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RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – THE TOP 10!

THE TOP 10!!! These are the cream of the crop in my opinion and the most elite of the elite. What’s interesting about this group is the history they are all chasing. Of the top-10 coaches, there are 5 who have won national championships. Those 5 are Bob Stoops, Dabo Swinney, Jimbo Fisher, Urban Meyer and Nick Saban. Even though they’ve won national titles, they are chasing history in their own way. For Swinney is the prospect of becoming one of the greatest head coaches of all time. For Fisher it’s to stand side by side with Bobby Bowden in Florida State history. For Stoops it is trying to get back to what he achieve in 2000. For Meyer and Saban, their chase is for the crown of greatest college football head coach of all time. I’m of the opinion that Saban already holds the that crown surpassing Bear Bryant, but if there is a coach who could challenge Saban, it’s Urban Meyer. For the 5 guys on this list that haven’t won a national title, you can be sure they know it’s the last thing they need to accomplish to cement their legacy. The previous rankings can be found in the following links:

#50-#65
#40-#49
#30-#39
#20-#29
#11-#19

#10 – Bobby Petrino – Louisville

While it’s certainly permissible to question his off-field behavior, there is simply no questioning what Bobby Petrino can do on the field. He took Louisville to national championship contender the first go around with the Cardinals. He did the same with Arkansas. Now that he’s back in the ‘Ville, he tied Clemson for the ACC Atlantic division championship and had Louisville not lost to Clemson, then the Cardinals would have been the ones playing for the ACC Championship and the Clemson dream season would never have happened. That was year 3 and he’s already ahead of Florida State! Only Clemson and Florida St. have won more games than the Redbirds the past 3 seasons among ACC teams. Only Clemson & FSU has a better conference record. Recruiting has jumped about 10 spots already from the time Petrino took over until now. His foray into the NFL was a disaster and his questionable conduct at Arkansas was a bit concerning to say the least but Petrino has reinvented himself at Louisville and once again is proving to be one of the very best college football coaches in the nation! With Lamar Jackson returning next year, Louisville should be in the national championship hunt.

#9 – Jim McElwain – Florida

Some might think this is too high for McElwain but in his first two years in Gainesville he’s gone 19-8 with a conference mark of 13-3 winning two SEC East division titles with the Gators finishing the 2016 season ranked 14th! What’s remarkable about Florida in McElwain’s first couple of seasons is that they’ve been winning this much without any QB play. In his first season, McElwain had deal with Will Grier getting injured and then relying upon Treon Harris who should have never been under center. Last season he had to rely on a Purdue transfer who couldn’t find playing time with the Boilermakers! That same Purdue squad who has a record of 8-28 over the last 3 years! McElwain is an offensive guy so my guess is that it’s only a matter of time before Florida starts playing the kind of offense McElwain wants. They’ll always be outstanding defensively because of the athletes the Gators can attract to campus. What McElwain has accomplished with having to build up the program the way he wants it is incredible. Granted, they’ve been dominated in the SEC Championship game and the SEC East hasn’t exactly been fantastic, but I think that is more of a reflection on missed opportunity for teams like Tennessee, Georgia & South Carolina than it is on McElwain taking advantage of a weakened division. McElwain is starting to dominate recruiting too and Gators fans can be rest assured that McElwain won’t leave Gainesville for Ohio.

#8 – David Shaw – Stanford

Frankly this might too low for Shaw. Jim Harbaugh might have laid the foundation for the Cardinal in recent times, but what Shaw has done since taking over the program is nothing short of incredible. In his 6 seasons in Pao Alto, Stanford has won 4 Pac 12 North division titles. They’ve won 3 Pac 12 championships. They are a perfect 3-0 in the Rose Bowl and they’ve been to 4 BCS bowls. Shaw is on a 3-bowl game winning streak and in 5 of this 6 years the Cardinal have never finished below 12th in the final AP Rankings with 3 seasons in the top-10! He’s consistently bringing in top-20 classes which is incredible given the academic restrictions that Stanford is under. Even in his worst season, 2014, Shaw still guided Stanford to an 8-5 season with a bowl victory! Stanford had a little trouble getting started last year but finished the year on a 6-game winning streak to get to 10-3 which was the 5th time in 6 years Shaw had Stanford with double-digit wins. Shaw’s 64 wins in 6-years is Stanford’s greatest run in Cardinal football history! It’s going to be interesting going forward with Stanford and Shaw. The Cardinal lost to both Washington & Washington St. last season and Chris Petersen and Mike Leach aren’t going anywhere. I’m a HUGE fan of Gary Andersen at Oregon St. and the Oregon Ducks bring in a guy in Willie Taggart who at the VERY LEAST will have Oregon as one of the most talented teams in the nation. USC is starting to flex and Mike MacIntyre put the Pac 12 on notice last season. The Pac 12 is changing and it’ll be great to see how Shaw adjusts to the changes.

#7 – Bob Stoops – Oklahoma

Arguably the most underappreciated football coach in America. The last two seasons Bob Stoops has lead the Sooners to a 22-4 mark with a 17-1 conference record. He’s won the Big XII both years. He’s finished #5 in the AP poll both years. Got to the college football playoffs in 2015 and then won the Orange Bowl last year with a convincing 35-19 win over Auburn. All of that winning and Stoops still gets flack for not having Oklahoma where they need to be! What’s hurt Stoops in recent times is his inability to win big time games. It’s unfortunate that Stoops won a national title in Norman in his 2nd year back in 2000 because since then the expectation has been a national championship (as it should be at Oklahoma) but the Sooners have come up empty over the last 16 seasons! That’s a long time to wait when you are an Oklahoma fan. Oklahoma did play for the national title in 2004 and 2008 but the Sooners were hammered in the Orange Bowl in 2004 by USC 55-19, and then in 2008 Tim Tebow got the better of them in Urban Meyer’s 2nd national championship. The other knock on Stoops is that he hasn’t recruited at an extraordinarily high level the past few years (although his 2017 class is a top-10 class) and the Big XII has the perception of being “weak” which hurts Stoops to a degree because he’s the big fish in a relatively small pond. I’m not sure I buy into either excuses, but getting hammered early last year by Ohio State wasn’t a good look and Texas hasn’t given Oklahoma too much competition in the Big XII for quite awhile now. Stoops makes a VERY compelling case to be #3 on this list and #7 does seem a bit low to me, but he ended 2016 on an incredible note and the 2017 recruiting was fantastic. Stoops could very well creep back into top-3 status sooner rather than later.

#6 – Jim Harbaugh – Michigan

The last 3 coaches before Jim Harbaugh had the following first 2-seasons record at Michigan:

Brady Hoke: 19-7
Rich Rodriguez: 8-16
Lloyd Carr: 17-8

Jim Harbaugh in his first two seasons has gone 20-6 with back to back double digit win seasons! The only other Michigan HC in Wolverines football history to begin his career with back to back double digit win seasons was Fielding Yost who posted back to back 11-0 seasons back in 1901-1902! What Harbaugh has done at Michigan is nothing short of spectacular. Rich Rodriguez was a complete mess. Brady Hoke was lost and terrible once he got his own players to Ann Arbor. I’m a big Lloyd Carr fan, but outside of the national championship team Michigan had in 1997 where they went 12-0, Carr never had a team lose less than 2 games. Carr also lost more bowl games than he won and in his last 7 bowl games, Carr’s Wolverines teams were 2-5! Harbaugh has come in to one of the most significant, historically relevant programs in college football history, that hadn’t been relevant in almost 20 years and immediately made them a top-5 team. His last two recruiting classes have both been top-5 classes. Michigan is now competing with Alabama, Ohio St., USC, Florida, Florida St., and Clemson for recruits. Some might think ranking Harbaugh at #6 could be a bit too high too fast, but look at his track record at Stanford. Look what he did at San Francisco? Sure he hasn’t won the Big 10 East yet. He hasn’t beaten Ohio St. yet either, but Harbaugh’s entrance into the Big 10 made the Big 10 East immediately the best division in college football with the best rivalry now being amped up to all time historical levels. He’s a master motivator and is just getting started. If he can post back to back 10-3 seasons without any firm foundation in place, what is Michigan football going to look like when Harbaugh has the program firing on all cylinders?

#5 – Chris Petersen – Washington

I think some people thought Petersen might struggle a bit at Washington after leaving the comfortable confines of Boise. Dan Hawkins couldn’t make it work at Colorado after he left Boise State. Dirk Koetter had a much tougher road at Arizona State after leaving Boise State although Koetter has reinvented himself and is now the HC of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and has the Bucs close to playoff contention. The same struggle was thought to follow Petersen to Seattle. Most thought Petersen would turn out well, but that it might take a few years…..yeah it took 3. Petersen’s first two years with the Huskies saw Washington go a combined 15-12 with back-to-back 4-5 conference seasons. In Year 3, Washington would finish the season 12-1 (8-1) with a Pac 12 North division championship, a Pac 12 outright championship and a spot in the college football playoff. The playoff wasn’t spectacular as UW lost to Alabama 24-7, but to be honest, Washington played a pretty tight game against the Crimson Tide despite losing the game. Recruiting is improving under Petersen although it’s always going to be hard to pull kids into dreary Seattle over hot spots like USC, Florida, Florida St., Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, Miami-FL, Texas, LSU, UCLA, Tennessee, Arizona State, Arizona and South Carolina. And that isn’t mentioning traditional powerhouse football teams with less than ideal locations such as Penn St., Ohio St., Michigan, and Notre Dame. With that said, Washington should be able to push their recruiting into the top-20 range annually without a problem and that is more than enough talent for Petersen to win and win big with. I think Rick Neuheisel and Don James showed that the Huskies could be relevant on the national stage and Washington is one of those teams that makes college football better when they are winning. The Pac 12 is changing a bit with a lot of incoming young talent as head coaches so Petersen has his work cut out for him, but he’s got Washington ahead of schedule and I don’t think they’ll regress. Washington should be as good or better in 2017 as they were in 2016.

#4 – Jimbo Fisher – Florida State

It’s easy to forget now that Fisher has the Seminoles back at the apex of college football that in Bobby Bowden’s last 5 years as HC, Florida St. posted a combined record of 38-27, finishing outside the final AP-Top 25 in 3 of those 5 seasons and having a losing bowl record of 2-3. Recruiting was way down and some thought that Bobby Bowden was finished and the FSU program along with him. Bowden was finished, but Florida St. wasn’t. Fisher stepped in immediately and led FSU to a 10-4 season, won the ACC Atlantic division title and got a bowl win, giving FSU their first double digit win season in 6 years! Fisher would win the ACC in Year 3. He’d win a national title in Year 4 and play for a another national title in Year 5! Bowden’s last 5 years in Tallahassee saw the ‘Noles go 38-27, but Fisher’s first 5 years in Tallahassee would see FSU post a 58-11 record with a national title and 3 ACC titles! The turnaround was absolutely stunning and put Florida St. back into the ELITE of the ELITE category. Recruiting soared and Fisher has the program humming with no let up in sight. One of the biggest clues that show how good a place FSU is in under Fisher is their last two seasons. Florida St. has had back to back 10-3 seasons finishing #14 in 2015 and #8 in 2016. Those are great if not spectacular seasons, but at this point in Fisher’s tenure, they seem like rebuilding seasons for FSU or disappointing seasons. When you average being a borderline top-10 over a 2-year period and it’s looked at as disappointing, you know you have expectations at an all time high, and Fisher knows he can meet those expectations!

#3 – Dabo Swinney – Clemson

It’s almost impossible to argue Swinney’s success. I’m trying to keep my analysis to the past 5 years and Swinney has enough success those 5 years, but if we stretch Swinney out to his last 6 years, he’s led Clemson to a 70-13 record including a 6-2 bowl record, a national championship, 2 national championship game appearances, 3 ACC championships and 4 ACC Atlantic division titles! It’s a better resume than anyone not named Nick Saban and Swinney can certainly stack up well with Urban Meyer. He has shown he can recruit top-5 classes to Clemson meaning there doesn’t seem to be any weaknesses to Swinney’s arsenal when it comes to head coaching college football. He’s leaped Jimbo Fisher in the ACC Atlantic which is no small feat and he’s keeping Bobby Petrino at bay, which again is no small feat. Swinney was also able to avenge his 2015 championship game loss to Alabama by besting the Tide in 2016 behind QB Deshaun Watson. Swinney has 6 straight 10+ win seasons at Clemson which is a school record. I’d also say that this year Swinney passed Danny Ford as the greatest football coach in Clemson history. The only question now facing Swinney has he moves forward is sustaining that success. The way you become legendary is winning multiple championships the way Nick Saban and Urban Meyer have been able to do. Note that Bob Stoops couldn’t do it. Mack Brown couldn’t do it. Jimbo Fisher hasn’t done it. Jim Tressel couldn’t do it. Steve Spurrier couldn’t do it. Lou Holtz couldn’t do it. It’s not easy. Winning a championship to begin with isn’t easy, but Swinney has about as much momentum going forward as I’ve ever seen and it’ll be interesting going forward to see how much he goes after a historical legacy. He’s a great head football coach. Is he an all-time great?

#2 – Urban Meyer – Ohio State

Speaking of all-time greats……it’s one thing for Dabo Swinney to pass up Danny Ford as Clemson’s best coach of all time. It’s quite another for Urban Meyer to be on pace to make people forget about the legendary Woody Hayes. Meyer has been in Columbus for 5 seasons guiding the Buckeyes after he left a Florida Gators program he won two national championships with. In those 5 seasons, Ohio St. is 61-6 including 3 perfect Big 10 seasons, one perfect season, a national championship, 5 Big 10 division titles and one outright Big 10 championship. In Woody Hayes’s first 5 seasons the Buckeyes were 33-11-2 with one national championship and 2 Big 10 titles. It’s comparable but I’d say Meyer has Woody. It’s hard to knock Meyer’s success. It’s incredible and he’s VERY DESERVING of being #2 on this list. Ohio St. is a machine at this point and there isn’t a team in America that out-recruits Ohio St. other than Alabama, and even then I’d say the Buckeyes Tide have equal talent. The one knock I have on Meyer is that I think he ran from Saban when Saban took over Alabama. I think this is incredible strategy by Meyer, but it also shows to me why you can never put Meyer ahead of Nick Saban unless Meyer just hammers him head-to-head 3-4 times in national championship games. Meyer took over Florida in 2005. Saban’s last year at LSU was 2004 and remember that Saban won a national title in Baton Rouge in 2003. So Meyer came into Florida without Saban at Alabama and the Mad Hatter at LSU. Fullmer goes 5-6 at Tennessee in 2005 and Mark Richt is in Georgia, but he’s not much of a problem for Meyer. Kentucky & Vanderbilt aren’t issues and South Carolina had just hired Steve Spurrier and it’ll take the Ol Ball Coach a little bit of time to get the Gamecocks rolling. Meyer recruits arguably the greatest college football player in history (Tim Tebow) and wins national championships in 2006 and 2008. Saban comes back to Alabama in 2007. Meyer couldn’t have known this. It takes Saban a season to get Alabama rolling but in Year 2, Saban has the Tide at 12-0 and playing for an SEC championship. Tebow is a junior at this time and in the SEC Championship game, Florida beats Alabama 31-20 although Alabama held a 20-17 lead going into the 4th quarter. In 2009, Timmy Tebow is a senior and Florida is expected to win a national championship giving Tebow 3 in 4 years. Florida goes 12-0, but so does Alabama. They meet in the SEC Championship game and instead of Tebow willing Florida to another win, Alabama DESTROYS Florida 32-13 on their way to Saban’s first national title with the Tide. Without Tebow in 2010, Florida slides to 8-5 and takes another beating at the hands of Alabama 31-6 in regular season play. Urban leaves Florida citing health reasons or family reasons or some combination of the two. It’s suspect timing because Alabama would win 2 of the next 3 national championship games with Auburn winning the other. Of course, a year later Urban Meyer takes over the Ohio State team which is conveniently in a conference without Nick Saban.

