody on the attack side of the ball.  Coach Steve Sarkisian has one of the best receiving corps in the country, and quarterback Keith Price has 3,500 yard potential.  The Husky defense should be slightly improved, but the schedule prohibits it from a high national ranking.

 

Washington St. and California are well back of the top four in the North Division.  Washington St. starts year two of the Mike Leach era.  He must direct a new quarterback and replace the top receiver from last year.  WSU averaged the worst rushing production in modern day times, when the Cougars ran for just 29 yards per game in 2012.  Of course, sacks (57 in all) played a huge part, and if you count the rushing the proper way, like the NFL, the number inflates to 60 yards per game and a 3.7 average per attempt.

 

California becomes the next team to switch to the Air-Raid Offense, as former Louisiana Tech head man Sonny Dykes takes over in Berkeley.  Look for UC to pass the ball about 45-50 times per game, but it will be a long season at Memorial Stadium with a major rebuilding project commencing.

 

The South Division will be more competitive than the North with four teams in contention.  Our preseason ratings show less than two points separating the top four teams, which is less than the home field advantages for each team.  A 7-2 conference mark could be enough to win the division outright, and a 6-3 record could once again be all that is needed (UCLA last year).

 

This could be a do or die year for Lane Kiffin as coach of the USC Trojans.  The men of Troy failed to live up to expectations last year, finishing just 5-4 in league play and failing to show up against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.  Max Wittek and Cody Kessler are battling to replace Matt Barkley at quarterback, and star receiver Marqise Lee has given statements to the media that the lack of naming a starter could be causing a stir within the team.  We cannot name the Trojans as the team to beat in the South, as possible dissension and lack of leadership could cause the demise of Kiffin in Los Angeles.

 

The team that we believe has the best chance of winning the division is Arizona St.  The Sun Devils are strong but not spectacular at every position on the field, and there is quality depth for second year head man Todd Graham.  Graham has produced winners everywhere he has coached, but his problem has been stating put.  He is the Larry Brown of football.  Should he decide to stick around Tempe for a lengthy stay, he could restore this program to the lofty status it enjoyed under Frank Kush in the 1970’s.  We look for a Kush-like year at Sun Devil Stadium; ASU should top 200 yards rushing, 200 yards passing, and 40 points per game.

 

UCLA faces a minor rebuilding project on the defensive side of the ball, but the Bruins have enough talent back to contend for the South Division title.  Brett Hundley is the best pure drop back passer in the league, and he could approach 4,000 passing yards.

 

Arizona should be vastly improved on the defensive side of the ball, and when a Rich Rodriguez team plays decent defense, you have to consider his team a legitimate contender for a league title.  The Spread offense will always produce points and access yardage, so the Wildcats are right there with the other three contenders this year.

 

Utah is starting to fall well back of the contenders in this division.  The Utes fell to 3-6 in league play last year, and we do not believe they can match that mark this year.  There isn’t enough talent in Salt Lake City.  The Utes had to fight off a scrappy Colorado team last year, and Cal drops off the schedule with a trip to Oregon as the replacement.  Throw in the regular non-conference games against BYU and Utah St., and it looks like a long year for Coach Kyle Whittingham’s crew.

 

Colorado edged Washington St. by one point last year to avoid an 0-12 season.  A loss to Sacramento St. basically brought about the end of the Jon Embree era in Boulder.  Enter former San Jose St. coach Mike MacIntyre.  In year one, the Buffaloes better be ready to play their best in week two against Central Arkansas, or CU could be looking at 0-12.  Give MacIntyre time, and he will turn things around at Folsom Field.

 

New Teams: None

 

Departures: None

 

Pre-season PiRate Ratings

Pacific 12 Conference

North Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

Oregon

0-0

0-0

127.9

119.7

128.8

Stanford

0-0

0-0

127.1

115.9

126.8

Oregon St.

0-0

0-0

121.3

108.6

120.0

Washington

0-0

0-0

117.5

112.6

118.0

Washington St.

0-0

0-0

100.3

96.1

99.9

California

0-0

0-0

97.8

91.9

95.5

     

 

 

 

South Division

Team

Conf.

Overall

PiRate

Mean

Bias

U S C

0-0

0-0

116.9

111.4

116.8

Arizona

0-0

0-0

116.2

108.8

115.1

Arizona St.

0-0

0-0

115.5

113.1

115.9

U C L A

0-0

0-0

115.2

103.0

114.1

Utah

0-0

0-0

99.7

96.7

98.5

Colorado

0-0

0-0

89.8

85.9

87.6

     

 

 

 

League Averages    

112.1

105.3

111.4

 

 

Official Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll

 

Pos

Team

Points

1st Place

NORTH DIVISION

1

Oregon

145

15

2

Stanford

139

11

3

Oregon St.

95

0

4

Washington

84

0

5

California

47

0

6

Washington St.

33

0

       
Pos Team

Points

1st Place

SOUTH DIVISION

1

U C L A

135

12

2

Arizona St.

130

10

3

Southern Cal

117

4

4

Arizona

76

0

5

Utah

60

0

6

Colorado

28

0

       

Pac-12 Title Game Champion

  Oregon

14

 
  Stanford

8

 
  U C L A

3

 

 

The Pac-12 did not release an official preseason all-conference team, so we will list the key players for each team with stats from 2012 in parentheses.

 

North Division

 

California

Brendan Bigelow—RB (431 rush/9.8 avg  Breakaway runner)

Chris Harper—WR (41-544)

Richard Rodgers—WR (20-288)

DeAndre Coleman—DL (48 tackles/3 sacks/8.5 TFL)

Nick Forbes—LB (85 tackles/4 Passes Defended)

Michael Lowe—DB (3 Int.)

 

Oregon

Marcus Mariota—QB (68.5% comp./8.0 ypa/32TD/6 Int./860 Rush [minus sacks])

Josh Huff—WR (32-493/7 TD)

Colt Lyerla—TE (25-392/6 TD)

De’Anthony Thomas—Slot (701 rush/11 rush TD/45-445 rec./5 rec. TD/17.1 PR avg and 1 TD/1 KR TD)

Hroniss Grassu, Jake Fisher, and Tyler Johnstone—OL

Taylor Hart—DL (36 tackles/8 sacks/11 TFL)

Ito Ekpre-Olomu—DB (4 Int./20 Passes Defended)

Terrance Mitchell—DB (8 Passes Defended)

 

Oregon St.

Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion—QB (look for both to see action where they combined for 3,926 passing yards and 26 TD)

Storm Woods—RB (940 Rush/13 TD)

Brandon Cooks—WR (67-1,151/5 TD)

Grant Enger and Michael Philipp—OL

Scott Crichton—DL (9 sacks/17.5 TFL)

Michael Doctor—LB (83 tackles/11 TFL/5 Passes Defended)

Rashaad Reynolds—DB (3 Int./16 Passes Defended)

Keith Kostol—P (41.9 avg/38.5 net/41% inside 20)

 

Stanford

Kevin Hogan—QB (71.7% comp.)

Kevin Danser and David Yankey—OL

Henry Anderson—DL (51 tackles/5.5 sacks/13 TFL/5 Passes Defended)

Ben Gardner—DL (49 tackles/7.5 sacks/14.5 TFL5 Passes Defended)

Trent Murphy—LB (56 tackles/10 sacks/18 TFL/6 QB hurries/5 Passes Defended)

Jordan Richards—DB (68 tackles/3 Int./15 Passes Defended)

Ed Reynolds—DB (47 tackles/6 Int./11 Passes Defended)

 

Washington

Keith Price—QB (60.9% comp./19 TD/13 Int.)

Bishop Sankey—RB (1,439 rush/5.0 avg/16 TD/33-249 rec.)

Kasen Williams—WR (77-878/6 TD)

Danny Shelton—DL (45 tackles/4 TFL)

John Timu—LB (91 tackles/6 Passes Defended)

Shaq Thompson—LB (74 tackles/8.5 TFL/3 Int./6 Passes Defended)

Sean Parker—DB (77 tackles/6 Passes Defended)

 

Washington St.

Gabe Marks—WR (49-560)

Dominique Williams—WR (34-546)

Elliott Bosch—OL

Cyrus Coen—LB (60 tackles/3 sacks/12 TFL/3 Int./7 Passes Defended)

Deone Bucannon—DB (106 tackles/4 Int./8 Passes Defended)

Andrew Furney—K (Made 60-yard FG last year)

 

South Division

 

Arizona

Ka’Deem Carey—RB (1,929 rush/6.4 avg/23 TD/36-303 rec.)

Jake Fischer—LB (119 tackles/6.5 FL)

Marquise Flowers—LB (100 tackles/5.5 sacks/13 TFL/3 Int./6 Passes Defended)

Jonathan McKnight—DB (51 tackles/3 Int./7 Passes Defended)

Richard Morrison—PR (13-10.2/1 TD)

 

Arizona St.

