The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 22, 2017

2017 Pac-12 Preview

The Pac-12 has not had a member win the National Championship in quite some time. Washington and Oregon made trips to the Playoffs in recent years, but they came up short. USC won multiple national titles earlier in this century, and Washington shared one with Miami back in 1991, but this once toughest conference has come up short ever since Vince Young scored the winning touchdown for Texas against USC in 2005.

The Trojans might have won an additional national title in this century had the four team playoffs been in existence in 2002. While unbeated Ohio State and unbeaten Miami played a memorable championship game, it was USC that was clearly the best team in the nation at the end of the year. The Trojans went 11-2, and 12 of the 13 teams on their schedule went to bowls. The Tojans split the title with LSU in 2003 and won the title outright in 2004. They went 38-2 in a three-year period losing only to Young and Texas and Aaron Rodgers and Cal. Since that time, 11 of the last 12 national champions have come from South of the Mason-Dixon Line. Can this be the year the Pac-12 breaks through with another national champion?

USC and Washington both appear to be contenders for playoff bid during the preseason. In today’s college football world, the quarterback is just as vital as the position in the NFL. The Trojans and Huskies both have top 5 signal callers directing their attacks. Sam Darnold took over a 1-3 Trojan team and guided USC to nine consecutive victories. Washington’s Jake Browning led the Huskies to the Playoff semi-finals, before UW bowed out against Alabama.

There are three other teams with the type of quality QB that can lead a school to a conference championship. Washington State’s Luke Falk is now a senior, and when QB’s under Mike Leach’s tutelage reach their fourth year in the program, they tend to lead the conference and the nation in total offense. Look for WSU to continue to advance forward from the surprise 2016 season.

Josh Rosen leads the UCLA offense, but like so many past Bruin quarterbacks, injuries have sort of derailed his career. A healthy Rosen is capable of leading the Bruins to a record reversal or better in Westwood. A 4- 8 disappointment in 2016, led Coach Jim Mora, Jr. to overhaul his assistant coaching corps.

Oregon is another team that disappointed in 2016. It cost Mark Helfrich his job. Enter new coach Willie Taggart, who turned around programs at Western Kentucky and South Florida. At his two prior stops, Taggart’s first editions have taken their lumps learning to play his style of ball, but he did not have a quarterback with the talent of Justin Herbert at either past school. Look for the Ducks to turn things around quickly and become bowl-eligible again this season. Give Taggart three years, and Oregon will be challenging for the Pac-12 North title again.

Here is how the Pac-12 Media voted in the preseason.

 

Pac-12 North Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 Washington 49 309 22
2 Stanford 1 247 0
3 Washington St. 1 206 0
4 Oregon 1 163 1
5 Oregon St. 0 101 0
6 California 0 64 0
         
Pac-12 South Division
# Team 1st Pl. Total Champ.
1 USC 49 309 28
2 Utah 1 220 1
3 UCLA 1 209 0
4 Colorado 1 182 0
5 Arizona St. 0 109 0
6 Arizona 0 61 0

The PiRate, Mean, and Bias Ratings agree on the division leaders, but our ratings show a different order to start the season. Bear in mind that our ratings factor depth and other factors that could help a team improve (or decline) in the ratings more than another team with the same results, based on this factor. USC is one of those teams that has a chance to improve more than average, so by late November, the Trojans could be rated higher than Washington, even if both teams go 11-1 and face off in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Pac-12 Conference
North Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Washington 129.3 125.1 130.3 128.2
Washington St. 119.4 116.1 118.6 118.0
Stanford 118.5 116.2 117.1 117.3
Oregon 110.6 107.2 109.6 109.1
Oregon St. 102.5 101.7 101.1 101.8
California 97.8 95.3 95.7 96.3
         
South Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
U S C 120.4 120.1 120.8 120.4
Colorado 114.1 111.5 111.8 112.4
U C L A 108.6 107.7 108.0 108.1
Utah 105.4 108.1 105.6 106.4
Arizona St. 103.7 103.7 102.5 103.3
Arizona 98.3 97.1 95.9 97.1
         
Pac-12 Averages 110.7 109.1 109.8 109.9

And, here are our not-so-scientific predictions for won-loss and bowl projections.

Pac-12 Conference Projected Standings
North Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Washington 9-0 12-1 Fiesta
Washington St. 7-2 10-2 Alamo
Stanford 6-3 9-3 Holiday
Oregon 5-4 8-4 Foster Farms
Oregon St. 2-7 4-8  
California 1-8 2-10  
       
South Division
Team Conference Overall Bowl
USC 7-2 11-2 PLAYOFFS
Utah 5-4 8-4 Sun
UCLA 5-4 7-5 Las Vegas
Colorado 4-5 7-5 Cactus
Arizona St. 1-8 3-9  
Arizona 1-8 3-9  
       
USC to win Pac-12 Championship Game

Coming Tomorrow: The Atlantic Coast Conference–Does Florida State deserve its lofty preseason rating? How much will Clemson suffer without Deshaun Watson, Mike Williams, and Wayne Gallman? Can Louisville challenge the two behemoths? Is there a dark horse team lurking, maybe North Carolina State? In the Coastal, can any team finish better than 6-2 in league play, or will there be a major logjam with four or five teams contending for the division flag?

November 13, 2016

College Football Ratings & Spreads For November 15-19, 2016

After one of the most contentious elections in over 100 years, the college football world decided to make Tuesday’s vote of the College Football Playoff Committee just as controversial before it can be released.

Truth be told, there only needs to be two playoff bids issued this year. The first one should go to Alabama as the number one seed, and the second one should go to the College All-Star Team as the number two seed. This Crimson Tide team has the look of one of John Wooden’s UCLA basketball teams during the Alcindor-Walton years. Coach Nick Saban’s team has pulled away from the pack now that Clemson, Michigan, and Washington fell Saturday.

There is still a lot to be decided, and there are some interesting scenarios left before four teams can earn golden tickets in December. Let’s take a look at each conference.

American Athletic
Temple and South Florida are tied for first in the East at 5-1 with Central Florida a game back at 4-2. Temple has the inside track to take the divisional crown, as the Owls have a road game against Tulane and a home game with East Carolina left on their schedule and hold the tiebreaker over the both contenders.

Navy leads the West and must lose to both East Carolina and SMU in order for either Houston or Tulsa to win the division. Memphis and Tulsa have such slim chances of winning the division in a multiple tie that it is not worth mentioning all the possibilities that must happen to make it real.

Atlantic Coast
Clemson’s loss to Pittsburgh is not enough to push Louisville over the top in the Atlantic Division. The Cardinals need for Wake Forest to upset the Tigers this weekend, and that is not likely to happen. Louisville could profit off a Clemson loss in the ACC Championship Game. If the Cardinals win out and CU loses again, UL could move into the playoffs without appearing in a championship game.

The Coastal Division did not change even though the two co-leaders were both upset. Virginia Tech and North Carolina are tied at 5-2. If the two stay tied at either 6-2 or 5-3, then the Hokies win the tiebreaker. Pittsburgh and Miami can both get to 5-3, but Virginia Tech wins any and all tiebreakers against any possible 5-3 opponent.

Big 12
Oklahoma leads at 7-0, but Oklahoma State and West Virginia both have just one conference loss and are still alive in the conference championship race. The Sooners close with West Virginia in Morgantown and Oklahoma State in Norman.

The three teams cannot finished tied at 8-1, because with the Sooners playing both one-loss teams, one of the three teams must lose a second conference game. There is a scenario where all three teams could finish tied with two losses, but it is not all that likely. If Oklahoma loses to both contenders to drop to 7-2, and if Oklahoma State loses at TCU this weekend, while West Virginia loses at Iowa State, then OSU will be the Big 12 Champion.

Big Ten
Oh, did this past weekend really throw a monkey wrench into the workings. With Iowa beating Michigan, it opened up the possibility that Penn State could sneak into the Big Ten Championship Game as East Division champ. If the Nittany Lions win out against Rutgers and Michigan State, and if Ohio State beats Michigan, then Coach James Franklin will lead Penn State to Indianapolis on December 3. Whether Ohio State can win out to finish 11-1, miss the conference title game, and still get a bid to the Playoffs is unsure.

In the West, there are even more possible scenarios than in the East. Wisconsin is the only divisionteam that controls its own destiny. If the Badgers beat Purdue and Minnesota , they go to Indy. If UW loses a game, and Nebraska beats Maryland and Iowa, the Cornhuskers take the flag. Then, there is the possibility that if both Wisconsin and Nebraska lose, there are scenarios where Iowa, Minnesota, and Northwestern could make it to the Championship Game.

Conference USA
The two division races are basically decided after the two division leaders won on Saturday. Western Kentucky has one game left at Marshall on November 26. If the 6-1 Hilltoppers win that game, they are East Champs. If WKU falls in Huntington, then Old Dominion can win the division title by closing with wins over Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

Louisiana Tech clinched the West with their win over UTSA Saturday. The Bulldogs have won seven games in a row after starting the year at 1-3, including pinning the lone conference loss on WKU.

Mid-American
You probably haven’t followed the race in the MAC East much this year, because the other division has gotten all the headlines. However, one of the wackiest ever races in the history of college football could be taking place on this side of the league. There is a chance that a team that began the year losing its first six games, including a home loss to Eastern Illinois, could find itself in the MAC Championship Game! Miami of Ohio was 0-6 after losing big at Akron in early October. Since then, the Redhawks have reeled off five consecutive wins and will become bowl eligible if they beat Ball State a week from Tuesday.

Ohio has the inside advantage to winning the East Division, but should the Bobcats end the year by losing at Central Michigan (who needs to win to become bowl eligible) and at home to Akron (who will need to win to become bowl eligible), then Miami will earn the right to play the behemoth in the other division.

That behemoth is Western Michigan, the number 14 team in this week’s AP Poll and current leader of the pack among the Group of 5 leagues for the Cotton Bowl bid. Before we annoint the Broncos into the Dallas classic, they must beat Toledo on Black Friday and then win the MAC Championship Game. If Toledo wins out over Ball State and WMU, then the Rockets will play in the conference title game.

Mountain West
The Mountain Division race became a bit cloudier after Wyoming lost at UNLV on Saturday. There is now a three-way tie with the Cowboys, New Mexico, and Boise State. At the moment, Boise has the clearest path to the division flag, but they must still play at Air Force. The other two contenders have tough closing schedules, as Wyoming closes with San Diego State and New Mexico, and the Lobos play at Colorado State before hosting the Cowboys. In the event there is a tie, Wyoming owns the tiebreaker over Boise State, and Boise State owns the tiebreaker over New Mexico. If the three teams finished tied with 6-2 records, it will depend on whether Wyoming’s second loss was to San Diego State or New Mexico that determines who gets the nod.

There is no trouble about the West Division race. SDSU wrapped it up about the time the Cubs won the World Series. The Aztecs will be the only division team to become bowl eligible, unless UNLV can upset Boise State and beat Nevada.