It’s an interesting story and probably 100% conjecture although it does make some sense. The irony of course is that Meyer comes to the Big 10 East where in 2012, the conference is in turmoil so to speak. Michigan is somewhat of a joke now that they’ve gone through the Rich Rodriguez era and Brady Hoke is screwing up. Penn State is a complete mess due to the Joe Paterno/Jerry Sandusky scandal that is erupting. Bo Pellini can’t get Nebraska figured out and Ohio St. finds itself in the Big 10 Leaders division with Indiana, Illinois & Purdue! Sure Wisconsin is around, but as good as the Badgers are, Meyer has to know that Wisconsin could NEVER keep up with the influx of talent to Columbus with how Meyer recruits. The problem is that it doesn’t stay that way. Two years later the Big 10 welcomes in Maryland & Rutgers and the divisions change. Michigan & Michigan St. come over to the Big 10 East while Wisconsin changes to the Big 10 West. Penn St. rights the ship quick with Bill O’Brien before turning it over to James Franklin. Mark Dantonio is now in the same division as Meyer and lo and behold, Michigan brings in Jim Harbaugh! The Big 10 Leaders division goes from being a laughing stock division that Ohio St. could have dominated for decades to the Big 10 East which is now arguably the most difficult division to play in with 4 of the best head coaches in all of college football.

This bites Meyer a bit. Ohio St. was ineligible for postseason play in 2012, but in 2013 Ohio St. loses the Big 10 championship to Mark Dantonio and Michigan State. In 2014 Ohio St. does manage to win the national championship in the first ever football playoff scenario beating Alabama 42-35 in the semifinals before beating Oregon, but in 2015 they miss the Big 10 title game because of a tie-breaker loss to Michigan St. and last year they miss the Big 10 title game again due to a tie-breaker loss to Penn State! They get to the playoffs last season, but are humiliated by Clemson 31-0 in the semifinal game. Luckily Ohio St. didn’t draw Alabama because shades of 2008-2009 come to mind if that scenario played out again. Saban would have remembered and the outcome for Ohio St., like it was for Florida, wouldn’t have been pretty. I write all of this not to cast doubt on Meyer’s legitimacy. He’s an all-time great legendary coach. Everyone agrees, but I think an overlooked aspect of Meyer’s career is that he’s been fairly strategic in trying to put himself into the best place possible. You can’t knock him on that. Opportunity doesn’t come often and he’s taken advantage of that opportunity by helping it with putting himself in the right situations. That and winning Tebow from Mike Shula during Tebow’s recruitment has done wonders for Meyer’s status.

#1 – Nick Saban – Alabama

G.O.A.T! He’ll eventually tie or pass Bear Bryant’s record of 6 national championships. Saban already has 5 and to be honest he’s probably the greatest coach in Alabama and LSU history. Hell he might be the greatest coach in Michigan State history as well! Saban has been at Alabama now for 10 seasons. In those 10 seasons he’s gone 119-19! The man has averaged 12 wins per season for a decade! He’s won 4 national championships, 6 SEC Championships, 8 SEC West championships and has finished ranked in the AP top-10 for the last 9 consecutive seasons! This doesn’t even account for the national championship he won at LSU, the SEC championship he won at LSU or the 3 SEC West titles he won at LSU. Saban has also won 8 bowl games in this 10 years in Tuscaloosa. Nobody can out-recruit the Tide & Saban. He deals with a lot of coordinator turnover because everyone wants his coordinators to take over their teams! Jim McElwain was his OC. Now he’s the HC at Florida! Kirby Smart was his DC. Now he’s the HC at Georgia! Lane Kiffin was a former HC for USC, Tennessee and the Oakland Raiders and spent the last few seasons as Saban’s OC! Mark Dantonio was on Saban’s staff for 5 years at Michigan St. and he’s now the HC at Michigan State! Jimbo Fisher was on Saban’s staff at LSU. He’s the HC now at Florida State! The one constant is Nick Saban himself. We could go on and on about his accolades but they’ll all point to the same conclusion. Nick Saban is the best football coach in college football right now. He’s also the greatest college football coach to ever live.

May 27, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Alabama, Big 10, Big XII, Clemson, Coaching, Florida, Florida St., Louisville, Michigan, Ohio St, Oklahoma, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, Stanford, Washington | Leave a comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #19 to #11

Now we are inside the top-20! What’s interesting about these guys to me is that all of them could make moves that would land them inside the top-10 if they had a championship caliber season, which for most of them is the last hurdle they need to overcome to get into that very elite category. As I wrote previously picking from #19 to #11 is probably based more on preference, but if you keep reading, there are some very interesting story lines with these guys that could affect their rankings going forward. Every coach/team mentioned here definitely has a story line that will be scrutinized in 2017. If you need to catch up, here are the links the previous articles in this series:

#50-#65
#49-#40
#39-#30
#29-#20

#19 – Bill Snyder – Kansas State

Coach Snyder is a tough one to rank because on the one hand you can argue he’s one of the all time great coaches in college football history. He’s unique in that he got the Kansas State job and kept it for as long as he wanted. He even came back after leaving at the conclusion of the 2005 season. In today’s football world, a coach at a school like Kansas St. would have bolted for another opportunity if they had had the success that Snyder has had at KSU. From 1995-2000, Snyder posted a 63-12 record with a 39-8 mark in Big XII play which included 3 Big XII North titles. Any other coach would have bolted for Georgia or Clemson or Auburn or Miami-FL. What keeps Snyder a bit lower is that he hasn’t won a ton at Kansas St. nationally. He’s never won a national championship. He’s only won the Big XII twice in 25 years of coaching. He’s 8-10 in bowl games. That mostly speaks to the ceiling of Kansas St. football. Snyder came back to Manhattan because Ron Prince lowered the standards. Snyder raised them again, but he can’t quite get KSU to national prominence. His hope was that Prince could do it. His hope when he retires is that the Wildcats get it right the 2nd time.

#18 – Mike Gundy – Oklahoma State

Gundy might be underrated by a long shot. Remember that Gundy has to go up against Oklahoma within his own state and Texas in his own region. Those are two college football Goliaths that are almost impossible to beat on the recruiting trail yet Gundy over the last 7 seasons has failed to win at least 10 games only twice. Gundy is coming off back to back 10-3 seasons and has posted 10-3 seasons in 3 of the past 4 years. Gundy almost won a national championship in 2011. If the Cowboys don’t completely blow it late in the year against Iowa St., then they would have played LSU in the national championship game that year instead of Alabama. The Tide beat LSU 21-0 in a revenge game after LSU beat the Tide earlier 9-6 in Tuscaloosa, but you’d have to think Oklahoma St. would have had a good shot at upending the Bayou Bengals. Oklahoma St. finished #3 in the rankings, but you have to wonder where the program could have been catapulted to had they brought home a national championship. What sticks out about Gundy to me as well is that he almost accomplished what Jimmy Johnson thought was impossible with Oklahoma State, namely winning a title. Gundy is about as Oklahoma St. as you can possibly get. He’ll be there forever if he wants and I can’t see him leaving which makes him quite a bit like Bill Snyder. Because of 2011, I’m not sure there is a ceiling to OK State football, so it’ll be interesting to see if Gundy can get over the hump and win a title.

#17 – Gus Malzahn – Auburn

It’s easy to forget that Malzahn led War Eagle to a national championship game his first season as head coach of the Tigers. That was a tall order beating a Jameis Winston led Florida St. squad so you can’t exactly blame him for losing. Malzahn has caught quite a bit of heat the past couple of seasons because he hasn’t replicated the success of that 12-2 squad from 2013. Malzahn is an offensive savant, but people forget just how good Auburn’s defense was in 2013. They didn’t create a lot of turnovers but they got after the ball quite a bit with quite a few sacks and tackles for loss. The O-line was dominant giving Tre Mason & Nick Marshall plenty of room to run. The defense & O-Line took a step back in 2014 and in 2015 Malzahn really didn’t have a QB as Jeremy Johnson wasn’t the answer. He entered 2016 with the same problems and Auburn struggled early, but when Auburn finally settled on Sean White, they reeled off 6 straight wins and won 6 of 7 after starting 1-2. The season didn’t end well with losses to Alabama & Oklahoma, but losing to Alabama in Tuscaloosa is hardly cause for concern and by season’s end Oklahoma was a top-5 team. Malzahn recruits extremely well and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Auburn really take off. Malzahn has his system in place and there is loads of talent here. Sean White is the unquestioned starter now and I”m willing to bet that Auburn gets back to double digit wins. In the SEC West, that is an incredible coaching job.

#16 – Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern

What Fitzgerald has done at Northwestern is nothing short of amazing. Over this last 9 seasons, he’s lead the Wildcats to 7 bowl games. In the 114 seasons before Fitzgerald got to Evanston, Northwestern played in a total of 6 bowl games! It’s almost impossible for Northwestern to recruit on any major level unless some kids simply want to wind up in Evanston or have ties to Northwestern. While the Wildcats might not necessarily have it as bad as Vanderbilt because the Commodores play in the SEC, that might change given how good the coaching in the Big 10 is getting. I guess it could be worse and Northwestern could be in the Big 10 East, but Nebraska, Wisconsin & Iowa are pretty darn good. Lovie Smith is recruiting better to Illinois and Purdue & Minnesota just hired solid young coaches. It’ll be interesting to see how Fitzgerald adjusts to an influx of talent in the coaching ranks. He’s never gotten Northwestern to the Rose Bowl the way Gary Barnett was able to but he’s won 10 games in 2 of the past 5 years. Regardless of what happens around him, I have a feeling that Fitzgerald is going to keep winnings games. One thing I do want to mention about Fitzgerald and Northwestern is that if I had to pick any place for my son to go to college and play football, Northwestern would be in the discussion along with Michigan and Stanford. There really isn’t a better compliment to pay a head coach.

#15 – James Franklin – Penn State

From semi-mess to Rose Bowl in 3-years!? Franklin has more than earned ranking this high even if hadn’t took the Nittany Lions to a Big 10 championship in year 3. Franklin didn’t necessarily inherit the mess that descended upon Happy Valley in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, but Bill O’Brien was never going to be a long term solution and bolted for the NFL the first chance he got. Franklin didn’t shy away from the task of making Penn St. nationally relevant again and in just 3 years he had the Lions playing the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2008 and ranked inside the top-10 in the final AP poll for the first time since 2009! Franklin recruited at a high level immediately when taking the job, but he’s been able to sustain that success despite having a couple of 7-6 seasons to start his tenure. That success would only seem to increase the more Franklin wins because as a football purist, there isn’t many places more special to play than at Penn State! The only wild thing about Frankin’s success will be his ability to keep it going. He’s ranked #15 on this list which is fantastic, but he’s just 4th among coaches in the Big 10 East. That division is without a doubt the most feared and difficult division in all off football with Penn St. emerging as a national threat. Michigan St. isn’t always going to have off years and it’ll be intriguing to see what Franklin can do once Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State are firing on all cylinders. I think Franklin can handle the difficulty.

#14 – Kyle Whittingham – Utah

Did you know that Whittingham is 10-1 in bowl games since taking for Urban Meyer as HC of Utah!? That’s downright amazing and if I’m not mistaken that is the best record of any FBS coach in bowl games that have coached at least 6 of them. All Whittingham does is win football games, but what is most impressive about him is the transition Utah made into the Pac 12. In their last 3 years in the Mountain West, Whittingham guided the Utes to a 33-6 record including their perfect 13-0 year in 2008 which saw Utah finished ranked #2 in the nation! The transition to the Pac 12 was never going to be easy and Utah took some lumps early going 9-18 in conference play in their first 3 seasons. Their next 3 seasons have seen a complete turnaround as Utah has posted a 28-11 record from 2014-2016 with a conference mark of 16-11, winning a share of the Pac 12 South in 2015. A by product of playing in a better conference and winning is that recruiting has massively improved for the Utes since 2014 and the program has a lot more talent on hand to compete with other Pac 12 schools. Last season Utah almost broke through expoentially. The Utes finished 9-4 with a bowl win over Indiana, but their 4 losses came by a total of 19 points! The year before (2015) Utah finished 10-3 with 2 of their losses coming by a combined 15 points. Utah & Whitingham win their fair share of close games as well, but winning a lot more of those games than you lose is a clear indicated of a great coach, which is exactly what Whittingham is.

#13 – Mark Richt – Miami-FL

Richt is another tricky coach because of perception versus reality. There is a lot of sentiment that Richt was somewhat of a disappointment at Georgia despite coaching in Athens for 15 years and averaging 10 wins a season while also averaging a 6-2 conference record during those 15 seasons! Did I mention Georgia plays in the SEC? That’s outstanding but at Georgia that’s only close. During those 15 seasons, Richt won just 2 outright SEC titles and hadn’t one one since 2005 when Georgia parted ways with him after the 2015 season. Richt is a tremendous coach and a tremendous recruiter. There can be no doubt about that, but what’s interesting about Richt’s time in college football is that he got to Georgia in 2001. Urban Meyer got to Florida in 2005. Richt won 2 SEC titles from 2001-2005 and 3 SEC East divisions. It’s also worth noting that Nick Saban was at LSU from 2000-2004 and then at Alabama from 2007 to present. Richt is fantastic. Everyone would agree, but Meyer & Saban and absolute Hall of Fame locks. Saban is arguably the greatest college football coach of all time and Meyer is easily in the top-5 if not #2 behind Saban. Richt’s only real crime is being born at the wrong time, between Saban (9-years later) and Meyer (4-years prior). Richt will do an outstanding job at Miami-FL. Recruiting will be fantastic. He already went 9-4 in his first season and came pretty close to winning the ACC Coastal. He’s not in the Atlantic with FSU & Clemson so the real story here is can Richt take Miami-FL a step further than he took Georgia? Do that and he leaps into the top-10 of these rankings. Stay 10-3 every year and Richt is a top-15 coach for sure, but not quite elite of the elite.