Taylor Kelly—QB (67.1% comp./8.5 ypa/29 TD/9 Int.)

Marion Grice—RB (679 rush/6.6 avg/11 TD/41-425 rec./8 TD rec.)

Chris Coyle—TE (57-696/5 TD)

Evan Finkenberg—OL

Will Sutton—DL (63 tackles/13 sacks/23.5 TFL)

Carl Bradford—LB (81 tackles/11.5 sacks/20.5 TFL/5 Passes Defended)

Alden Darby—DB (80 tackles/3 Int./7 Passes Defended)

Osahon Irabor—DB (14 Passes Defended)

 

Colorado

Christian Powell—RB (691 rush/4.4 avg./7 TD)

Nelson Spruce—WR (44-446/3 TD)

Paul Richardson—WR (former 1,000+ rec. yards/missed 2012)

Daniel Munyer—OL

Chidera Uzo-Diribe—DL (43 tackles/7 sacks/10.5 TFL)

Derrick Webb—LB (88 tackles/5.5 TFL)

 

Southern Cal

Silas Redd—RB (905 rush/5.4 avg./9 TD)

Marqise Lee—WR (118-1,721/14 TD/8.2 rush avg./28.5 KR/1 KRTD/Should be 1st or 2nd pick in 2014 NFL Draft)

Marcus Martin, John Martinez, and Max Tuerk—OL

Leonard Williams—DL (64 tackles/8 sacks/13.5 TFL/5 Passes Defended)

Morgan Breslin—DL (62 tackles/13 sacks/19.5 TFL)

Hayes Pullard—LB (107 tackles/8 TFL)

Dion Bailey—DB (80 tackles/8 TFL/4 Int./9 Passes Defended)

 

U C L A

Brett Hundley—QB (66.5% comp./29 TD/11 Int.)

Shaquelle Evans—WR (60-877)

Jake Brendel and Xavier Su’A-Filo—OL

Cassius Marsh—DL (50 tackles/8 sacks/10.5 TFL)

Eric Kendricks—LB (150 tackles/6 TFL/5 Passes Defended)

Anthony Barr—LB (83 tackles/13.5 sacks/21.5 TFL/5 Passes Defended)

 

Utah

Travis Wilson—QB (62.7% comp.)

Jeremiah Poutasi—OL

Trevor Reilly—DL (69 tackles/4.5 sacks/6.5 TFL/5 Passes Defended)

 

 

PiRate Ratings Summary

 

About Grades

93-100         A+

86-92           A

79-85           A-

72-78           B+

65-71           B

58-64           B-

51-57           C+

44-50           C

37-43           C-

30-36           D

0-29             F

 

About Predictions

Predictions are based on the PiRate Ratings with home field advantage factored in.  The PiRate Ratings use different home field advantages for every game, since the opponent factors into the equation.

 

North Division

Team

California Golden Bears

               
Head Coach

Sonny Dykes

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Berkeley, CA

               
2012 Record              
Conference

2-7

Overall

3-9

               
Grades              
Run Offense

52

Pass Offense

77

Run Defense

69

Pass Defense

52

               
Ratings              
PiRate

97.8

Mean

91.9

Bias

95.5

               
Rankings              
PiRate

71

Mean

96

Bias

78

               
Prediction              
Conference

2-7

Overall

3-9

 

 

Team

Oregon Ducks

               
Head Coach

Mark Helfrich

               
Colors

Green and Gold

               
City

Eugene, OR

               
2012 Record              
Conference

8-1

Overall

12-1

               
Grades              
Run Offense

100

Pass Offense

91

Run Defense

92

Pass Defense

90

               
Ratings              
PiRate

127.9

Mean

119.7

Bias

128.8

               
Rankings              
PiRate

2

Mean

2

Bias

2

               
Prediction              
Conference

8-1

Overall

11-1

 

 

Team

Oregon St. Beavers

               
Head Coach

Mike Riley

               
Colors

Orange and Black

               
City

Corvallis, OR

               
2012 Record              
Conference

6-3

Overall

9-4

               
Grades              
Run Offense

67

Pass Offense

94

Run Defense

93

Pass Defense

88

               
Ratings              
PiRate

121.3

Mean

108.6

Bias

120.0

               
Rankings              
PiRate

10

Mean

35

Bias

11

               
Prediction              
Conference

7-2

Overall

10-2

 

 

Team

Stanford Cardinal

               
Head Coach

David Shaw

               
Colors

Cardinal and White

               
City

Palo Alto, CA

               
2012 Record              
Conference

8-1 (won Pac-12 Championship)

Overall

12-2

               
Grades              
Run Offense

84

Pass Offense

92

Run Defense

99

Pass Defense

93

               
Ratings              
PiRate

127.1

Mean

115.9

Bias

126.8

               
Rankings              
PiRate

4

Mean

9

Bias

4

               
Prediction              
Conference

9-0 (wins Pac-12 Conf. Championship)

Overall

13-0

 

 

Team

Washington Huskies

               
Head Coach

Steve Sarkisian

               
Colors

Purple and Gold

               
City

Seattle

               
2012 Record              
Conference

5-4

Overall

7-6

               
Grades              
Run Offense

83

Pass Offense

87

Run Defense

82

Pass Defense

78

               
Ratings              
PiRate

117.5

Mean

112.6

Bias

118.0

               
Rankings              
PiRate

16

Mean

22

Bias

15

               
Prediction              
Conference

4-5

Overall

7-5

 

 

Team

Washington St. Cougars

               
Head Coach

Mike Leach

               
Colors

Crimson and Gray

               
City

Pullman, WA

               
2012 Record              
Conference

1-8

Overall

3-9

               
Grades              
Run Offense

25

Pass Offense

93

Run Defense

69

Pass Defense

65

               
Ratings              
PiRate

100.3

Mean

96.1

Bias

99.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

55

Mean

81

Bias

58

               
Prediction              
Conference

1-8

Overall

3-9

 

 

South Division

Team

Arizona Wildcats

               
Head Coach

Rich Rodriguez

               
Colors

Cardinal and Navy

               
City

Tucson, AZ

               
2012 Record              
Conference

4-5

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

93

Pass Offense

88

Run Defense

74

Pass Defense

71

               
Ratings              
PiRate

116.2

Mean

108.8

Bias

115.1

               
Rankings              
PiRate

21

Mean

33

Bias

26

               
Prediction              
Conference

5-4

Overall

8-4

 

 

Team

Arizona St. Sun Devils

               
Head Coach

Todd Graham

               
Colors

Maroon and Gold

               
City

Tempe, AZ

               
2012 Record              
Conference

5-4

Overall

8-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

71

Pass Offense

88

Run Defense

86

Pass Defense

76

               
Ratings              
PiRate

115.5

Mean

113.1

Bias

115.9

               
Rankings              
PiRate

24

Mean

19

Bias

20

               
Prediction              
Conference

6-3 (lose Pac-12 Champ. Game)

Overall

8-5

 

 

Team

Colorado Buffaloes

               
Head Coach

Mike MacIntyre

               
Colors

Old Gold and Black

               
City

Boulder, CO

               
2012 Record              
Conference

1-8

Overall

1-11

               
Grades              
Run Offense

35

Pass Offense

62

Run Defense

62

Pass Defense

57

               
Ratings              
PiRate

89.8

Mean

85.9

Bias

87.6

               
Rankings              
PiRate

92

Mean

113

Bias

98

               
Prediction              
Conference

0-9

Overall

1-11

 

 

Team

Southern Cal Trojans

               
Head Coach

Lane Kiffin

               
Colors

Cardinal and Gold

               
City

Los Angeles

               
2012 Record              
Conference

5-4

Overall

7-6

               
Grades              
Run Offense

82

Pass Offense

78

Run Defense

95

Pass Defense

76

               
Ratings              
PiRate

116.9

Mean

111.4

Bias

116.8

               
Rankings              
PiRate

17

Mean

27

Bias

17

               
Prediction              
Conference

6-3

Overall

9-4

 

 

Team

U C L A Bruins

               
Head Coach

Jim Mora, Jr.

               
Colors

Deep Sky Blue and Sun Gold

               
City

Los Angeles

               
2012 Record              
Conference

6-3 (lost in Pac-12 Champ. Game)

Overall

9-5

               
Grades              
Run Offense

71

Pass Offense

95

Run Defense

78

Pass Defense

74

               
Ratings              
PiRate

115.2

Mean

103.0

Bias

114.1

               
Rankings              
PiRate

26

Mean

47

Bias

29

               
Prediction              
Conference

5-4

Overall

7-5

 

Colorado Buffaloes

Team

Utah Utes

                 
Head Coach

Kyle Whittingham

 
                 
Colors

Crimson and White

 
                 
City

Salt Lake City

 
                 
2012 Record                
Conference

3-6

 
Overall

5-7

 
                 
Grades                
Run Offense

53

 
Pass Offense

71

 
Run Defense

69

 
Pass Defense

64

 
                 
Ratings                
PiRate

99.7

 
Mean

96.7

 
Bias

98.5

 
                 
Rankings                
PiRate

60

 
Mean

75

 
Bias

66

 
                 
Prediction                
Conference

1-8

 
Overall

3-9

 

 

August 26, 2012

2012 Pac-12 Conference Preview

The Pac-12 last produced a national champion in 2004, when Southern Cal blew Oklahoma out of the Orange Bowl 55-19.  The Trojans rode the arm of Matt Leinart and the legs of Reggie Bush and LenDale White.