Pac-12
There is very little chance that a Pac-12 team will make the Playoffs this year after Washington fell to USC. The contending teams are now playing for a trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl.

In the North, it is now Washington State in the lead, but that lead could be short-lived. After winning eight consecutive games for the first time since 1930, the Cougars close with games at Colorado and at home against Washington. The game in Boulder is now the tougher game of the two, as we believe Coach Mike Leach’s club will top the Huskies in the Apple Cup game at beautiful Martin Stadium. Washington can still win the division flag by winning in the Palouse on Black Friday.

Colorado has a half-game lead over USC in the South, but the Trojans hold the tiebreaker over the Buffs should the two teams tie. CU closes with home games against WSU and Utah, and Coach Mike MacIntyre would have to become one of the leading candidates for National Coach of the Year, should CU win both of these games and claim the South crown after being picked last in the preseason.

Don’t forget Utah just yet. The Utes are a game back at 5-2 and host Oregon before heading to Boulder a week later. If Utah beats the Ducks and then knocks off CU, the Utes would own the tiebreaker over a 7-2 CU and 7-2 USC.

USC can win the South by beating UCLA this week and then hoping that both CU and Utah lose a game. One of the other two must lose because they face off, but the winner of that game will have to lose this week as well.

Southeastern
The only race is in the East, and it is now a two-team race between Florida and Tennessee. If the Gators beat LSU this weekend, they are in the SEC Championship Game for a second consecutive year. If LSU wins, and then Tennessee beats Missouri and Vanderbilt, the Vols will head to the Championship Game.

Alabama has already wrapped up the SEC West, and if they win out, they will be the heaviest favorite in the three-year existence of the Playoffs. A 15-0 Crimson Tide National Champion would have to rank up there with Miami of 2001, Nebraska of 1971 and 1995, USC of 1932 and 1972, and Army of 1944 and 1945 as the best team of all time.

Sunbelt
If you think Louisville deserves a shot at the College Football Playoffs with an 11-1 record and the lone loss at Clemson in a game that went to the final minute, then what about Troy? Troy could also finish 11-1 with its lone loss at Clemson in a game that came down to the final minute. The Trojans debuted in the AP Top 25 this week, but don’t expect this team to make it to an New Year’s 6 Bowl game, even if they win out. Western Michigan, San Diego State, and Boise State must all lose a game before Troy has a chance, and if Houston beats Louisville, the Cougars will top the Trojans as well.

Troy still has three games left on its schedule, and one of those three is a home game Thursday night against Arkansas State. The Red Wolves are still undefeated in conference play, so the conference championship will be up for grabs this week.

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

PiRate Ratings
# Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 Alabama 138.0 131.4 138.1 135.8
2 Ohio St. 128.9 128.3 129.5 128.9
3 Michigan 129.2 126.9 129.2 128.4
4 Louisville 129.4 125.0 129.6 128.0
5 Washington 128.0 121.0 127.4 125.5
6 Clemson 127.4 120.7 126.3 124.8
7 LSU 126.3 121.2 125.9 124.5
8 Oklahoma 121.1 119.6 120.8 120.5
9 USC 122.4 117.4 120.7 120.2
10 Auburn 120.3 118.5 120.1 119.6
11 Wisconsin 119.3 116.8 120.0 118.7
12 Florida St. 120.2 114.1 119.5 117.9
13 Washington St. 118.5 115.2 118.3 117.4
14 Colorado 117.8 113.5 117.7 116.4
15 North Carolina 118.2 112.5 118.1 116.3
16 Miami 118.1 112.5 117.8 116.1
17 Virginia Tech 115.9 114.6 115.9 115.5
18 Penn St. 115.0 115.9 114.8 115.2
19 Oklahoma St. 114.8 115.8 114.2 114.9
20 Texas A&M 115.6 113.7 115.0 114.8
21 Tennessee 115.7 113.2 114.8 114.6
22 Stanford 115.9 109.6 115.4 113.6
23 Pittsburgh 115.0 110.9 114.2 113.4
24 Western Michigan 112.7 112.3 114.3 113.1
25 Florida 112.2 113.7 110.5 112.1
26 Utah 114.1 108.8 112.7 111.9
27 West Virginia 112.1 111.5 111.7 111.8
28 Notre Dame 112.8 109.9 111.9 111.5
29 Ole Miss 112.6 108.6 111.4 110.9
30 TCU 110.6 112.1 109.7 110.8
31 Iowa 111.6 109.2 111.3 110.7
32 Texas 110.0 111.0 109.2 110.1
33 San Diego St. 109.7 108.2 111.8 109.9
34 South Florida 109.8 107.9 110.3 109.3
35 Georgia 109.8 108.9 109.1 109.3
36 Northwestern 110.8 107.0 109.9 109.2
37 Arkansas 111.2 106.8 109.5 109.2
38 UCLA 110.0 108.3 109.3 109.2
39 BYU 110.6 105.3 110.5 108.8
40 Baylor 108.4 109.0 108.7 108.7
41 Georgia Tech 109.9 105.9 108.9 108.2
42 Nebraska 109.1 106.5 108.8 108.1
43 Houston 107.9 107.1 109.1 108.0
44 Kansas St. 106.9 109.1 106.8 107.6
45 Temple 107.2 106.4 107.7 107.1
46 Boise St. 106.1 107.0 107.0 106.7
47 Mississippi St. 107.5 105.7 106.5 106.6
48 Western Kentucky 106.7 104.5 108.0 106.4
49 North Carolina St. 106.6 103.5 106.4 105.5
50 Michigan St. 105.9 105.0 104.3 105.1
51 Minnesota 105.5 104.3 105.0 104.9
52 Tulsa 104.1 105.4 104.8 104.8
53 Texas Tech 105.3 104.6 104.2 104.7
54 Toledo 103.2 103.7 104.2 103.7
55 Duke 103.9 103.1 103.5 103.5
56 Navy 103.7 102.1 103.6 103.2
57 Memphis 103.9 102.1 102.8 103.0
58 Oregon 103.7 102.2 102.6 102.8
59 Indiana 102.5 104.1 101.9 102.8
60 Wake Forest 102.2 100.6 102.6 101.8
61 Virginia 102.8 100.1 102.0 101.6
62 Arizona St. 102.4 101.1 100.8 101.5
63 Kentucky 101.4 102.0 100.9 101.4
64 Vanderbilt 101.8 98.9 100.5 100.4
65 South Carolina 100.4 100.1 100.1 100.2
66 Appalachian St. 99.3 100.3 101.0 100.2
67 Louisiana Tech 98.7 100.7 100.7 100.0
68 Central Florida 99.1 100.2 100.0 99.8
69 Syracuse 99.9 96.8 98.1 98.3
70 Iowa St. 98.6 98.4 97.8 98.3
71 Missouri 98.7 97.9 98.1 98.3
72 California 100.8 94.5 98.4 97.9
73 Air Force 96.5 98.3 96.8 97.2
74 Troy 94.1 98.2 96.2 96.2
75 Maryland 95.9 98.4 94.1 96.1
76 New Mexico 94.6 96.8 95.4 95.6
77 SMU 95.0 94.5 97.1 95.6
78 Northern Illinois 94.7 96.0 95.8 95.5
79 Oregon St. 97.3 92.8 96.0 95.4
80 Boston College 95.9 94.6 95.0 95.2
81 Wyoming 94.1 94.4 94.9 94.5
82 Ohio 92.0 97.7 92.8 94.2
83 Central Michigan 93.0 94.9 93.3 93.7
84 Arizona 94.8 92.5 93.2 93.5
85 Colorado St. 92.6 94.3 93.6 93.5
86 Cincinnati 93.1 93.5 92.7 93.1
87 Arkansas St. 91.3 93.6 93.0 92.6
88 Illinois 93.0 90.0 92.0 91.7
89 Army 88.8 95.2 90.0 91.3
90 East Carolina 90.0 91.6 90.2 90.6
91 Miami (O) 89.6 91.1 91.1 90.6
92 Connecticut 90.8 89.8 90.3 90.3
93 Old Dominion 88.7 91.7 89.7 90.0
94 Purdue 90.5 89.0 89.1 89.5
95 Utah St. 88.6 91.3 88.3 89.4
96 Middle Tennessee 88.6 90.1 88.9 89.2
97 Kent St. 87.9 89.4 88.8 88.7
98 Georgia Southern 87.1 87.7 88.8 87.9
99 UTSA 84.9 91.2 87.2 87.8
100 Eastern Michigan 86.7 88.8 87.2 87.6
101 Rutgers 88.7 86.6 87.3 87.6
102 Southern Mississippi 87.1 87.5 87.2 87.3
103 UNLV 85.8 88.6 86.2 86.9
104 Tulane 84.7 88.5 85.5 86.2
105 Idaho 83.3 88.3 85.3 85.6
106 Nevada 84.5 86.7 85.1 85.5
107 Ball St. 84.0 86.3 84.8 85.0
108 Marshall 83.2 86.6 84.0 84.6
109 South Alabama 82.1 88.4 82.9 84.5
110 Kansas 83.5 88.1 81.2 84.3
111 San Jose St. 84.0 84.0 83.7 83.9
112 Akron 81.2 86.4 82.0 83.2
113 Bowling Green 82.8 83.6 83.1 83.2
114 Massachusetts 80.2 86.5 81.3 82.7
115 UL-Lafayette 79.5 84.3 81.1 81.7
116 Florida International 79.6 84.0 80.0 81.2
117 North Texas 79.9 82.9 80.3 81.1
118 Hawaii 80.8 80.3 80.5 80.5
119 Georgia St. 78.0 82.6 79.8 80.1
120 Charlotte 76.7 82.3 77.3 78.8
121 Fresno St. 77.3 80.8 77.0 78.4
122 Florida Atlantic 75.7 80.4 78.3 78.1
123 Buffalo 75.8 82.2 76.3 78.1
124 Rice 75.3 81.9 75.6 77.6
125 UTEP 72.4 76.9 73.8 74.4
126 New Mexico St. 71.8 74.7 72.8 73.1
127 UL-Monroe 70.2 75.4 71.0 72.2
128 Texas St. 65.9 68.4 66.8 67.0

PiRate Ratings by Conference

American Athletic Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
South Florida 109.8 107.9 110.3 109.3
Temple 107.2 106.4 107.7 107.1
Central Florida 99.1 100.2 100.0 99.8
Cincinnati 93.1 93.5 92.7 93.1
East Carolina 90.0 91.6 90.2 90.6
Connecticut 90.8 89.8 90.3 90.3
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Houston 107.9 107.1 109.1 108.0
Tulsa 104.1 105.4 104.8 104.8
Navy 103.7 102.1 103.6 103.2
Memphis 103.9 102.1 102.8 103.0
SMU 95.0 94.5 97.1 95.6
Tulane 84.7 88.5 85.5 86.2
         
