Tag Archives: pac-12 football

Reactions, And Reactions To Overreactions

The week following the first full weekend of football season is the single week of the year, never mind the season, when the most over-reactions occur. We finally have something tangible to react to, but we don’t have much context to judge opening weekend results against. Its why week 2 is when we really begin to learn about where teams stand, as we begin to find out which teams lacking in recent success, preseason hype, or historical prestige are going to have a better season than many expected, and which ones who have had recent success or some history that got hype were in fact over-hyped.

At the same time, its not as simple as who won and who lost; are surprisingly close games more about problems with the winner, or the losing team being better than expected, even if they weren’t good enough to get the W. And then there is always the question of whether what we saw with any team is indicative of things to come, or was it the anomaly that every team experiences at some point during the season.

The Pac-12 went 11-0 for the weekend, but 5 of those games were wins over Big Sky FCS opponents. BTW, there are 3 more of these games still to come in the conference. Good news for sure, but only 2 wins, by UCLA over Texas A&M and California at North Carolina were surprises. The latter, a big surprise, and the former, a big surprise in how it unfolded.

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Perilously Picking The Pac

Picking the Pac-12, and the Pac-10 & 8 before that, has long been a perilous proposition, as evidenced by the fact that the assembled opinion of those of us in the media that cover the conference has only gotten the Champion right twice in the last decade, and only around half the time in over a half century.

Last year was even worse than usual, as almost no one correctly picked the winner of either division, making picking the conference champion impossible by implication.

My predictions were as bad as anyones, getting only 3 of 12 spots right. Even picking the North to win the Conference Championship game loses some gloss when one considers that since its inception, the North division winner has claimed every Pac-12 title.

Colorado’s historic last to first turnaround to take the South had a lot to do with the miscalculations for everyone, though I did correctly have USC & Utah in 2nd & 3rd.

And everyone expected Washington to make a big surge, but the Huskies were ahead of schedule in winning both the North and the Conference on their way to the National Championship playoffs. Which has supplanted the Rose Bowl as the ultimate objective of everyone in the conference.

Coupled with Oregon’s epic collapse, it really scrambled the North. If you could have guaranteed a year ago that only 1 of 6 of my picks in the North would be correct, I suspect neither you nor I would have named Cal as the one that matched expectations most closely!

I do take some redemption in noting that last year would be more about unanswered questions than things we knew, and surprises were not in short supply at any time during the season.

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Oregon State Signing Day Observations

Today was National Letter of Intent day for football, and Oregon State had some successes and some disappointments, which was about as expected.

Most of the expected/hoped for signees had their electronic signatures on file early in the day, which made the day a bit anti-climatic, compared to some recent years, when there were occasionally an out-of-the-blue late addition. That indicated Coach Gary Andersen had the class pretty buttoned up in advance, with adjustments in place for the 9 de-commits Oregon State had.

That 5 of the commits are already in school helps too.

“We got in a whole bunch of big-boy fights for recruits,” Andersen said. “We didn’t win them all, but we won our fair share, which was great to see.”

The lack of surprises also lent itself to the highly orchestrated series of short av clips released over the course of the day that represents how signing day was handled. Gone are the days of allowing investors and interested parties into the festivities, lest someone ask an inconvenient question. Even press participation was by invitation, not application, not that there’s a big push, what with more notable signing day lists forming up and down the freeway from here.

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Pac-12 Postseason Perspective

With the Beavers out of the post-season picture for the third year in a row (the last 2, by Veterans’ day, never mind Thanksgiving), and 5th time in 7 years, Oregon State fans (and reporters) are again in the position of being third party observers to this weekend’s championship games, and the next month’s bowl fun.

Especially with a men’s basketball team headed for a long and likely less than exciting season, a result of youth, injuries (getting Stevie Thompson back helped, but that didn’t happen until after Tres Tinkle’s hand injury), and being a turnover machine (Oregon State is one of the worst in the country when it comes to taking care of the ball), and a women’s team that’s playing off the continent, never mind off the radar, right now.

At least the Ducks are done for the football season too, though March Madness will be in their future.

