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Early Look at Pac 12 Schedules

Our journey through scheduling takes us to the newly anointed Pac-12! If you want to catch up without doing much clicking, you can check out my Big XII, Notre Dame, SEC, & Big 10 schedule breakdowns by going to the links from this page. Let’s get to the Pac 12.

ARIZONA WILDCATS

Home: N.Arizona, Stanford, Oregon, UCLA, Utah, Louisiana
Away: Oklahoma St., USC, Oregon St., Washington, Colorado, Arizona St.

Mike Stoops has been HC in Tuscon now for 8 years and he’s never really had a breakthrough campaign with his gridiron combatants. In 2008-2009 he had back-to-back 8-5 seasons, but that signifies the pinnacle of his achievement with the Wildcats. Last year Arizona receded to 7-6 incluing a bowl mortification at the hands of Oklahoma St. to the tune of 36-10! This year Arizona brings back 5 starters on offense & defense, but the calamitous aspect of those returners is that only 1 of 9 linemen return, and that solitary lineman is sophomore DT Justin Washington. Arizona brings back a plethora of skill position players including senior QB Nick Foles who has a chance to leave Arizona as the school’s all-time leading passer. Still it’s hard to think this isn’t a rebuilding year for Arizona. Their home dates aren’t favorable. Stanford & Oregon are automatic losses. They’ll beat NAU & ULL leaving Utah & UCLA as wild card games. I’ll say they lose to UCLA but can beat Utah. The road games are NASTY. I don’t see how Arizona beats Oklahoma St., USC or Arizona St. on the road. I think Washington beats them too. Arizona will have a shot against Oregon St., but I don’t think they beat Colorado on the road. The Buffaloes should be better this season although I suppose Arizona could upend Colorado. That gives them a best case record of 5-7, but a worst case record of 2-10 for a win range of 2-5. That seems pretty low to me.

ARIZONA ST. SUN DEVILS

Home: UC-Davis, Missouri, USC, Oregon St., Colorado, Arizona, California
Away: Illinois, Utah, Oregon, UCLA, Washington St.

When Dennis Erickson took over for Dirk Koetter in 2007, he led the Sun Devils to a 10-3 & a Holiday Bowl representation. Subsequently, the Sun Beelzebubs have laid claim to 15 victories & 21 vanquishings. This year’s edition might be the best of what Erickson has had since ascending to HC in Tempe. ASU returns 8 starters on offense & 7 on defense. They do lose QB Steven Threet, but he wasn’t fantastic to begin with, and new QB Brock Osweiler bring more of a two pronged attack having the ability to use his legs after having rushed for 124 yards in limited time last season. Defensively, ASU bring back 6 of their top-7 tacklers and 10 of their top-12. The Sun Devils should have no problems with their home slate of games. Maybe they lose to USC, but nobody else on the schedule should be able to beat the Sun Devils in their own stadium. The road slate is a bit more difficult. Washington St. should be an easy victory, but I could see Arizona St. losing to Illinois, Utah & UCLA. I don’t think there is anyway they beat Oregon in Eugene. Erase that consideration instantaneously. That means ASU’s best case record is 11-1, but their worse case is 7-5. Remember too that USC is not eligible to play in the Pac-12 title game nor are they bowl eligible. Granted, Arizona St. would most likely have to beat Oregon to get into the Rose Bowl, but it’s not out of the question. A win range of 7-11 guarantees the Devils a bowl and potentially a BCS berth.

CALIFORNIA BEARS

Home: Presbyterian, USC, Utah, Washington St., Oregon St.
Road: Colorado, Washington, Oregon, UCLA, Stanford, Arizona St.

Neutral: Fresno St.