#12 – Gary Patterson – Texas Christian

It took Patterson a couple of years to figure out the Big XII, but once he did, the Horned Frogs started dominating in much the same fashion that destroyed the competition in the Mountain West. From 2014-2015, TCU posted a 23-3 record with a couple of top-10 finishes and a share of the Big XII title in 2014. The 2014 season stung a bit as TCU dropped a 3 points game in Waco to Baylor which nailed their coffin for a shot at the college football playoffs. Florida St. was going to be in as they were 13-0 and defending champions. Alabama was 12-1 and SEC Champs. They weren’t being left out regardless. Ohio St. is Ohio State. At 12-1 they weren’t going to be left out. They had won 11 straight games and was coming off a 59-0 beating of Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship. The one team TCU could have argued against is Oregon, but Baylor might have had a better argument as Baylor beat TCU, but the Bears also lost to West Virginia. The thought was that if TCU can’t win the Big XII outright, should they be in the playoffs? I don’t know who they bump out and I don’t know how TCU would have fared, but that was a tremendous team and Patterson showed that he could take TCU from the Big XII and make them legitimate national title contenders. Last year was a bump in the road for Patterson and the Frogs and you could sense some let down after the Trevone Boykin/Aaron Green/Josh Doctson era ended on offense. TCU has a lot coming back in 2017 and my guess is Patterson jumps back into the top-10 of these rankings.

#11 – Mark Dantonio – Michigan State

I think we can all agree that Dantonio is a helluva football coach and is deserving of this ranking and maybe #11 is too low, but I do think there is a trend here that needs to be looked at because it involved Dantonio going forward. Dantonio really started to up his value as a HC starting in 2010 when he led the Spartans to an 11-2 record with a share of the Big 10 title. From 2010 to 2015, Michigan St. went 65-16 (39-9) with 3 Big 10 titles and 3 Big 10 division titles. Sparty won the Rose Bowl in 2013 and finished ranked in the top-14 in five of the 6 seasons and in the top-6 from 2013 to 2015! The 2010 to 2014 era is significant because of what was going on at Michigan during this time. From 2010-2014, the Wolverines were 38-26 (21-19). Michigan wasn’t Michigan in those 5 seasons and historically speaking, Michigan St. took on the role of Michigan while Michigan took on the role of Michigan State. What happened in 2015? Jim Harbaugh showed up in Ann Arbor! You could argue that the 2015 season showed that Dantonio could handle both Ohio State and Michigan, but that is tough because Michigan St. won a road game over Michigan when the Wolverines game it away. They also beat Ohio St. in Columbus in a game they shouldn’t have and then beat Iowa in the Big 10 championship in a game Iowa should have won. The playoffs exposed Michigan St. a bit when Alabama beat them 38-0, but maybe the Tide would have beat Ohio St. and Michigan by 40 points too! The proof might have come in 2016 when Michigan St. fell off considerably and finished 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in Big 10 play which included losses to Indiana, Northwestern, Maryland and Illinois. Winning those games would have pushed MSU to 7-5 potentially which would have gotten them bowl eligible at least with a shot at 8-5.  Maybe Connor Cook was that important!? Recruiting was down in 2017 for the Spartans while Michigan dominated. The trick with Dantonio is staying relevant while Michigan starts to dominate under Harbaugh. I think geography plays a role here. Auburn and Alabama can coexist as superpowers because they are in Alabama and the southeast. Florida and Florida St. can exist because they reside in Florida. The state of Michigan can’t resemble that type if relationship between it’s two football powers. Is Dantonio an outstanding head coach who can weather a bad year and get right back to the top of the Big 10 East or is he merely a solid head coach who took advantage of Michigan being down?

May 20, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Auburn, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Kansas St., Miami-FL, Michigan St., Northwestern, Oklahoma St., Pac 12, Penn St., Rankings, SEC, TCU, Utah | 1 Comment

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #29 to #20

We are now over half way done with the rankings with 36 college coaches in the books. You can probably say this with some certainty about any particular range of coaches ranked thus far, but I especially thought at this point that putting a coach here or there was especially difficult because it probably comes down to preference. I thought this was interesting in terms of recruiting because at this point in the rankings from #16 or #17 to #29 or #30, it probably comes down to a recruit’s willingness to buy into the system and his potential relationship with the coaching staff. At this point we aren’t talking about a recruit choosing between Alabama & Rutgers. It’s more choosing between Iowa and Mississippi State. There probably isn’t a wrong answer. To get you caught up, here are the links from the coaches ranked lower than #29:

#65-#50
#49-#40
#39-#30

Now let’s kick off with #29!

#29 – Kirby Smart – Georgia

Some might think this is a little too high for Smart given that he just came off his first year as a HC in Athens where the Georgia Bulldogs finished a pedestrian 8-5 with a 4-4 SEC record in an SEC East that was far from stellar, but I’d take the opposite approach and say Smart accomplished a tremendous amount in Year 1. Georgia did drop 3 home games it shouldn’t have (Tennessee, Vanderbilt & Georgia Tech), but those 3 losses turn to wins and UGA is 11-2 and not 8-5. That’s a rough argument because it cuts both ways, but I don’t think Georgia is going to have problems winning home games moving forward. The team played extremely well on the road even with Smart instituting his new defensive schemes with an offense that never really had a settled QB position. Throw in Nick Chubb coming back from injury and 8-5 doesn’t look too bad for a first year guy heading up one of college football’s elite blue bloods.

#28 – Clay Helton – USC

Helton may not have been the obvious pick to take the reigns in Troy, but he’s the right pick. It’s difficult to get a feel for Helton, but how can you argue with the results thus far? USC by year’s end was arguably one of the three best teams in football along with Alabama & Clemson. The Trojans ended the year on a 9-game winning streak that saw them finish the season with a 52-49 win over Penn St. in the Rose Bowl. Washington was fortunate that USC lost out on the Pac 12 South because I thought USC would have beat them in the Pac 12 championship game. All Helton has done over the last 2 seasons is go 15-7 with a conference record of 12-3! USC is also back to full scholarship strength for the most part and Helton is making no bones about cashing in. He’s recruiting at an exceptionally high level. High level recruiting. High level coaching. We are about ready to see some incredible wars between USC & Washington. The Pac 12 is bananas and Helton will climb this list by leaps and bounds after 2017.

#27 – Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech

I feel like this is too low for Johnson because he’s an incredible coach but he has a couple of things working against him. He’s a system guy because he runs that triple option on offense and that is going to have a tendency to play poorly when a new crop of players come in. This is essentially what happened in 2015 when GT finished 3-9. QB Justin Thomas returned, but their two leading RBs were freshman. That changed in 2016 when Marcus Marshall & Clinton Lynch returned, but RB Dedrick Mills turned out to be outstanding which gave Johnson quite a bit to work with. That improved the team and GT went 9-4 with a 6-1 record in their last 7 games including road wins over Virginia Tech & Georgia. Johnson doesn’t recruit the kinds of players that a lot of other schools are able to. He’s still won two ACC Coastal division championships in the last 5 years and the Yellow Jackets are a team nobody wants to face.

#26 – Kirk Ferentz – Iowa

Ferentz is probably underrated here, but you can’t help but be a little disappointed in Iowa every time they look like they are going to turn a corner. In 2015, Iowa had a tremendous year finishing with a perfect regular season but lost the Big 10 championship game to Michigan St. and the Rose Bowl to Stanford to put a black mark on an otherwise outstanding season. They followed that up last year with an 8-5 campaign that should have been 10-3. But we’ve seen this before from Ferentz. Iowa was 31-7 from 2002-2004 but followed those 3-years with a 3-year record of 19-18 from 2005-2007! The Hawkeyes finished 11-2 in 2009 but followed that up with an 8-5 season. Iowa has spurts of greatness but they are never sustained. Given the talent disparity between an Iowa and say a Michigan/Ohio State, what Ferentz has done in Iowa City is spectacular, but for some reason it always seems a bit disappointing. Iowa should win 10 games a year.

#25 – Paul Chryst – Wisconsin

The jury is still out on Chryst at this point, but the early returns are nothing short of incredible. Chyrst took over for Gary Andersen once Andersen bolted for Oregon State and the Badgers haven’t missed a beat. In his two seasons in Madison, Chryst is 21-6 with a Big 10 record of 13-4 with a Big 10 West division title in 2016. Chryst hasn’t had the most stable offensive game plan the last couple of seasons. In 2015 he had to deal with the loss of RB Corey Clement. Last he had to break in a new starting QB when Joel Stave graduated. What has been constant for Chryst is having a TREMENDOUS defense led by great coordinators. Dave Aranda was DC for Chryst in 2015 before bolting for LSU in 2016. In 2016, Chyrst hired Justin Wilcox to be DC, but Wilcox is now the HC for Cal. This year, former Badger Jim Leonard, takes over after having studied under both Aranda & Wilcox. If Chryst turns in another 11-win season, he’ll shoot up these rankings.

#24 – Dana Holgorsen – West Virginia

I’m a big fan of Holgorsen and he has the Mountaineers trending in the right direction. In 2014 WVU went 7-6. They improved to 8-5 a year later before having somewhat of a coming out party last season when they finished 10-3 (7-2) which was the best record West Virginia has had in the Big XII under Holgorsen. The interesting thing to see with Holgorsen is if he can continue the trend. Recruiting has dropped just a bit the last couple of years and it won’t be easy with the Mountaineers losing their starting QB along with a couple of their best defenders. It’s always going to be hard to compete with Oklahoma & Texas in conference play, but Holgorsen should have WVU set up enough that if one of the powers slip up, West Virginia should be right there to take advantage. That’s the key at this point. When does WVU get home games against Oklahoma & Texas in the same year and can they be primed to beat both of them?

#23 – David Cutcliffe – Duke

Last year’s 4-8 (1-7) team was disappointing but the 4-years prior to 2016 saw Duke finish 33-20, win the ACC Coastal once and get to 4-straight bowl games culminating in 2015 with their first bowl win since 1960! Before Cutcliffe came along the Blue Devils had never made it to a bowl game in back-to-back years. Cutcliffe did in back-to-back-to-back-to-back! He’s also been able to sell the football program as Duke has climbed out of the 50s and 60s recruiting rankings into the 30s and 40s. Duke is never going to out-talent anybody and the football team will always play second fiddle to the basketball team, but you can’t dismiss Cutcliffe’s coaching chops at all. Putting this guy at a place like Oregon or Florida would be scary given the resources he’d have to run the program. The ACC is getting tougher, but keep in mind Duke was a bit young last year. Cutcliffe is going to have more experience in 2017 and he’ll get the most out of it.

#22 – Mike Leach – Washington State

The Cougars were a completely mess under Bill Doba and Paul Wulff before the PIRATE took over. All Leach has done is get Wazzou back to a bowl game in his 2nd year and then come within a win over Washington of winning the Pac 12 North in year 5 last season. We shouldn’t be surprised. Leach spent 10 years in Lubbock at Texas Tech where he never posted a losing season and won 8-9 games per season. It took him 3 years to get Washington St. headed in the right direction, but over the last two seasons the team is 17-9 with a conference record of 13-5! Imagine if Leach wasn’t giving away games each season to FCS opponents!? Leach is still having trouble selling Pullman to potential recruits, but he never recruited exceptionally at Texas Tech either and it didn’t seem to matter. You can make a legitimate argument Leach should be much higher. Are there really 21 other coaches you’d rather have than the PIRATE himself?

#21 – Dan Mullen – Mississippi State

I’m only looking at the last 5 years of data for each coach, but it’s impossible ignore what Mullen has done over his team at Mississippi State. His only losing regular season was his first and he’s guided the Bulldogs to 7 straight bowl games. It was amazing how good Dak Prescott ended up for the Cowboys this past season, but what might have been even more impressive is Mullen getting the MSU to a bowl game in the year after Prescott left! Those were enormous shoes to fill and Mullen was still able to get MSU to 6 wins. While he’s never really had Hail State close to competing for a national championship, there have been glimpses. The Bulldogs started the 2012 season off 7-0 and reached #13 before faltering. In 2014, Mississippi St. started the season 9-0 and was ranked #1 before losing at Alabama 25-20. He’s never outrecruited anyone in the SEC West, but MS State keeps winning. There is a reason his name ALWAYS comes up when there is a big time coaching vacancy.

#2o – Brian Kelly – Notre Dame

One thing that stands out about Kelly against his recent predecessors in South Bend was his ability to avoid the bad season. Charlie Weis went 3-9 in 2007. Ty Willingham went 5-7 in 2003. Bob Davie 5-6 in 2001, his last season. But then it happened. Kelly turned in a 4-8 performance last year with HORRIFIC losses to Texas, Duke, NC State, Navy and Virginia Tech. All games the Irish should have won which would have made that 4-8 season a 9-3 season with the potential to get a solid bowl win to finish 10-3. Kelly has to be feeling tremendous heat as HC of the Irish. He’s recruited well, but the on-field results haven’t been good. Notre Dame really hasn’t beaten anyone of note and the championship game they played in against Alabama was a complete and total embarrassment! If Kelly can defend Notre Dame Stadium this fall, the Irish have a real shot at 11-1. Kelly needs it or else ND could be looking elsewhere for a head coach.

May 19, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Duke, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Mississippi St., Notre Dame, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, USC, Washington St., West Virginia, Wisconsin | 2 Comments

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE COACHES – #39 to #30

Here are the links for the first two installments:

#50 – #65
#49-#40

if you need to catch up. Today we hit the thirties and I think the rankings start to become quite a bit more interesting as we start to hit some pretty big names in the coaching world. Let’s get to it.

#39 – P.J. Fleck – Minnesota

Yeah I’m rowing the boat! It’s difficult to argue Fleck’s track record as a first time head coach at Western Michigan. In his first year he led the Broncos to an 1-11 season. By his 4th year, WMU finished with a perfect 13-0 season before losing to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl 24-16. Western finished 29-11 (20-4) in Fleck’s last 3 years as HC. Fleck brings an excitement to Minnesota that Gophers fans haven’t experienced since Murray Warmath led Minnesota to back-to-back Rose Bowls in 1960-1961! You probably don’t even remember those teams unless you were born in the 1940s or early 1950s! It’s hard to argue with his success, but Fleck faces a completely different animal in the Big 10. Iowa, Nebraska & Wisconsin aren’t Ball St., Kent St. and Bowling Green. It’ll be interesting to see if Fleck can raise the ceiling for Gopher football.