Some Oregon State fans, and some of the local media, will largely look the other way rather than at the Pac-12 in the post-season, but that deprives them of some of the most interesting football of the year. That also means missing out on what it means for the Beavers down the road, which will be notable on a number of levels.

But first, lets review what’s happened, and take a look at some of the reasons why.

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OOC Spotlight: Arizona State

This summer, I wanted to review some of the top out-of-conference games in the Pac-12 and what they mean for the involved teams. I am not looking at necessarily the biggest opponent games, but more the ones that will could show what a team’s trajectory might be.

Arizona State (6-7 in 2015):

vs Texas Tech Red Raiders
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
Saturday, Sep. 10

Opponent at a Glance:
Big 12 Conference
7-6 in 2015 (ADVOCARE V100 TEXAS BOWL)

Strengths:
When you talk Texas Tech, their strength is obvious. They are going to throw a ton and put up points.  The Red Raiders posted over 50 points 6 times last year, and over 60 three times.  Their lowest output was 26 points and they only scored under 35 points 4 times.  Back is dynamic dual threat QB Patrick Mahomes and not much else.  Texas Tech will be rebuilding at running back, offensive line and replacing their best receiver.  Still, Kliff Kingsbury is the Janis from Accounting of coaches and just doesn’t give a crap. He will throw it. A lot. And they will score points.  Graham is known as a defensive guru, calling the defense himself.  As we have seen sometimes (maybe when he is successful at stealing signs) the Satans will befuddle and stymie offenses.  Other times, they will gamble and lose, constantly.  If the game they had last year against the miserable school from Eugene, is any indication, a high octane passing attack is not their forte.

Weakness:
Where do I start?  They are rebuilding a the secondary and defensive line of a miserable defense. The Red Raiders are not going to stop anyone any time soon. Remember those 50+ point games I talked about in strengths? Two of those were losses (a 55-52 laugh fest against TCU and 70-53 apparent basketball game against Oklahoma State).  Arizona State should score.  A lot.  In one of their games last year (a 63-35 loss against Baylor) they gave up an average of 10 yards per play.  PER PLAY!  Arizona State may score every single time they have the ball.  But so might the Under Armor ruined Red Raiders.  This game could literally be decided by the coin toss.

What this game means for the rest of the season?
ASU always gets a lot of press coming into the season. With a new QB and a new OC and a bunch of changes to their team, I am suspect that they will improve much on the previous year. I also don’t like Todd Graham and think his defense is goofy and borderline dirty.  I am also always wrong about him.  The thing with Graham is he is a no BS type coach, which is great when you win.  His schtick will get old in losses much the way Mike Stoops did across the state at UA.  If ASU beats Texas Tech, a decent, Power 5 conference team, then I think they can definitely make some waves and be a bowl team.

If they lose this game, I worry about them.  When you are that reckless on defense, the league starts to get to know you and how you operate.  I think a loss to Texas Tech and a reasonably tough conference schedule could keep them out of bowl contention. if that happens, they will not probably retain Graham next year either by choice or by his own decision.

The Texas Tech game won’t cost anyone their job, but it is a bad indicator as to where they will be as the season progresses I am not sure they will get better. To me, this is a rubber meets the road year for this ASU staff.

Also, this:

asugrads

Burning Questions: Pac-12 Edition

Pac-12 play is set to kick off this Thursday when Utah hosts Michigan (Quite the start, huh?). We thought we’d take a look around the conference and ask the tough questions facing each team, including the Beavers. We offer no answers, because sometimes it’s better to ponder, and other times, the question answers itself…

Arizona. Will they be able to capitalize on last season, which saw them make the Pac-12 championship? Will there be any hangover from their crushing defeat at the hands of Oregon in that game? How much progress will Anu Soloman make this season?

Arizona State. What will the drop off be from Taylor Kelly to Mike Bercovici, if any? Can DJ Foster make the same impact at WR as he did at RB? Will the Sun Devils avoid silly losses such as the UCLA and OSU games last season?

Calfornia. Can the Golden Bears be the surprise team in the North? What will Jared Goff do for an encore after a stellar sophomore season as one of the top passers in the nation? Has its defensive improved enough to elevate them to contender status.