California is in a bit of a bind this season. On the one hand they return 7 starters on offense which is good. However, they lose their starting QB (Kevin Riley – 60.0%, 1,409yards, 13TD, 6INT) & their starting RB (Shane Vereen – 1,167yards, 5.1ypc, 13TD, 3 receivingTD). They have a talented albeit young defense with only 5 returning starters, but they lose their two best defensive players from a year ago in LB Mike Mohamed & DE Cameron Jordan. The schedule isn’t very favorable either. The road schedule alone is nasty enough to almost keep them from bowl eligibility. I simply can’t see this Cal team winning ANY of their road games outside of maybe Colorado and even then that might be a reach. They home slate might be a bit easier although I don’t think they can beat USC or Utah. Fresno St. is a toss up too. That gives Cal a best case record of 5-7, but a worst case record of 2-10. Keep in mind a couple of things. Cal’s home games will not be home games this season as they’ll play in AT&T Park while Memorial Stadium is going through renovations. A win range of 2-5 doesn’t look promising at all, but the Pac 12 has some pretty solid teams this season and Cal picks an awfully bad time to go through a quasi-rebuild away from its own friendly confines.

COLORADO BUFFALOES

Home: California, Washington St., Oregon, USC, Arizona
Away: Hawaii, Ohio St., Stanford, Washington, Arizona St., UCLA, Utah

Neutral: Colorado St.

There was an interesting story I read once where Colorado benefited greatly from Texas & USC being down a few years ago because it opened up recruiting for the Buffs in those areas. With the Longhorns & Trojans reasserting themselves under Mack Brown & Pete Carroll respectively, the talent pool in that area thought local because local teams were winning instead of heading to Colorado like they possibly could have some time ago. That explains a lot really and in fact makes it hard to keep looking at the HC as scape goat. Dan Hawkins tried to come in and replicate what he had done at Boise St. in Boulder, but the WAC isn’t exactly the Big XII and there was no Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Texas A&M & Oklahoma St. in the WAC that Hawkins had to go up against on a daily basis. Hawkins is gone and so is Colorado from the Big XII, but it still isn’t an easy road for new HC Jon Embree. The Buffaloes return a truckload of players from last year’s squad. They return 9 starters on offense & 7 on defense. They lost all-world CB Jimmy Smith, but nobody else that wasn’t irreplaceable. CU’s home slate isn’t brutal. I don’t think they beat USC or Oregon, but Cal, WSU & Arizona are all beatable teams. The away slate is pretty brutal. Oddly enough, I think Colorado has a shot at going into Columbus and winning. I think they can win at Hawaii too. The entire road slate of Pac 12 games? They lose them all. The Colorado St./Colorado game could go either way. I’ll say best case record is 6-6, but worst case? I’ll go with 1-11 with the lone winning coming at home against Washington St. making their win range 1-6.

OREGON DUCKS

Home: Nevada, Missouri St., California, Arizona St., Washington St., USC, Oregon St.
Road: Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Stanford

Neutral: LSU

All Oregon did last season was finish 12-0 during the regular season and come THIS CLOSE to knocking off Auburn in the BCS Championship game by the score of 22-19. HC Chip Kelly might be the best HC in college football right now and Oregon returns 6 starters on offense including QB Darron Thomas & RB LaMichael James. The offense will be very experienced as well. Every player projected as a starter on the offensive side of the ball is either a junior or senior outside of C Karrington Armstrong who is a rSO meaning he’s in his 3rd year in the program. Defensively Oregon returns just 5 starters and loses a few big time playmakers, but there is quite a bit of talent at every spot. Remember that last season Oregon scored 47ppg which was tops in the NATION! As scary as it sounds, Oregon’s offense could be better. No matter the defense, opponents are going to have a hard time scoring 50ppg! Just forget about anyone coming into Oregon & winning. Chip Kelly is 13-0 in Autzen Stadium. There is a first time for everything, but it won’t be this year. The road games could be a bit tough on Oregon. I’m not putting anything past Steve Sarkisian and the Huskies up in Seattle. Stanford should be amazing. That leaves the INSANE season opener in Arlington when LSU mixes it up with the Ducks in a game that will definitely set somebody up to play for a national championship. Best case for Oregon clearly is 12-0. Worst case is 9-3 with losses to LSU, Washington & Stanford. If I were betting I’d take the 12-0.