 

Oregon played for the national title two years ago, giving Auburn a great game (lost 22-19).

 

Stanford has lost twice to Oregon in the last two year, but the Cardinal have won their 11 other regular season games both years.

 

The Pac-12 is slowly becoming important again.  This year, the league has two legitimate national title contenders.  However, the big story in this league is the new blood that should make this league the most exciting of all.

 

Rich Rodriguez brings his spread offense to Arizona.  Todd Graham is attempting to become the Larry Brown of college football.  His latest nomadic travel brings him to Tempe, Arizona.  Jim Mora, Jr. takes over in Westwood and tries to make UCLA important again.  However, the biggest new face settled in Pullman, Washington.  The Pirate, Mike Leach, returns to coaching, and Washington State fans will get to see the Cougars go wild this year.

 

Yes, this just may be the most exciting league in college football.  The PiRate Ratings show the Pac-12 to be the third strongest league, just a field goal weaker than the SEC and two points weaker than the Big 12.

 

The Media Poll was released a month ago, and the members of the press had this to say about the 2012 Pac-12 race:

 

 

Pac-12 North

Votes

 

 

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

 

1

Oregon

117

732

(18)

2

Stanford

5

533

 

3

Washington

0

502

 

4

California

1

382

 

5

Washington State

0

228

 

6

Oregon State

0

205

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pac-12 South

 

 

 

Rank

Team

1st Place

Total

 

1

Southern Cal

117

729

(102)

2

Utah

1

514

 

3

U C L A

2

435

 

4

Arizona

0

385

 

5

Arizona State

3

353

(3)

6

Colorado

0

164

 

 

 

 

 

 

Numbers in ( ) are votes to win Pac-12 Championship Game

 

 

The PiRate Ratings agree with the belief that the top two teams in the league are dominant this year.

 

PiRate Ratings

Rank

Pac-12 North

PiRate

1

Oregon

122.1

2

Stanford

119.1

3

California

109.1

4

Oregon State

106.0

5

Washington

105.8

6

Washington State

102.1

 

   

Rank

Pac-12 South

PiRate

1

Southern Cal

130.5

2

Utah

111.6

3

U C L A

110.5

4

Arizona

105.6

5

Arizona State

99.3

6

Colorado

92.6

 

 

The PiRate Vintage Ratings differ only slightly from the two above, but they agree that the top two teams are national title contenders.

 

 

Vintage Ratings

 

Rank

Pac-12 North

Vintage

1

Oregon

116

2

California

112

3

Stanford

111

4

Washington

107

5

Oregon State

105

6

Washington State

100

 

   

Rank

Pac-12 South

Vintage

1

Southern Cal

118

2

Utah

110

3

U C L A

108

4

Arizona

108

5

Arizona State

103

6

Colorado

96

 

 

Team

California Golden Bears

               
Head Coach

Jeff Tedford

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Berkeley, CA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-5

Overall

7-6

               
PiRate Rating

109.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

34

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

112

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

16

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-5

Overall

6-6

 

After going 52-24 from 2004 to 2009, the Bears have come close to going into hibernation the last two seasons, going 12-13.  Coach Jeff Tedford returns his quarterback and top running back, but he must find a new set of complimentary receivers on offense.  He must rebuild a defense that was one of the best in the league.  This looks like another year of mediocrity in Berkeley.

 

Zach Maynard has a decent arm and nice accuracy, but he needs open receivers.  Maynard completed 57% of his passes for 2,990 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2011.  If he gets injured, Cal will be in trouble, because there are no quality passers with game experience behind him.  True freshman Zach Line and seldom used Allan Bridgford could not lead the Bears to a bowl.

 

Tedford prefers a balanced offense with something close to a 50-50 run-pass percentage.  If Cal plans to throw the ball 30-35 times per game this year, Tedford is going to need to find four or five receivers that can create open space and catch the football.  He has one star that he can count on.  Kennan Allen finished second in the league last year with 98 receptions, and he could easily top 100 this year.  Allen combines excellent hands with good speed.  He can catch the tough passes on third down, and he can split a seam and break free for a long gain.

 

The drop in talent is significant after Allen.  Expect a true freshman, Bryce Treggs to start from the beginning.  Some have compared Treggs to DeSean Jackson, and if he lives up to the hype, Cal’s offense will soar this year.

 

The ground game has been consistently strong under Tedford’s watch.  Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch  gave the Bears a top-notch double punch for three years.  Cal relies mostly on one back these days, and Isi Sofele is that man.  Sofele rushed for 1,322 yards and 10 scores last season.  C. J. Anderson finished second with just 345, but he scored eight times on 72 carries.

 

The Bears return three starters to the offensive line, but guard Dominic Glass will be out at least until October following surgery for a torn pectoral muscle.  Center Brian Schwenke and tackle Matt Summers-Gavin are the two holdovers.  A redshirt freshman and true freshman will contribute here.

 

Cal averaged 28 points and 400 yards per game last year, and if the receiving corps shapes up, the Bears should replicate those numbers again this year.

 

If Tedford can defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast can get a repeat of the defensive numbers, they will have earned a raise, because the top four tacklers from 2011 are no longer around.  Cal played a lot of people on this side of the ball, so the rebuilding should not be as harsh as it could have been.

 

Up front in the 3-4 defense, the Bears have just one starter returning.  Aaron Tipoti can play inside and outside on the line.  He will line up at end this year, and he needs to become a better pass rusher.  Deandre Coleman is a better pass rusher, and he inherits the other terminal spot, while experienced backup Kendrick Payne becomes the new starter at the nose.  This shapes up to be a decent front line.

 

The Bears have to replace one of the top linebackers in the nation from last year, as leading tackler Mychal Kendricks now works for the Philadelphia Eagles.  Number two tackler D. J. Holt has used up his eligibility as well.  Projected starting outside linebacker Cecil Whiteside was expelled from the team for violating team rules.  This leaves Chris McCain as the lone starter in the group.  McCain made just six tackles for loss and 29 tackles total in 2011 (he did miss three games).  Brennan Scarlett starts for Whiteside, even after he missed Spring Practice.  J. P. Hurell and Robert Mullins will man the other two linebacker spots.  This unit is considerably weaker than it was last year, but the Bears add former Penn State reserve Khairi Fortt, who has the potential to develop into a fine defender.

 

The secondary is the strongest part of this year’s defense, but if the Bears fail to generate a decent pass rush, it won’t be strong enough to stop enemy passing games. Cornerbacks Mark Anthony and Steve Williams combined both registered 13 defended passes, and Anthony proved to be an excellent run stuffer on the perimeter.  Safety Josh Hill is the leading returning tackler, and he was equally competent covering receivers.

 

The opening game is a trap game for the Bears.  Nevada knows it can compete with the Bears; they blew Cal off the field two years ago when they last played.  Cal also has to play Ohio State in Columbus, so the Bears will enter Pac-12 play with at least one loss.  They have to follow up the trip to Columbus with a trip to the Coliseum to face USC.  The Schedule is not friendly, but we believe the Bears will sneak into bowl eligibility with a 6-6 record.  Cal had to vacate their home stadium last year so that it could be remodeled into a 21st Century venue.  They return to Memorial Stadium this year, and that should be worth an extra win.

 

 

Team

Oregon Ducks

               
Head Coach

Chip Kelly

               
Colors

Green and Yellow

               
City

Eugene, OR

               
2011 Record              
Conference

8-1

Overall

12-2

               
PiRate Rating

122.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

116

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

5

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

8-1

Overall

11-1

 

At first glance, 2012 would appear to be a rebuilding season in Eugene.  At Oregon, they no longer rebuild; they reload.  Oregon has a lot of positions to plug new bodies into, but the Ducks have faced this twice in recent years and reloaded with little effect on the stat sheet.  The Ducks have averaged better than 42 points per game over the last four seasons, and in two of those, they entered the year with the same number of new starters.

 

Coach Chip Kelly has loads of talent on the offensive side of the ball.  When your team leads by more than 30 points with plenty of time to play, the reserves get a lot of playing time.

 

Quarterback Bryan Bennett is one of those seasoned reserves.  As a freshman last year, he played in eight games, starting once (Oregon won that won 45-2).  Bennett attempted 45 passes.  Six scored touchdowns.  The Ducks will not miss Darron Thomas; there will not be a falloff in the passing game, and there could actually be an increase in yardage. 

