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2015 PAC 12 PREVIEWS and PREDICTIONS

RANK PAC 12 NORTH COMMENTS
#1 OFFENSE: The offense had a down year last season averaging 27.2PPG, the fewest the Cardinal has scored since 2008, but Stanford returns 9 starters on offense including QB Kevin Hogan along with a couple of sophomore skill players who could be very exciting. RB Christian McCaffrey didn’t get a ton of run time as a true frosh but averaged 7.1ypc! TE Austin Hooper made & immediate impact as a true frosh as a 2nd team All-Pac 12 selection. WRs Devon Cajuste & Michael Rector are big targets with some electric play making ability. The O-Line returns 4 starters with LG Josh Garnett being a potential All-American & C Graham Shuler & LT Kyle Murphy being potential 1st Team All-Pac 12. Hogan is elite at 6’4/230lbs & the O-Line is going to give him & McCaffrey plenty of room to operate. I don’t know if Stanford goes back to the Andrew Luck days but they’ll be at 30+PPG. DEFENSE: LB Blake Martinez returns & he led the team in tackles in ’14, but the losses here are severe as Stanford returns just 4 starters & loses 7 of their top-10 tacklers. Martinez has enormous upside & LB Kevin Anderson returns but the entire D-Line is gone & 5 of the front-7 is missing. DE Henry Anderson, NT David Parry & DE Blake Lueders will be extremely hard to replace. LB AJ Tarpley is another tough loss as is CB Alex Carter & S Jordan Richards & S Kyle Olugbode. Four of last year’s starters were NFL Draft picks! There is a lot of talent here but I’d be very wary of the D-Line. Stanford plays a 3-4, but the team doesn’t really have a legit 3-4NT. Could hurt them this season. SCHEDULE: OOC against Notre Dame & Northwestern is nasty. Plays at USC but draws Oregon, Arizona, UCLA, Washington & Cal at home! Getting USC & UCLA out of the South is tough but avoid Arizona State. Very difficult schedule although it’s home turf heavy. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 5-7
#2 OFFENSE: It’s difficult to think the Ducks offense won’t be down a bit losing a Heisman Trophy winner & 1st Team All-American at QB, but it seems like Oregon just picks up the pieces wherever they fall and score 45PPG! This year Oregon brings back their top-5 receivers and RB Royce Freeman who rushed for 1365yds/18TD! The receivers are the best in the nation! Byron Marshall at over 1000yds last year. Dwayne Stanford is a huge target at 6’5. Darren Carrington averaged 19.0ypc last year as a frosh & keep an eye on true frosh Alex Ofodile who is 6’3. The O-Line returns 4 starters & LT Tyler Johnstone is a potential All-American! The big question is the QB who should be Vernon Adams. All Adams did the last 2 seasons is pass for over 8,000yds & throw 90TD at E.Washington! Given the scheme & personnel, it seems ridiculous to think Oregon won’t put up 40PPG again. DEFENSE: Oregon’s front-7 is going to be fine. DE DeForest Buckner can be an All-American & LBs Rodney Hardrick & Joe Walker are special players. Newcomer DE canton Kaumatule is also going to be really exciting. The problem for the Ducks is their secondary where the losses were MASSIVE! Gone are CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (1st Team All-American), CB Troy Hill (2nd Team Pac 12) & S Erick Dargan (2nd Team Pac 12)! Oregon’s secondary was extremely difficult to pass against so this unit definitely looks to be problematic. Another thing to consider is that LB Tony Washington was Oregon’s most effective pass rusher & he doesn’t return either putting more pressure on the secondary. SCHEDULE: OOC at Michigan St. is tough & they do play on the road against Stanford, but USC, Cal, Utah & Washington St. come to Eugene. The Ducks do avoid UCLA & Arizona out of the South. As always, Oregon is going to be a fantastic team. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 7-5
#3 OFFENSE: The improvements HC Sonny Dykes made on offense in his 2nd season were incredible. California increased their PPG from 23 to 38.3! They went from 1-11 to 5-7 and this year they return 8 starters including QB Jared Goff who completed 62% of his passes last year with 35TD to 7INT! RB Daniel Lasco also returns after running for 1115yds/12TD last season while WRs Kenny Lawler & Stephen Anderson are a couple of 6’3 targets that are extremely difficult matchups! The O-Line returns 3 starters and all are upperclassmen with talent. Goff, Lasco, Lawler, Anderson, WR Bryce Treggs & LG Chris Borrayo all could be 1st team All-Pac 12 making this one of the best offense in the nation! I’d expect Cal to average more than 40PPG & for Goff to get into the All-American conversation! This should be a bowl bound team