#38 – Tom Herman – Texas

The hottest coaching prospect last season who happened to have deep roots in Texas wound up as the new HC for the Longhorns after the university had had enough of Charlie Strong’s leadership. As with Fleck, it’s almost impossible to deny Herman’s track record. He was Urban Meyer’s OC at Ohio State before jumping to the head coaching job at Houston where in his first season, Herman led the Cougars to a 13-1 record and a final ranking inside the top-10! I think Herman is a better fit within the Texas culture than Strong was and he’ll do well. He’s a good solid coach that connects with players and it won’t be long before he’s tearing it up on the recruiting trail once he gets the foundation of the program built. As with Fleck, the road will be a bit tougher. Playing in the American isn’t the Big XII and instead of Tulane, East Carolina and Memphis, Herman will go up against Oklahoma, Oklahoma St., TCU, Baylor and Kansas State.

#37 – Willie Taggart – Oregon

Taggart was an interesting hire for Oregon, but once it was known that Chip Kelly wasn’t coming back to college football, the Ducks had to move on and all Taggart has done as his time as a college football coach is build winners. Taggart played prep ball in Florida and then played his college ball at Western Kentucky where he was an assistant for 8 years before taking the RB coaching job at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh. From there he came back to his alma mater to be HC. He inherited a WKU team that went 0-12 the year before Taggart arrived, but in Taggart’s 2nd year, he had WKU at 7-5. In his 3rd and final year he had WKU bowling. Taggart left WKU to return to his home state of Florida and coach USF where he took over a Bulls team that went 3-9 before he arrived. By year 4 the Bulls were 11-2. Now he is going to attempt to bring Oregon back to the heights reached by Chip Kelly. Unlike Herman & Fleck above, Taggart has hit the recruiting trail hard and it is paying off early. It’ll be interesting to see how Taggart does at an elite program with massive resources. His track record speaks for itself.

#36 – Bret Bielema – Arkansas

The decision to leave Wisconsin for Arkansas was an interesting one for Bielema a few years ago and after the Hogs 2016 campaign, the shine is off of Arkansas’s head coach. Bielema took over a program that was in pretty bad shape after a year of John Smith as HC coming off the Bobby Petrino scandal. Bielema’s first year wasn’t pretty as Arkansas went 3-9 without a win in conference play, but by year 3 (2015), Arkansas 8-5 (5-3) and poised to potentially step into the role of challenger to Alabama in the SEC West. It wasn’t meant to be as Arkansas regressed last season to 7-6 (3-5) with a bowl loss. The 7-6 isn’t completely awful, but the losses were terrible. Arkansas was blown out in all of their losses except a close loss to Missouri which itself was inexcusable. I’m not completely sold on Bielema’s style of offense working in the SEC West, and truth be told, the worst thing for Bielema is having to live up the incredible expectations Bobby Petrino set when he was in Fayetteville. LSU has been dealing with a similar situation after Nick Saban took the Tigers to top-5 status.

#35 – Gary Andersen – Oregon State

Andersen is one of my favorite head coaches in college football and Oregon St. is one of my favorite teams. The two coming together was great for me as I think college football is better when Oregon State is relevant. That’s probably just me, but so what! It’s interesting that I ended up with Bielema and Andersen together as both left Wisconsin for other jobs. Andersen is a helluva head coach. He turned Utah State into an 11-win team with a WAC championship in 4 season. He took Wisconsin to a Big 10 West title in his 2nd year. When Mike Riley left Oregon St. for Nebraska, their was quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the Beavers program. Andersen came in and struggled his first year going 2-10 (0-9) but in his 2nd season last year, the Beavers improved to 4-8 (3-6) with conference wins over California, Arizona and hated rival Oregon! The scoring defense and scoring offense were also improved by 7 points each. The Pac 12 North is getting scary good with Chris Petersen doing work at Washington, Mike Leach winning at Washington St. and Willie Taggart taking over at Oregon, but something tells me Andersen is going to make life hard for those guys.

#34 – Justin Fuente – Virginia Tech

Absolutely love what Fuente did with the Hokies last season. Fuente had a lot of success at Memphis before taking the Virginia Tech job, but he’s been nothing but spades since landing in Blacksburg. Keeping Bud Foster on staff as DC was a genius move and speaks volumes as to the kind of man Foster is. Fuente also brought a run heavy attack to Virginia Tech which I think works in their favor. The Hokies have always been known under Bud Foster for having a very intimidating, turnover causing, very fast defense that hits exceptionally hard. Keeping those guys fresh and healthy by dominating time of possession is outstanding strategy that Fuente used last year to win the ACC Coastal in his first season where VT finished the year 10-4 and ranked #16 in the AP. Fuente is making deep strides in recruiting already and once the talent is assembled, Virginia Tech is going to be extremely difficult to handle.

#33 – Hugh Freeze – Mississippi

Like Bielema, the shine has dulled a bit on Freeze’s tenure in Oxford. After improving by a win each year for 3 straight years after a 7-6 campaign in 2012, Freeze and the Rebels took a tremendous step back last season finishing 5-7 (2-6). The overall records can also be a bit misleading as Freeze’s 5-year record in SEC play is not even .500 at 19-21. The bigger problem is the controversy surrounding the Ole Miss program and the NCAA violations. Ole Miss has taken a hit in recruiting already and if recruiting dries up for the Rebels then that spells disaster in arguably the most competitive division in all of college football. There is no question that Freeze can make Ole Miss great. He proved that in 2015, but how he deals with a potential fall out from these mistakes will be telling. The best news for Freeze at this point is that he’s still head coach and that QB Shea Patterson decided to stick around. With no bowl eligibility this season, Ole Miss should be playing like a teach with a chip on their shoulder.

#32 – Mike MacInytre – Colorado

You knew it was only a matter of time before Coach Mac had Colorado on the cusp of greatness. When MacIntyre got his first job as a HC at San Jose State, he finished 1-12 (0-8) in his first season as the Spartans leader. In year 3, San Jose St. went 10-2 (5-1) and beat Bowling Green in the Military Bowl! MacIntyre used that success to grab the Colorado job and what he did in Year 4 in Boulder almost defies reality. The Colorado rebuild wasn’t going to be easy. Not by a long shot. MacIntyre’s first 3 years as HC witnessed Colorado post a combined record of 10-27 with a conference record of 2-25!!!! Those were 3 straight last place finishes in the Pac 12 South! Last season, MacIntyre broke though HUGE as Colorado went 10-4 (8-1), won the Pac 12 South and drew Oklahoma St. in the Alamo Bowl. The Buffs posted wins over Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Arizona, Utah, and Washington State! It was a BANNER year that was dampened a bit by losing 41-10 to Washington in the Pac 12 championship and 38-8 to Oklahoma St. in the Alamo Bowl. Was the breakthrough real, or did Coach Mac take advantage of an unusually weak Pac 12? Oregon was way down. UCLA was down. Arizona St. & Arizona were down. They beat Stanford 10-5 in an ugly contest and drew Utah & Washington St. in Boulder. I’m betting on MacIntyre. I think Colorado is good, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Buffaloes regressed just a bit in 2017.

#31 – Larry Fedora – North Carolina

This feels low considering it was just two years ago that Fedora led the Tar Heels to an 11-3 (8-0) record that saw the UNC win the ACC Coastal relatively easy. A deeper look though and you come away disappointed just a bit. That 2015 season was smoke and mirrors as UNC finished the regular season 11-1 but didn’t play a ranked opponent all season. They lost to Clemson in the ACC Championship game and then lost to Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Last season, the Coastal was again ripe for the taking but UNC gags at home to NC State in the season finale 28-21 and loses to Duke in Durham two weeks before 28-27! That seems ridiculous when you consider just how much offensive firepower the Heels had last season. Fedora has had some good seasons in Chapel Hill but no great ones and that task is going to get tougher and tougher now that Virginia Tech is in seemingly good hands with Justin Fuente and Miami-FL now has one of the best coaches in all of college football in Mark Richt. I really like Fedora and believe he can climb the rankings, but at this point it seems as if UNC has missed a couple of opportunities.

#30 – Mike Riley – Nebraska

The problem with Nebraska is that haven’t found anyone that can take the program to the heights that Tom Osborne did. Frank Solich wasn’t horrible actually and had a few top-10 squads in Lincoln, but not enough big time wins against bit time teams. The hiring of Bill Callahan was a disaster and Bo Pelini couldn’t quite get Nebraska past the 9-4/10-4 mark. Now Mike Riley gets his chance. Riley did wonderful things at Oregon St., and I was a bit surprised that he took the Cornhuskers job, but Oregon St. isn’t Nebraska and Riley now has every resource available to him. In his first season Nebraska wasn’t great at 6-7 (3-5) but last year Riley improved to 9-4 (6-3) with a perfect 7-0 record at home. Nebraska was even ranked #7 in the nation at one point after starting 7-0! It wouldn’t last as Nebraska would go on to lose games to Iowa, Ohio St., Wisconsin & Tennessee, but the season was a win. Riley is making big strides in recruiting and I think he’s putting an emphasis on the Black Shirts which is getting back to Nebraska football.

May 17, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arkansas, Big 10, Big XII, Coaching, Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Oregon St., Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, Texas, Virginia Tech | 3 Comments

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #49 to #40

If you missed the rankings for the coaches ranked #65 to #50, you can find it here or just keep scrolling and it’s the post directly after this one. We left off with Arizona HC Rich Rodriguez at #50 so let’s take a look at the coaches landing in the forties.

#49 – Kliff Kingsbury – Texas Tech

I’m not as down on Kingsbury as some people are. He’s heading into 2017 on the hot seat to be certain, but I don’t think it’s been all bad. Texas Tech isn’t the easiest place to win and so far in his 4 years in Lubbock, Kingsbury is 24-26 overall and 13-23 in conference play. Those aren’t tremendous numbers, but if you look at the league historically, the Red Raiders are following Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma St., TCU, Kansas St. and West Virginia. That makes them 7th in the league and a good coach at Baylor puts Tech 8th. Kingsbury has yet to record a winning record in conference play, but he recruits fairly well and I think he’s good for the university and the program. If trends hold, he should be in for a 7-9 win season in 2017.

#48 – Dave Doeren – North Carolina State

Doeren didn’t walk into a great situation given how NC State AD Debbie Yow dismissed his predecessor Tom O’Brien. Yow essentially cited lack of enthusiasm for the football program as justification for canning O’Brien, but in O’Brien’s last 3 seasons, NC State went 24-14 (13-11). In Doeren’s last 3 seasons as HC, the Wolfpack have went 22-17 (9-15). Yow wanted a football coach who could bring in Top-25 classes. Doeren hasn’t done that either. With that said, Doeren has been consistently 7-6/8-5 in his last 3 years, but he’s also went 3-5 in conference play those same three seasons. I think a coach can win at NC State & Doeren is doing just that, but he needs a breakthrough season with 9-10 wins.

#47 – Todd Graham – Arizona State

A lot of what I wrote about Rich Rodriguez can be written about Todd Graham as well. Graham is better than this but the Sun Devils have been regressing for a couple of year now. In 2013-2014, the Sun Devils posted a 20-7 record. The last two years that total has dropped to 11-14. Graham has been better than Rodriguez in conference play, but only marginally so. ASU went 8-1 in the Pac 12 South in 2013 and won the division. Just 3 years later they finished 2-7 and this is with USC still somewhat regrouping. Graham has recruited top-25 level classes to Tempe and Sun Devil Stadium can be a bear to play in for opposing teams. ASU was pretty young last year and I think 2017 will see a much improve Sun Devils squad.

#46 – Kevin Sumlin – Texas A&M

Sumlin’s star could have been any brighter after the 2012 season when he took the Aggies to an 11-2 record and a final ranking in the top-5. A&M would beat a #1 ranked Alabama team that year and then go on to humiliate a solid Oklahoma team in the Cotton Bowl. QB Johnnie Manziel wasn’t quite as spectacular in 2013 and the Aggies dropped to 9-4. Life after Manziel hasn’t been promising either as Sumlin has turned in 3 consecutive 8-5 seasons with a slew of QB transfers that can’t help morale down in College Station. Making matters worse is that Texas A&M is 15-17 in SEC play over the last 4 years & Alabama isn’t going away. Life in the SEC West isn’t easy and Sumlin probably enters 2017 on a seat that is heating up.

#45 – Derek Mason – Vanderbilt

Mason has to deal with some of the difficulties of being a HC at a school like Vanderbilt in much the same way that Northwestern, Duke, Stanford and even possibly Virginia has to deal with. Stanford is somewhat of an exception, but Vanderbilt is the only one of those schools playing the SEC which makes their ceiling quite a bit lower. You can’t help but be impressed with Mason so far in taking over for James Franklin. Mason cut his teeth under Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw at Stanford so he knows the drill. His first year in Nashville saw Vandy post a 3-9 (0-8) record. Last year, Mason’s 3rd, Vandy improved to 6-7 (3-5) with a bowl appearance. The rebuild wasn’t as fast as James Franklin coming in, but the Commodores are in good hands.

#44 – Mark Stoops – Kentucky

Like Mason, you can’t help but be impressed by the work Stoops is doing in Lexington. Stoops took over a disaster of a program left behind by Joker Phillips and turned them into a bowl team 4 years later. In Stoops’s first year (2013), UK was terrible going 2-10 (0-8) but last year the Wildcats jumped to 7-6 (4-4) and got a rivalry win over Louisville! Stoops has shown the ability to recruit top-25 level classes to Kentucky which is borderline amazing considering they are surrounded by football blue bloods which is another feather in Stoops’ cap. UK was smart to stick with their HC despite back-to-back 5-7 (2-6) seasons. It paid off in spades last year with UK having their best season since 2009. The talent is there for UK to be even better in 2017.

#43 – Dave Clawson – Wake Forest

Wake Forest hasn’t been relevant since the days of Riley Skinner and Aaron Curry. When Clawson took over in 2014, the Demon Deacons hasn’t had a winning season since 2008 nor had they had a bowl win since 2008. Winning in Winston-Salem isn’t exactly easy which is why it was so amazing what Jim Grobe was able to accomplish with Wake. He couldn’t sustain that and eventually Wake ended up being a sub-.500 team which led to Clawson’s hire. Clawson had to do some rebuilding his first two seasons which saw WF finish with back-to-back 3-9 (1-7) seasons, but the Deacons broke through last year finishing 7-6 (3-5) including a bowl win over a very good Temple squad. That’s solid progress for this program.