 

The receiving corps lost two excellent pass-catchers, but the Ducks always have a plethora of riches here.  Add to this the fact that Kelly uses his backs as lethal receivers, and opponents cannot stop the passing game; they can only hope to slow it down.  Josh Huff leads a deep contingent here.  He caught 31 passes for 430 yards last year, and he should top 50 this season.  Speedy Keanon Lowe will become a key contributor this year, as will Daryle Hawkins, who is a lethal deep threat with the ability to steal an interception away from a defensive back.  The Ducks have two talented tight ends as well.  Colt Lyerla has flanker skills in a fullback’s body.  True freshman Terrence Daniel is an aggressive fighter (a defensive end playing offense).  Two more player could press for playing time here.  Look for the tight ends to combine for 40-50 receptions.

 

Defenses will have to stop the passing game first, and that will make a very good running game great.  LaMichael James may help the San Francisco 49ers get to the Super Bowl, but Oregon has another future NFL back in Kenjon Burner.  As the number two back last year, Burner rushed for 939 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 6.2 yards per rush.  When does a team’s number three running back earn Freshman Player of the Year awards, especially when said team runs a one-back offense and not the triple option?  De’Anthony Thomas gained 595 yards on the ground and scored seven touchdowns.  Against Wisconsin in last year’s Rose Bowl, he took a handoff on the nine yard line and waltzed into the end zone; oh, that was his own team’s nine yard line, and the play broke the game open.  Thomas was the team’s top receiver last year, grabbing 46 passes for 605 yards and nine touchdowns.  He didn’t stop there.  He scored two more times on kick returns.  18 touchdowns from the number three option in the backfield?  It is just plain crazy!

 

The offensive line gives the running back big running lanes and keeps pressure off the quarterbacks better than at least 10 other Pac-12 schools and as competently as their top rival in the City of Angels.  Three starters return from last year, but the top blocker and former 1st Team All-Pac guard, Carson York, will begin the year on the sidelines, as he has not fully recovered from the knee injury he sustained in Pasadena.

 

This looks like another 40-point team for Kelly.  It would not surprise us one bit if the Ducks rush for 250+ and pass for 250+ this year or rush for 300+ and pass for 200+. 

 

Defensively, Oregon goes for the big play, be it a QB sack, a forced fumble, an interception, or a big tackle for loss on a blitz.  Occasionally, the defense gives up a big play, but over time, they give the ball to the offense with a short field.  The Ducks can run the table if they give up an average of 22-24 points per game.

 

There are holes to plug in all three areas, but defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti has a lot of talent remaining.  Starting up front, Taylor Hart is an end in a tackle’s body.  He is not the strongest pass rusher, but he will make it hard to run the ball into the off-tackle hole on his side of the line.  Dion Jordan is probably the best pass rusher in the Pac-12.  He returns after producing 7 ½ sacks and 13 tackles for loss.  Tackle Wade Keliikipi is a run-plugger in the middle.

 

Two new starters are needed at linebacker, but the one holdover could become a 1st team All-Pac player.  Michael Clay finished with 102 tackles last year with 8 ½ for losses.  He picked off a couple of passes as well.  The two new starters, Kiko Alonso and Boseko Lokombo have seen considerable action in the past, so there should not be much concern here.

 

The Ducks have a potential All-American in the secondary.  Safety John Boyett led the Ducks with 108 tackles and defended seven passes.  Cornerback Terrance Mitchell defended a dozen passes, picking off two. 

 

The schedule presents just a handful of difficult games.  Instead of opening with LSU, Oregon gets Arkansas State this year.  Add Fresno State and Tennessee Tech the next two weeks, and Oregon will be 3-0 with a cumulative score of about 180-45.  The Ducks should go to the Coliseum on November 3 with a 8-0 record.  The game with the Trojans could be the “Game of the Century” for 2012.  Unlike last year’s Alabama-LSU game, this one could produce 80-100 points.  If the Ducks are not 12-0 or 11-1, it will be a major disappointment.

 

 

 

Team

Oregon State Beavers

               
Head Coach

Mike Riley

               
Colors

Orange and Black

               
City

Corvallis, OR

               
2011 Record              
Conference

3-6

Overall

3-9

               
PiRate Rating

106.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

42

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

105

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

47

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-5

Overall

5-7

 

The past couple of years have not been fun in Corvallis, as the Beavers have started to lose ground against their rivals.  OSU fell to 3-9 last year, and there are worries that this trend could continue this year.  Several players have left the program, sustained an injury, or have been suspended for various reasons.  The offensive line has taken a major hit and is very thin.  Just an injury or two could force players into the lineup that might find it hard to start at a school like New Mexico.

 

Guard Grant Enger and tackle Colin Kelly return as starters up front, but neither is an all-conference performer.  True freshman Isaac Seumalo has all-conference potential, but that may occur in 2014.  He opens the season at center.  The Beavers found it hard to run the ball last year, and more of the same can be expected this season.

 

Redshirt freshman Storm Woods has ascended to starting running back after OSU rushed for just 86.9 yards per game.  It is hard to gain yardage when defensive players meet the running back at the handoff point.  Woods will have a difficult time averaging more than last year’s starter Malcolm Agnew averaged.  Agnew is still around, and he will still see significant time here.  Fullback Clayton York will be used more this year to provide support at the point of attack.

 

The Beavers can still move the ball and score points thanks to a decent passing game, but quarterback Sean Mannion needs to cut down on his interceptions.  He frequently tried to force the ball where he should not have thrown, but he had little alternative, as it was either pass or punt last year.  Mannion completed almost 65% of his passes for more than 3,300 yards and 16 touchdowns, but he was picked off 18 times.  OSU passed the ball 42 times per game, and Mannion may have to resort to that strategy again this year, even though Coach Mike Riley has set a goal of 150 rushing yards per game.  We don’t see that happening.

 

Mannion’s receiving corps is credible but not spectacular.  Markus Wheaton has all-conference potential.  He led the Beavers with 73 receptions and 986 yards, but he crossed the goal line just one time.  Brandon Cooks should come close to doubling his receptions this year as a full-time starter.  As a freshman, he caught 31 passes.  Tight end Colby Prince caught just 12 passes last year, and Riley brought in a good recruit here in Caleb Smith.  Mannion will get more production out of this position.

 

The defense was asked to stay on the field too long last year, because the offense could not sustain long drives.  Part of the 31 points and 400+ yards surrendered rested on the offense’s liabilities.  Expect some improvement on this side of the ball. 

 

The Beavers have solid players in all three units.  Perhaps the best player on the team is safety Anthony Watkins.  He led the Beavers with 85 tackles, but too many times it came at the end of a first down play for the opponent.  A new starter plugs into the vacant safety position, but Ryan Murphy showed he was up to the task last year in reserve.  Cornerback Jordan Poyer led the league in passes defended with 16, including a team-leading four interceptions (tied for Pac-12 lead too).  He is also a dangerous punt returner.

 

At linebacker, there is a doctor in the house at Reser Stadium, and nobody will file malpractice claims against him.  Michael Doctor might send enemy combatants to the hospital.  He is aptly qualified as a run-stopper and pass defender. The rest of this unit is not as talented.

 

One of the better ends in the league returns as OSU’s leading pass rusher.  Scott Crichton finished eighth in the league with six sacks and third with 14 ½ TFL.  Tackle Andrew Seumalo and end Dylan Wynn give this unit experience and decent talent.

 

The Beavers will find it hard to move back above .500 in the league and overall, as the schedule does them no favors this year.  They avoid USC, but they must play at UCLA and Arizona.  Outside of league play, games against Wisconsin and BYU (in Provo) will be tough.  The Beavers could enter the Civil War game needing to pull of a huge upset against the Duck in order to become bowl eligible.

 

 

Team

Stanford Cardinal

               
Head Coach

David Shaw

               
Colors

Cardinal and White

               
City

Palo Alto, CA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

8-1

Overall

11-2

               
PiRate Rating

119.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

12

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

111

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

19

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-4

Overall

7-5

 

Stanford has been in this situation before.  The Cardinal have a history of producing All-American quarterbacks that go on to NFL careers.  Let’s look at what happened with five former consensus All-American Stanford quarterbacks.

 

Frankie Albert was the first major star at this position, but his departure cannot be used in this example.  After leading SU to an undefeated season in 1940 and two very good follow-up seasons in 1941 and 1942, Stanford did not field official football teams the next three seasons during WWII.

 

Bobby Garrett became the next star quarterback in Palo Alto.  As a senior in 1953, he guided SU (then known as the Indians) to a 6-3-1 record with 246 points scored.  Without him the next season, Stanford fell to 4-6 and scored exactly half the points from the year before.

 

In 1956, John Brodie was the best passing quarterback in the nation.  Stanford did not have a quality defense, and the record was just 4-6 with 218 points produced.  The following year, with a better defense, SU went 6-4 and scored nine more points.