with a great offense. DEFENSE: Cal’s defense is a huge weak spot. While Dykes did improve the unit in his 2nd year, the improvement wasn’t as dramatic & the Bears went from 46PPG allowed to 40! This year Cal brings back 9 starters on defense & 12 of their top-13 tacklers. The only loss is S Mike Lowe. There is actually quite a bit of talent on the defensive side of the football. LB Michael Barton should be an all-conference player as should CB Darius White & S Stevan McClure. Every projected starter is an upperclassman including 6 seniors. Keep an eye on the D-line. JUCO DeVante Wilson should be effective off the edge while DT Mustafa Jalil & DE Todd Barr have the talent to be really good, but need to live up to their athleticism. SCHEDULE: Dykes improved by 4 wins last year. Repeating that trend would put Cal at 9-3! That probably won’t happen as the schedule is MURDER. Road games against Texas, Utah, UCLA, Oregon & Stanford! They also draw USC & Arizona State! Good grief! BEST CASE: 8-4; WORST CASE: 3-9
#4 OFFENSE: QB Luke Falk was the backup QB last year as a freshman but still passed for alost 2000yds with 13TD! You would think there might be some let down from QB Connor Halliday, but this is Mike Leach’s Air Raid scheme so expect there to be plenty of fireworks offensively! Also gone are WRs Vince Mayle & Isiah Myers who combined for 184rec/2455yds/21TD. That would seem like a ton but River Cracraft & Dom Williams also return & they combined for 109rec/1427yds/17TD! RB Jamal Morrow returns as well. Wazzou isn’t going to run a ton but Morrow did average 4.0ypc & make 60 catches! What is most interesting for me is that the entire O-Line returns & it’ll be the best O-Line since Leach came to Pullman. If Falk improves his decision making & the O-line plays to their ability then Washington St. is going to have a tremendous offense. What else would you expect!? DEFENSE: While not exactly a priority on Leach coached teams, Wazzou has interesting pieces returning in DE Kache Palacio, DE Ivan McLennan & LB Jeremiah Allison. Those guys can pressure the QB. The secondary is also interesting with CBs Treshon Broughton coming in from the juco ranks joining CB Charleston White & S Taylor Taliulu. The one areas where Washington St. could hurt is the interior D-Line. They lost Xavier Cooper who was a 3rd round draft pick of the Browns and their 2 projected starting DTs average 6’2/270lbs! The Cougars also want to go to more 3-4 looks but they simply don’t have the size to pull that off. There is some potential in the back-8 of the 3-4 look. We’ll see. SCHEDULE: Wazzou is all about bowl eligiblity & that is a possibility. The OOC games are easy with the hardest being at Rutgers. They also get Colorado & Oregon St. at home. They need to get another win for 6 but Washington is down so maybe. BEST CASE: 6-6; WORST CASE: 2-10
#5 OFFENSE: This could be a rough season for 2nd year HC Chris Petersen who can’t be used to losing after having spent 8 seasons at Boise St.! The offense returns just 5 starters from a team that averaged 30.2PPG. They have massive uncertaintly at QB with the seeming starter being junior Jeff Lindquist, but that is sitll up in the air. The O-line had massive losses from a year ago & brings back just 1 starter. I also think the loss of WR/KR John Ross this spring will be a huge loss. The Huskies do have quite a bit returning at their skill positions though. WR Jaydon Mickens caught 60 balls last season & RB Dwayne Washington runa for 697yds/9TD. The good news is that Petersen is recruiting well & the talent level is increasing for the Huskies. They might not be great in 2015, but this is definitely a season that will be a building block. DEFENSE: HUGE LOSSES! NT Danny Shelton & DE Hau’oli Kikaha were 1st Team All-Americans! DT Evan Hudson & DE Andrew Hudson are both gone too leaving UW with on returning D-Line! OLB Shaq Thompson is also gone which was UW’s 3rd 1st Team All-American! LB John Timu was 3rd Team All-Pac 12! He’s gone too! Washington returns just 4 starters, 3 of which are in the secondary! Luckily for the defense, UW does have a stud safety in Budda Baker who could potentially be an All-American despite just being a true sophomore. Ezekiel Turner is a juco transfer joining him at safety. CBs Kevin King & Sidney Jones are 6’3 & 6’0 respectively so UW has great size in the secondary. The losses are so huge it’s hard not think there will be some growing pains: SCHEDULE: Nasty. Road dates agaisnt Boise St., USC, Stanford, and Arizona St.! They also pick up Utah & Arizona fromt he South but avoid UCLA. They get Oregon/Cal at home & also Washington St. for the Apple Cup! BEST CASE: 6-6; WORST CASE: 1-11!