AAC Averages 99.1 99.1 99.5 99.3
         
Atlantic Coast Conference
Atlantic Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Louisville 129.4 125.0 129.6 128.0
Clemson 127.4 120.7 126.3 124.8
Florida St. 120.2 114.1 119.5 117.9
North Carolina St. 106.6 103.5 106.4 105.5
Wake Forest 102.2 100.6 102.6 101.8
Syracuse 99.9 96.8 98.1 98.3
Boston College 95.9 94.6 95.0 95.2
         
Coastal Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
North Carolina 118.2 112.5 118.1 116.3
Miami 118.1 112.5 117.8 116.1
Virginia Tech 115.9 114.6 115.9 115.5
Pittsburgh 115.0 110.9 114.2 113.4
Georgia Tech 109.9 105.9 108.9 108.2
Duke 103.9 103.1 103.5 103.5
Virginia 102.8 100.1 102.0 101.6
         
ACC Averages 111.8 108.2 111.3 110.4
         
Big 12 Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Oklahoma 121.1 119.6 120.8 120.5
Oklahoma St. 114.8 115.8 114.2 114.9
West Virginia 112.1 111.5 111.7 111.8
TCU 110.6 112.1 109.7 110.8
Texas 110.0 111.0 109.2 110.1
Baylor 108.4 109.0 108.7 108.7
Kansas St. 106.9 109.1 106.8 107.6
Texas Tech 105.3 104.6 104.2 104.7
Iowa St. 98.6 98.4 97.8 98.3
Kansas 83.5 88.1 81.2 84.3
         
Big 12 Averages 107.1 107.9 106.4 107.2
         
Big Ten Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Ohio St. 128.9 128.3 129.5 128.9
Michigan 129.2 126.9 129.2 128.4
Penn St. 115.0 115.9 114.8 115.2
Michigan St. 105.9 105.0 104.3 105.1
Indiana 102.5 104.1 101.9 102.8
Maryland 95.9 98.4 94.1 96.1
Rutgers 88.7 86.6 87.3 87.6
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Wisconsin 119.3 116.8 120.0 118.7
Iowa 111.6 109.2 111.3 110.7
Northwestern 110.8 107.0 109.9 109.2
Nebraska 109.1 106.5 108.8 108.1
Minnesota 105.5 104.3 105.0 104.9
Illinois 93.0 90.0 92.0 91.7
Purdue 90.5 89.0 89.1 89.5
         
Big Ten Averages 107.6 106.3 106.9 106.9
         
Conference USA
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Kentucky 106.7 104.5 108.0 106.4
Old Dominion 88.7 91.7 89.7 90.0
Middle Tennessee 88.6 90.1 88.9 89.2
Marshall 83.2 86.6 84.0 84.6
Florida International 79.6 84.0 80.0 81.2
Charlotte 76.7 82.3 77.3 78.8
Florida Atlantic 75.7 80.4 78.3 78.1
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Louisiana Tech 98.7 100.7 100.7 100.0
UTSA 84.9 91.2 87.2 87.8
Southern Mississippi 87.1 87.5 87.2 87.3
North Texas 79.9 82.9 80.3 81.1
Rice 75.3 81.9 75.6 77.6
UTEP 72.4 76.9 73.8 74.4
         
CUSA Averages 84.4 87.8 85.5 85.9
         
FBS Independents
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame 112.8 109.9 111.9 111.5
BYU 110.6 105.3 110.5 108.8
Army 88.8 95.2 90.0 91.3
Massachusetts 80.2 86.5 81.3 82.7
         
Independents Averages 98.1 99.2 98.4 98.6
         
Mid-American Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Ohio 92.0 97.7 92.8 94.2
Miami (O) 89.6 91.1 91.1 90.6
Kent St. 87.9 89.4 88.8 88.7
Akron 81.2 86.4 82.0 83.2
Bowling Green 82.8 83.6 83.1 83.2
Buffalo 75.8 82.2 76.3 78.1
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Western Michigan 112.7 112.3 114.3 113.1
Toledo 103.2 103.7 104.2 103.7
Northern Illinois 94.7 96.0 95.8 95.5
Central Michigan 93.0 94.9 93.3 93.7
Eastern Michigan 86.7 88.8 87.2 87.6
Ball St. 84.0 86.3 84.8 85.0
         
MAC Averages 90.3 92.7 91.1 91.4
         
Mountain West Conference
Mountain Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Boise St. 106.1 107.0 107.0 106.7
Air Force 96.5 98.3 96.8 97.2
New Mexico 94.6 96.8 95.4 95.6
Wyoming 94.1 94.4 94.9 94.5
Colorado St. 92.6 94.3 93.6 93.5
Utah St. 88.6 91.3 88.3 89.4
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
San Diego St. 109.7 108.2 111.8 109.9
UNLV 85.8 88.6 86.2 86.9
Nevada 84.5 86.7 85.1 85.5
San Jose St. 84.0 84.0 83.7 83.9
Hawaii 80.8 80.3 80.5 80.5
Fresno St. 77.3 80.8 77.0 78.4
         
MWC Averages 91.2 92.6 91.7 91.8
         
Pac-12 Conference
North Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Washington 128.0 121.0 127.4 125.5
Washington St. 118.5 115.2 118.3 117.4
Stanford 115.9 109.6 115.4 113.6
Oregon 103.7 102.2 102.6 102.8
California 100.8 94.5 98.4 97.9
Oregon St. 97.3 92.8 96.0 95.4
         
South Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
USC 122.4 117.4 120.7 120.2
Colorado 117.8 113.5 117.7 116.4
Utah 114.1 108.8 112.7 111.9
UCLA 110.0 108.3 109.3 109.2
Arizona St. 102.4 101.1 100.8 101.5
Arizona 94.8 92.5 93.2 93.5
         
Pac-12 Averages 110.5 106.4 109.4 108.8
         
Southeastern Conference
East Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Tennessee 115.7 113.2 114.8 114.6
Florida 112.2 113.7 110.5 112.1
Georgia 109.8 108.9 109.1 109.3
Kentucky 101.4 102.0 100.9 101.4
Vanderbilt 101.8 98.9 100.5 100.4
South Carolina 100.4 100.1 100.1 100.2
Missouri 98.7 97.9 98.1 98.3
         
West Division        
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Alabama 138.0 131.4 138.1 135.8
LSU 126.3 121.2 125.9 124.5
Auburn 120.3 118.5 120.1 119.6
Texas A&M 115.6 113.7 115.0 114.8
Ole Miss 112.6 108.6 111.4 110.9
Arkansas 111.2 106.8 109.5 109.2
Mississippi St. 107.5 105.7 106.5 106.6
         
SEC Averages 112.3 110.1 111.5 111.3
         
Sunbelt Conference
Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Appalachian St. 99.3 100.3 101.0 100.2
Troy 94.1 98.2 96.2 96.2
Arkansas St. 91.3 93.6 93.0 92.6
Georgia Southern 87.1 87.7 88.8 87.9
Idaho 83.3 88.3 85.3 85.6
South Alabama 82.1 88.4 82.9 84.5
UL-Lafayette 79.5 84.3 81.1 81.7
Georgia St. 78.0 82.6 79.8 80.1
New Mexico St. 71.8 74.7 72.8 73.1
UL-Monroe 70.2 75.4 71.0 72.2
Texas St. 65.9 68.4 66.8 67.0
         
Sun Belt Averages 82.1 85.7 83.5 83.7

 

PiRate Ratings By Conference
# League PiRate Mean Bias Average
1 SEC 112.3 110.1 111.5 111.3
2 ACC 111.8 108.2 111.3 110.4
3 Pac-12 110.5 106.4 109.4 108.8
4 Big 12 107.1 107.9 106.4 107.2
5 Big Ten 107.6 106.3 106.9 106.9
6 AAC 99.1 99.1 99.5 99.3
7 Independents 98.1 99.2 98.4 98.6
8 MWC 91.2 92.6 91.7 91.8
9 MAC 90.3 92.7 91.1 91.4
10 CUSA 84.4 87.8 85.5 85.9
11 Sun Belt 82.1 85.7 83.5 83.7

PiRate Retrodictive Ratings

Retrodictive ratings are similar to poll rankings–wins and schedule strength

These ratings are not predictive in nature

PiRate Retrodictive
# Team
1 Alabama
2 Ohio St.
3 Louisville
4 Clemson
5 Michigan
6 Wisconsin
7 Washington
8 Penn St.
9 USC
10 Colorado
11 Western Michigan
12 Washington St.
13 Oklahoma
14 Florida St.
15 Auburn
16 LSU
17 West Virginia
18 Boise St.
19 Nebraska
20 Texas A&M
21 Utah
22 Stanford
23 Tennessee
24 Florida
25 Oklahoma St.
26 South Florida
27 North Carolina
28 Virginia Tech
29 Houston
30 San Diego St.
31 Troy
32 Ole Miss
33 Pittsburgh
34 Miami (Fla)
35 Navy
36 Temple
37 Iowa
38 BYU
39 Arkansas
40 Toledo
41 Tulsa
42 Northwestern
43 Minnesota
44 Western Kentucky
45 Appalachian St.
46 Georgia
47 Kansas St.
48 Baylor
49 Georgia Tech
50 Louisiana Tech
51 TCU
52 UCLA
53 Wyoming
54 Memphis
55 Texas
56 Central Florida
57 North Carolina St.
58 Arizona St.
59 Air Force
60 Wake Forest
61 Indiana
62 Kentucky
63 California
64 Mississippi St.
65 Maryland
66 South Carolina
67 New Mexico
68 Notre Dame
69 Old Dominion
70 Texas Tech
71 Oregon
72 Ohio
73 Colorado St.
74 Duke
75 SMU
76 Vanderbilt
77 Arkansas St.
78 Idaho
79 Syracuse
80 Eastern Michigan
81 Boston College
82 Middle Tennessee
83 Oregon St.
84 Michigan St.
85 Central Michigan
86 Illinois
87 Missouri
88 Georgia Southern
89 Southern Miss.
90 UTSA
91 Army
92 Miami (O)
93 Cincinnati
94 Arizona
95 South Alabama
96 Northern Illinois
97 Utah St.
98 Akron
99 East Carolina
100 Virginia
101 Tulane
102 UL-Lafayette
103 Kent St.
104 UNLV
105 Hawaii
106 Iowa St.
107 Connecticut
108 Purdue
109 North Texas
110 Ball St.
111 Rutgers
112 UL-Monroe
113 San Jose St.
114 Charlotte
115 Marshall
116 Bowling Green
117 Nevada
118 Georgia St.
119 Florida Int’l.
120 New Mexico St.
121 Massachusetts
122 UTEP
123 Kansas
124 Florida Atlantic
125 Texas St.
126 Buffalo
127 Rice
128 Fresno St.