 

Jim Plunkett won the school’s one Heisman Trophy in 1970, as he teamed with end Randy Vataha to form the top pass combination.  Stanford displaced USC as the top team on the Coast, and the Indians won the conference championship.  They topped off the season with an upset over undefeated Ohio State in the Rose Bowl to finish 9-3.  The offense scored 343 points.  Stanford was picked to finish in the lower half of the standings in 1971, as Plunkett’s replacement, Don Bunce, guided SU back to the Rose Bowl with an identical record.  Stanford scored 82 fewer points, but the defense was improved.  In the Rose Bowl, Bunce looked like a future superstar named Elway, when he guided Stanford on a final drive that produced the winning field goal to upset undefeated Michigan.

 

Speaking of Elway, his career ended on a sour note—the emphasis multiple lateral kick return that ended with a Stanford band-member failing to make a proper tackle.  Elway departed as the star of a 5-6 team that scored 328 points.  SU went 1-10 with just 159 points in 1983.

 

That brings us to the present day.  Andrew Luck is now the new Peyton Manning in Indy, and Josh Nunes hopes to become the next Don Bunce.  Stanford went 23-3 in the last two seasons, averaging 42 points and 480 yards per game.  Nunes, a redshirt freshman, must also deal with the graduation of the top three pass receivers, including tight end Coby Fleener, who often served as the prime target for Luck.  Expect Coach David Shaw to rely even more on his big targets, as Stanford relies on its two tight end formations more than any other college team.  Levine Toilolo caught 25 passes last year, and his backup Zach Ertz grabbed 27.  This duo may need to catch 75-80 passes this year.  Ty Montgomery is the best holdover on the outside.  He caught 24 passes and scored twice.

 

The running game became the big reason the 1971 Stanford team was able to score less and win the same amount of games.  Shaw will hope history can repeat itself in Palo Alto.  Stepfan Taylor returns after gaining 1,330 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns.  Expect sophomore Anthony Wilkerson to get more reps this year after rushing for 282 yards and three scores last year.  He can open holes that are not already there. 

 

The offensive line must replace two talented blockers, but Shaw did a great job on the recruiting trail and landed perhaps the best duo of blockers in the high school ranks.  Andrus Peat and Kyle Murphy should see significant playing time right off the bat, and it would not surprise us if both are starters by November.  Guard David Yankey and tackle Cameron Fleming both earned all-conference consideration last year, so if the recruits live up to their press clippings, Stanford will be in good shape on this side of the ball.

 

There are some holes to plug on the defensive side of the ball, but the Cardinal have enough talent returning to improvise a decent stop unit.  The defense will be built around a strong linebacker unit.  Chase Thomas could become a 1st team All-American if he builds upon a season that saw him lead the league with 17 ½ stops for loss.  He finished with 8 ½ sacks.  Trent Murphy had 10 tackles for loss and returns to the opposite outside linebacker spot.  Shayne Skov was off to a great start last year before tearing his ACL.  If he is healthy this year, he should eventually work his way back onto the first team.  James Vaughters and A.J. Tarpley are two more high-quality linebackers.  This unit is so strong, last year’s leading tackler Jarek Lancaster has lost his starting job this year.

 

Up front, Ben Gardner is one of the two or three best ends in the league.  He was credited with 4 ½ sacks and 10 TFL with six additional QB hurries.  Nose tackle Terrence Stephens made just 11 tackles last year, but he has a very important job, keeping blockers away from the linebackers.

 

Terrence Brown is the lone starter returning to a secondary that has some questions.  Brown will not show up on any all-conference teams.

 

Make no mistake: there will be slippage this season, but the Cardinal have enough talent leftover to return to a bowl game this year.  SU should be good for two non-conference wins (San Jose State and Duke), and they should be competitive at Notre Dame.  SU draws USC and UCLA from the South Division and must face Oregon at Autzen Stadium.  We tend to believe that Cal will be ready to avenge a close loss from last year, so we could see Stanford losing four or five games this year.

 

 

Team

Washington Huskies

               
Head Coach

Steve Sarkisian

               
Colors

Purple and Gold

               
City

Seattle, WA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

5-4

Overall

7-6

               
PiRate Rating

105.8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

46

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

107

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

107

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-6

Overall

5-7

 

It has been a rough preseason for the Huskies, as they faced the same situation that Oregon State faced—numerous players expected to contribute suffered injuries, were disciplined for rules violations, or opted to leave the program.  Coach Steve Sarkisian had to alter his working depth chart every week for reasons other than talent evaluation.

 

Hit the hardest were the offensive skill positions, where UW received bad news in their receiving corps.  James Johnson injured his wrist, and it required surgery.  He is out until October at the earliest.  Kevin Smith has not been able to return from an ACL injury.  Until those two can return, Sarkisian will call on a pair of tight ends to carry more weight.  Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Michael Hartvigson are up to the challenge.  Seferian-Jenkins is the top returning receiver with 41 receptions and 538 yards.  Hartvigson could see his receptions triple this year (eight last year).

 

Quarterback Keith Price not only replaced Jake Locker, he improved on the stats left by the 1st round draft pick.  Price finished with 3,063 yards passing and 33 touchdowns with a 67% completion rate, averaging 8.5 yards per attempt.  He actually finished slightly ahead of Matt Barkley in passing efficiency.  Should Price be injured, UW is going to struggle.  Sarkisian has many untested options to choose from, including true freshman Cyler Miles and redshirt freshman Derrick Brown.

 

The Husky ground game averaged better than 150 yards per contest last year, but the top back has moved on.  Trying to replace Chris Polk’s 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns are a pair of players with potential.  Expect Jesse Callier and Bishop Sankey to team for at least 1,200 yards, more if the top blocker can recover from injury.

 

That top blocker happens to be guard Eric Kohler.  Kohler hurt his knee on the first day of practice and may not be ready for the start of the season.  When he returns, he will supply an instant upgrade in the trenches, where the inside should be strong.  Center Drew Schaefer and guard Colin Tanigawa will team with Kohler to make the power running game work.

 

Defensively, UW has not been a powerhouse under Sarkisian.  In fact, the stats have gotten worse each year.  Last year, the Huskies gave up 36 points and 450+ yards per game, but they had to face Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon, USC, and Baylor.  They gave up 51.4 points per game to those five powers, and 26.3 points to the rest of the schedule.

 

None of the three units can be considered outstanding, but the secondary is better than average.  Cornerback Desmond Trufant tied for the conference lead with 16 passes defended, while safety Sean Parker tied for the conference lead with four interceptions.  Look for 5-star recruit Shaq Thompson to eventually supplant Justin Glenn at free safety, but for now he will be the nickel and a return specialist.

 

Three starters return to the four-man linebacker unit.  Josh Shirley and Princeton Fuimaono are fine outside ‘backers. Shirley finished second in the league with 8 ½ sacks.  John Timu starts on the inside; he is a plus in pass coverage, as well as shooting the gaps to dump running backs for losses.

 

Multiple injuries in the trenches make the defensive line a questionable unit.  Danny Shelton gets the job done inside and allows his linebackers time to pursue the ball.  Andrew Hudson has been moved from linebacker to fill in at end.

 

 The Huskies don’t have to play Nebraska this year.  They replace them with LSU.  It guarantees them one loss as they enter conference play.  Somebody at the Pac-12 must not like Sarkisian, as they saddled him with Stanford, Oregon, and USC in consecutive weeks.  The trip to Tucson in the fourth week won’t be a picnic either.  We believe the Apple Cup game in Pullman will decide which team from the Evergreen State will become bowl eligible.  Us PiRates have to stick together, so sorry Husky fans.

 

 

Team

Washington State Cougars

               
Head Coach

Mike Leach

               
Colors

Crimson and Gray

               
City

Pullman, WA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

2-7

Overall

4-8

               
PiRate Rating

102.1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

55

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

65

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-5

Overall

6-6

 

Tickets to Martin Stadium just got a lot more difficult to come by, as the collegiate greatest show on turf debuts in Pullman this year.  Mike Leach returns to the coaching ranks after a two-year exile.  In the two years after his firing in Lubbock, the Red Raiders have gone 13-12.  He was 84-43 in his 10 years at the outpost in the middle of the plains.

 

Leach brings his fabulous “Air Raid” offense to Wazoo, and he inherits an excellent situation.  The Cougars have a quarterback ready to challenge for the national lead in passing yards.  Jeff Tuel just needs to stay healthy.  He suffered two different injuries last year, and only played in three games.  If he starts 12 games this year, we expect him to toss for 4,200 to 4,500 yards   Backup Connor Halliday dealt with a lacerated liver, so the expected close competition here never developed.

 

Who will be the beneficiary of the aerial assault?  Start with Marquess Wilson, who led the Pac-12 with 1,388 receiving yards in 2011.  His reception total could top 100 this year, and he could approach 1,500 yards in catches.  Great things are expected from two true freshmen.  Gabriel Marks could become the second leading receiver this year, while Rahmel Dockery should contribute immediately.  Throw former tight end Andrei Lintz into a slot or flex position, and he should catch as much as five times more balls this year (7 rec. 96 yds in 2011).