#42 – Butch Jones – Tennessee

This is probably too low for Jones. I’m of the opinion that the Vols should have never fired Fulmer, but I’m also not sure Fulmer was going to get Tennessee another national title which should always be the goal in Knoxville. Tennessee made a couple of bad hires in Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley and Jones was hired to clean up the mess. In his first season UT went 5-7. In his 2nd the Vols went 7-6 followed up by back to back 9-4 seasons. That’s progress, but to a degree Jones’s tenure at Tennessee has been marked by disappointment. In and SEC East where Missouri won a couple of division titles, Tennessee has come up empty despite SC not being very good and Florida being in a holding pattern until McElwain showed up. Is that a missed opportunity? It sure seems like it. Throw in the fact that UT is 14-18 in SEC play during Jones’s stay and he doesn’t look so good.

#41 – Jim Mora – UCLA

Like Jones, I think Mora is somewhat disappointing which is why he’s ranked in the 40s instead of the 20s. Last season was depressing with expectations that weren’t close to being met. The Bruins entered the 2016 season as the odds on favorite to win the Pac 12 South. With Washington thought to still be a year away, with USC still in rebuilding mode and with Oregon headed towards disaster, the conference and potential playoff spot was ripe for the taking. Instead, UCLA turned in a 4-8 season that saw star QB Josh Rosen miss half the season and potential 1st round NFL Pick DT Eddie Vanderdoes turn in an underwhelming season. The talent is here & Rosen is great so there is time for Mora to improve his stock in 2017.

#40 – Pat Narduzzi – Pittsburgh

Narduzzi was a tough one to figure out. On the one hand it seems as if he’s a little underrated. Since coming to Pittsburgh, he’s led the Panthers to a 16-10 overall record with an 11-5 mark in conference play. Last year’s Pitt squad was the best they’ve fielded since Dave Wannstedt took Pitt to a 10-3 final record back in 2009. On the other hand, the team under Narduzzi has also been puzzling. The 16-10 record is nice, but if you have watched Pitt the last two years, it could have been so much more. Last year the Panthers lost 4 games by a total of 18 points! The year before they lost 4 games by a total of 27 points. If Narduzzi can figure out how to win close games, we might be looking at a dominant Panthers team. However, Pittsburgh is also 0-2 in bowl games under Narduzzi’s watch & the defense got worse from 2015 to 2016 despite Narduzzi’s reputation as a defensive wizard. Narduzzi loses a truck load of talent so we’ll see how he responds in 2017.

May 15, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona St., Big XII, Coaching, Kentucky, NC State, Pac 12, Pittsburgh, Rankings, SEC, Tennessee, Texas AM, Texas Tech, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest | 4 Comments

RANKING POWER-65 COLLEGE FOOTBALL COACHES – #50 to #65

Let’s get back into action with some college football talk. This marks the beginning of my ranking the 65 Power college football coaches in the nation. I looked all the head coaches from the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC and Notre Dame. I took the last 5 years and looked at their records, conference records, history, recruiting efforts, bowl records and the overall trends of their team over these past 5 seasons. I’ll go in reverse order starting at the bottom and working my way up by 10 spots. This beginning post will start with the bottom 15. Here we go!

#65 – Chris Ash – Rutgers

Ash didn’t exactly walk into the best situation given the Kyle Flood controversy but in his first year in New Brunswick, the former Ohio St. DC finished 2-10 with a conference record of 0-9. His 2016 recruiting class also ranked #78 according to Rivals meaning talent isn’t pouring into New Jersey either. Most of Rutgers games weren’t even that competitive. In their games against Ohio St., Michigan, Michigan St. and Penn St., the Scarlet Knights were outscored 224-0! The Big 10 East isn’t the easiest division to play in, but good grief Rutgers can’t get HAMMERED like that. Ash probably has a little more rope but another 2-10 (0-9) season might spell disaster.

#64 – David Beaty – Kansas

Beatty has gone 2-22 in his first two seasons in Lawrence with a Big 12 record of 1-17. There has been improvement. Beatty went 0-12 his first season at the helm and improved by 2 games last season to 2-10. He also improved his conference record from 0-9 to 1-8. The powers that be at KU thought enough of that improvement to give Beaty a contract extension through 2021! Beaty did lead Kansas to their first win over Texas since 1938 and they came pretty close to beating Iowa St. and TCU! Recruiting it up a bit and Beaty has a chance to improve this ranking quite a bit. Sure Kansas only won 2 games, but in 2015, their average margin of defeat was 30.8 PPG. In 2016 it was 17.0!

#63 – Barry Odom – Missouri

Almost impossible to replace a HC like Gary Pinkel who had tremendous success at Missouri, but if there is anyone that knows Pinkel it’s Odom. Another positive about Odom is that there can’t possibly be a more dyed in the wool Mizzou Tiger than Odom himself. There will never be a lack of passion for Missouri football coming from the head coach! Odom’s first year as HC wasn’t a great one as the Tigers went 4-8 (2-6). That was the worst record the Tigers have had since 2000 when Missouri went 3-8 the year before Gary Pinkel was hired. Pinkel’s worst record in 15 years was 4-7. Odom has his work cut out for him and he needs to recruit better, but Pinkel did more with less so maybe he can too.

#62 – Bronco Mendenhall – Virginia

Mendenhall is a tough one to evaluate. His first year in Charlottesville was a disaster as the Cavaliers went 2-10 with a 1-7 conference record. I don’t think much was expected of Virginia in Mendenhall’s first season, but Virginia should have been at least comparable to their 2015 version which went 4-8. Instead, they regressed. Sometimes seasons can go sideways and that seems to be the case with Virginia. They shouldn’t have lost to FCS Richmond to open the season. They let road games at UConn and Wake Forest get away from them as well. Those 3 games turning to wins would have at least allowed UVA to get to 5-7. There is a lot of room to move up this season for Mendenhall.

#61 – Lovie Smith – Illinois

Before last season, the last time Lovie Smith coached in the college ranks was 1995 when he was DB coach for Ohio State. He was the head coach for the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers for 11 years leading the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006, so it was quite an odd move that Smith would leave the NFL for collegiate football and all the headaches involved with recruiting 16 and 17 year old boys. Smith got a rude awakening his first season. The Illini finished 3-9 (2-7) with one of their wins coming against Murray State. The games weren’t even that competitive and Smith didn’t exactly tear it up on the recruiting trail. With Jeff Brohm and PJ Fleck joining the Big 10 West, it’s not getting any easier.

#60 – Dino Babers – Syracuse

Babers was an assistant coach for almost 30 years before he finally got his shot at Eastern Illinois and made the most of it. He went 19-7 with EIU winning back-to-back Ohio Valley Conference championships. He parlayed that job into the head coaching gig at Bowling Green and did well there too. Babers posted an 18-9 record with the Falcons, winning the MAC East in both years and the MAC championship in 2015. He traded that job for a Power-5 conference job with Syracuse. Unfortunately for Babers, he didn’t do as well at Syracuse as he did with EIU and BG. A 4-8 (2-6) record wasn’t fantastic and Babers didn’t kill it on the recruiting trail either. He still has plenty of time left.

#59 – Justin Wilcox – California

Wilcox has never been a head coach but for the last 11 years he’s been the defensive coordinator for Boise St., Tennessee, Washington, USC & Wisconsin. In those seasons here is how his defenses ranked in scoring defense:

2006: #20 (Boise St.)
2007: #26 (Boise St.)
2008: #3 (Boise St.)
2009: #13 (Boise St.)
2010: #56 (Tennessee)
2011: #36 (Tennessee)
2012: #39 (Washington)
2013: #29 (Washington)
2014: #46 (USC)
2015: #50 (USC)
2016: #4 (Wisconsin)

Clearly Wilcox has a track record of success which is good for Cal because the Bears haven’t had anything resembling a decent defense these past 5 seasons. Losing QB Davis Webb will be tough, but Wilcox will do a good job if he can keep Cal from giving up 40PPG.

#58 – Tom Allen – Indiana

Allen did a stellar job as a defensive coach at Ole Miss and South Florida before coming onto Kevin Wilson’s staff last season as the defensive coordinator. Allen didn’t disappoint, improving the Hoosiers’ scoring defense by 10PPG! That’s good news for Indiana as their problem has always been on the defensive side of the football. Allen has never been a head coach and his ascension to the throne was somewhat odd in light of the dismissal of former HC Kevin Wilson, but I think Indiana is in a much better place with Allen leading the charge than with Wilson, even if Wilson guided the Hoosiers to back-to-back bowl appearances. It doesn’t get any worse than the Big 10 East, but Allen has started recruiting well which is a good beginning.

#57 – D.J. Durkin – Maryland

Durkin’s first year in Maryland doesn’t look horrible when you consider the Terps were 6-6 during the regular season and getting bowl eligible before losing the bowl game to finish 6-7. A deeper look is a little more rough as Maryland started the season 4-0 against garbage competition and then finished 2-6 in their final 8 with wins over Rutgers & Michigan State, two team who combined for a 1-17 conference record. That’s hardly awe inspiring. Maryland also lost to Ohio St., Michigan and Nebraska by a combined score of 149-13. That’s not Rutgers territory, but it’s not great either. Durkin is recruiting well in College Park and he’s in a fertile recruiting ground which makes it easier. Still a lot of room to make up on Ohio St., Michigan & Penn State.

#56 – Ed Orgeron – LSU

I get the pull of Orgeron being a Louisiana native and who in their right mind isn’t in love with the guy, but I wonder if LSU made the right call in bringing their native son back home to head up the Bayou Bengals? For Orgeron, this is a shot at redemption. There is no question that Orgeron can recruit with the best of them and he’s in a prime spot to bring in a top-5 class annually. There is also no question that Orgeron is a helluva defensive coach as well and the Tigers will most certainly have his fingerprints all over their defensive identity. The question will be whether or not Orgeron can pull it all together. He’ll need a strong staff around him, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Orgeron will get it done.

#55 – Matt Campbell – Iowa State

It wasn’t a banner year in Matt Campbell’s first year in Ames has head coach of the Cyclones, but the 3-9 record hid some exciting trends. The Cyclones let a close to Northern Iowa get away from them but they also played Oklahoma, Kansas St., Oklahoma St., and Baylor very close. ISU picked up conference wins over Kansas & Texas Tech, even beating the Red Raiders 66-10 which was Iowa St., most lopsided win since the Cyclones beat Colorado St. 69-0 back in 1980! Campbell is young and energetic. He had tremendous success at Toledo and he has recruiting trending the right direction. There is no reason to believe that Iowa St. can’t be a bowl eligible team on a yearly basis under his watch.

#54 – Matt Rhule – Baylor

Hard to argue with Rhule’s bonafides. His first year at Temple was 2-10. His 3rd year the Owls were 10-4 and AAC East champions. His 4th year they were 10-3 and AAC Champions! The only thing that was tough to argue about Rhule was his taking the Baylor job to begin with. Rhule is a Penn St. graduate and all of his experience is just not east, but east of Ohio! Now he’s smack in the middle of Texas against some HEAVY HITTERS in Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. That’s not easy, and I’m not even mentioning the inroads that places like Notre Dame, Alabama and LSU have made the Lone Star State. Rhule will definitely have the Bears playing outstanding defense early.

#53 – Will Muschamp – South Carolina

I’m probably being a little hard on Muschamp here seeing how in his first season he took the Gamecocks to bowl eligibility when nobody except the most dedicated Gamecocks fans though SC would do anything but finish in the basement of the SEC East. My only caveat is that South Carolina and Muschamp worked the schedule which allowed SC to finish 6-6 and get to a bowl. Their non-conference wins included those against East Carolina, UMass and Western Carolina. Missouri was in the tank last year and Vanderbilt wasn’t great so there is 5 wins there. An upset win, which they got over Tennessee, was all SC needed. Muschamp will recruit well enough. Let’s see how his 2nd stint through the SEC East goes.

#52 – Jeff Brohm – Purdue

Brohm wasted little time building off of what Willie Taggart and Bobby Petrino did before him at Western Kentucky. Brohm finished his time in Bowling Green with a 30-10 record with a 19-5 mark in Conference USA play. In his last two seasons at WKU, Brohm led the Hilltoppers to a 22-5 mark including 2 bowl wins and a CUSA record of 15-1 which led to back-to-back conference championships. Brohm had Western Kentucky’s offense flying and the Hilltoppers actually led all of FBS in scoring offense in 2016. Brohm inherits a mess at Purdue, but he’ll get the offense rolling and if the defense follows suit, the Boilermakers could definitely start making noise in the Big 10 West.

#51 – Steve Addazio – Boston College

Addazio’s a tough one to figure out. I think what you have to wonder is what kind of ceiling does a program like Boston College really have? Addazio has went 7-6 in 3 of his 4 years on Chestnut Hill and is 1-2 in bowl games. That’s isn’t terrible when you consider that BC plays in the same division as Clemson, Florida St., and Louisville. In reality, BC is probably looking at a ceiling like 8-4/9-3 and Addazio is pretty close to having the Eagles at this mark with some aspect of sustainability. I think he could recruit better to be sure. Boston College should be able to get better players than what they have. Matt Ryan & Doug Flutie showed how good BC can be when they get elite level talent on the roster.

#50 – Rich Rodriguez – Arizona

Rodriguez is better than this but his teams certainly aren’t playing like it. Rodriguez had somewhat of a breakthrough in 2014 when the Wildcats went 10-4 and won the Pac 12 North, but it was colored a bit by a 51-13 loss to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game followed up by a 38-30 loss to Boise St. in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2015 the Wildcats dropped to 7-6 and last year Arizona completely collapsed finishing 3-9 with a 1-8 mark in conference play! Arizona’s conference record over the past two seasons is 4-14 and Rodriguez’s recruiting classes have been trending downward. USC seems to be stabilizing under Clay Helton. Colorado is emerging. That doesn’t play well for RichRod in the Pac 12 South.

May 14, 2017 Posted by | ACC, Arizona, Baylor, Big 10, Big XII, Boston College, California, Coaching, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa St., Kansas, LSU, Maryland, Missouri, Pac 12, Purdue, Rankings, Rutgers, SEC, South Carolina, Syracuse, Virginia | 5 Comments

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.

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

PAC 12 OUTLOOK WITH 6 WEEKS LEFT

The Pac 12 has somewhat dropped out of the national conscious for a few reasons. The first is that Oregon & UCLA lost games. In UCLA’s case they’ve lost 2 and haven’t looked anything like the top-5 or top-10 team a lot of us thought they would be coming into the season. A second reason is that the conference is somewhat cannibalizing itself. Arizona beats Oregon who beats UCLA who beast Arizona State. Washington has lost a couple of games. Stanford has 3 losses at the moment. It’s pretty tough for the conference when Arizona & Utah are the most compelling stories to come out of the conference to date. Another reason is that USC hasn’t quite ascended back to their dominant perch although if things go their way they could easily wind up 11-2 and Pac 12 champions. I don’t think it would be enough for the Trojans to crash the playoff picture unless most of the Big 5 conference champions had a couple of losses, but it would put things back to a bit more normal in the Pac 12.