Colorado. Has the defense improved much (if any) from last season? Who will step up to take pressure off standout WR Nelson Spruce? Can any of their running backs emerge from the pack and be “the man”?

Oregon. Can Vernon Adams excel week in and out against Pac-12 defenses. Can the Ducks defense withstand the loss of so many starters, including three-fourths of its secondary? What happens if Royce Freeman gets hurt?

Oregon State. Can any of its QBs complete enough passes to move the chains consistently? Will the Beavers talented group of receivers get enough touches to be able to make an impact this season? Can the Beavers, especially along both lines, stay healthy?   

Stanford. Is this the year Kevin Hogan puts it all together and elevates him game from solid to elite? Who will replace the departed Ty Montgomery as Stanford’s playmaker on offense. Will Stanford’s defense still be strong after losing six starters to graduation and the draft?

UCLA. Is true freshman Josh Rosen ready to handle Pac-12 defenses and the bright lights of Hollywood? Will the Bruins’ defense live up to the hype as arguably the conference’s best? Can UCLA shed its “soft” label and play with the toughness that Jim Mora portrays?

USC. Not if, but when will Steve Sarkisian lead his team into a tailspin? Can Juju Smith fill the void left by Nelson Agholor at wide receiver? Will the Trojans handle the pressure that comes with being the favorite to win the Pac-12 conference and potentially contend for the NC?

Utah. Will Utah survive a brutal slate of early Pac-12 games (Oregon, Cal, ASU, and USC.)? Can Travis Wilson stay healthy for a fun season? What will the Utah defense look like after losing highly regarded DC Kalani Sitake during the offseason?

Washington. Will Washington be the worst team in the Pac-12? Who will emerge as their quarterback by the middle of the season? What is the morale of the team like in wake of losing Cyler Miles and John Ross, two of its top offensive players?

Washington State. Can a WSU running back gain 500 yards rushing this year? Who will it be at QB for the Cougars, Luke Falk or Peyton Bender? How will new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch fare?

 

Predicting the Pac-12 North: Peter’s View

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.

1. Oregon
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.

2. California
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.

4. Stanford
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.

6. Washington
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?

Makeup of the Pac-12 North: Washington Huskies

The second installment of my Pac-12 North Makeup series focuses on one of our more-hated Northwest rivals, the Washington Huskies. Some of you might know that I spent some time in the Seattle area (notice my use of a familiar jail stay term to describe my time in Tacoma) and having been around Husky fans, as well as watching the slimy Steve Sarkesian era, I have built a more than healthy distaste for the men in purple.

So imagine my delight, that after two straight years of beating the absolute pants off the Beavers, I get to predict what could be their worst season since the Jake Locker era. Below is a list of who they are replacing and who remains — as well as a hint at my prediction for them.

University of Washington Huskies:
What they lost:
I am trying to be brief in these sections for this series on the Pac-12 North, but honestly, this list is so long. Here we go:

Offensively, they lose every offensive lineman except LG Charles Dexter (who is a senior). They lose DiAndre Campbell at wide receiver as well.

Defensively, they lost seven starters, including all of their defensive line, all of their linebackers, and Marcus Peters, one of their best corners who had off the field issues last year (He was dismissed from the team). It is not just that they lost their front seven, but that they lost four players that went in the fist two rounds of the NFL draft last month. Danny Shelton,  Shaq Thompson, and Peters went in the first round, while Hau’oli Kikaha went in the second. So these are not your typical losses, these were exceptional players. Thompson might have been the best athlete in the conference last year.

What they have coming back:

With the status of QB Cyler Myles up in the air (didn’t participate in spring practices), the Huskies have one of shakiest QB situations in the Pac-12 North. That being said, any team that has a receiver like John Ross can score on any play at any time. The question is if they are going to be able to get him the ball at all, after replacing so much off their line.

Defensively, when you’re playing WSU, Cal, the ducks, Stanford, and the Beavers, I am not sure they match up well against anyone. Of course game changers like Budda Baker are always dangerous, and their recruiting has been solid for a few years, so the well is not empty at all in terms of talent.

Potential Strength:
Their secondary, minus Peters, is a pretty impressive group. Led by Baker, they have a lot of great players and play physical all the time. While they may have to cover a lot longer than they are used to, there is a lot of talent to work with.