#6 OFFENSE: Despite losing HC Mike Reilly & QB Sean Mannion, I think Oregon St.’s offense will actually improve under new HC Gary Andersen. Andersen is an OUTSTANDING HC and the Beavers return 8 starters on offense including 4 of 5 O-Linemen, their leading rusher & their top-2 leading receivers. TE Caleb Smith also returns. The one question is at QB where it looks to be a battle between true frosh Seth Collins and rFR Marcus McMaryion. I think Oregon St. wins either way as the eventual starting QB will have plenty of weapons to lean on. RB Storm Woods & WR Victor Bolden could be all-Pac 12 along with 3 of the O-Linemen. Andersen is going to recruit well & if the QB situation works out, the Beavers offense should be fine. DEFENSE: This is where things get crazy with Oregon State. The Beavers return just 2 starters & lose their top-6 tacklers and 9 of their top-11! CB Larry Scott & DE Jaswha James are the only returners. The D-Line will get some help from a healthy Jalen Grimble at DT & incoming frosh Elu Aydon is 6’3/335lbs! DT Lavanote Barnett led the team in sacks a year ago & he’s back. The LB corps is a mess with no returning starters & not much talent. True frosh Christian Folau is 6’1/240lbs and is worth keeping an eye on. Scott & Barnett are solid players but the defense needs to get a massive upgrade in talent across the board. SCHEDULE: OOC includes road game against Michigan! OSU avoids Arizona St. & USC from the South which is a huge break but get home games against UCLA & Stanford which are practically unwinnable. It’s amazing that Gary Andersen would leave Wisconsin for Oregon St., but I’ve always believed that college football is a lot better when Oregon St. is good. Andersen is going to do better than just good. This season could be bumpy but Oregon St. is on the rise. BEST CASE: 4-8; WORST CASE: 1-11

 

PAC 12 NORTH OVERALL OUTLOOK: All of a sudden the Pac 12 North looks like a monster division. The coaching changes have been tremendous as Washington was somehow able to lure Chris Petersen away from Boise State. Oregon State hit the lottery when Gary Andersen decided to leave Wisconsin for the Beavers. Sonny Dykes is doing an amazing job rebuilding the Cal program & Mike Leach is doing the same with Washington State. All the while Stanford & Oregon keep plugging away as Top-10 programs! What’s interesting here to me is that the division is still Oregon’s & Stanford’s, but the shift in power will start to happen this season. It will probably be subtle, but it will be there nonetheless with potentially 5 of the 6 teams getting bowl eligible. While not quite the SEC West in stature, the Pac 12 North is ascending to that level. The coaching is simply too good & the stars have aligned to make this the 2nd best division in college football. It’s comparative to the Big 10 East with guys like James Franklin, Randy Edsall, Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh joining Mark Dantonio. The difference is that the Big 10 East is going to be dragged down by Indiana & Rutgers although even those programs have seen flashes under Kevin Wilson & Kyle Flood. I don’t expect Cal, Wazzou, Washington or Oregon St. to win a division title, but I think there won’t be any easy games on the schedule. Even though Washington & Oregon St. seem to be a rebuild, I don’t think they’ll be rolled over by anyone. This division is fantastic.