 

Leach believes running backs are best used as safety valve receivers.  Rickey Galvin will not run for 1,000 yards, but he could top 500, catch 50 passes, and gain 1,000 total yards.

 

Expect immediate improvement in the offensive line, because teams will think twice about sending more than four pass rushers after Tuel.  The Air-Raid can burn a defense that sends five or six pass rushers at the QB.  Left tackle John Fullington is the best blocker on the team, and that bodes well for the passing game.

 

If WSU is to challenge for a bowl this year, the defense has to improve on the 6.2 yards per play it allowed last season.  This was actually the best figure by this defense since 2007. 

 

There are no exceptionally talented units on this side of the ball, but there is one exceptionally talented player.  Linebacker Travis Long returns for his senior season, after playing end in the previous coaching tenure.  Long led the Cougars with four sacks and 12 tackles for loss, and he earned 2nd Team All-Pac honors.  Look for Chester Su’a to possibly have a breakthrough year as a sophomore.  He had his moments as a true freshman last year, and he has good instincts.

 

All four starters return from the secondary.  Considering there was virtually no pass rush other than that generated by Long, this quartet did a decent job.  Cornerback Damante Horton would get a lot of press coverage if he wore a green and gold uniform.  Horton tied for the conference lead with four interceptions.  Safety Deone Bucannon added three picks.

 

Kicker Andrew Furney returns after proving to be a weapon from 50 yards out.  He connected on 14-16 field goals last year.

 

It will be a Cougarfest in Provo, Utah, to begin the season, as Washington State faces BYU.  Wazoo should prove to be a tough out for the favored home team.  The Cougars should move to 2-1 before conference play starts. Can they find four conference wins?  We think they will have three in the books when they face Washington on Friday, November 23.  Leach guided Texas Tech to bowls in all 10 seasons in Lubbock, and the Pirate just may make it 11 for 11.

 

 

Team

Arizona Wildcats

               
Head Coach

Rich Rodriguez

               
Colors

Cardinal and Navy

               
City

Tucson, AZ

               
2011 Record              
Conference

2-7

Overall

4-8

               
PiRate Rating

105.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

47

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

108

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

33

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

4-5

Overall

6-6

 

Rich Rodriguez was ridden out of Ann Arbor on a rail, because the Michiganders did not want and would not support a non-Michigan man.  Poor Rich Rod:  he had to move from Michigan to Tucson, Arizona, where he will be able to play golf in January in 70-degree weather. 

 

Coach Rodriguez brings his famed spread offense to the Pac-12.  It went unnoticed that Michigan ran for 239 and passed for 250 yards during his final year there, and he made Denard Robinson into the star that he became.  He inherits no Robinson’s at UA.  He begins his career here with a senior quarterback that has hardly seen game action and a junior college transfer that was not that highly recruited.  Matt Scott is the only viable option to run the UA offense this year.  He missed all of last year and was out a good bit of 2010.  Scott is an aggressive player, but he may need to “take a dive” and sacrifice a yard or two at times this year.  The Wildcats need him to stay on the field.

 

Small but powerful Daniel Jenkins has leap-frogged over Ka’Deem Carey in the depth chart, but both backs should see a lot of action this year.  Coach Rod will bring back the fullback to the offense, and Taimi Tutogi is a load in the backfield.

 

The Wildcats’ are hurting a little at receiver, but the emphasis on the passing game has been replaced by a more balanced approach with a slight emphasis on the running game.  UA passed the ball 48 times per game last year and gained 371 yards through the air.  That amount could be cut in half in 2012.  Dan Buckner is the best of the returnees.  He caught 42 passes for 606 yards to finish fourth on the team.  He could repeat that amount this year and finish first!  Austin Hill could become the long ball threat. 

 

All five starters return to the blocking corps, but not all five are expected to start in 2012.   Center Kyle Quinn, guard Trace Biskin, and tackles Chris Putton (a former guard) expect to be joined by new starters Addison Bachman at guard and Jacob Arzouman at tackle.  This group should be more mobile and able to carry out the blocking needed to make the zone read work.

 

Arizona games featured 146 scrimmage plays last year, and that hurt the defensive numbers.  Expect the total plays to drop by more than a dozen this year, so UA’s defense figures to defend at least a half dozen fewer plays. 

 

The greatest amount of improvement needed is in the secondary, where UA gave up 299 passing yards per game last year.  UA had its Pac-12 interception co-leader, Shaquille Richardson, and he returns at one cornerback position.  Besides intercepting four passes, he knocked away five others.  Tra’Mayne Bondurant had seven passed defended as a true freshman last year, and he will team with Richardson and safety Marquis Flowers (see below) to form 3/5 of a decent five-man secondary.  If cornerback Jonathan McKnight has recovered adequately from an ACL injury that forced him to miss 2011, this secondary all of a sudden becomes rather talented.

 

The secondary must have more help from the pass rush, as Arizona introduced enemy quarterbacks to the turf just 10 times all season.  No player on the roster recorded more than one sack last year (Bondurant is the leading returner with 3 ½ TFL).  Rodriguez hopes that new starters Tevin Hood and Dominique Allen can establish a better pass rush.  Kirifi Taula was supposed to be a sack monster, but he did not show up last year in his four starts.

 

Rodriguez thought he had the answer at middle linebacker, when Brian Wagner transferred from Akron as a graduate student.  Wagner was coming off three consecutive triple digit tackle years (409 total), but he burned out on the game and decided to give up football.  That leaves the Wildcats in a bit of a bind, as undersized Jake Fischer was forced to move inside on short notice.  Hank Hobson will start on the outside, while safety Flowers has been pressed into emergency duty as the other outside linebacker.  This trio averaged just 220 pounds.

 

Arizona should go 2-1 outside of Pac-12 play.  Like the two Washington schools and their in-state rival, they will need to find four conference victories.  We believe they will have three when they host the Sun Devils on Friday, November 23.  Like the Apple Cup game, this one should be for a bowl.

 

 

Team

Arizona State Sun Devils

               
Head Coach

Todd Graham

               
Colors

Maroon and Gold

               
City

Tempe, AZ

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-5

Overall

6-7

               
PiRate Rating

99.3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

65

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

103

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

55

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

3-6

Overall

5-7

 

Todd Graham guided Rice to a bowl in his only season with the Owls.  It was Rice’s first bowl game since 1961.  He went to Tulsa and led the Golden Hurricane to back-to-back CUSA West Division championships while leading TU to record-setting offensive showings.  After four years there, he moved to Pittsburgh, but his stay there was just one season.  His wide open offense didn’t click in the Big East.  Will it work in Tempe, Arizona?  Only time will tell, but his first year at Sun Devil Stadium may not be the cat’s meow.  ASU has a lot of holes to fill on both sides of the ball.

 

Brock Osweiler would have been a contender with Matt Barkley and Keith Price for top passer in the league if he had returned for his senior season.  The star QB was chosen to become an understudy to Peyton Manning in Denver.  Osweiler threw for more than 4,000 yards and 26 touchdowns last year.  New starter Taylor Kelly saw very limited action last year, completing all four of his passes.  He has the tools to run the spread option offense.  Freshman Michael Eubank backs him up.

 

The Sun Devils lost a lot of their receiving corps from last season.  While they return the player with the second most receptions, he only averaged six yards per catch.  You might think Jamal Miles has no speed and can only be used to throw the quick, short pass to.  Oh, but you would be so wrong!  Miles was always getting open as the safety valve receiver, and his yards per catch will head north this year.  He is a model of versatility.  He ran the ball 29 times for 237 yards.  He averaged 16.6 yards returning punts, taking one 78 yards to the house.  He returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, and because that wasn’t enough, he has attempted three passes in his career; they were all completed for touchdowns.

 

Rashad Ross may be the best newcomer to the starting receiving corps.  He caught 18 passes in limited action last year.

 

The ASU running game accounted for less than 130 yards per game last year, and that number will rise by at least 50% in the new offense.  Cameron Marshall could top 1,200 rushing yards after gaining 2,050 last year, but Graham removed him from contact drills last week citing fatigue.  Yes, the summers in the desert are brutal.

 

The offensive line has some rebuilding to do.  Tackle Evan Finkenberg is one of two returning starters.  Guard Andrew Sampson is the other.  They will be charged with leading the new blocking philosophy.

 

Graham’s teams usually top 450 total yards per game, surpassing 200 yards in both running and passing.  The Sun Devils will need to produce numbers like that to have any shot at bowl eligibility, because the defense is not ready to dominate any Pac-12 team, especially in the all-important secondary, where even Colorado topped 300 passing yards against them last year.