This Week’s PiRate Ratings Spreads

Home Visitor PiRate Mean Bias
Tuesday, November 15
Bowling Green Kent St. -3.1 -3.8 -3.7
Central Michigan Ohio U 3.5 -0.3 3.0
         
Wednesday, November 16
Toledo Ball St. 21.7 19.9 21.9
Eastern Michigan Northern Illinois -5.5 -4.7 -6.1
         
Thursday, November 17
Houston Louisville -18.5 -14.9 -17.5
Troy Arkansas St. 5.8 7.6 6.2
         
Friday, November 18
Cincinnati Memphis -7.8 -5.6 -7.1
Boise St. UNLV 23.3 21.4 23.8
         
Saturday, November 19
Oregon St. Arizona 5.5 3.3 5.8
Colorado Washington St. 2.3 1.3 2.4
Utah Oregon 13.4 9.6 13.1
SMU South Florida -11.8 -10.4 -9.2
TCU Oklahoma St. -1.2 -0.7 -1.5
Illinois Iowa -15.6 -16.2 -16.3
Minnesota Northwestern -1.7 0.3 -1.9
Baylor Kansas St. 4.7 2.9 4.9
Nebraska Maryland 16.2 11.1 17.7
Purdue Wisconsin -25.8 -24.8 -27.9
Michigan St. Ohio St. -20.0 -20.3 -22.2
Texas A&M UTSA 33.2 25.0 30.3
Georgia UL-Lafayette 33.3 27.6 31.0
Rice UTEP 5.4 7.5 4.3
Georgia Tech Virginia 10.1 8.8 9.9
North Carolina St. Miami (Fla.) -8.5 -6.0 -8.4
LSU Florida 17.1 10.5 18.4
Boston College Connecticut 7.1 6.8 6.7
Charlotte Middle Tennessee -9.4 -5.3 -9.1
BYU Massachusetts 33.9 22.3 32.7
Georgia St. Georgia Southern -7.1 -3.1 -7.0
Appalachian St. UL-Monroe 32.1 27.9 33.0
Pittsburgh Duke 14.1 10.8 13.7
Western Michigan Buffalo 39.9 33.1 41.0
Syracuse Florida St. -17.3 -14.3 -19.4
Kansas Texas -23.5 -19.9 -25.0
Wyoming San Diego St. -12.6 -10.8 -13.9
Notre Dame Virginia Tech -0.1 -1.7 -1.0
Tennessee Missouri 20.0 18.3 19.7
Tulane Temple -19.5 -14.9 -19.2
Iowa St. Texas Tech -3.7 -3.2 -3.4
Michigan Indiana 29.7 25.8 30.3
East Carolina Navy -10.7 -7.5 -10.4
New Mexico St. Texas St. 8.4 8.8 8.5
California Stanford -14.1 -14.1 -16.0
North Texas Southern Miss. -4.7 -2.1 -4.4
Florida Atlantic Old Dominion -10.0 -8.3 -8.4
Wake Forest Clemson -22.2 -17.1 -20.7
Fresno St. Hawaii 0.5 4.5 0.5
Florida Int’l. Marshall -1.1 -0.1 -1.5
Mississippi St. Arkansas -0.7 1.9 0.1
Washington Arizona St. 28.6 22.9 29.6
Central Florida Tulsa -2.0 -1.8 -1.8
West Virginia Oklahoma -6.0 -5.1 -6.1
Vanderbilt Ole Miss -8.8 -7.7 -8.9
Rutgers Penn St. -23.8 -26.8 -25.0
Colorado St. New Mexico 1.0 0.5 1.2
UCLA USC -11.4 -8.1 -10.4
San Jose St. Air Force -9.5 -11.3 -10.1
Nevada Utah St. -0.9 -1.6 -0.2

FBS vs. FCS Games

FBS vs. FCS Week 12  
Home Visitor PiRate
Army Morgan St. 41
North Carolina Citadel 28
South Carolina Western Carolina 30
Kentucky Austin Peay 41
Alabama Chattanooga 49
South Alabama Presbyterian 30
Auburn Alabama A&M 59

Bowl Projections

This week, we show 77 teams reaching bowl eligibility.  Three non-bowl eligible teams would thus be needed to fill in as alternates.  Of the three, only one team would have a 5-7 record, as the other two teams figure to be 6-6 with two FCS wins apiece.  Oddly, no at-large spots were needed other than the three alternate slots.

Bowl Conferences Team vs. Team
New Mexico MWC CUSA New Mexico vs. UTSA
Las Vegas Pac-12 MWC Arizona St. vs. San Diego St.
Cure AAC SBC Central Fla. vs. Idaho
Camellia MAC SBC Central Mich. vs. Arkansas St.
New Orleans CUSA SBC Middle Tenn. vs. Troy
Miami Beach AAC MAC Memphis vs. Ohio U
Boca Raton AAC CUSA SMU vs. Old Dominion
Poinsettia MWC BYU Wyoming vs. BYU
Idaho Potato MAC MWC Miami (O) vs. Colorado St.
Bahamas AAC/CUSA MAC/CUSA Houston vs. Toledo
Armed Forces Navy Big 12 Navy vs. Kansas St.
Dollar General MAC SBC Eastern Mich. vs. Appy St.
Hawaii CUSA MWC La. Tech vs. Air Force
St. Petersburg AAC ACC/ND Temple vs. Miami (Fla.)
Quick Lane ACC/ND Big Ten Wake Forest vs. {Army}
Independence SEC ACC/ND Kentucky vs. {Boston Coll.}
Heart of Dallas Big Ten CUSA {S. Alabama} vs. North Texas
Military ACC/ND AAC N. C. State vs. South Florida
Holiday Big Ten Pac-12 Minnesota vs. Washington
Cactus Big 12 Pac-12 TCU vs. California
Pinstripe ACC/ND Big Ten Pittsburgh vs. Maryland
Russell Athletic ACC/ND Big 12 Florida St. vs. Oklahoma St.
Foster Farms Big Ten Pac-12 Northwestern vs. Utah
Texas Big 12 SEC Baylor vs. Auburn
Birmingham AAC SEC Tulsa vs. S. Carolina
Belk ACC/ND SEC Virginia Tech vs. Arkansas
Alamo Big 12 Pac-12 Oklahoma vs. USC
Liberty Big 12 SEC Texas vs. Texas A&M
Sun ACC/ND Pac-12 N.Carolina vs. Stanford
Arizona CUSA/SBC MWC/SBC W. Kentucky vs. Boise St.
Music City ACC/ND/B10 SEC Indiana vs. Georgia
Orange ACC/ND B10/SEC Clemson vs. Penn St.
Citrus ACC/ND/B10 SEC Nebraska vs. Tennessee
TaxSlayer ACC/ND/B10 SEC Georgia Tech vs. Ole Miss
Peach Semifinal Semifinal Alabama vs. Wisconsin
Fiesta Semifinal Semifinal Ohio St. vs. Louisville
Outback Big Ten SEC Iowa vs. Florida
Cotton At-Large At-Large Western Mich. vs. Colorado
Rose Big Ten Pac-12 Michigan vs. Wash. St.
Sugar Big 12 SEC West Virginia vs. LSU
CFP Championship Semifinal Winners Alabama vs. Ohio St.
           
           
{Team} Alternate Selection of non-bowl eligible team

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

November 28, 2011

PiRate Ratings: College Football for December 1-10, 2011

It’s Open Season On Coaching Jobs

It started early this year.  New Mexico was forced to dismiss Mike Locksley early, and the Lobos were quick to name former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie as their new coach.  Ohio State’s job was available as soon as the Buckeyes lost their second game.  To say the brass in Columbus did not know who they wanted from the start was an “Urban” myth.

 

Ole Miss terminated Houston Nutt.  Arizona and Mike Stoops parted ways.  Joe Paterno lost his job over off the field issues.  Then, Bob Toledo was sent on his way from Tulane.

 

The floodgates soon opened, and by Sunday, the list of coaching vacancies had swelled.  At its worst, Akron fired Rob Ianello over the phone while he was driving to his mother’s funeral.  What a tasteless act!  A pox on the program, the Zips should be punished with 30 losing seasons in a row and a bankrupt athletic department.  How would any honest, hard-working coach ever want to sign on with the Zips?

 

If you ever wanted to find a living example of the Peter Principle, then look at Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.  Ron Zook proved for the second time that he is not up to the task of handling a major college football program.  The Illini dismissed Zook Sunday following their sixth consecutive loss after beginning the season 6-0 with talent strong enough to contend for the Leaders Division title.  Zook should be a recruiter and an assistant coach.  He admitted earlier this season that he did not know the score of more than one game when he made decisions to go for two points following a touchdown.

 

More vacancies are sure to come.  Rick Neuheisel is expected to be fired as soon as his UCLA Bruins lose at Oregon this week.  He could even lose his job if the Bruins upset the Ducks and earn a Rose Bowl bid.  With Meyer filling the Ohio State vacancy and former Michigan and West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez filling the Arizona vacancy, the vacancy in Westwood becomes the cream of the crop if it indeed becomes a vacancy.  You have to believe the Penn State job will not be as enticing.

 

As The Leach Turns

Mike Leach, an honorary member of the PiRate Ratings, will be considered for many of the coaching vacancies this year.  Fans at Kansas, Ole Miss, Washington State, Arizona State, Tulane, Florida Atlantic, and UAB have already begun to talk about Leach being at or near the top of their wish list.  As soon as Neuheisel is let go at UCLA, Leach fever will break out in Westwood.

 

Leach does not understand the principle of tactfulness.  Like Howard Cosell, he tells it like it is, and the “good ole boys network” does not like 100% honesty coming forth from their employees.  It’s the company line or the unemployment line, and Leach is doing quite well as a sports talk show host.  Throw in a wrongful termination suit against Texas Tech (which appears to be justified) and a lawsuit against ESPN, and Ron Zook may have a better chance getting hired for one of these coaching vacancies. 

 

Gary Barnett took a Northwestern program that had been 0-11 or 1-10 over 50% of the time in the 20 years prior to his coming to Evanston.  He guided the Wildcats to the Rose Bowl.  He went to Boulder and guided Colorado to a Big 12 Championship, yet he found himself unemployed following an incident in which he used tactics to encourage a female placekicker to quit the team.  No school ever approached him following his termination, and Leach could very well be in the same boat.

 

The Big East Isn’t As Messy Now

After a wild week of games on the Eastern Seaboard, the race for the automatic bid to a BCS Bowl comes down to three teams in the Big East’s final weekend.  Louisville defeated South Florida to become one of the three finalists.  The Cardinals do not control their own destiny, and they will be on the sidelines anxiously awaiting the results of games to be played Thursday and Saturday.

 

West Virginia ventures to Tampa Thursday night to take on South Florida.  If the Mountaineers win, then Cincinnati is eliminated from the race.  If West Virginia loses, then Cincinnati would then control their own destiny.  The Bearcats host Connecticut Saturday.

 

If West Virginia and Cincinnati both win, then West Virginia is the Big East Champion in a three-way tiebreaker.  If West Virginia wins and Cincinnati loses to Connecticut, then Louisville is the winner in a two-way tiebreaker.  If West Virginia loses and Cincinnati wins, then Cincinnati bests Louisville in a two-way tiebreaker.  Of course, if both West Virginia and Cincinnati both lose, Louisville wins the conference outright.