Even with all that said, I still believe this is the 2nd best conference in the nation behind the SEC. With so much that can still happen & with so many teams with viable chances at winning the conference, the Pac 12 is putting out must watch football for the rest of the 2014 season!

 

NORTH

 

TEAM REC WHAT TO WATCH FOR OVER LAST 6 WEEKS OF 2014
6-1 Isn’t it unusual that Oregon always seems to have a boneheaded loss somewhere that somewhat ruins their national championship hopes? In 2011 it was a home loss to USC. In 2012 it was a home loss to Stanford. In 2013 it was a road loss to Stanford. This year it’s a home loss to Arizona. With Stanford really struggling, the North is Oregon’s for the taking & even with the Arizona loss, Oregon has already beaten UCLA & Washington & gets Stanford at home. There really is no reason for Oregon not to finish 11-1, but the real kicker here is that Arizona has to continue to play well. Arizona’s 2pt loss to USC isn’t horrible & if they can win out and face Oregon in a rematch in the Pac 12 title game, it could mean the winner goes to the playoffs. That really helps Oregon. With their O-Line getting healthy, all sights should be on 12-1 & Pac 12 champions.
4-3 Stanford isn’t completely out of it. The Cardinal have 3 losses but one of those loses came against Notre Dame so assuming Stanford wins out, they could finish 9-3 & win the Pac 12 North which of course gives them the opportunity to repeat as Pac 12 champions! Stanford simply cannot force their way into the playoff picture with 3 losses, but they could potentially ruin it for the Pac 12 conference assuming either Arizona or Oregon otherwise would finish the season at 12-1. This is going to sound really odd but Stanford should be a lot more concerned with becoming bowl eligible. They need 2 more wins & only get 2 more home games. They play Oregon & UCLA on the road. Assuming those are losses they need 2 out of 3 against: California (road; Cal isn’t horrible), Oregon St. (home), Utah (home; the Utes are surprisingly good!). Six wins is no guarantee.
4-3 Cal Nation has to be absolutely ECSTATIC about California’s performance thus far. Remember that this team was 1-11 last year, being outscored by 22.9PPG! That’s insane considering some of the history of the Cal Bears football program under former HC Jeff Tedford. The Bears are actually outscoring opponents by 3.2PPG which is a 26.1PPG difference in just one season! With 3 losses there is no way Cal either wins the Pac 12 or gets into the playoffs, but bowl eligibility is on the table at this point. In their final 5 games, Cal plays a difficult schedule. They get Stanford & BYU at home which might be their best bet. They are getting a hot Oregon team on a neutral site & have road games against USC & Oregon State. They can beat the Beavers & BYU. If Cal gets to 6-6 it would be a miraculous turnaround after an 1-11 disastrous 2013 campaign.
5-2 Washington’s Pac 12 title chances took a big dip last week when they were beaten 45-20 in Eugene. That gave the Huskies 2 conference losses to Stanford & Oregon. Stanford has 2 conference losses so all Washington needs is for the Cardinal to drop one more which would push Washington over them. The tougher battle is Oregon dropping a couple of conference games while Washington runs the table. A bigger question might be bowl eligiblity. Washington plays 13 games so they need to finish 6-7 to get bowl eligible. That means they can go 1-5 in their final 6, but Washington actually has a pretty decent schedule. Colorado & Washington St. are left as well as home games against Arizona St., UCLA & Oregon State. A road game at Arizona is probably their toughest test. Nine wins will give UW their first back-to-back seasons with at least 9 wins since 1991-1992!
4-2 Like Oregon, Oregon St. has conference losses from only teams in the Pac 12 South! If the Beavers were able to run the table, then they’d wind up Pac 12 North champions at 10-2. This is actually fun to think about because Oregon St. is one of the more underrated college programs & it’s one of those teams I think carries somewhat of a national interest. It would be next to impossible for them to run the table to 11-2 & still get into the playoffs unless Utah & USC ended up the season with 10-2 records, but if the other conferences collapse then maybe. If OSU hasn’t lost to any North teams then it’s a scary proposition to think the Beavers still have Oregon, Stanford, Washington & Arizona St. still left on the schedule. A better question might be concerning bowl eligibility. Home games against Washington St. & California are almost MUST WIN.
2-5 Mike Leach can’t be happy with Wazzu’s 2-5 record but there are some things that might be in his favor. The Cougars aren’t all that far away from being a 6-1 team. They lost to Oregon, Cal & Rutgers by a combined 11 points. Nevada shouldn’t have beaten them either. There is no way they can win the North or get to the playoffs, but can Washington St. go 4-1 in their last 5 games to get bowl eligible? It’s not necessarily impossible. Three of the games are home dates against Arizona, USC & Washington. If they can keep Oregon within 7pts at home they can beat those 3 squads. The two road games are against Oregon St. & Arizona State. Not completely easy games but not unattainable either. There simply isn’t any room for error. It would be cool though to have Washington St. welcoming in Washington needing a final win to get bowl eligible.

 

SOUTH

 

TEAM REC WHAT TO WATCH FOR OVER LAST 6 WEEKS OF 2014
5-2 I think it would be impossible for USC to get to the playoffs even if they did win out, win the Pac 12 title game & finish the season at 11-2. The loss to Boston College is killer & unfortunately the loss to Arizona St. might hurt them if they keep winning because for them to win the Pac 12 South, the Sun Devils would have to start losing. With that said, USC could make an extremely good case to get to the playoffs should all Big 5 conference leaders start taking on a couple of losses. It doesn’t seem likely with Florida St., but if the SEC, Big XII & Big 10 have 2-loss champions & USC is sitting there at 11-2 with Cody Kessler getting Heisman hype, don’t they have to make the playoffs? USC’s schedule sets up really well. They get Utah, Washington St., UCLA & Cal as their remaining Pac 12 teams. If they can be consistent on the road & ASU loses, the Trojans would win the South!
5-1 There was talk last night during the Miami-FL/Virginia Tech game that Ohio St.’s loss to Virginia Tech is so detrimental because of how bad the Hokies are, that it could result in Ohio St. not making the playoffs even if they win out and finish the season as 12-1 Big 10 champions. It’s a good conversation & has meaning for Arizona State. If the Sun Devils run the table, would their 62-27 HUMILIATION at the hands of UCLA be enough to keep them out of the playoffs simply because the score differential is so high? I think it does, but Arizona St. can at least make things extremely interesting by winning out & getting to 11-1. The in over USC is really nice & like the Trojans, ASU doesn’t have Oregon down the stretch. They’ve already beaten Stanford so they are primed & ready to potentially win the South.
5-1 Very tough to go on the road to beat Oregon only to come back to your home stadium & lose to USC. The loss doesn’t necessarily hurt teh Wildcats and like Arizona St., Oregon & Utah, Arizona is still in position to run the table which would give them serious playoff consideration seeing that their only loss was to USC who very well could end up 10-2/9-3 which is great for Arizona. The schedule really does set up well for Arizona as well. They get home games against Washington & Arizona St., while road dates with UCLA & Utah look to be their most challenging victories left, but if Arizona can win in Eugene, they can certainly win those games. I think somewhat of a tricky trap game could be this week at Washington State. If Arizona can start the 2nd half of their season with a win, I think great things could happen.
5-1 Utah is the real surprise team in the Pac 12 sitting at 5-1 at the midway point. I want to take Utah for granted, but it’s difficult to do so. The win over Michigan looked like a harbinger of things to come but the Wolverines aren’t so good. What sticks out to me is Utah’s road wins over UCLA & Oregon State. They won those 2 games by a combined 8pts, but wins are wins. The next 5 weeks are B-R-U-T-A-L for the Utes. They play: USC, at Arizona St., Oregon, at Stanford, and Arizona. Remember that each one of those 5 teams have their eyes set on a Pac 12 championship if not the playoffs themselves so the Utes won’t face any teams mailing it in at the end of the season. Utah is interesting because if they win out & get to 12-1, the teams they’ve beaten are so impressive that it might not matter that they have a 1pt loss to Washington St., although the discussion will be valid.
5-2 UCLA could actually be one of the more interesting teams down the stretch. On talent alone they can hang with anyone in the nation so there isn’t a game on the schedule they can’t win. Their 2 losses have come against Oregon & Utah, but Oregon is in the North and I have a hard time believing Utah won’t lose 2-3 more games with their schedule. This means UCLA could actually still win the Pac 12 South & potentially the P12 title game! The only team that could be a thorn to them is Arizona St. who has one conference loss which was to UCLA so the Bruins only need ASU to lose another conference game. UCLA has to protect home field though. They have home games against Arizona, Stanford & USC remaining with road games against Washington & Colorado. It’s a schedule they can go 10-2 with, but they need to play to talent level. Should be VERY interesting if they keep winning.
2-5 I think Coach MacIntyre is the right man for the job but Colorado just hasn’t had much luck go their way this season. Losing to Colorado St. to open up the season was tough & the Buffs also have close losses to Oregon St. & California. If those 3 games are different then CU is 5-2 instead of 2-5 & we are talking about the potential for postseason play. At this point Colorado has to hope for another win or two because right now they certainly look like they are going to take their current 2-5 record & finish 2-10. The schedule is DAUNTING. Colorado is a young team. They could potentially have 9-10 starters back on offense & 13 of their top-16 tacklers back on defense. If you can’t watch wins then I think progression is something definitely to watch. QB Sefo Liufau is just a soph. and is having a terrific year despite the record.

October 25, 2014 Posted by | Arizona, Arizona St., California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon St., Pac 12, Playoffs, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington St. | Leave a comment

2014 PAC 12 PREVIEW & PREDICTIONS

RANK PAC 12 SOUTH COMMENTS
#1 PROJECTED RECORD: 12-0 (9-0); OFFENSE: UCLA returns 9 starters from a unit that averaged 36.9PPG including QB & Heisman front runner Brett Hundley. Last year as a rSO Hundly completed 67% of his passes for 3071yds & 24TD! He should compete for All-America honors & if UCLA ends up with the record I predict, he’ll be a Heisman favorite. UCLA returns 5 starting O-linemen and get RB Jordan James back healthy. The receiving corps lose leading WR Shaquelle Evans but return 5 of their top-6 receivers. Seven starters from UCLA’s offense are projected to compete for P12 honors & there isn’t a single weakness on the team. The most exciting player might be RB/LB Myles Jack! Jack averaged 7.0ypc & scored 7TD but also made 75 tackles as a LB all as a true frosh! DEFENSE: The Bruins return 8 starters from a defense that allowed 23.3PPG. Losing Anthony Barr is a blow to be sure but the defense is going to get significantly better. Jack & DT Eddie Vanderdoes were freshman All-Americans! DT Kenny Clark & LB Isaako Savaiinaea were both true freshman last year & got significant playing time. LB Eric Kendricks led the team in tackles last year with 106 and he returns. S Anthony Jefferson is an all-P12 performer. Losing Barr, DE Cassius Marsh & LB Jordan Zumwalt (all NFL draft picks) is tough but there is enough talent to improve. SCHEDULE: It’s not easy but UCLA draws Oregon, Arizona, USC & Stanford at home & get a neutral game against Texas. Their toughest road games are against Arizona St. & Washington. Brutal but UCLA should be favored in all.
#2 PROJECTED RECORD: 9-3 (6-3); OFFENSE: USC might be in for a transition year under new HC Steve Sarkisian, but Sarkisian was a staple of Pete Carroll’s former USC staff & was probably the best hire the Trojans could have made when they took Lane Kiffin. Now Sark has had his feet wet by coaching Washington so he’s ready. USC brings back 7 starters from an offense that scored 30PPG last season & includes QB Cody Kessler who completed 65% of his passes for 2968yds/20TD! Kessler brings USC back as his stats are a lot like Barkley’s, Leinart’s & Palmer’s. USC also brings back RB Javorius Allen (5.8ypc/14TD), WR Nelson Agholor (918yds/6TD) along with 3 returning O-Linemen. It’s USC so the talent is ridiculous even if not as deep due to recent sanctions. Keep an eye on USC’s tackles. Zach Banner (6’9/345lbs) & Chad Wheeler (6’7/300lbs) are GIGANTIC! DEFENSE: USC is getting back to their defensive ways bringing back 7 from a unit that allowed 21.2PPG  in ’13. DE Leonard Williams, LB Hayes Pullard & S Su’a Craven could all be All-Americans by year’s end. I’m excited to see OLB JR Tavai & OLB Jabari Ruffin. The Trojan defense stands out because it’s so large. The D-Line is about 6’3/300lbs. The LBs are about 6’2/240lbs and the DBs are about 6’1/200lbs. The recruiting class could also have some impact players like DL Claude Pelon! SCHEDULE: Avoided Oregon but drew UCLA & Stanford on the road. Road games against Washington St. & Arizona won’t be easy & USC close with Notre Dame. I’ll call for 9 wins but 10 is a distinct possibility for USC.
#3 PROJECTED RECORD: 7-5 (4-5); OFFENSE: In his first 2 seasons in the desert, Rich Rodriguez has led Arizona’s offense to 35PPG. Last season the Wildcats scored 33.5PPG & bring back 7 starters. Unfortunately Arizona loses a couple of huge pieces in RB Ka’Deem Carey (1885yds/19TD/5.4ypc) & QB BJ Denker (61%/2516yds/16TD). Denker was also a running threat accumulating 949yds rushing & 13TD. The good news is that Arizona returns 4 starting O-Linemen & 3 of their top-4 receivers. The projected starting QB is former USC recruit Jesse Scroggins, but Arizona also has former LSU QB Jerrard Randall & former Texas QB Connor Brewer. There is a lot of potential here if Arizona can figure out a way to run the ball & utilize WRs Cayleb Jones (6’3) & Austin Hill (6’3). Probably a step back but not a huge one. DEFENSE: Arizona returns just 6 starters from a unit that allowed 24.2PPG. Arizona’s defense was fairly strong last year & the only huge loss is LB Maquis Flowers who led the team with 11TFL & was drafted by the Bengals. Arizona returns 5 of their top-8 tacklers. LB Scooby Wright is a star in the making, but Arizona is relying heavily on JUCO players & transfers. It’s definitely not the way I’d want to win long term, but Rodriguez needs time to recruit. The defense won’t be as good. SCHEDULE: Drawing Oregon & Washington St. on the road from the North hurts. They also have a road game against UCLA. Arizona has a chance to go 9-3 if they play tough and potentially 8-4. Either way, Rodriguez will at least win 8 games in each of his 1st 3 seasons in Tuscon. Good start.
#4 PROJECTED RECORD: 6-6 (3-6); OFFENSE: Arizona St. scored 39.7PPG last season & with 6 returning starters it might seem odd to think they can be better than that, but ASU returns the right kinds of players. QB Taylor Kelly returns for his senior season. Last year he completed 62.4% of his passes for 3635yds & 28TD. His 2 favorite receivers come back in WR Jaelen Strong & RB DJ Foster. Losing RB Marion Grice seems like a blow but Foster averaged 5.4ypc to Grice’s 5.2 & Foster is a much better pass catching back. At 6’4/215, Strong has a chance to be an All-American & a 1st Rd. NFL Draft pick. The O-Line returns 3 starters & all 5 projected starters are upperclassmen. The O-Line will be better & if Kelly improves, ASU should average more than 40PPG! DEFENSE: The unit could be problematic as the Sun Devils return just 2 starters from a unit that allowed 26.6PPG! HC Todd Graham has S Damarious Randall & LB Salamo Fiso back but he’s relying on a lot of JUCO talent to come through & hold the defense together in ’14. It’s an interesting gamble. DT Dalvon Stuckey could be a handful & I like the size of ASU’s DEs in 6’5/300lbs Marcus Hardison & 6’6/240lbs Darrius Caldwell. CB Kweishi Brown could come in & have an impact but there is a lot of questions here. This might be an awful defense. SCHEDULE: The road schedule isn’t pleasant with USC, Washington, Oregon St. & Arizona on tap. They also get home games against UCLA, Stanford, Washington St. & Notre Dame. Graham’s a helluva coach so I think ASU gets bowl eligible but they are in for a difficult year in ’14.
#5 PROJECTED RECORD: 5-7 (2-7); OFFENSE: In his first season HC Mike MacIntyre took Colorado from 1-11 to 4-8 & improved the offense from 17.8PPG to 25.4PPG! This year the Buffs have 8 starters returning from that unit including QB Sefo Liufau who as a true frosh completed 59.4% for 1779, 12TD to 8INT. There is a lot to like. Liufau should be better and at 6’4/230lbs looks the part of a big time QB. Colorado returns their top-6 leading rushers. They return 3 starting O-Linemen. The one negative is that they lose WR Paul Richardson (83rec/1343yds/10TD) so Liufau will need another go to receiver. Nelson Spruce could be that guy in ’14 & should compete for all-P12 honors. The offense improves yet again under MacIntyre. DEFENSE: Colorado had massive issues on defense in 2013 allowing 38.3PPG, but they do return 8 starters. It’s sort of a mixed bag really but Colorado’s projected defense has 10 upperclassmen and the best defender they have might be sophomore LB Addison Gillam. CB Greg Henderson is also a nice corner who along with Gillam should compete for all-P12 honors. The talent is brutally thin on defense but CU has to give MacIntyre to improve that. They can’t go anywhere but up in 2014 seeing as how bad 2013 was, but this should still be a fairly bad defense. SCHEDULE: Colorado has to take wins where they can get them & they are lucky that they get a home game against Utah & California stinks. There is a lot of experience here & if Colorado can pull off a shocker at home (ASU? UW?) then Colorado could be bowling in Mac’s 2nd year.
#6 PROJECTED RECORD: 3-9 (1-8); OFFENSE: I really have no idea what to think about Utah. They return 6 starters from an offense that scored 29.2PPG in 2013 en route to a 5-7 record. They have some pieces back, but it doesn’t seem to fit. QB Travis Wilson returns but last season he completed just 56% of his passes & threw as many picks as he did TDs. RB Bubba Poole returns but he averaged just 4.1ypc which is pedestrian. Utah also loses 3 of their top-4 receivers & 2 starting O-Linemen. WR Dres Anderson is a weapon & I could see RB Devontae Booker coming in and making an impact so it’s possible the offense is marginally better. The key is how much improvement will we see from Wilson? DEFENSE: The Utes return 6 starters from a defense that allowed 28PPG. I like the makeup of this defense better than I do the offense. Losing Trevor Reilly & Tenny Palepoi from the D-Line, but I like DE Nate Orchard & the potential of DE Hunter Dimick. Utah has some good LBs and their secondary should be pretty good. I think Utah’s pass defense could be pretty good so there is definitely hope here. At worst the Utes should be where they were last season, but they could improve. SCHEDULE: Utah doesn’t get a break in the non-conference scheduling a road game at Michigan. The problem for the most part is they don’t get California & play Colroado on the road. Utah seems down but the problem is that the Pac 12 is getting better & better & I’m not sure Utah can recruit at this level and the rest of the Pac 12 is getting better faster than Utah can keep up with.