 

Both starting cornerbacks return this year, but only one of the rest of the back eight in Graham’s 3-3-5 will have a returning starter.  Deveron Carr and Osahon Irabor teamed up for 17 passes defended (just one interception by Irabor).   Kealon Johnson figures to contribute more after making 48 tackles in reserve last year.

 

The only other starters returning are tackle Will Sutton and Devil linebacker Junior Onyeali.  Onyeali started just seven games last year and made just 11 tackles.  Sutton performed a little better with 33 tackles.

 

There is room for a true freshman to earn a spot in the lineup this year, and as of this writing, the leading candidate is defensive lineman Jaxon Hood.

 

After opening with an easy win against Northern Arizona in a couple of days, the Sun Devils have two tough non-league games.  They lost to Illinois and beat Missouri last year, and they could do the opposite this season.  We believe ASU will be 3-5/5-6 when they close the regular season at Arizona.  It should be an exciting bowl elimination game.

 

 

Team

Colorado Buffaloes

               
Head Coach

Jon Embree

               
Colors

Black and Gold

               
City

Boulder, CO

               
2011 Record              
Conference

2-7

Overall

3-10

               
PiRate Rating

92.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

84

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

96

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

82

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

1-8

Overall

3-9

 

Since Gary Barnett was let go at Colorado, the Buffs have fallen on hard times.  It seems like it has been a generation since CU ran undefeated and top-ranked Nebraska off the field by a score of 62-36 (it was 2001, and yours truly saw that game on the CU sideline).

 

The Buffaloes face a major revamping on the attack side this year, as every skill starter from last year is missing.  At least, there is some good news at quarterback.  Former Kansas QB Jordan Webb left Kansas when Dayne Crist left Notre Dame for Lawrence.  He is eligible immediately and has beaten out Texas transfer Connor Wood.  Webb produced so-so stats at KU (1,884 yards 13/12 TD/Int), and he should put up slightly better numbers in a more passer friendly offense. 

 

With the return of three offensive line starters, including 2nd team All-Pac tackle David Bakhtiari, Webb should get adequate passing protection.  However, CU needs to supplement the pass with something better than its poor rushing attack of the last three years (3.4 yards per attempt).  Tony Jones is the leading returnee with 297 yards rushing, but he is too small to carry the ball more than 10-12 times per game.  D. D. Goodson is even tinier, but he is number two as of now.  This team needs a bulky back that can pick up two yards up the middle on third and one. 

 

The already thin and inexperienced receiving corps expected to ride the legs of speedster Paul Richardson, but a torn ACL in spring practice was a dagger in Coach Jon Embree’s back.  It was feared Richardson would be lost for the season, but he has rehabbed well ahead of schedule and could eventually take the field at some point this season.  Without him, CU has no Pac-12 quality talent at this position.

 

The news is slightly better on the other side of the ball, but nobody will confuse the Buff defense for USC’s, Stanford’s, or Oregon’s.  When your number one and three tacklers are defensive backs, you know your team is giving up a lot of points and yards.  Safety Ray Polk and cornerback Greg Henderson teamed up for 127 tackles last year.  Henderson was a decent pass defender with nine passes defended.  Embree is high on three true freshmen that could contribute immediately in the secondary.  Yuri Wright, Kenneth Crawley, and Marquis Mosley should see the field in the opening weeks.

 

Another true freshman could see a lot of time in the front line.  Justin Solis could be a starter at one of the vacant tackle spots.  Will Pericak returns at the other inside post.  One d-lineman that will definitely start full time this year is end Chidera Uzo-Diribe, who finished with 5 ½ sacks last year.

 

All three starters return at linebacker this year.  Derrick Webb, Douglas Rippy, and Jon Major teamed for 15 TFL and 154 total tackles.

 

Colorado’s schedule is easier this year because Ohio State has been replaced with Sacramento State.  Colorado State and Fresno State are beatable, but we believe CU will split these two games.  Once conference play begins, wins will be hard to come by.  We think CU can get fired up and win one, so three wins is their ceiling this year.

 

 

 

Team

Southern California Trojans

               
Head Coach

Lane Kiffin

               
Colors

Cardinal and Gold

               
City

Los Angeles, CA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

7-2

Overall

10-2

               
PiRate Rating

130.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

118

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

3

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

8-1

Overall

11-1

 

Southern Cal has been pointing to this season for two years.  The Trojans are eligible once again for the conference championship and a bowl.  They are very eligible for the National Championship Game this season, if they can take care of Oregon—probably twice!

 

USC has at least a dozen players this year that could become NFL players in the next couple of years.  Coming into this season, the only question that needed to be answered was who would be the number two running back.  That’s no longer a worry, so this team is loaded at every position.

 

Coach Lane Kiffin has seen his two USC offenses improve on the previous year’s production by four to five points and 25-30 yards per game.  There is no reason to think the men of Troy won’t improve that much again this year, or even more.

 

It all starts with the early Heisman Trophy favorite.  Quarterback Matt Barkley will leave USC as the all-time leading passer, surpassing Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer in career passing yards (assuming he stays healthy).  Barkley gained 3,528 yards through the air last year, completing 69% of his attempts and tossing 39 touchdown passes.  Backup Cody Kessler might start for 75 other FBS teams, but he will only see the field in mop-up duty this season.

 

Barkley has the nation’s best receiver and best duo of receivers coming back this year.  Robert Woods caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns last year, and he was never 100% healthy!  Imagine what he might do if he is 100%.  We bet he fails to match last year’s production, because there are going to be weeks where he doesn’t play much in the second half.  Marqise Lee caught 73 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he was just a freshman.  Tight end Randall Telfer isn’t the top player in the league at his position, but he isn’t too far behind.  He caught 26 passes and scored five times.  He might eventually be passed in the lineup by Xavier Grumble, who will see extended playing time in double tight end formations.  There’s a new star to add to this unit.  True freshman Nelson Agholor looks just as talented as Woods and Lee.

 

The running back situation went from really good to outstanding when Penn State tailback Silas Redd left State College and enrolled in Los Angeles after the big scandal.  He will team with Curtis McNeal to form the top tandem in the nation.  Both players topped 1,000 yards on the ground last year.  McNeal is the better outside speed back, while Redd is the stronger inside runner. 

 

It would be interesting to put USC’s offensive line up against Oregon’s in some form of agility and strength competition.  Both are among the tops in the nation.  Southern Cal has four returning starters up front, led by center Khaled Holmes, one of the top five candidates for the Outland Trophy this year.  Tackle Kevin Graf has an NFL future.

 

The only problem this offense might have this year is finding enough playing time for the skill position players.  USC should average 35-40 points and 480-500 total yards per game this season.

 

The defense will not remind anybody of the Wild Bunch, or Wild Bunch II of four season’s ago, but the Trojans should be improved on this side of the ball.  If defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s troops give up 20 points and 350 yards per game, the Trojans should be very happy in early January.

 

Start in the secondary, where the Trojan have an embarrassment of riches.  Prior to this year, most USC fans figured to never see a secondary as talented as the group from 1979 and 1980.  Three defensive backs on that team (Dennis Smith, Joey Browner, and Ronnie Lott) became All-Pro backs in the NFL (the fourth member of that secondary is still getting an NFL paycheck—Jeff Fisher). 

 

If this year’s secondary isn’t the equal of that great one from the past, it isn’t far from it.  Safety T. J. McDonald has all the tools.  Cornerback Nickell Robey joined McDonald on the All-Pac first team last year.  Fellow cornerback Torin Harris could be a star in the next two years, but he will have to split time with another potential star, Anthony Brown.  Jawanza Starling has a possible NFL future as well.  Look for this group to post better numbers than last year, but they will give up 250 yards because opponents will be forced to throw the ball 40 times a game.

 

The only reason why USC is not our preseason number one team this year is because of a defensive line that is missing all four starters from last year, at least until the last few weeks of the season.  End Devon Kennard tore a pectoral muscle in July, and he is expected to be shelved until Thanksgiving at the earliest.  He might miss the entire season.  He was only the third best defensive lineman last year.  Now Wes Horton will become the leader of this unit.  He finished with four sacks in a reserve role last year.  Because there will be two new defensive tackles, teams with big backs and strong centers and guards might stand a chance of finding chinks in the Trojans’ armor.

 

Lamar Dawson beat out last year’s starter to take over at the middle linebacker spot in the middle of the year.  He teams with Hayes Pullard and Dion Bailey to form a linebacker unit almost as talented as the trio at Stanford.

 

The schedule has its dangerous spots this year.  A 2-0 start is a given with games against Hawaii at home and Syracuse at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey (Where the Giants & Jets play).  The first key game comes a week later, when USC has to fly 3,000 miles home and then play at Stanford the following Saturday.  The Cardinal won an exciting triple overtime game last year.  The only other team that has the talent to go head-to-head with USC is Oregon, and they come to the Coliseum on November 3.  There are two more potential trap games.  Arizona is not nearly as talented, but the Wildcats could get up and put a scare in the Trojans.  Then, there is arch-rival UCLA.  After beating the Bruins 50-0 last year, every player on the UCLA team will be ready in ambush at the Rose Bowl. 