 

According to game theory, Louisville has two options to win the conference championship, while WVU and Cinti have just one.  So, Louisville is the favorite to get the BCS bowl bid.  Regardless of which team wins, that team will be the 10th and final BCS bowl selection, and they will play the ACC Champion in the Orange Bowl, which has the final pick this year.

 

This Week’s PiRate Ratings

#

Team

PiRate

1

L S U

137.8

2

Alabama

135.1

3

Southern Cal

130.9

4

Oregon

129.5

5

Stanford

127.2

6

Wisconsin

127.1

7

Oklahoma

126.8

8

Oklahoma St.

126.3

9

Arkansas

123.6

10

Florida St.

120.3

11

Houston

119.9

12

Boise St.

119.9

13

Michigan

119.2

14

Georgia 

118.6

15

Michigan St.

118.6

16

Texas A&M

118.5

17

Virginia Tech

116.8

18

Texas

116.8

19

Notre Dame

116.7

20

S. Carolina

115.9

21

Kansas St.

114.2

22

T C U

114.1

23

California

113.9

24

Missouri

113.6

25

Baylor

113.1

26

Nebraska

112.0

27

Vanderbilt

111.3

28

Florida 

110.6

29

B Y U

109.9

30

Louisiana Tech

109.3

31

Utah

109.0

32

Arizona St.

108.9

33

Miami (FL)

108.8

34

Mississippi St.

108.7

35

Washington

108.5

36

Clemson

108.3

37

Ohio St.

108.1

38

W. Virginia

106.8

39

Tulsa

106.4

40

Cincinnati

106.4

41

Georgia Tech

105.8

42

N. Carolina St.

105.7

43

Penn St.

105.4

44

Boston Coll.

105.1

45

N. Carolina

105.0

46

Pittsburgh

104.8

47

Oregon St.

104.4

48

Iowa

104.3

49

U C L A

104.2

50

Nevada

103.8

51

Louisville

103.7

52

Iowa St.

103.6

53

Auburn

103.5

54

Southern Miss.

103.3

55

Northwestern

103.3

56

Virginia

102.8

57

Arizona

102.8

58

Washington St.

102.1

59

Tennessee

101.7

60

S. Florida

100.7

61

Air Force

100.4

62

Wake Forest

100.3

63

Toledo

99.9

64

Temple

99.4

65

Utah St.

98.9

66

Rutgers

98.8

67

Purdue

98.3

68

Illinois

98.0

69

San Diego St.

97.2

70

Connecticut

97.2

71

Minnesota

97.2

72

Texas Tech

96.9

73

Wyoming

95.6

74

Navy

95.4

75

Colorado

95.4

76

Western Michigan

95.3

77

Duke

95.3

78

Central Florida

95.2

79

Northern Illinois

95.0

80

Kentucky

94.9

81

Arkansas St.

94.5

82

San Jose St.

93.6

83

S M U

91.9

84

Hawaii

91.7

85

Maryland

91.6

86

East Carolina

91.4

87

Fresno St.

91.2

88

Syracuse

91.0

89

Miami (O)

90.2

90

Western Ky.

89.6

91

Florida Int’l

89.2

92

Ohio U

89.1

93

Kansas

89.1

94

Ole Miss

88.7

95

UL-Lafayette

86.8

96

U T E P

85.5

97

Idaho

85.3

98

Marshall

84.9

99

UL-Monroe

84.8

100

Bowling Green

84.2

101

Rice

83.9

102

Colorado St.

83.6

103

Army

83.0

104

Ball St.

82.9

105

Eastern Michigan

82.0

106

Indiana

82.0

107

Kent St.

81.9

108

New Mexico St.

80.2

109

North Texas

79.3

110

U A B

78.8

111

U N L V

77.3

112

Central Michigan

76.5

113

Buffalo

76.0

114

Troy

75.9

115

Middle Tennessee

72.7

116

New Mexico

71.1

117

Tulane

70.5

118

Memphis

68.0

119

Florida Atlantic

65.2

120

Akron

57.4

 

 

PiRate Ratings By Conference

* = team has clinched conference or division title

 

Atlantic Coast Conference

Atlantic Division

 

 

 

Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

FloridaState

5-3

8-4

120.3

Clemson

6-2 *

9-3

108.3

North CarolinaState

4-4

7-5

105.7

BostonCollege

3-5

4-8

105.1

WakeForest

5-3

6-6

100.3

Maryland

1-7

2-10

91.6

       
Coastal Division

 

 

 

Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Virginia Tech

7-1 *

11-1

116.8

Miami-FL

3-5

6-6

108.8

Georgia Tech

5-3

8-4

105.8

North Carolina

3-5

7-5

105.0

Virginia

5-3

8-4

102.8

Duke

1-7

3-9

95.3

 

Big East Conference

 

 

 

 

Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

West Virginia

4-2

8-3

106.8

Cincinnati

4-2

8-3

106.4

Pittsburgh

3-3

5-6

104.8

Louisville

5-2

7-5

103.7

South Florida

1-5

5-6

100.7

Rutgers

4-3

8-4

98.8

Connecticut

3-3

5-6

97.2

Syracuse

1-5

5-6

91.0

 

Big Ten

       
Leaders Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Wisconsin

6-2 *

10-2

127.1

Penn State

6-2

9-3

105.4

Ohio State

3-5

6-6

108.1

Illinois

2-6

6-6

98.0

Purdue

4-4

6-6

98.3

Indiana

0-8

1-11

82.0

       
Legends Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Michigan

6-2

10-2

119.2

Michigan State

7-1 *

10-2

118.6

Nebraska

5-3

9-3

112.0

Iowa

4-4

7-5

104.3

Northwestern

3-5

6-6

103.3

Minnesota

2-6

3-9

97.2

 

Big 12

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Oklahoma

6-2

9-2

126.8

Oklahoma State

7-1

10-1

126.3

Texas A&M

4-5

6-6

118.5

Texas

4-4

7-4

116.8

Kansas State

6-2

9-2

114.2

Missouri

5-4

7-5

113.6

Baylor

5-3

8-3

113.1

Iowa State

3-5

6-5

103.6

Texas Tech

2-7

5-7

96.9

Kansas

0-9

2-10

89.1

 

Conference USA

East Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Southern Mississippi

6-2 *

10-2

103.3

Central Florida

3-5

5-7

95.2

East Carolina

4-4

5-7

91.4

Marshall

5-3

6-6

84.9

U A B

3-5

3-9

78.8

Memphis

1-7

2-10

68.0

       
West Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Houston

8-0 *

12-0

119.9

Tulsa

7-1

8-4

106.4

S M U

5-3

7-5

91.9

U T E P

2-6

5-7

85.5

Rice

3-5

4-8

83.9

Tulane

1-7

2-11

70.5

 

Independents

       
Team

 

Overall

Rating

Notre Dame  

8-4

116.7

B Y U  

8-3

109.9

Navy  

4-7

95.4

Army  

3-8

83.0

 

Mid American Conference

East Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Temple

5-3

8-4

99.4

Miami (O)

3-5

4-8

90.2

Ohio U

6-2 *

9-3

89.1

Bowling Green

3-5

5-7

84.2

Kent St.

4-4

5-7

81.9

Buffalo

2-6

3-9

76.0

Akron

0-8

1-11

57.4

       
West Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Toledo

7-1

8-4

99.9

Western Michigan

5-3

7-5

95.3

Northern Illinois

7-1 *

9-3

95.0

Ball State

4-4

6-6

82.9

Eastern Michigan

4-4

6-6

82.0

Central Michigan

2-6

3-9

76.5

 

Mountain West Conference

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Boise State

5-1

10-1

119.9

T C U

6-0 *

9-2

114.1

Air Force

3-4

7-5

100.4

San Diego State

4-3

7-4

97.2

Wyoming

4-2

7-4

95.6

Colorado State

1-5

3-8

83.6

UNLV

1-5

2-9

77.3

New Mexico

1-5

1-10

71.1

 

Pac-12 Conference

       
North Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Oregon

8-1 *

10-2

129.5

Stanford

8-1

11-1

127.2

California

4-5

7-5

113.9

Washington

5-4

7-5

108.5

Oregon State

3-6

3-9

104.4

Washington State

2-7

4-8

102.1

       
South Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

U S C

7-2

10-2

130.9

Utah

4-5

7-5

109.0

Arizona State

4-5

6-6

108.9

U C L A

5-4 *

6-6

104.2

Arizona

2-7

4-8

102.8

Colorado

2-7

3-10

95.4

 

Southeastern Conference

East Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Georgia

7-1 *

10-2

118.6

South Carolina

6-2

10-2

115.9

Vanderbilt

2-6

6-6

111.3

Florida

3-5

6-6

110.6

Tennessee

1-7

5-7

101.7

Kentucky

2-6

5-7

94.9

       
West Division      
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

L S U

8-0 *

12-0

137.8

Alabama

7-1

11-1

135.1

Arkansas

6-2

10-2

123.6

Mississippi State

2-6

6-6

108.7

Auburn

4-4

7-5

103.5

Ole Miss

0-8

2-10

88.7

 

Sunbelt Conference

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

Arkansas State

7-0 *

9-2

94.5

Western Kentucky

7-1

7-5

89.6

Florida International

5-3

8-4

89.2

U. of Louisiana

6-2

8-4

86.8

Louisiana-Monroe

2-5

3-8

84.8

North Texas

3-4

4-7

79.3

Troy

2-5

3-8

75.9

Middle Tennessee

1-6

2-9

72.7

Florida Atlantic

0-7

1-10

65.2

 

Western Athletic Conference

       
Team

Conf.

Overall

Rating

LouisianaTech

6-1 *

8-4

109.3

Nevada

4-2

6-5

103.8

Utah State

4-2

6-5

98.9

San Jose State

3-4

5-7

93.6

Hawaii

3-4

6-6

91.7

Fresno State

3-4

4-8

91.2

Idaho

1-5

2-9

85.3

New Mexico State

2-4

4-8

80.2

 

 

Final Regular Season Games (12/1 to 12/10)

This Week’s Games–PiRate Ratings

   

 

 

 

Thursday, December 1  

PiRate Spread

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Score

Line

West Virginia SOUTH FLORIDA

3.1

27-24

1   

   

 

 

 

Friday, December 2  

PiRate Spread

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Score

Line

Northern Illinois   (n) Ohio U

5.9

30-24

3   

OREGON U c l a

28.3

38-10

30 1/2

   

 

 

 

Saturday, December 3  

PiRate Spread

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Score

Line

CINCINNATI Connecticut

12.2

32-20

9 1/2

PITTSBURGH Syracuse

16.8

27-10

13   

KANSAS ST. Iowa St.

13.6

31-17

12   

Wyoming COLORADO ST.

9.5

24-14

5   

T C U U n l v

39.8

47-7

40 1/2

OKLAHOMA ST. Oklahoma

2.0

35-33

3   

Texas BAYLOR

1.2

29-28

-2 1/2

NEVADA Idaho

21.0

42-21

19   

BOISE ST. New Mexico

51.8

52-0

52   

B y u HAWAII

14.2

35-21

8   

Utah St. NEW MEXICO ST.