 

PAC 12 SOUTH OVERALL OUTLOOK: This might be one of the easier divisions to predict given how dominant UCLA should be. It’s hard to overshadow an historically great USC program, but Jim Mora has come to Westwood and done just that. The storyline in the South will be whether or not UCLA can navigate their schedule to a 12-0 record & potentially win the Pac 12 championship and possibly be the team that has the best chance at dethroning Florida State from winning back-to-back national championships. The resurgence of USC will also be worth watching as a 10-3/11-2 year would be fantastic for the Trojans showing the rest of the nation they are back to being a top-10 or top-15 program with even greater heights to be achieved. The bottom 4 teams are sort of in quasi-rebuilding mode. Arizona is trying to get over the 8-win hump but lost a lot offensively. ASU is completely retooling while Colorado & Utah are just taking one step at a time. For Arizona, Arizona St., Utah, & Colorado, just getting bowl eligible will be quite an accomplishment and of course all 4 teams could spoil USC’s or UCLA’s season on any given night should the Trojans/Bruins decide to not even show up for those games. You know the Pac 12 is starting to climb the ladder to SEC status when you can point to 8-win teams like Arizona & 10-win teams like Arizona State and say they aren’t that good relative to the other power teams in the Pac 12!

 

RANK B1G WEST COMMENTS
#1 PROJECTED RECORD: 11-1 (8-1); OFFENSE: What can you say about Oregon’s offense? The Ducks haven’t averaged less than 40PPG since 2009 which was also their worst year in the past 5. They only went 10-3! This year the Ducks bring back 8 starters including QB Marcus Mariota from an offense that scored 45.5PPG! Mariota is the Heisman front runner assuming it’s impossible for a guy to win the award twice. The only signiificant loss is WR Josh Huff, but sophomore Dwayne Stanford (6’5/200lbs) is ready to step into that role. The Ducks return 4 starting O-Linemen as well as their top-3 rushers. RB Byron Marshall ran for 1038yds/14TD while Thomas Tyner chipped in 711yds/9TD! Mariota combined for almost 4400yds passing/rushing with a combined 40TD! OC Hroniss Grasu & OT Tyler Johnstone could both be All-Americans along with Mariota. It’s possible this offense scores 50PPG! DEFENSE: More losses defensively for Oregon returning just 5 starters from a unit that allowed 20.5PPG, but the returning starters are solid. Oregon should have one of the more underrated D-Lines in the nation. DE Tony Washington is a beast & let’s not forget DE DeForest Buckner (6’7/290lbs), DT Arik Armstead (6’8/300lbs) or DT Alex Balducci (6’4/300lbs). These guys are huge. CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is an All-American & might be the best CB in the nation. The LB unit returns Derrick Malone & Rodney Hardrick. Both could be all-conference. SCHEDULE: It doesn’t matter. The only problem game is a road date with UCLA which should determine which one of those 2 teams goes undefeated.
#2 PROJECTED RECORD: 10-2 (7-2); OFFENSE: Stanford returns 5 starters from an offense that scored 32.3PPG in ’13. You might think Stanford needs to retool a bit but QB Kevin Hogan returns and should only get better while his weaponry returns almost 100% intact as the Cardinal return their top-5 receivers. The big loss is RB Tyler Gaffney who rushed for 1709yds/21TD. That’s a tough loss but his replacement is some kid named Barry Sanders. Maybe you’ve heard of his father? As a rFR Sanders averaged 8.4ypc last year. The O-Line returns just 2 starters but the talent is ridiculous with LT Andrus Peat being an All-American. This offense should look a lot more like when it did under Andrew Luck. Those Stanford teams scored 40PPG. I think this Stanford team does too. DEFENSE: Stanford returns 7 starters from a defense that allowed 19.0PPG in ’13! That sounds great but 2 players are going to be HARD to replace in LB Shayne Skov (team leader in tackles) and LB Trent Murphy (23.5TFL/15sacks), both of whom were All-Americans. Luckily the Cardinal have 2 more All-American candidates in LB AJ Tarpley & S Jordan Richards! The big issue facing Stanford is them getting a pass rush from somewhere. Players like James Vaughters, Kevin Anderson & Blake Leuders need to step up their game. The defense will be great but Skov & Murphy are too hard to replace. SCHEDULE: Road games against Oregon & UCLA screw Stanford, but they get WSU, Oregon St. & USC at home. A road date with Notre Dame could be dangerous but they should get to 10-2.
#3 PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4 (5-4); OFFENSE: If you are looking for a serious sleeper team that could shock some people then look no further than Corvallis. The best part of Oregon St. returning 7 starters from an offense that scored 34.8PPG is QB Sean Mannion. He’s not getting a ton of hype because Marcus Mariota, Brett Hundley & Kevin Hogan play QB in the Pac 12, but Mannion has a rocket arm with great size at 6’5/225lbs. He completed 66.3% of his passes last year for 4662yds & 37TD. He’ll become OSU’s all-time leading passer this season and returns 4 of this top-5 receivers. Losing WR Brandin Cooks (128rec/1730yds/16TD) is impossible to replace, but OSU’s receiving corps is huge in their 2TE set & they also return their top-2 rushers. The O-Line could be the weak link but C Isaac Seumalo could be an All-American. Losing Cooks is HUGE but OSU will put up lots of points. DEFENSE: Like the offense, the defense has one huge loss in DE Scott Crichton who led the team with 19TFL & was a 3rd Rd. NFL Draft pick. On the other hand, OSU returns 7 starters & their top-6 tacklers from a defense that allowed 31.4PPG. The D-Line is going to have to figure out a way to stop the run & get a pass rush but OSU returns 6 of their back-7 & should have an outstanding secondary. Teams will have difficulties passing against them, but they’ll need to stop the run. SCHEDULE: They draw USC, Stanford & Washington on the road which is tough. They do get Oregon at home but the Ducks are just so good. Ten wins is possible with an upset & a bowl win. This is a good team.
#4 PROJECTED RECORD: 8-4 (5-4); OFFENSE: When you talk Mike Leach guided offense you talk insane passing attacks and incredible offensive production. Leach didn’t disappoint. His first year was tough getting his players into his system with WSU averaging 20.4PPG but last year that improved to 31.0PPG & the Cougars have 8 starters returning including QB Connor Halliday. Halliday completed 63% of his passes for 4597yds & 34TD! He did throw 22 picks but his decision making should get better this season as a senior. All the skill position players return with the only losses coming on the O-Line. Even with those losses, WSU is huge up front. The O-line got much better protecting the QB last year. I’m not sure Leach will improve the offense by another 10PPG in ’14 but they’ll post around 35PPG. DEFENSE: Clearly Washington St. isn’t about punishing defense & for WSU to win games they are going to have to outscore some people but the defense might be OK as they return 6 starters from a unit that allowed 32.5PPG & brings back 7 of their top-9 tacklers. The D-Line has some interesting players in Xavier Cooper & Kalafitoni Pole, but the glaring weakness is the Cougars secondary. There is virtually no talent here so Leach has to do something to get some players in here. SCHEDULE: It think the Cougars will be a VERY difficult game at home & they draw Arizona & Washington to Pullman which really works out. They also avoid UCLA from the South & get a pretty weak Utah team on the road. I’m bullish on the Cougars & I think 7-8 wins is entirely possible.
#5 PROJECTED RECORD: 8-5 (4-5); OFFENSE: I could be underestimating the Huskies offense a bit because the do return 7 starters from a unit that averaged 37.9PPG en route to 9 wins, but the losses are significant. Chris Petersen finally left Boise St. to coach at UW. A curious move but I think Petersen has success. The problem early on might be the losses at the skill positions. Washington loses their QB, top rusher & top receiver from a year ago. Keith Price was extremely good at QB completing 66.2% of his passes for 2966yds/21TD. RB Bishop Sankey ran for 1870yds/20TD and WR Kevin Smith had 765yds receiving. The O-Line returns intact & is one of the best lines in all of college football but QB Cyler Miles & RB Dwayne Washington are only sophomores & WR Kasen Williams has to step up and be the #1 WR. They won’t score 37.9PPG a game & could actually struggle if the youngsters struggle. DEFENSE: UW returns 7 starters from a team that allowed 22.8PPG. They return 7 of their top-9 tacklers & should be very good. LB Shaq Thompson is an All-American candidate & UW returns 6 of their front-7! DE Hau’oli Kikaha led the team with 13 sacks. DTs Danny Shelton & Evan Hudson should be very good on the inside. UW could definitely be weak in the secondary & 3 underclassmen are projected to start. If they come along quickly, this defense will be great. SCHEDULE: I think this team is vulnerable on the road with youth & they get WSU, Oregon & Arizona on the road. I’ll say 8 wins but if they can win some toss up road games, UW could get to 10-3 with some luck.
#6 PROJECTED RECORD: 1-11 (0-9); OFFENSE: In a vacuum I think you have to really like what Cal could bring to the table offensively this season. They return 9 starters from a team that averaged 23PPG, but QB Jared Goff & RB Khalfani Muhammad were true frosh while LT Steven Moore was a rFR starter at RT last season. The O-Line returns 4 starters and for the most part all the skill position players return but the problem I think is that the Pac 12 North is loaded with a ton of offensive minded teams which means Cal could greatly improve but still not look so hot. Goff is a stud & Muhammad averaged 6.0ypc last season. The receivers look good with Chris Harper & Bryce Treggs but both guys are under 6’0. The Bears will improve but how much relative to the rest of the Pac 12 remains to be seen. DEFENSE: Cal returns 6 starters from a defense that allowed a ridiculously bad 45.9PPG! The Bears do return 6 of their top-7 tacklers from a year ago and the defense was brutalized by injuries last season so there is hope for legitimate improvement. A lot of JUCO talent coming in so who knows how it will play out. DE Brennan Scarlett & LB Jalen Jefferson are pretty good pieces but the Pac 12 scores in bunches. SCHEDULE: Cal reminds me a little bit of Utah in that while they might seem to be improvement, it’s at a much slower pace than the rest of the Pac 12. In fact, the Pac 12 is getting so good they rival the SEC in some ways & Cal is getting left behind. They need to win homes games but I”m not sure they beat Colorado at home. Another year at 1-11.