 

RANK PAC 12 SOUTH COMMENTS
#1 OFFENSE: USC just might be back to being the USC of the Pete Carroll years. Offensively the Trojans averaged 36PPG under HC Steve Sarkisian in his 1st season & that number is likely to go up this season. QB Cody Kessler returns after a season in which he completed 70% of his passes for 3826yds/39TD to 5INT! He’s arguably the best QB in the nation & if USC is 12-0 at season’s end, he’ll take home a Heisman. The entire O-Line returns. C Max Turek is an All-American & 4 of the 5 guys are potential 1st team All-Pac 12 players! The big losses are WR Nelson Agholor & RB Buck Allen, but the Trojans have IMMENSE talent so those losses might not be huge. WR JuJu Smith is outstanding while RB Justin Davis will be 2 years removed from an Achilles issue he had in 2013. Also keep an eye on WR De’Quan Hampton, a 6’4/220lbs juco transfer. USC can argue for having the best QB & the best O-Line. That’s a dangerous combination. DEFENSE: The big loss is DT Leonard Williams and DE JR Tavai is a loss too but USC has 2 all-american candidates in LB Su’a Cravens & CB Adoree Jackson! Five other players could be All-Conference so 7/11 starters are great here. I’m excited to see DE Claude Pelon who is unusual at 6’4/300lbs playing a 4-3DE spot. USC also gets quite a bit of reinforcements on the line with DE Greg Townsend, DT Kenny Bigelow & DE Jabari Ruffin coming off of injury. With Cravens moving to LB to join Anthony Sarao & Lamar Dawson, this is a tremendous LB unit that could be the best in the nation. The defense should be nasty! SCHEDULE: OOC at Notre Dame is tough. USC also has road games against Arizona St., Cal & Oregon. USC also draws Stanford out of the North and they still have to play Arizona, UCLA & Utah! It’s a tough schedule to be sure, but USC is arguably the best team in the nation. BEST CASE 12-0. WORST CASE 6-6
#2 OFFENSE: UCLA returns 10 starters on offense which is insane, but the one loss is 3-year starting QB Brett Hundley who leaves UCLA as the Bruins #2 all time passer. In his 3 years as starter, UCLA went 29-11 including 2 bowl wins & a Pac 12 South division title. Losing that type of production is almost impossible to replace, but HC Jim Mora has made UCLA a destination place so the talent is in abundance. RB Paul Perkins is a potential All-American as is WR Jordan Payton. Perkins ran for almost 1600yds last year while Payton had 7TD & almost 1000yds! WRs Devin Fuller, Eldridge Massington & Kenneth Walker return along with TE Thomas Duarte who had 19.3ypc last season! The QB comes down to all-world recruit Josh Rosen or junior Jerry Neuheisel. This is the one determining factor of why I picked USC ahead of UCLA. Regardless, the QB has a plethora of weapons & the entire O-Line returning! They’ll score. DEFENSE: The Bruins return 8 starters but lose a couple of big time players in LB Eric Kendricks & DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, but otherwise the Bruins are stacked! The D-Line returns NT Kenny Clark & DE Eddie Vanderdoes & both potential All-Americans.  Deon Hollins led the team in sacks last year & he returns. LB Myles Jack could find himself in All-American contention. The entire secondary returns as well! CBs Fabian Moreau & Priest Willis have great size. S Randall Goforth is healthy & S Jaleel Wadood has a year of experience. This is the best defense of the Jim Mora era with ELITE playmakers at all 3 levels. Keep an eye on Vanderdoes. He’s special. SCHEDULE: OOC not bad. Toughest road games are against Stanford, Arizona & Utah. The Bruins manage to avoid Oregon and get Cal, Arizona St. & BYU at home. It’s not the easiest schedule to navigate & the road slate is heavy, but this is also a talented squad. BEST CASE 12-0; WORST CASE: 6-6