16.2

37-21

14   

SAN DIEGO ST. Fresno St.

8.5

33-24

6 1/2

ARKANSAS ST. Troy

21.1

34-13

13   

NORTH TEXAS Middle Tennessee

9.6

27-17

7   

Louisiana-Monroe FLORIDA ATLANTIC

17.1

34-17

11 1/2

HOUSTON Southern Miss.

19.6

41-21

16 1/2

L s u    (n) Georgia

17.7

35-17

10   

Virginia Tech    (n) Clemson

8.5

28-19

4 1/2

Wisconsin     (n) Michigan St.

8.5

35-26

7 1/2

   

 

 

 

Saturday, December 10  

PiRate Spread

 

 

Favorite Underdog

Score

Line

Navy     (n) Army

12.4

24-12

NL

 

Bowl Predictions

At this point of the season, we are no longer making predictions on bowl games.  Instead, we are perusing the media for incites into which way the bowls are leaning.  For instance, from sport talk radio this morning, we have heard the rumor that the Gator Bowl is going to go after Florida and Ohio State due to the Urban Meyer factor.  Thus, when we predict this matchup, it is no longer our true prediction, but our repetition of the rumor.  We do not rely on any online bowl speculations; we are looking for legitimate media reports.  If there are no specific reports concerning a particular bowl, then we do the speculating based on an educated guess.

 

Teams in Italics have already accepted the bowl bid

* = At-large Team

 

As of today, we are projecting 71 teams to be bowl eligible after this weekend.  The 70th spot will come down to a choice between Ball State and Illinois, unless something occurs with Penn State.  There is a move afoot for the bowls not to invite the Nittany Lions, but as of this writing, there is no legal means to do so.

 

Bowl

Conference

Conference

Team

Team

New Mexico

MWC #4

Pac12 #7 / WAC

San Diego St.

Temple *

Famous Idaho Potato

MAC #3

WAC

Toledo

Utah St.

New Orleans

Sunbelt #1

C-USA

U. of Louisiana

Marshall

Beef O’Brady’s

Big East #6

C-USA

South Florida

Florida Int’l *

Poinsettia

MWC #2

WAC

T C U

Louisiana Tech

MAACO

MWC #1

Pac 12 #5

Boise St.

Arizona St.

Hawaii

WAC

C-USA

Nevada

S M U

Independence

ACC #7

MWC #3

North Carolina

Wyoming

Little Caesar’s Pizza

Big 10 #8

MAC #2

Northwestern

Western Mich.

Belk

ACC #5

Big East #3

North Carolina St.

West Virginia

Military

ACC #8

Navy

Wake Forest

Air Force *

Holiday

Pac 12 #3

Big 12 #5

California

Baylor

Champs Sports

Big East #2

ACC #3

Notre Dame

Florida St.

Alamo

Big 12 #3

Pac 10 #2

Texas

Washington

Armed Forces

C-USA #3

B Y U

Tulsa

B Y U

Pinstripe

Big East #4

Big 12 #7

Rutgers

Iowa St.

Music City

SEC # 7

ACC #6

Mississippi St.

Virginia

Insight

Big 12 #4

Big 10 #4 or 5

Kansas St.

Iowa

Meineke Car Care of Texas

Big 12 #6

Big 10 #6

Texas A&M

Penn St.

Sun

ACC #4

Pac 12 #4

Georgia Tech

Utah

Kraft Fight Hunger

Pac 10 #6

Army/ACC

Ohio U *

Illinois *

Liberty

SEC#8-9/BigEast

C-USA #1

Vanderbilt

Southern Miss.

Chick-fil-A

SEC #5

ACC #2

Auburn

Clemson

TicketCity

Big 10 #7

C-USA

Purdue

Pittsburgh *

Capital One

Big 10 #2

SEC #2

Michigan St.

Arkansas

Gator

Big 10 #4 or 5

SEC #6

Ohio St.

Florida

Outback

SEC #3 or 4

Big 10 #3

South Carolina

Nebraska

Rose

BCS Pac12

BCS Big 10

Oregon

Wisconsin

Fiesta

BCS Big 12

BCS At-Large

Oklahoma St.

Stanford

Sugar

BCS SEC

BCS At-Large

Houston *

Michigan

Orange

BCS ACC

BCS At-Large

Virginia Tech

Cincinnati

Cotton

Big 12 #2

SEC #3 or 4

Oklahoma

Georgia

BBVA Compass

Big East#5/CUSA

SEC #8 or 9

Louisville

Western Ky. *

GoDaddy.com

Sunbelt # 2

MAC #1

Arkansas St.

Northern Illinois

National Championship

*** BCS #1 ***

*** BCS #2 ***

L S U

Alabama

 

 

*** Returning next week: Our computer simulated college football playoffs.  We will use the same formula we have used in past years—a 12-team college football playoff. 

September 1, 2009

2009 Big 12 Conference Preview

2009 Big 12 Conference Preview

A PiRate Look

If Rip Van Winkle had awakened in a wheat field in Kansas from his 20-year slumber last year, he might have been able to understand all the big changes throughout the world in his score-long slumber.  He might have been able to predict the coming of the Internet, the election of an African-American as President, even another Major League baseball team in Washington, D.C. occupying the cellar once again.  However, he would have never recognized the Big 12 Conference state of affairs on the gridiron.

He might have been confused and believed that when he saw Oklahoma’s football passing stats and read 349 yards passing and 25 completions that he was looking at their yardage from the entire season.  He’d see that Texas passed for 308 yards on 26 completions and say to himself that the Longhorns must really be running that wishbone to such perfection that they only needed to throw the ball 34 times all year.  Then, when he discovered these yardages were the average per game for these two teams, he would have sworn he was no longer in Kansas.  Then, just to fool around with him, you could tell him that Kansas State had been one of the most successful programs in college football while he slept, but they had fallen back on hard times and hired their 70-year old former head coach.  It’s hard for us who have been awake the entire time to believe the complete 180 degree turnaround in this conference.

Here are the preseason PiRate ratings for the league.  The ratings have been rounded to the nearest whole number even though we calculate them to two decimal places.  Thus, when you see multiple teams with the same rating, they are not actually exactly even.  To understand what the rating means, it is set so that 100 is average.  Thus, a rating of 90 means the team is 10 points weaker than the average team in the FBS.  The average of all 120 FBS teams should round to 100 if the math has been successfully calculated.

For those who have not followed the PiRate Ratings before and wonder about the home field advantage, we do not assign set in stone advantages.  These are assigned on a game-by-game basis.  For instance, if Nebraska hosts Oklahoma a week before taking on Kansas for what could be the North Division title, the Cornhuskers’ home field advantage might be as little as two points.  However, if that same Nebraska team takes on Louisiana-Lafayette a week after scoring a huge upset over a top 10 team, they could enjoy a seven to 10 point home field advantage.  The PiRates think it’s ridiculous to issue a blank home field advantage for all teams or even assign a range of set home field advantages.

 

Big 12 Conference Preseason PiRate Ratings

   
   

 

Prediction *

   
  Team

PiRate

Big 12

Overall

 
  North

 

 

 

 
  Kansas

110

5-3

9-4

#
  Nebraska

109

5-3

8-4

 
  Missouri

105

2-6

4-8

 
  Colorado

102

4-4

7-5

 
  Kansas State

97

4-4

7-5

 
  Iowa State

92

0-8

3-9

 
   

 

 

 

 
  South

 

 

 

 
  Oklahoma

136

8-0

13-0

#
  Texas

135

7-1

11-1

 
  Oklahoma State

118

6-2

10-2

 
  Texas Tech

112

3-5

7-5

 
  Baylor

109

4-4

6-6

 
  Texas A&M

94

1-7

4-8

 
               

 

Big 12 North

Kansas: This actually came as a surprise to us at first.  Three of us actually originally believed KU was headed to a lower division finish.  The other two figured third or possibly second at best for the Jayhawks.  When the PiRate formula kicked out the data showing Kansas a point better than Nebraska, we began to look more closely at their roster.

The Jayhawks have excellent offensive skill position players.  Quarterback Todd Reesing returns for his final season after completing 66.5% of his passes for 3,888 yards and 32 touchdowns.  In a league with four or maybe five sure future NFL draft picks, it’s debatable whether Reesing will hear his name called on the second day in 2010.  At 5-11, the NFL evaluators discount all his other abilities.  At the collegiate level, he’s as dangerous as any conference peer.

KU returns two receivers who topped 1,000 yards in receptions in 2008.  Former quarterback Kerry Meier (97 receptions in ’08) may be the only player ever to pass for more than 1,000 yards in a season and catch more than 1,000 yards in passes.  Dezmon Briscoe (92-1,407/15 TD) is the stud and future starter on an NFL roster. 

The ‘Hawks use a running back by committee approach, and all the key components from last year return.  Jake Sharp led the way with 860 yards and 12 touchdowns.  He’s a threat coming out of the bullpen on passing plays as well.

KU’s offense average 33.4 points and 432 total yards per game last year, and those numbers could be surpassed, but only if the offensive line comes through.  For Kansas to realize their division winning potential, they have to open more running lanes.  They won’t win the division with a rushing average under four yards per carry.

The Jayhawk defense must also improve for the record to improve by the two extra games needed to be moved from the loss column to the win column.  It’s a mystery how the linebackers will perform.  All three starters have graduated.  Arist Wright has a little starting experience in three years in Lawrence, and he will anchor the unit from the middle.

The defensive line is in better shape with three starters returning from a year ago.  Jake Laptad had seven sacks, and Caleb Blakesely and Jamal Greene took up a lot of space in the middle allowing the linebackers to be heroes.

The secondary is the strength of this side of the ball.  Kansas used 5 defensive backs a lot last year, and all five return!  Darrell Stuckey intercepted five passes and knocked down seven more.  Justin Thornton knocked down 11 balls.  There’s some fine depth behind this group. 

Kansas gave up 28.8 points and 397 yards per game, with 274 of those yards coming through the air.  If they can lower the pass defense to 250 yards and get 30 sacks, it just might be enough to get to the Big 12 Championship Game.  If not, the Jayhawks are still going bowling for the fifth time in seven seasons.  As an impartial quintet of observers, we must admit we tend to pull for Coach Mark Mangino and the terrific bunch of KU fans.  Two of us have tailgated with them in the past and loved hearing stories about Pepper Rodgers, Bobby Douglass, and John Riggins.

Nebraska: Coach Bo Pelini turned the Cornhuskers around in one year, and now he’s ready to begin the transformation back to dominance in Lincoln.  After a season in which the average score of their games was 35-29, expect to see a drop on both sides of the scoreboard.  Yes, the black shirts are on their way back.