 

PAC 12 NORTH OVERALL OUTLOOK: The Pac 12 North isn’t as clear cut as the Pac 12 South but Stanford & Oregon should once again reign supreme atop the division. I think the fact that Oregon gets Stanford at home means the difference in who wins the division and plays in the Pac 12 championship game. California is going to be terrible but Oregon St., Washington St., and Washington make for an interesting middle of the division. All have just enough weaknesses to avoid contending for the division crown, but all have enough strengths that could make things very interesting when playing home games. I’m especially excited to see what happens with Oregon St. & Washington as both teams could be 10-win teams if the chips fall just the right way for them. Mike Leach in his 3rd season in Pullman makes things even more interesting given how explosive their offense might actually be. What is amazing about the Pac 12 North is that in some ways it is the closest thing another conference has to the SEC West. It’s not as strong as that division, but when you are talking about the best divisions in college football you always start with the SEC West, but you might actually have to go Pac 12 North as the 2nd best. That’s incredible compliment & I think this division will be worth following all season long!

August 27, 2014 Posted by | Arizona, Arizona St., California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon St., Pac 12, Predictions, Previews, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington St. | Leave a comment

2014 Pac 12: A Look At Predictive Analytics From 2013

It’s always fun to look at the big picture when evaluating college football teams to get an idea of where their season might be headed. There are some advanced metrics that can give us some insight into some of the “luck” that teams will have in the coming season based on these particular stats regression to the mean in most cases. For the discussion below, I use the following:

CLOSE GAMES: Games decided by 7 points or fewer
TURNOVER MARGIN (TO Margin)
PYTHAGOREAN: A theoretical winning percentage based on points scored & allowed; (PS*PS)/((PS*PS)+(PA*PA))
LUCK: The difference between Pythagorean & a team’s actual record

This doesn’t always mean that teams will trend opposite of what they did the previous year. You have to look at context and previous years to get a sense of where a team might be headed in the upcoming season. It also doesn’t mean that regression to the mean will be reflected in the overall record. A team could be 0-7 in close games with a TO margin of -25 and a Pythagorean suggesting they were 2.62 wins better than their win total from the previous season, but if the team is short on talent and has an extremely difficult schedule ahead without many opportunities for home wins, regressing might not mean that much in the win column.

Moving on to the Pac 12 here are the overall trends for each team. Discussion follows:

TRENDING UP: Arizona, Utah, Washington St., Colorado, California
TRENDING DOWN: UCLA, Arizona St.
TREADING WATER: Oregon, Stanford, Washington, USC, Oregon St.

While the Pac 12 isn’t the best conference in college football, they are making a serious play to rival the SEC when it comes to football dominance. What really sticks out to me is that teams like Utah, Colorado & California should be greatly improved, but their schedules are SO TOUGH that we might not even see that much improvement even though the teams should be better. From the top down though, this is a brutal conference. Washington, Stanford & Oregon are all top-20 teams with Oregon & Stanford being top-5 to top-10 squads. UCLA, USC, & Arizona look really really good and you can bet Arizona St. is going to be really good. What happened with the Pac 12 to a degree is how good the coaching is. David Shaw took over Jim Harbaugh at Stanford and never missed a beat. In some crazy business, Washington ended up being the school who lured Chris Petersen away from Boise State! Steve Sarkisian left Washington to go to USC. Rich Rodriguez winds up at Arizona. Todd Graham leaves Pittsburgh after a year to take over at Arizona State. Jim Mora is doing amazing things at UCLA. Mike MacIntyre did a great job at San Jose St. and is now at Colorado. Sonny Dykes has a good resume & took over for Jeff Tedford at California. In some crazy twist of history, the pirate himself Mike Leach wound up at Washington State! There simply aren’t any easy games in the Pac 12, and there might not be for a long while with these coaches looking like they are in place for the long haul!

The Pac 12 might be the most interesting conference in 2014.

Teams are listed in descending order of their Pythagorean winning percentage. Following the chart are the raw numbers in each category.

RANK TEAM COMMENTS
#1 The Ducks definitely look to be in line for serious regression with their +11 in TO margin, but their other indicators aren’t as strong. Oregon was just 1-1 in close games & their Pythagorean of .832 suggests they were 0.19 games worse than their actual record. Bigger trends are even more crazy. Over the last 7 years Oregon is +70 in TO margin! They are 7-4 in close games over the past 5 seasons as well. There were some signs of regression last year. Note that Oregon was +21 in TO margin in 2012 compared to the +11 they were last season. That could come down again, but it must be said that Oregon plays a style of football conducive to them having a great TO margin, thus they win….A LOT! I think Oregon is just treading water & they return 8 starters on offense that averaged 46PPG last season! Stanford comes to Eugene which means 13-0 is on the table.
#2 It’s somewhat amazing to think Stanford was who they were last year given that the Cardinal wound up 11-3 with a Pac 12 championship. Their predictive metrics show no reliance upon luck! They had a ZERO TO margin and their Pythagorean of .743 suggests they were only 0.60 wins worse than their record. Stanford was 3-3 in close games meaning they were this close to being 14-0. Stanford is essentially treading water which means they could be in for a huge year in 2014 if Lady Luck shines on them. The converse could be true as well, but Stanford brings back an interesting mix of talent. Only 5 return on offense but the OL should be great & they replace their RB with Barry Sanders’ kid! They lose Shane Skov & Trent Murphy on defense but bring back 7! Their road schedule is absolute murder (Wash, ND, ASU, Oregon, UCLA) but if they get lucky, they should win big!
#3 The Huskies are the first mixed bag team we have in the Pac 12. They were +7 in TO margin but 0-1 in close games & their Pythagorean of .734 suggests they were 0.54 wins better than their 9-4 record shows. It’s hard to note which way the wind is blowing for the Huskies & for the most part looking back over the data doesn’t show us much either as Washington has been fairly stable. What’s interesting is that UW loses a couple of heavy hitters in QB Keith Price & RB Bishop Sankey. I actually think UW will be OK with Cyler Miles & Dwayne Washington replacing them. They also bring back 7 on defense. Washington’s schedule is conducive. They get Stanford, Arizona St., & UCLA at home. A road game to Oregon hurts but the other 11 games are winnable & they’ll have former Boise St. HC Chris Petersen at the helm & he knows a little bit about winning football games.
#4 The Bruins are one of the more intriguing teams in college football this year. Their predictive metrics are definitely pointing towards regression. UCLA was +10 in TO margin, 2-1 in close games & their Pythagorean of .718 suggests they were 0.67 wins worse than their final 10-3 record would indicate. That all points towards regression, but UCLA is in a unique spot. They return 9 starters on offense including QB Brett Hundley who should be a top Heisman candidate. They also return 8 starters on defense & will be in HC Jim Mora’s system for the 3rd straight year. They got screwed drawing both Oregon & Stanford out of the Pac 12 North but they get both at home with their toughest contest being on the road at Washington. The metrics point to them regressing, but I almost feel as if they’ll have a huge year in LUCK before the big regression comes in 2015 & 2016.
#5 Incredible year for Todd Graham & Arizona State. The 10-4 Sun Devils won the Pac 12 South & finished with the best record they’ve had since 2007 when ASU went 10-3 in Dennis Erickson’s first season. This success came with some serious luck! Arizona St. was +15 in TO margin & were 3-1 in close games. Their .690 Pythagorean showed they were 0.35 wins worse than their record. With just 6 starters returning on offense & 2 on defense, it’s safe to say this could be a difficult year in Tempe as Arizona St. has a somewhat rebuilding year in store. The defense could be scary bad as they lost 10 of their top-12 tacklers from a unit that allowed 27PPG! They draw Stanford & Washington out of the North & play USC, Oregon St., & Arizona on the road. Throw in a non-conference game against Notre Dame! Regression could knock this team down to a 5 win team with that schedule.
#6 USC metrics are basically treading water. They were +5 in TO margin last year but that isn’t a huge mark  and they were -3 in the 2-years prior. The Trojans were 3-2 in close games which is meaningless too & their Pythagorean of .662 showed they were 0.73 wins worse than their 10-4 record. They aren’t regressing towards winning, but they aren’t in line for regression towards losing either & with Steve Sarkisian coming on board & USC doing a lot better with scholarships, the Men of Troy could be in line for a lot of Lady Luck. USC returns 7 on both offense & defense including QB Cody Kessler. They drew Stanford out of the North which isn’t great luck & they do play UCLA & Arizona on the road along with non-conference games against Boston College & Notre Dame. They are capable of 10 wins without any of luck’s involvement. If luck comes into play they could be great.
#7 Arizona is in a tough spot because their predictive metrics are actually pretty good. They were +4 in TO margin which doesn’t say much and they could actually trend better in that respect seeing how they were -11 from 2009-2012. The Wildcats were 1-3 in close games & their Pythagorean of .656 suggests they were 0.53 wins better than their final 8-5 record shows. The problem here is that the Pac 12 is extremely top heavy. UCLA, USC, Washington, Oregon & Stanford aren’t just expected to be good teams, they could be great teams with Oregon, Stanford & UCLA being legitimate national title contenders! Arizona has a lot coming back but lose all-world RB Ka’Deem Carey & QB BJ Denker. They also lose their two top-tacklers on defense. They should regress with better stats but with the schedule, they could easily wind up 8-4/7-5 despite getting a lot more lucky.
#8 Oregon St. is a team that played pretty much to their 7-6 record last season. The Beavers were +3 in TO margin & 2-2 in close games while their Pythagorean of .551 showed they were 0.16 games better than their final record. Oregon St. is basically treading water but Mike Riley is a tremendous HC and the Beavers have quite a bit coming back including QB Sean Mannion who will become OSU’s all time leading passer if he remains healthy. Oregon St. also gets a little lucky with schedule with drawing both Utah & Colorado from the P12 South! What’s interesting here is that Oregon St. is an 8-4 team, but if Lady Luck shines on them the 4 projected losses (at USC, at Stanford, at Washington, Oregon) could open up, especially USC & Washington. Anything can happen in the Civil War although Oregon St. hasn’t beaten Oregon since 2007! Very interesting here.
#9 Since joining the Pac 10, Utah has lost one fewer game in each season since their first. In their 3 years, the Utes have a 9-18 conference record after having a 21-3 conference record in the Mountain West in the 3-years prior to joining their new conference. Utah didn’t have a great year last season at 5-7 & their predictive measures show they were a bit unlucky. Although they barely came out ahead at 4-3 in close games, Utah was -9 in TO margin & their Pythagorean of .520 suggests they were a whopping 1.21 games BETTER than their record indicates! Utah played really well against the tough Pac 12 opponents last year & even beat Stanford! The defense should be a lot better & QB Travis Wilson returns. The schedule isn’t kind & they draw Oregon & Stanford form the North, but if they can play well at home, Luck should turn their way & Utah can get back to a bowl.
#10 How great is Mike Leach? WSU was 9-40 in the 4 years before Leach came to Pullman. In his 2nd year he had the Cougars back to a bowl! Things could go even better for Washington St. with their predictive metrics showing regression towards winning. Last season Wazzou was -5 in TO margin (-53 over the past 7 seasons!) & 2-2 in close games. Their .467 Pythagorean mark suggests they were 0.19 wins better than their eventual 6-7 record. These are small increments but Lady Luck has been ignoring WSU so much over that last few years that the Cougars could have a big year regarding luck. Wazzou returns 8 starters on offense including QB Connor Halliday & will be in Year 3 of Leach’s AIR RAID system. The schedule is nasty but Leach is just a helluva coach so you’d have to expect Washington St. to win some games they shouldn’t. Luck should be on their side in 2014.
#11 The Buffs weren’t exactly tearing it up in the Big XII but they’ve been abysmal in the Pac 12 (4-23 in conference)! You never want to say you are what you are when you are a 4-8 squad but Colorado fit the bill. They were -3 in TO margin & just 0-1 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .306 says they were actually 0.32 games worse than their final record! All of this adds up to Colorado essentially treading water, but what is interesting is if you look at the last 2 seasons together. Over the last 2 seasons Colorado is -22 in TO margin & 1-4 in close games! Their 2-year Pythagorean is brutal at .209 but it says Colorado was 0.01 wins better than their 2-year record of 5-19. Mike MacIntyre took a 1-12 San Jose St. team in his 1st year to 11-2 in his 3rd. This is his 2nd year in Boulder & he has 16 returning starters back. Luck should regress towards winning for Colorado.
#12 The 2013 season couldn’t have gone worse for new HC Sonny Dykes whose Bears finished 1-11! They were -15 in TO margin but just 1-1 in close games. Their Pythagorean of .201 was terrible but it showed they were 1.41 wins better than their final record would indicate. Cal was the unluckiest team in the Pac 12 according to point differential! All signs point up for California who is also -22 in TO margin over the last 2 seasons. Cal returns 9 starters on offense including QB Jared Goff. Dykes spent a lot of time on Mike Leach’s staff at Texas Tech so expect Cal to be a lot better on offense in Dykes’ 2nd year. The problem for Cal is schedule. They’ll be better but they drew USC, UCLA & Arizona out of the South & have non-conference games against Northwestern & BYU! I see 2 wins on the schedule so improvement & luck shining on them could push them to 3-4 wins. Maybe.

PYTHAGOREAN WINNING PERCENTAGE

Oregon: .832
Stanford: .743
Washington: .734
UCLA: .718
Arizona St.: .690
USC: .662
Arizona: .656
Oregon St.: .551
Utah: .520
Washington St.: .476
Colorado: .306
California: .201

LUCK

USC: +0.73
UCLA: +0.67
Stanford: +0.60
Arizona St.: +0.35
Colorado: +0.32
Oregon: +0.19
Oregon St.: -0.16
Washington St.: -0.19
Arizona: -0.53
Washington: -0.54
Utah: -1.24
Washington: -1.41

TURNOVER MARGIN

Arizona St.: +15
Oregon: +11
UCLA: +10
Washington: +7
USC: +5
Arizona: +4
Oregon St.: +3
Stanford: 0
Colorado: -3
Washington St.: -5
Utah: -9
California: -15

RECORD IN GAMES DECIDED BY 7 POINTS OR FEWER

Arizona St.: 3-1
UCLA: 2-1
USC: 3-2
Utah: 4-3
Stanford: 3-3
Oregon St.: 2-2
Washington St.: 2-2
California: 1-1
Oregon: 1-1
Arizona: 1-3
Colorado: 0-1
Washington: 0-1

July 13, 2014 Posted by | Analytics, Arizona, Arizona St., California, Colorado, Oregon, Oregon St., Pac 12, Predictions, Previews, Stanford, Statistics, UCLA, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington St. | Leave a comment