 

Remember this:  in 1968, Ohio State was 8-0 entering their big match with 8-1 Michigan.  They not only destroyed the Wolverines, they rubbed it in by going for two points late in the game when they were up by more than 30 points; they won 50-14.  Coach Woody Hayes was asked why he went for two in that situation, and he yelled back, “Because I couldn’t go for three.”  The following year, Ohio State was 8-0 again, entering their big game against 7-2 Michigan.  This Buckeye team was as dominant as the USC team will be this year, but Michigan was ready to play like Kamikazes in this game.  They knocked off the Buckeyes 24-12.  USC better watch out for UCLA this year.  It could happen again.

 

 

 

 

Team

U C L A  Bruins

               
Head Coach

Jim Nora, JR

               
Colors

Blue and Gold

               
City

Los Angeles, CA

               
2011 Record              
Conference

6-4

Overall

6-8

               
PiRate Rating

110.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

33

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

108

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

30

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-4

Overall

7-5

 

The Sons of Westwood have been disappointed more years than not since Terry Donahue left UCLA in 1995.  Donahue took the Bruins to four Rose Bowls and a Cotton Bowl (when it was still one of the big four).  Since he left, the Bruins have been to just One Rose Bowl, and that came 14 years ago.  In the last 13 years, the program has suffered through six losing seasons, one .500 season, and two winning seasons where they won just one more game than they lost.  In the only double-digit winning season in the 21st Century, the Bruins gave up 410 points.  That team was not a powerhouse.  USC beat them 66-19.

 

After dismissing a couple of former Bruin players as head coach (Karl Dorrell and Rick Neuheisel), the Bruins turn to a Washington Alum, Jim Mora, Jr.  Mora’s dad was an assistant to Dick Vermeill at UCLA in the early 1970’s, so there is a small family tie.

 

Mora is a defensive guru from the NFL, and he hired an experienced college offensive coordinator to put together the attack troops.  Noel Mazzone is a multiple, pro-set advocate.

 

Being the quarterback at UCLA has been about as dangerous as being on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  Whereas the Sports Illustrated jinx tends to lead toward mediocrity, being the UCLA quarterback has been disadvantageous to the passer’s health.  It was so bad at one point, that two quarterbacks were injured in the same drill in practice—and that was spring practice!

 

There are still two quarterbacks on the roster that were part of the QB injury jinx, but neither is expected to start this season.  Mora named redshirt freshman Brett Hundley as his starter.  Hundley is the same size as Tom Brady, and Mora prefers an NFL-style passer over a dual threat type.

 

Hundley has two fairly talented receivers returning from last season.  Shaquelle Evans caught just 19 passes in the previous pistol formation offense, and he averaged better than 16 yards per catch.  Tight end Joseph Fauria caught 39 passes and scored six touchdowns.  Redshirt freshman Steven Manfro has jumped over several others on the depth chart and will begin the season as a starter.

 

Jonathan Franklin returns at running back after narrowly missing the 1,000-yard mark last year.  He will see the ball more often this year, as UCLA goes with a more traditional approach.  Lithe little Damien Thigpen missed 2011 with a medical redshirt, and he has impressed coaches enough to move to number two on the depth chart.  He will provide the Bruins with an excellent change of pace when they need a quicker, more elusive runner and can sacrifice the power they get from Franklin.  Thigpen will also be called upon to catch passes out of the backfield.

 

If guard Jeff Baca is okay to play after suffering an August concussion, the Bruins have the making of a rather good offensive line.  Joining Baca in the line will be center Greg Capella, guard Xavier Su’a-Filo (returning from a mission), and tackles Torian White and true freshman Simon Goines.

 

It has been six years since UCLA scored more than 24 points per game.  That streak should end this year, and the Bruins should smash through that barrier with 28-32 points per game.

 

The Bruin defense fell apart the last two years, and Mora was hired to fix the problem.  He welcomes back most of the parts to last year’s defense, but they are the same guys that gave up 31 points and close to 420 yards per game.

 

The Bruins have talented players throughout the defensive lineup.  Ends Cassius Marsh and Datone Jones should have much better seasons this year.  They combined for 63 tackles, five sacks, and 10 ½ TFL).  Nose tackle Seali’i Epenesa will plug the A-gaps with his 325-pound body.

 

The four-man linebacking contingent took a major blow when the expected leader of this group, Patrick Larimore, gave up football due to multiple concussions.  UCLA will try to plug his loss by moving safety Dalton Hilliard to inside linebacker.  Hilliard, the son of the former outstanding college and NFL running back, weighs just 205 pounds, so he will be given free rein to visit the pizza parlor and the milkshake shop.  Eric Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt combined for 137 tackles last year.  Joining this group will be converted running back Anthony Barr.  Barr and Hilliard make this quartet a quicker group.

 

All four secondary starters return this year.  Cornerbacks Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price and safeties Andrew Abbott and Tevin McDonald combined to intercept nine passes and break up 26 more. Abbott was one of the Pac-12 co-leaders with four picks.  True freshman Fabian Moreau could emerge as a key contributor this year.

 

UCLA represented the Pac-12 South in the championship game because USC was ineligible.  The Bruins finished 5-4 in conference play, and after they lost to Oregon in the title game and to Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, they finished 6-8.  Expect the Bruins to get back to a bowl again this year and finish with a record north of .500.

 

 

Team

Utah Utes

               
Head Coach

Kyle Whittingham

               
Colors

Crimson and White

               
City

Salt Lake City, UT

               
2011 Record              
Conference

4-5

Overall

8-5

               
PiRate Rating

111.6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Rating

110

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Rating

22

               
2012 Prediction              
Conference

5-4

Overall

8-4

 

Utah’s first year in the Pac-12 was rather successful.  The Utes proved they could compete weekly in a power conference.  Were it not for an upset to Colorado in the season finale (Utah was a three-touchdown favorite), the Utes would have earned the South’s spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  A win over Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl left the Utes with eight wins, which gave them six consecutive seasons with eight or more victories.

 

The Utes have to be considered a sleeper team this season, as they return a lot of exceptional talent from last year including two battle-tested quarterbacks.   Jordan Wynn’s first year in a BCS conference ended prematurely due to an injury suffered against Washington.  Wynn was off to a decent season when he was shelved for the year.  Jon Hayes took over, and the Utah offense kept going without missing a beat.  The two QBs combined for 2,186 passing yards and 18 touchdowns.

 

What will make the passing game better this year is the return of almost every receiver that caught a pass.  Devonte Christopher, Dres Anderson, and Luke Mathews all averaged between 15 and 16 yards per reception and scored 10 touchdowns on their 82 combined receptions.  Coach Kyle Whittingham has five tight ends that could play this year.  2011 starter Kendrick Moeai has given way to two others this year.  David Rolf and Jake Murphy begin the season as the top two TEs.

 

With McNeal and Redd splitting time at USC, Ute running back John White could win the Pac-12 rushing title.  He ran for 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns last year.  Junior college transfer Kelvin York will get some carries in short yardage and goal line situations. 

 

Three starters return up front, led by center Tevita Stevens and guard Sam Brenner.

 

Utah averaged 25 points and just 311 yards per game last year, the lowest production in SLC in many years.  Expect considerable improvement this year.

 

Utah won eight games last year thanks to a consistently good defense.  For the sixth year in a row, the Utes gave up less than 21 points per game.  They held USC to 23, BYU to 10, and UCLA to six.

 

The key to the Ute defense is a tenacious defensive line that makes life miserable on enemy running backs and pressures passers.  Brothers Dave and Joe Kruger start at tackle and end respectively.  The siblings get to see a real star lining up with them at the nose.  Star Lotulelei lived up to his name last year with nine tackles for loss.  He earned 1st team all-Pac honors, as opponents had a hard time moving the 325-pound wide body out of the way.

 

The second line of defense is the one liability from among the starting units on either side of the ball.  One experienced linebacker returns.  Trevor Reilly tied for the team lead with five sacks.  It will be hard to replace former middle linebacker Chaz Walker.  New starter V. J. Fehoko made four tackles last year.

 

The secondary will not be at full strength at the beginning of the season, as the top player will miss the first three games.  Safety Brian Blechen has been suspended for those games.  Cornerback Ryan Lacy led the team with a dozen defended passes, while safety Eric Rowe added 10.

 

The non-conference schedule begins with a breeze game against Northern Colorado, but the other two are toughies.  The Utes play at Utah State and then host BYU in back-to-back weeks before beginning Pac-12 play.  Utah could go 3-0 outside the league.  If so, then the Utes will win eight or more games yet again.

 

Coming Monday night, August 27: Once thought to be a dead-conference walking, the Big 12 not only survived, it brought in two quality programs to replace the two they lost this year.  Can Oklahoma get back to the National Championship Game?

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 h