The defensive line will be a strength, second in the league to the Sooners.  We expect the ‘Huskers to dump enemy quarterbacks more than 35 times and hold opposing running backs to about 3.2 yards per rush.  Maybe the most exciting defensive tackle in years plays in this line.  Ndamukong Suh became the first defensive lineman to lead the Cornhuskers in tackles since 1973.  He made 76 tackles, 7 ½ sacks, 11 ½ additional tackles for loss, batted down three passes, and picked off two more.  You want more?  He hauled both of those interceptions back for touchdowns, and then he auditioned for “Dancing With The Network Stars” by doing his “Ducky Dance.”  Who needs Emmitt Smith?  Hey Ndamukong: Do you have Kelly Pickler for a Twitter follower?

The defensive backfield will be much improved this season.  They gave up 233 yards per game and 57.7% completions, which in this league is well above average.  Safeties Larry Asante and Matt O’Hanlon teamed for 119 tackles and nine deflected passes.  Third safety Rickey Thenarse gives this unit great depth.  The same can be said for nickel back Mathew May.  He backs up two great cornerbacks in Prince Amukamara and Anthony West.

The one weak spot on the defense is the second line.  The linebackers are not as talented as the other two units.  This unit will have to grow up quickly, because NU must win by holding down the great offenses in the league.

The Cornhusker offense is going to be more like the dinosaur offenses of the old Big Eight.  Nebraska will rely on a power running game to eat up the clock and wear down opposing defenses.  Running back Roy Helu rushed for 803 yards last year, and he will need to add about 400 yards to that total this year.  The depth behind him is questionable, and true freshman Rex Burkhead will be the principle backup.  Helu rushed for more than 150 yards against Oklahoma, so he’s capable of challenging for the league rushing title.

Joe Ganz used up his eligibility last year, and NU will be breaking in a new set of quarterbacks.  Projected starter Zac Lee has one completed pass for five yards for experience.

The wide receivers are not up to the standards of the big hitters in this league after losing the top two receivers from 2008.  Tight end Mike McNeill is the best player on this unit; he comes off a season where he caught 32 passes for 442 yards and six scores.

The offensive line has had some shuffling since practice began in August, and there has been a question of health with one projected starter, but we think this unit will be just fine.  Center Jacob Hickman will contend for all-conference honors. 

An added offensive weapon is kicker Alex Henery.  He connected on 18 of 21 field goal attempts including a 57 yarder.  Two of those three misses were from beyond 50 yards.

It may be the schedule that prevents NU from winning the North Division.  They play Kansas in Lawrence and Colorado in Boulder in their division and must host Oklahoma from the South.  We expect NU and KU to finish tied in the standings, but the Jayhawks will win the key game against the Cornhuskers.

Missouri: That whistling sound you hear is the Missouri Tiger football team coming down like a bomb released over London during WWII.  The team was wiped out by graduation.  Included in the decimation were quarterback Chase Daniel, tight end Chase Coffman, wide out Jeremy Maclin, tackle Colin Brown, linebacker Michael Keck, safety William Moore, and defensive tackles Ziggy Hood and Stryker Sulak, all of whom were taken in the NFL Draft.  A Tiger squad that averaged 42.2 points and 484 yards per game will see a major drop in those numbers.

Sophomore Blaine Gabbert is the new quarterback. He completed five of 13 passes for 43 yards and no touchdowns, and he is being asked to replace the overwhelming all-time passing leader in Columbia, who threw for 4,335 yards and 39 scores last year.  Gabbert will be at a further disadvantage because Mizzou’s top three receivers, who accounted for 264 catches for 3,080 yards and 30 scores are no longer around.  Jared Perry will be the top man after finishing fourth last year with 41 receptions.

The one big holdover weapon is running back Derrick Washington.  He rushed for 1,036 yards and 17 touchdowns in ’08.  Depth here is a concern, and true freshman Kendial Lawrence could see significant action.

The offensive line welcomes back three starters, led by all-league candidate Kurtis Gregory at guard.  The OL should provide enough blocking for the Tiger backs to top four yards per carry and enough protection to give Gabbert a fair shot to find the open receiver.

On the defensive side, MU was mediocre last year, giving up 27.2 points and 412 yards per game.  We’ll give them some credit because they faced Juice Williams, Colin Kaepernick, Joe Ganz, Zac Robinson, Colt McCoy, Josh Freeman, Todd Reesing, Sam Bradford, and C. J. Bacher—Whew! The numbers could improve simply because the offense runs more clock when they have the ball.

Actual talent improvement is evident at linebacker.  Sean Weatherspoon is the best player on the team and the best linebacker in college football; he should take home the Butkus Award this year.  Last year, he registered an unbelievable 155 tackles with five QB sacks, 13 ½ additional tackles for loss, seven passes knocked away, and three interceptions.  He’ll make his two partners better players, because opponents will go to great lengths to try to eliminate him from the play.

The defensive line and the secondary have issues.  Three starters are gone from both units.  It’s for this reason that we cannot see Missouri competing in the North Division.  In fact, we don’t see how they can forge a winning record.  Not enough pass rush and too many big plays allowed by a green secondary cannot be hidden in this league.

Colorado: Coach Dan Hawkins begins his fourth season in the People’s Republic of Boulder, and he could be exiled if the Buffs fail to make it to a bowl this year.  It’s going to be a touch and go situation.  CU has some real talent in places and big holes in other places.  Only four starters return on defense, and it was defense that allowed the Buffs to win five games last year.

When CU won big under former coach Gary Barnett, they did so with a bruising running game.  This Buffalo team will try to revert back to those days, because every running back who contributed in 2008 is back this year.  Rodney Stewart has sneaky speed and quickness and can hit a small hole quickly.  His small frame makes him vulnerable to injury, and he missed time last year.  Darrell Scott is more of a north-south runner, but he too missed time due to injury. 

After the first couple of weeks of August practice, Hawkins had yet to name a starting quarterback.  His son Cody was the starter for most of the last two seasons, but he may be on the verge of losing his spot to Tyler Hansen, a better runner.  If Hansen wins the job, that is a sign that CU will rely more on the run than the pass.

The rebuilding defense is strongest at linebacker.  Shaun Mohler and Jeff Smart return after finishing one-two in tackles (215 combined).  The secondary has one star-in-the-making in cornerback Cha’Pelle Brown, who knocked away 10 passes.

Up front, the defensive line will be the reason CU doesn’t compete in the North Division title race.  No full-time starters return, and three untested sophomores will be pressed into action.

Colorado had troubles with their kicking game last year, and that’s an anomaly kicking in the 5,400 feet elevation of Folsom Field.

An improved offense that can control the ball against average defenses combined with a schedule that includes eight or nine winnable games gives CU a decent shot of getting to seven wins and a bowl game.

Kansas State: Old with the new, and in with the old.  Soon to be 70-year old Bill Snyder returns to the Little Apple after a three-year retirement.  Combining his final two years, where the Wildcats bounced under .500, with the three forgettable seasons of Ron Prince, K-State has gone 26-33 the last five years.  Snyder picked a great time to return, because the ‘Cats have the chance to win a couple extra games this year and return to a bowl.

The defense should be one of the most improved units in the nation.  Yes, you can say it cannot get worse.  Last year, KSU gave up 35.8 points and 479 total yards per game.  Nebraska and Texas Tech topped 600 total yards against them.  Kansas State returns its top six tacklers.  Three starting defensive linemen return, but Brandon Harold is going to miss some games with a leg injury.

State will go almost exclusively with a 4-2-5 defense, and it’s a smart move.  They have much more depth in the secondary than they do at linebacker.  Linebackers Alex Hrebec and John Houlik may not make even Honorable Mention All-Big 12, but their 2009 performance will be much better than 2008.

The secondary will benefit from having all the depth, but without a better pass rush up front, enemy QBs will pick them apart.

The offense will struggle early, as it has to break in a new quarterback.  Carson Coffman and Grant Gregory were still competing for the starting job at the time of this writing.  Whoever wins the job will benefit from having star receiver Brandon Banks return after grabbing 67 passes for 1,049 yards and nine touchdowns.  Tight end Jeron Mastrud ranks only behind Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham for best in the league.

2008 Leading running back Lamark Brown has been moved back to receiver, but he didn’t have much success carrying the ball and can easily be replaced.  Keithen Valentine should surpass Brown’s season total by the sixth or seventh game.

The offensive line suffered a blow when senior guard Brock Unruh was lost for the season due to injury.  That leaves two starting holdovers in the trenches.  Tackle Nick Stringer will land a spot somewhere on the All-Big 12 team.

With non-conference contests with Massachusetts, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Tennessee Tech, the worst KSU can do in the pre-conference is 3-1.  If they upset UCLA and enter conference play at 4-0, they have it made in the shade in the bowl picture.  Even at 3-1, the Wildcats have an excellent shot at getting to 6-6.  They get Texas A&M and Missouri at home and play Iowa State in Kansas City.  

Iowa State: In what looked like a trade, Auburn sent defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads to Ames for Coach Gene Chizik.  Rhoads got the short end of the stick in that one, but at least he inherits a nice bunch of holdovers from last year.  Iowa State will more than likely remain in the basement of the North Division, but the gap to the other teams will shorten this year.

He won’t be confused for a Bradford, McCoy, Robinson, Griffin, or Reesing, but quarterback Austen Arnaud is a poor man’s Seneca Wallace.  He passed for 2,792 yards and 15 touchdowns (61.6% completions) last year.  His top receiver from last year, R. J. Sumrall has picked up his sheepskin, but all the other key contributors from last year are back.  Junior college transfer Darius Reynolds has earned a spot in the starting lineup.

Alexander Robinson rushed for 703 yards (4.6 avg) and scored six times, and he has help this year.  Former Florida Gator Bo Williams was supposed to come in and assume the starter’s job, but he won’t even be second team when the season begins.  Redshirt freshman Jeremiah Schwartz’s stock is on the rise, and he is a great fit in the new spread offense.

The offensive line may have a few tough times in the early part of the schedule, but they should be okay once the players get uses to multiple shifts in positions.  ISU averaged 25.3 points and 387 yards per game last year, and we can see those numbers climbing to 28 points and 400 yards in 2009.

A porous 2008 defense gave up almost 36 points and 453 yards per game, and the numbers could be just as weak or even weaker this year.  The defensive line and secondary may take a step back, while the linebackers move forward a tad.  Safety James Smith has the best shot of earning post-season accolades.  He led ISU with 85 tackles last year.

Middle linebacker Jesse Smith leads the one not-so-weak area.  He registered five tackles for loss and six deflected passes last year.

The Cyclones have a decent chance to open 3-1 with a non-conference schedule that includes North Dakota State, Iowa, Kent State, and Army.  For the second year in a row, ISU may not win a conference game, but they will lose them by fewer points per game.

Big 12 South

Oklahoma:  The Big 12 will be a two-team race this year.  Oklahoma and Texas should combine for either 22 or 23 regular season wins.  The two could play each other 12 times and split them six to six.  The PiRate formula says OU begins the season one point better than Texas.  By the seventh week of the season, who know?