OREGON ST. BEAVERS

Home: Sacramento St., UCLA, Arizona, BYU, Stanford, Washington
Away: Wisconsin, Arizona St., Utah, California, Oregon

Neutral: Washington St.

I love Mike Riley and the Beavers are one of my most favorite college football teams, but I don’t see how this isn’t a crazy difficult year for them. Defensively the Beavers bring back only 4 starters and lose 4 of their top-6 tacklers. Not included in those 6 are DT Stephen Paea and DE Gabe Miller who were both NFL Draft picks. OSU brings back just 2 from their front-7. Offensively it’s not much better. They do return QB Ryan Katz, but they lose all-world RB Jacquizz Rodgers (17 total TDs last year; 2nd all time leading rusher in Oregon St. history) and WR James Rodgers might not be back for the season after knee surgery. The Beavers do bring back 4 starters on the O-Line, but this is rough. I don’t think they can beat UCLA, BYU, Stanford or Washington at home. I just don’t see it. The road schedule is NASTY. Maybe they can get by California. They should beat Washington St. That gives them a best case record of 4-8 but a worst case of 0-12. Washington St. has to beat somebody and don’t forget that the Cougars hammered Oregon St. last season 31-14 in Corvallis! A win range of 0-4 seems extremely unlikely for Oregon St., but what else can they do?

STANFORD CARDINAL

Home: San Jose St., UCLA, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Notre Dame
Road: Duke, Arizona, Washington St., USC, Oregon St.

What at time for Jim Harbaugh to leave! Some people are going to point out that the Cardinal are going to be hard pressed to replicate their 12 victories from a season ago because of the losses they’ve taken on plus the departure of Harbaugh. That certainly could be the case, but I still don’t see how they lose. QB Andrew Luck returns as does RB Stepfan Taylor who rushed for 1,157 yards & 15TD. The O-Line only returns 2 players, but those 2 were RG David DeCastro & LT Jonathan Martin and they both were 1st Team All-Pac 10 players in 2010. Defensively, Stanford returns just 6, but 4 of those were their top-4 tacklers from a season ago. They’ll be inexperienced up front, but the secondary returns 3 of 4 players including both safeties. Picking a win range is fairly easy here given the home/road split. Oregon & Notre Dame can beat Stanford at home in my opinion. On the road I think USC has a shot. A lot of this will depend on new HC David Shaw. I think Jim Harbaugh had that special “IT” factor. Shaw had been OC at Stanford the entire time Harbaugh was at Stanford. I think their win range is 9-12 making them a dark horse national championship contender.

UCLA BRUINS

Home: San Jose St., Texas, Washington St., California, Arizona St., Colorado
Road: Houston, Oregon St., Stanford, Arizona, Utah, USC

UCLA catches a big break by not drawing Oregon from the Pac-12 North. They couldn’t avoid Stanford, but you can’t win every scheduling battle. UCLA is an odd school. For whatever reason I think they should be a lot better than they are. I like Rick Neuheisel and thought he was a great hire. I think what people don’t realize is how awful a coach Karl Dorrell was. Neuheisel hasn’t had much to work with since taking over in 2008, but this season he’s in his 4th recruiting class and the Bruins return 17 starters! Essentially UCLA returns everyone although they lost 3 significant players on defense in LB Akeem Ayers (2nd round NFL Draft pick), FS Rahim Moore (2nd round NFL Draft pick) & DT David Carter (6th round NFL Draft pick). The schedule isn’t easy, but not completely brutal either. UCLA should be able to beat SJSU, WSU, Cal & Colorado at home. Texas & ASU will be difficult games although I think UCLA could win those games. The road schedule isn’t awful either. I think UCLA could win their road games but I don’t think they can beat Stanford or USC. I could be overplaying my hand when it comes to USC, but I think they’ll be really really good. Putting all that together gives UCLA a best case record of 10-2. Worst case could be a nightmare. They could easily lose games to Texas, Arizona St., Stanford, Arizona, Utah & USC making them 6-6. That’s a win range of 6-10. Either way it puts UCLA back in the bowl picture.