#3 OFFENSE: Since taking over in Tempe, HC Todd Graham has had ASU averaging about 38PPG which is fantastic. This year the Sun Devils return 7 starters on offense but will have to deal with the loss of QB Taylor Kelly. The one good thing about this is that Kelly did struggle a bit with injury last year which gave returning QB Mike Bercovici some playing time & he acquitted himself well, completing 62% of his passes with a 12:4 TD to INT ratio. ASU is also doing some interesting things offensively. RB DJ Foster is moving to WR full time & RB Demario Richard is going to be the starter. Richard averaged 5.7ypc last year so he’s solid & Foster caught 62 passes! The other big loss is WR Jalen Strong. Foster will try to mitigate that loss along with WR Cameron Smith & WR Gary Chambers but it’s a tough loss to deal with. The O-Line returns 3 starters but 4 seniors are projected to start. 3 of them have All Pac 12 potential. DEFENSE: ASU returns 9 starters & 14 of their top-16 tacklers! This is the best defense of the Todd Graham era so expect ASU to give up around 20PPG instead of around 27! Seven of the projected starters will get all conference consideration. S Damarious Randall & DE Marcus Hardison are pretty big losses & both were NFL Draft picks, but ASU has talented players everywhere. NT Mo Latu is 6’2/397lbs while DE Edmond Boateng is 6’3/260lbs! S Jordan Simone picked up 100 tackles last year while LB Antonio Longino had 94 himself. DT Deonte Reynolds logs in at 325lbs giving ASU some incredible size in their interior defensive line. I can’t wait to see it. SCHEDULE: OOC against Texas A&M, but the Sun Devils only have 4 true road games in conference! They also avoid Stanford from the North & get USC, Oregon & Arizona at home! UCLA & Cal on the road won’t be easy but this schedule is very manageable. BEST CASE: 12-0; WORST CASE: 4-8
#4 OFFENSE: It’s almost criminal to put Arizona here given how good HC Rich Rodriguez is. Arizona returns a truckload offensively from a unit that averaged 35PPG! QB Anu Solomon threw for 3800yds/28TD as a freshman last season! He completed just 58% of his passes, but threw just 9 picks. He’ll get better which is a scary thought in RichRod’s offense. RB Nick Wilson ran for 1375yds/16TD as a freshman! If Solomon & Wilson keep these paces they’ll leave Arizona as the school’s all time leaders in passing & rushing! WRs Cayleb Jones & Samajie Grant combined for 118rec/1737yds/15TD! They both return. The UA O-Line returns 2 starters but 4 upperclassmen & LT Freddie Tagaloa was a starter for Cal before he transferred. There is an awful lot to like about this offense. I’d keep a special eye on Jones. He’s got a chance to be really special & should approach All-American status. DEFENSE: It would look like the Wildcats took a step back defensively, but if you compare it to RichRod’s 1st season, UA is still improving defensively. LB Scooby Wright was a 1st team All-American last year racking up 163 tackles & 14 sacks! Rodriguez sort of plays a 3-3-5 defense & 4 of his front-6 return. DB Will Parks & LB Cody Ippolito did a decent job of getting pressure on opposing QBs & they both return. DE Reggie Gilbert should have a big year. You need to be big up front to run this sort of defense as it mimics a 3-4 front to a certain degree. Rodriguez obviously knows this so it’ll be interesting to see how it works. It could be Rodriguez’s best defense yet at Arizona. SCHEDULE: Odddly enough Arizona doesn’t have a bye week & play 12 straight. OOC isn’t bad, but do have 5 road games against Stanford, Colorado. Washington, USC & Arizona St.! That’s tough considering they get Oregon St. & Utah at home. Games they could have won on the road. BEST CASE: 10-2; WORST CASE: 3-9
#5 OFFENSE: Utah will have one of the more interesting offenses in the Pac 12 for what they’ll try to do. RB Devontae Booker is a fireplug at 5’11/215lbs. He’s a potential All-American candidate who rushed for 1512yds/10TD last year with a 5.2ypc. That’s not superstar status but it’ll grind football games down to a halt & put Utah in position to dominate time of possession. The rest of the Pac 12 is more high-flying. They want to have fast possessions but Utah doesn’t work that way. They want to run the ball 40-50x per game & see what happens. It’s not surprise that a lot of their wins last year were relatively low scoring affairs. Utah returns 4 starters to the O-Line which is a big help, but they also return WR Kenneth Scott who could take some pressure off the run game. There is somewhat of a QB debate between Travis Wilson & Kendal Thompson, but Utah is going to run & they can win this way. DEFENSE: DE Nate Orchard is a huge loss as he led the team with 18.5 sacks & was a 2nd round draft pick but the Utes return 7 starters on the defense & look strong. DE Hunter Dimick is a beast & new DE Kylie Fitts is 6’4/270lbs & a transfer from UCLA! The DTs are big up front. LB Jared Norris racked up 116 tackles last season & should be an all-conference player this season. LB Jason Whittingham returns from injury to strengthen a good LB corps. The secondary took a big hit losing CB Eric Rowe who is playing for the Eagles now, but there is some talent still there with ability. Keep an eye on DT Lowell Lotulelei. The big man could have a big year. SCHEDULE: It won’t be easy. OOC against Michigan, Utah St. & Fresno St. is very difficult. They also get road games against Oregon, USC & Arizona! They also draw California out of the North. The 9-4 record last year was a breakthrough last year & the Utes are looking to take another step. BEST CASE: 10-2; WORST CASE: 3-9
#6 Colorado is the one team from the Pac 12 that I wanted to forget about breaking down and talk in a more macro way of viewing the program. It’s very odd to think of this team as a national champion but this is precisely what the Buffaloes were in 1990 when Bill McCartney led Colorado to a 10-9 win over Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl.  I’ve mentioned this before, but Colorado had somewhat of a golden era between 1989-1996 and some think this is because Colorado was a de facto school of choice for recruits during a period where Texas & USC weren’t that great. It’s not a bad thought. During this 8-year period, Colorado was 78-15-4 with 5 Top-10 finishes & a Top-20 finish in all 8 seasons. Texas was 57-35-3 with 2 Top-20 finishes. USC was 57-35-5 with 4 Top-20 finishes & 1 Top-10 finish. Clearly Colorado was a superior program at the time. Soon after this period, Pete Carroll would arrive in USC & Mack Brown would come to Texas. You probably know the end result. There is some validity to this line of thinking, but it must also be mentioned that Bill McCartney left the UC program after the 1994 season. It took McCartney 6 seasons to build Colorado into a power. Could he have sustained it despite Carroll & Brown becoming factors? What it does show to a degree is that Colorado can be a power with the right coach/salesman at the helm. Gary Barnett, Dan Hawkins & Jon Embree tried & failed. Mike MacIntyre is trying, he’s going to have to figure out a way to attract more talent to Boulder. A defensive coach. He had to get better in year #3. BEST CASE: 6-7; WORST CASE: 2-11

 

PAC 12 SOUTH OVERALL OUTLOOK: This division really looks like it will come down to a November 28th meeting between USC & UCLA! The two LA based schools look poised to make legitimate runs to the playoffs & if UCLA can get good QB play from their potential starters then the rest of the division should be looking up at both squads. That isn’t to say there won’t be some difficulty. Arizona St. is going to be A LOT better than people think with QB Mike Bercovici and you simply cannot count Arizona out with Rich Rodriguez at the helm with that program running on all cylinders. As much as I love the Pac 12 North, you can easily make an argument that the South is even better. The first 5 teams are legitimate double digit win squads who should all be bowl eligible. Colorado has a better team than you think coming back & I wouldn’t be shocked to see them pull off 5-7 wins despite playing a brutal schedule with zero byes in 13 consecutive weeks! I think at this point you can point to the Pac 12 and put it on par with the SEC. You simply can’t go wrong with any SEC West game you tune into this upcoming season, but I think the same can be said of the Pac 12 South. There is simply too much talent & too much parity to take a week off. A fantastic division that I believe USC manages to take down.

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August 29, 2015 - Posted by | Arizona, Arizona St., California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon St., Pac 12, Predictions, Previews, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington St.

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