Let’s start with the supposed weakness this year.  Everybody is saying the offensive line is going to cause the offense to fall backward just enough to finish second.  We say, hogwash!  We’ve studied the OL in depth, and we’re here to tell you this line is more underrated than former NBA coach Bill Sharman.  Trent Williams is a top-rate tackle.  He could have been a first day draft pick in the NFL this spring.  When center Ben Habern recovers from his lower back injury, he will be one of the top snappers in the league.  Brian Simmons will team with Williams on the left side to provide exceptional leadership.  This unit will dedicate themselves to top performance much in the way Florida did so after the loss to Ole Miss.  Expect total effort and attention to details.

The receivers may not be as talented this year, but if that’s OU’s only real weakness, Coach Bob Stoops will be smiling as his team takes the field in Pasadena in the second week in January.  Tight end Jermaine Gresham is the favorite for the Mackey Award this year after catching 66 passes for 950 yards and 14 touchdowns.  He should top 1,000 yards and 15 scores this year.

We’ve saved the best parts of the offense for last.  The Sooners return two 1,000 yard rushers who combined for 34 touchdowns.  Chris Brown (217-1,220) and DeMarco Murray (179-1,002) have an excellent chance to repeat the feat and even increase those numbers.

So, what can Mr. Heisman Trophy do for an encore?  He can copy Tim Tebow and follow it up with the National Championship.  It doesn’t seem possible that Bradford could improve on 4,720 passing yards, 50 touchdowns, 67.9% completions, and just eight interceptions.  He doesn’t need to have a season equal to last.  In fact, it might be to OU’s advantage to hold onto the ball a little longer this year and allow the defense to star.  Sooner games lasted an average of 151 plays per game, while Florida games lasted an average of only 127 plays per game.

The defense was not up to championship standards last year, but it should be this year.  After giving up 24.5 points and 368 yards per game, an improvement to 20 points and 340 yards should be enough to put Oklahoma in Pasadena.

The one slightly vulnerable area on this side of the ball is the secondary, where two new safeties will start.  Cornerback Dominique Franks picked off four passes and batted away 10 passes.  He could be a 1st Team All-Big 12 this year.

The top linebacker this year is Travis Lewis, who led the team in tackles in 2008 with 144, 12 total tackles for loss.  He intercepted four passes.  Keenan Clayton and Ryan Reynolds make it the best linebacker unit in the conference.

Up front, OU will be downright stingy against the run and a nightmare to opposing quarterbacks.  End Jeremy Beal had 8 ½ sacks and another seven tackles for loss.  Gerald McCoy, Auston English, and Adrian Taylor were nearly as tough.

It all comes down to the Red River Shootout on October 17.  Yes, Oklahoma State could give the Sooners a good game, and Texas Tech will be out for revenge, but we just don’t see any team other than Texas competing with them.  They will either go 13-0 and qualify for the National Championship Game, or go 11-1 and end up in a BCS Bowl.

Texas:  This isn’t the number two team in the division, so don’t take that impression from them being here.  No, we aren’t saying Texas will disappoint.  We are saying that OU is 1A and UT is 1B.

Texas is a decent running back from being unstoppable.  If Fozzy Whittaker or Vondrell McGee can supply a little more relief for McCoy, defenses will not be able to slow this offense down.

Colt McCoy is due to win the Heisman Trophy.  He completed an insane 76.7% of his passes last year.  These were not glorified handoffs.  He averaged 11.6 yards per completion and almost nine yards per attempt.  McCoy’s TD/INT ratio was 34/8.

Quan Cosby and his 92 receptions, 1,123 yards and 10 touchdowns has moved on, but the Longhorns still have Jordan Shipley, who hauled in 89 passes for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Keep an eye on flex tight end Dan Buckner.  He has big play potential and will not command the tough coverage given to Shipley.

The offensive line has three all-stars.  Center Chris Hall, guard Charlie Tanner, and tackle Adam Ulatoski will play for pay next year.

The defense was better than Oklahoma’s last year, and it was the difference in their game.  The Longhorns have a little bit of housekeeping to do up front, where only tackle Lamarr Houston returns from last season.  Kheeston Randall is big and agile, and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a star.

Texas is set at linebacker, where Sergio Kindle dumped enemy quarterbacks 10 times last year.  In the secondary, safeties Earl Thomas and Blake Gideon broke up 24 passes last year. 

The kicking game is so strong, there are two potential star placekickers and two punters who contribute.  John Gold is the regular punter, and Justin Tucker is the rugby-style punter.

Texas Tech will bear the brunt of Texas’s wrath when the Red Raiders visit September 19.  The Longhorns must face Oklahoma State in Stillwater, but this year looks like a two-team race.

Oklahoma State:  We’re not saying it will happen, but can you remember back to 1971?  Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Colorado, all of the Big Eight Conference, finished one-two-three in the final poll.  Oklahoma State could easily finish 10-2 this year with a scoring margin of 20 points per game.

The Cowboys’ offense is every bit as good as the two titans ahead of them in the league.  Quarterback Zac Robinson passed for 3,064 yards and 25 touchdowns and ran for 562 yards and eight more scores.  Running back Kendall Hunter rushed for 1,555 yards and 16 touchdowns, and backup Keith Toston added another 686 yards (6.7 avg).  Receiver Dez Bryant caught 87 passes for 1,480 yards and 19 touchdowns.  All these skill players return this year.  To make matters worse, for opponents that is, the Cowboy offensive line returns three very competent starters and adds two very highly-rated newcomers in reserve.  OSU gained 5.5 yards per rush in 2008, and there’s no reason to think they won’t continue with that success.

Defensively, the ‘Pokes are just an average team looking to improve to respectability.  Their front four and back four have a lot of gaping holes.  OSU surrendered 28.1 points and 406 yards per game last year, and those numbers will only marginally improve in 2009.  The Cowboys use a variation of the 4-3, and Star linebacker Andre Sexton returns after leading the team with 100 tackles.  Middle linebacker Orie Lemon added 90 and batted away eight passes.  Third linebacker Patrick Lavine recorded 70 tackles. 

Oklahoma State has excellent kick and punt returners.  Bryant scored twice on punt returns last year, and Perrish Cox took two kickoffs back for touchdowns.

If the Cowboys can win the opener at home with Georgia, they will possibly move into the Top Five.  We can see them competing and even winning the Georgia game, but we don’t see them beating Texas or Oklahoma.

Texas Tech: Red Raider coach Mike Leach keeps plugging in new pieces to his intricate offense in Lubbock.  Graham Harrell has left the building after ending his senior season with 5,111 passing yards and 45 touchdowns.  Top receiver Michael Crabtree is busy not accepting contract offers with the San Francisco 49ers these days.  Back Shannon Woods is no longer around, as are three offensive line starters.  Yet, Texas Tech should score 35-40 points per game and gain 450-500 yards.

New quarterback Taylor Potts has already received accolades from Leach who called him the best quarterback he’s ever coached.  Potts saw limited action last year and passed for 260 yards on 63.9% completions.

Baron Batch split time with Woods and returns to the backfield after rushing for a team leading 758 yards and seven scores last year.

The offensive line has its strengths and its weaknesses.  Guard Brandon Carter and tackle Marlon Winn are seasoned vets, while center Shawn Byrnes and guard Mickey Ofafor have limited experience. 

The defense returns enough starters to keep improving.  It will be strongest up front with nose tackle Colby Whitlock returning.  Linebacker isn’t a strong area, but it’s no great liability.  Brian Duncan led the team from his middle ‘backer spot with 94 stops.

The secondary features cornerback Jamar Wall, who batted away 11 passes and took away two more.

Tech should win all four out-of-conference games (North Dakota, Rice, Houston, and New Mexico), but games at Texas, at Nebraska, at Oklahoma State and at home with Oklahoma should be losses.  The season ender against Baylor at the Mistake on the Turnpike, AKA Cowboys Stadium, could be a tossup, and the Bears could be playing for bowl eligibility.  Call it an eight or nine win season in Lubbock.  

Baylor: This is the year if the Bears are ever going to get over the hump and pick up that elusive sixth win.  Coach Art Briles has 16 starters returning.

Quarterback Robert Griffin is in the next wave of signal callers after the big three.  He comes off a season in which he passed for 2,091 yards with 15 touchdowns versus just three interceptions and ran the ball for 843 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Griffin has a wealth of returning talent at the receiver positions.  Kendall Wright and David Gettis combined for 79 catches and 1,040 yards.  Tight end Justin Akers isn’t an every down player because Baylor frequently spreads the field and goes four wide, but when he’s in the game, he is hard to bring down after the catch.

Jay Finley led the Bears with 865 rushing yards and could possibly top 1,000 if the offense moves to the next level.  He may be used more as a receiver this year, because he’s tough to stop in the open field.

The one fly in the ointment is the offensive line.  There will be three new starters up front.  If they don’t continue the success that last year’s line enjoyed when they opened holes that led to 4.9 yards per rush, then BU won’t be playing in December or January.

 

On the defensive side, the top four tacklers and six of the top seven return.  The question mark is on the defensive line where two new starters will need to step up and keep blockers away from the linebackers.

Those linebackers are the best trio in years.  Antonio Jones, Joe Pawelek, and Antonio Johnson teamed up to make 271 stops intercept six passes (all Pawelek), and break up 10 more.

The back line features three returning starters who did not perform up to Big 12 standards last year.  BU allowed 67.4% of enemy passes to be caught for 255 yards per game. 

Baylor opens at Wake Forest, and it should be a great game.  We’ll call that a Demon Deacon win.  Connecticut comes to Waco, and that won’t be an easy win.  Northwestern State and Kent State should be cinch wins.  If they win three of these first four games, they will still need three conference wins to gain bowl eligibility.  They will have to pull of one upset.  It’s a 50-50 chance.

Texas A&M: Since R. C. Slocum was shown the door after winning consistently for two decades, this program has fallen off the map, going 36-37 since then.  Second year coach Mike Sherman may not be given much time to turn things around in College Station, and the alumni could demand action this year if A&M finishes 5th or 6th in the division.  We say the Aggies will do just that.

10 starters return to the offense, led by quarterback Jerrod Johnson.  Johnson has talent, but in this division, he’s a distant 6th among the QBs.  The once proud running game here disappeared as the Aggies rushed for just 89 yards per game.  Cyrus Gray averaged 4.8 yards per carry last year, but he only carried the ball 94 times. 

A&M returns their top three and five of their top six receivers.  Ryan Tannehill may not start after leading the team in receptions with 55.  Jeff Fuller and tight end Jamie McCoy should see more touches after bringing in 50 and 43 passes respectively.

The offensive line is the best part of this side of the ball.  The addition of LSU transfer Matt Allen, and the emergence of tackle Danny Baker means there will be much more depth here this year.  Look for the Aggies to improve their rushing numbers back into the low triple digits and pass for 260-285 yards.

The defense will be weaker overall this year with very little pass rush and very little ability to stop the passing attacks of the other five South Division rivals.  The Aggies lost too much on this side of the ball to contend for any wins inside the division.  They better defeat Iowa State at Kyle Field, or else they could go 0-8 in Big 12 play.

Next up: The Southeastern Conference where football definitely is a religion, and The Gators, led by the great leader Tebowses, are the chosen people.

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