USC TROJANS

Home: Minnesota, Utah, Syracuse, Arizona, Stanford, Washington, UCLA
Away: Arizona St., California, Notre Dame, Colorado, Oregon

This is USC’s 2nd & final year of not being bowl eligible. It’s actually sort of a scary thought. If everyone who can return next year does, USC will have a senior laden team with 17 returning starters who most likely will have the Heisman Trophy favorite in QB Matt Barkley. Lane Kiffin isn’t exactly lacking in efforts to keep the talent booming for the Trojans so the depth won’t be a problem for much longer. Offensively the Trojans bring back their top rusher, passer & receiver. They only return 2 starters on the O-Line which is a bit tough, BUT the talent is there to do well. Defensively they essentially return 9 starters on defense! USC had an uncharacteristically bad defense last year giving up 26.7ppg, but I don’t think Monte Kiffin forgot how to coach defense all of a sudden. The schedule is a BRUTAL one. The Trojans drew Washington, Stanford & Oregon from the North which I think are the 3 best teams in that division. They also have Notre Dame & Syracuse on the non-conference slate. As far as home games are concerned, I still think it’s shaky for the Trojans. Stanford, Washington & UCLA could come away winners although I think USC could win all of those games too. As far as road games are concerned, I’m going to say USC could win 3 of them, but I don’t think they can go on the road and beat either Oregon or Notre Dame. I’m this close to putting Arizona St. in that category as well, but the Sun Devils haven’t been consistent enough to merit and automatic win over the Trojans. That puts USC’s best case record at 10-2. Their worse case is 6-6, making their win range 6-10. The Trojans really do have a shot to win the Pac-12 South, but even if they did finish 7-1 in conference play, they’d most likely have to go up against Oregon.

UTAH UTES

Home: Montana St., Washington, Arizona St., Oregon St., UCLA, Colorado
Road: USC, BYU, Pittsburgh, California, Arizona, Washington St.

Utah is certainly heading to the Pac-12 with a lot of swagger. The Utes are 33-6 over the past 3 seasons including a perfect 13-0 record in 2008, but this isn’t the Mountain West conference and joining the Pac 12 North isn’t going to be easy with the likes of USC, Arizona St., Arizona & UCLA waiting for them. The Utes are coming off a good season at 10-3 and do have a few pieces back including QB Jordan Wynn who had a pretty good season as a sophomore last year. They’ll be pretty young in the backfield and only return 3 starters on the O-Line. Defensively Utah gave up 20.3ppg last season and only return 5 starters, but do bring back 3 of their top-4 tacklers. They don’t have any returners in the secondary. Utah did get fairly lucky with the schedule. The home slate has games that are all winnable for Utah although Washington, ASU & UCLA will be tough tests. The road slate is a bit rougher with USC, BYU, Pitt & California running wild. I don’t think Utah can beat USC or BYU on the road, but they have winnable games at every other turn. They really get lucky by not drawing Oregon or Stanford out of the Pac-12 North and getting Washington at home. As far as worst case records, I think they can lose 8 games here. The 4 guaranteed wins are Montana St., Oregon St., Washington St., & Colorado. I feel a little lax about the Colorado game though. That puts their win rage at 4-10 which is pretty wide and given Utah’s recent past, I’d guess closer to 10 than 4.

WASHINGTON HUSKIES

Home: E.Washington, Hawaii, California, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon
Road: Nebraska, Utah, Stanford, USC, Oregon St.

Neutral: Washington St.

