Wednesday, August 3, 2016

College Football Preview: The Pacific Athletic Conference 12.

The biggest news to come out of Palo Alto, CA this year was that the outstanding late-night (on the East Coast and in Middle America) football known as PAC-12 After Dark will be greatly diminished this year, and in the coming years.

And that's too bad.  Because staying up until Midnight or 1AM on Saturday's during the college football season is only worth it if you have meaningful, entertaining games to play.  And the 7PM Pacific Time Zone kick offs were exactly that.  Still, it's understandable why the Conference would go away from this, both in terms of television dollars, and national exposure for their member schools.

Still.

This year I think the PAC-12 makes it's return to the CFP, after taking last year off, and we also see the return of a big name to National prominence.

The predictions:

North W L
Washington 10 2
Oregon 7 5
Stanford 7 5
Washington State 7 5
California 3 9
Oregon State 1 11


South W L
UCLA 12 0
USC 10 2
Utah 9 3
Arizona 8 4
Colorado 5 7
Arizona State 3 9


Conference Championship:
UCLA over Washington
Bowl Teams: 8 (Not including 5-7 team bids)
CFP: UCLA
Big 6: USC
CFP 2: None
Others: Washington
Oregon
Stanford
Washington State
Utah
Arizona
Most Underrated: Utah
Most Overrated: Stanford
Coaches on Hot Seat: Arizona State
Oregon State
Colorado
Washington State
The Teams:

1. UCLA: I know what you're thinking. 'Here he goes again picking the Bruins to make a run'. And you're correct. Last year I picked the Bruins to win the conference and I think that pick was a year away. Wile Miles Jack might be gone, QB Josh Rosen is probably the best signal caller in the Nation and he has a host of talented skill players to distribute the ball.  Defensively this team is packed with experience, and talent. While they don't have the monster that is Jack they do have Sr's and Jr's loaded at every position and head coach Jim Mora Jr. seems to understand what it is his team does well. The good thing is we'll know a lot about this team after week one when they face the Aggies of Texas A&M, who ended the myth of Arizona State last year. Another plus: They get Stanford and USC at home.

2. USC: The Trojans are the sexy pick to win it all in the Pac-12 this year by the pundits.  But I think they have it against them due to scheduling, and I have questions about HC Clay Helton's ability to win at the highest levels. The Trojans are loaded on offense but they don't have a single Sr starting on defense and I think that unit might struggle against the top teams. I think the twin hurdles of  UCLA at home, and Alabama prove too tough for this team this year. Still, they make it back to the Rose Bowl and a possible dream match-up that I'll discuss in a future post.

3. Washington: Former Boise State head coach Chris Peterson is entering his 3rd year and we are finally starting to see his first full recruiting class get some meaningful playing time. The only problem for the Huskies is that expectations are sky-high and this is a team that doesn't have the best track record of living up to those. Pettis, Lenius and Ross might be the best starting WR group in the conference. Possibly the entire country.  On defense I expect the Huskies to be quick to the ball and attacking. Regardless of whether they live up to my expectations, this will be a fun team to watch this year.

4. Utah: Head Coach Kyle Wittingham has looked to transfers to restock what was a depleted roster. He's brought in some good talent but time will tell if they can gel or no. I like QB Brandon Cox but will he be on the same page as Transfer WR's Cory Butler-Byrd and Tim Patrick?  Running back Joseph Williams fills some huge shoes, is he up to it?  On defense the Utes are a mix of experience and youth, but they have depth problems, especially on the left side of the o-line. Injuries to the wrong players could derail them pretty quickly.

5. Arizona: When healthy, Wildcat's QB Anu Solomon is a great fit into HC Rich Rodriguez' system. He has talent to distribute the ball to and an O-line that should be much improved from last year. To my mind, the Wildcat's questions lie on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Rodriguez is going to rely on a youth movement, and Sr transfers to try and plug some huge gaps. They need to find another CB to man the opposite side of De'Vonte Neal and replacing the defensive presence of Scooby Wright is gong to be almost impossible.

6. Oregon: Are the Ducks a program in decline?  My initial thought is yes but I think they still have enough talent to make it to a bowl. To move any higher they're going to need to pull some upsets, but they do have a favorable schedule so they get some big games at Autzen. The problem for the Ducks is that they're relying (again) on a Sr transfer QB who's going to have to learn the system quickly. WR Carrington is a stud, but he's also an off-the-field risk. Can he stay out of trouble?  Ducks fans had better hope so or it's going to be a LONG year.

7. Stanford: The bad news for Stanford HC David Shaw is that this is a rebuilding year. The good news is there's still talent on the field and young talent on the bench, which is an improvement from the old days of the Stanford program. QB Keller Chryst has 'great QB' written all over him but so far has been a mix of "could have been" and untapped potential. For Stanford to have a chance he's going to need to take the next step. Defensively I think Stanford will be weak, for them, but still OK in terms of overall PAC-12 defenses. The problem, as I see it, for Stanford is schedule. They play USC, UCLA, Washington, Washington State and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. Brutal.

8. Washington State: Was last year the beginning of the Mike Leach slow-build toward excellence? Or was it an aberration brought on by good scheduling and a team that finally brought it all together? I think some of both. I don't think the Cougars are going to sneak up on anyone this year, nor do I think they are going to lay an egg like they did in week one against Portland State. That said the check-scratchers are losing patience with Leach (and his pirate ways) and I'm unsure whether or not 7-5 is going to be enough to save him.

9. Colorado: First, the good news: the Buffalo are getting better. Now, the bad news: They still have a long way to go. HC Mike MacIntyre is trying, but the cupboard is barren after the Hawkins/Embree disasters and I'm unsure whether or not he's going to be able to fully turn it around. This is year four of the MacIntyre era and I'm not sure another non-bowl season is going to get the job done. Still, he'll be leaving the program in much better shape than he inherited it so that counts for something.

10. California: Life without Jared Goff is going to be a problem. I say this considering that life WITH him was closer to average for the Bears than spectacular.  This team is going to be exposed as bereft of talent and will struggle to compete against a conference that's got all of it's traditional power names back at the top again. I don't think the Bears SHOULD fire coach Sonny Dykes after this year, but I'm not sure they won't either.

11. Arizona State: Maybe now we know why Coach Todd Graham didn't stay for long at his previous stops? Last year this team stumbled out of the blocks against an average Texas A&M squad and never really got it going. This year they start off easier, but I don't think they have the fire-power or the talent to compete in the PAC-12.  Graham has made a career winning off of other coaches recruits, what we haven't seen yet is if he can win with his. Much like Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin I'm starting to really doubt it.  I also think 3-9 puts him squarely on the hottest of seats.

12. Oregon State: Head Coach Gary Anderson could be 2 and done. After finishing the season 2-10 (and 0-9 in conference) last year I only have them winning one game (against Idaho State) this year. There is no talent to speak of one this team that would suggest anything better is in the offering. They have a Jr transfer QB in Daryl Garretson that they are hoping can make the engine run, but they are under-talented at every other offensive position. On defense they are desperately searching for depth behind a line that doesn't generate all that much pressure, an LB corps that's slow, and a defensive backfield that can't cover, tackle or work together all that well. Plus: The Beaver's are hated by Nike, who gives them some of the ugliest uniforms in College Football.  It's going to be a long Fall in Corvallis.

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