Raju did a great job breaking down the North. I am not going to pick differently than he does to be different or drum up controversy, but our reasoning on the North is a bit different.
Why: Because I am tired of not. IF there is a year for them to fall it is 2015. I am not really sold on them anywhere but running back, and to be honest, losing two NFL draft picks on their line doesn’t scream “Ground & Pound”. Unfortunately, someone has to knock them off and the rest of the North is not awesome, so as is usual, the ducks will do better than they should because, well, even when they are down, It seems to be at the right time.
Why they slide: in 2013, on OK OSU team went into “The Landfill” and were scoring too fast away from breaking the streak. What was the difference? The defense couldn’t stop the run and Marcus Mariotta was not even close to top health. Yet Marcus was still better injured than anyone they had on their team. People just want to say teams reload, but as we have seen in the Post-Quizz backfields at OSU, some losses are harder to overcome than others.
Why they finish higher: Like Raju, I am buying on Cal. They have almost their whole offense and defense back, have a solid if not exceptional QB and probably the best receivers in the conference. They also have an underrated running game with a decent offensive line. Sonny Dykes can score points and if their defense improves at all, they should have no problem winning at least three games in the north. They threw a scare into the ducks last year and with the losses on defense, they may do more than scare them.
Why they slide: This was a bad defense, so hoping it improves is like saying there is no where to go but up. While Goff is a good passer and a great QB, to be honest, there are a few tough guy coaches in this conference and Cal is not what i would consider a tough team. They are going to struggle against aggressive defenses like Stanford and Oregon State (yes, I am calling it) as well as dealing with coming out on top of shoot outs with the ducks and WSU.
3. Oregon State
Why they finish higher: Physically, this Beaver Team will match up well with everyone (thank you Coach Simon and hard working players). While they have huge losses on defense, they also return eight players with starting experience. On offense, they are the second most experienced team coming in and even with questions at QB, all the new signal caller has to do is get the ball to a ton of play-makers and the Beavers should be able to move the ball well. Like the ducks, OSU will also benefit from the downward trajectory of the rest of the North.
Why they slide: Everything is new. While I have a North Title on my hope chest, I have no idea what anything will look like. We will be athletic at QB, run a spread formation at times and play 3-4 defense. Other than that I know nothing so there is a chance they could be way worse than my hope chest version of the Beavs.
Why they finish higher: Part of me has never liked Coach Shaw. Not the person, just the coach. They have a pedestrian offense and have lived for four years off a defense manufactured by Harbaugh and supplemented by an amazing 2012 recruiting class. That being said, the quality of athlete they have is higher than most of their opponents and Shaw is not dumb. They are still going to be a nightmare for the ducks and WSU if those teams cannot stop their run game. II could see their overall record hover around .500 but their North record be higher.
Why they slide: Who is scary on this team? Montgomery is gone, their running backs are a bunch of solid but not spectacular players, they lost Peat on the line and have huge losses on defense. This could be a tough year for the Cardinal, but even at a tough year I don’t think they slide more than 4th. They are just to talented.
5. Washington State
Why they finish higher: Who knows? They have a goofy offense that scores on a lot of people, but they are having a QB battle with two players that are just not able to burn teams deep. They lost four receivers, two of which were all conference and one was a Biletnikoff finalist. I can’t see them finishing higher than this, unless a team above is just terrible.
Why they slide: I agree with Raju about Halliday. He is very underrated in terms of what he brought. They are going to have a more mobile QB now, but they are going to have to dink and dunk their way to more wins. Connor’s big arm led to a crazy win over Utah and made it close against the ducks. Oh and their defense was a dumpster fire last year and they lost their only semblance of a pass rush.
Why they finish higher: Peterson. That is the only way. If they win 4 games this year that will be amazing. If they go to any bowl, Peterson should be National Coach of the Year. They replace so much and not just bodies. 3 first round picks on defense, 1 second round pick on defense, 4 of their offensive linemen, John-Freaking-Ross who might have been the most explosive player in the conference this year. They lose their QB, all their linebackers, all their defensive linemen and most of their secondary.
There is literally nothing to like here, so unless they had just amazing sitting on the bench last year this will be a tough year for the men in purple.
How do you stack the Pac-12 North teams this season?