Ty Willingham came to Washington and completely ruined a program. In his 4 seasons in Seattle, Willingham won a total of 11 games for an 11-37 record. In his first two seasons, HC Steve Sarkisian has won 12 games for a 12-13 record including a 19-7 Holiday Bowl win over 17th ranked Nebraska. To me it feels as if Washington could be a legitimate sleeping giant that combines with Oregon & Stanford to make the Pac-12 North a very dangerous division. The offense does lose QB Jake Locker, but I’m not sure the drop off to Keith Price is going to be a huge deal. Locker was a lot more about overall talent & abilities rather than bottom line wins & losses. UW brings back RB Chris Polk (1,415 rushing yards) & WR Jermaine Kearse (1,005 receiving yards, 12TD) along with 5 other starters. Defensively UW was flat out awful last season giving up 29.3ppg, but they return 8 starters on defense and the defensive line & secondary should be excellent. I think at home they’ll definitely get wins over EWU, Hawaii & Colorado. They should be able to handle Oregon St. on the road & Washington St. in Seattle. That’s a minimum of 5 wins. The road schedule doesn’t set up well for the Huskies. Nebraska, Utah, Stanford & USC are all games UW could certainly lose. I think the Cal, Arizona & Oregon games are ones they could lose at home, but the real problem for Washington’s best case record is their road slate which is just nasty. I’ll call for a win range of 5-9 although that seems on the low side. I think Washington is capable of winning 8-9 games this season. We’ll see how tough they are on the road.

WASHINGTON ST. COUGARS

Home: Idaho St., UNLV, Stanford, Oregon St., Arizona St., Utah
Road: San Diego St., Colorado, UCLA, Oregon, California

Neutral: Washington

This is actually the most experienced team HC Paul Wulff has fielded since coming to Pullman back in 2008. Will it matter that much? I’m not sure. Washington St. has shown in the past it can win games. The Cougars were in the Rose Bowl in 1997 and from 2001-2003 they had a combined 30-8 record with all 3 seasons yielding 10 victories. Mike Price showed he could win, but unfortunately the Cougar Faithful haven’t found a HC to pull them out of the mire. They bring back players, but Washington St. really needs an upgrade in talent considering where the Pac-12 is going. They are in big time danger of getting into a cycle they can’t come out of. This year it won’t be easy. They should beat Idaho St. & UNLV, but that’s about it. Maybe they can get by Oregon St.? It’s possibly they could beat San Diego St. although I’d have to think the Aztecs would be favored in that game. Washington St. actually had some close Pac 10 games last season. They lost at Stanford 38-28. They almost beat California at home 20-13, and almost beat their in-state rivals 35-28 to close the season out. They actually did go on the road to Corvalis as 24-point dogs and hammered Oregon St. 31-14. I’ll call for their win rage to be 2-4. The Pac 12 is really really good.

WIN RANGES

Arizona 2-5
Arizona St. 7-11
California 2-5
Colorado 1-6
Oregon 9-12
Oregon St. 0-3
Stanford 9-12
UCLA 6-10
USC 6-10
Utah 4-10
Washington 5-9
Washington St. 2-4

I like the win ranges, but Arizona, California & Oregon St. look WAY TOO LOW to me. I’ll stick by Oregon St. & Arizona. I like Mike Stoops & Mike Riley, but given what both teams return combined with the schedules, I don’t see how they can have great years. California is a tough one because it’s a massively talented squad Jeff Tedford has in Berkeley. They could be a lot better than the 2-5 wins I’m predicting.

The conference has a couple of national title contenders in Oregon & Stanford, but the real story here might be UCLA & Arizona St. The Bruins and Sun Devils have squads that could be really good and set the programs up for continued success if they can continue to build upon this season. Both teams could walk away with 10-11 victories which would almost certainly make them top-15 teams by year’s end.

The elephant in the room of course is USC. The Trojans aren’t eligible to play in the Pac-12 title game nor are they bowl eligible, but nobody is going to have more talent than the Trojans when they step on the field. Teams will be as talented, but not more talented so theoretically USC can win every game they play although I don’t see them winning at Oregon making the best record possible a robust 11-1. Keep in mind that USC could potentially bring back 17 returning starters next season if not more in 2012. When USC gets bowl eligible you can be sure the only bowl that will satisfy will be the BCS Championship Game. This upcoming season could be a preview of what’s to come in USC’s return to college football’s pinnacle.

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June 23, 2011 - Posted by | Arizona, Arizona St., California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon St., Pac 12, Schedule, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington St.

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