Potential Weakness:
The trenches. While new players doesn’t always mean terrible performances, it does mean a lot of unknowns. So for now, it will be a mystery how UW’s front seven handles stout offensive lines like Stanford’s (who may not have lost much in an under-performing Andrus Peat). Boise State’s and USC’s. Heck, the Beavers return a lot of talented pieces on their offensive line that could be very difficult for the Huskies. Then you factor in how their linebackers are going to perform against confusing offenses such as the ducks, Cal, WSU and OSU?

Flip that to the offensive line and they are going to be going against defensive lines such as ASU, USC, Stanford, Utah — and I will throw in Boise State again. There is a lot of difficult matchups for the Huskies this year and with a two tough out of conference games (at BSU and at home against Utah State), and then a road schedule of USC, ASU, OSU, and Stanford, there are some difficult times ahead for the Huskies.

Way Too Early Prognostication:
Historically, you don’t make a lot of money betting against Chris Peterson-coached teams. That being said, I think he way underperformed last year with a pretty stellar, experienced team. Peterson has been wildly successful in the past, but he has never had to grind like he does now. Just ask Utah what the jump is like.

With all the losses the Huskies have in terms of experience and talent, it is going to take a very good coaching job by Peterson to get this team to a bowl game. If they do, he should be coach of the year. I can easily see them rolling into Reser Stadium on November 21 with three or less wins. Utah State will not be a gimmie, and Cal is one of my rising teams. Outside of those teams, UW has to beat (road games bold) USC, the ducks, Stanford, Arizona, Utah, and ASU before coming to Reser. That leaves only Utah State and Sacramento State as games I think they should win — and then there’s a whole slew of questions.

Because of the combo of their schedule and losses from last year, I have the Huskies near the bottom of the North this year. And by near, I mean at the bottom.

The 2014 Pac-12 Season — From a Fantasy Perspective

My buddies and I have played Pac-10/12 fantasy football for some time. We hold our draft during an annual camping trip. This past Saturday was our 2014 draft, and I wanted to quickly share some of the draft results — as another way to add to the excitement about the upcoming season. (I had the 6th pick in draft with five other teams. The picks snaked back around, meaning that I got the first pick of the second round and so on.) 

My probable starting lineup: 

  • QB: Connor Halliday, OB, WSU (Round 1): Halliday put up video game numbers last season in Mike Leach’s pass-happy offense. As long as he stays healthy, there’s no reason he can’t  duplicate or exceed those numbers this year,
  • RB: Thomas Tyner, RB, UO (Round 2): Both Tyner and Byron Marshall will receive plenty of carries this season. And while Marshall might be the No. 1 back and more establish, Tyner has more big-play ability. He’s a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
  • WR: Chris Harper, CAL (Round 3): Had Harper last season as well, and he was extremely productive. Gets both yards and TDs. With QB Jared Goff a year older, Harper could get even more opportunities this season. Will be competing with a lot of talented Cal WRs, though.
  • WR: Gabe Marks, WSU (Round 4): Marks is proven, and arguably Halliday’s favorite target. He should build on last season’s breakout performance. Like Harper, though, he might fall victim to a deep, talented WR corps at times this season.
  • TE: Caleb Smith, OSU (Round 7): Connor Hamlett is OSU’s No. 1 TE, no doubt. But Smith figures to get plenty of balls thrown his way due to his speed and athleticism.  He needs to cut down on penalties, but as long he stays healthy, he should have a big season.
  • RB/WR/TE: RB Tre Madden, USC (Round 6) or RB Barry Sanders Jr., STAN (Round 13): Madden will start the season as USC’s No. 2, but is proven. Sanders is still battling to be No. 1 for Cardinal. Either way, he should get carries as Stanford loves smashmouth football.
  • K: Trevor Romaine, OSU (Round 11): Had Romaine last season and he was a disappointment. But his strong leg and excellent sophomore season give me reason to believe he can rebound big this year and cap off his OSU career in style.
  • DEF: USC (Round 5): I took the first defense in our draft, and hopefully the strongest (Besides, OSU… Duh). USC is always loaded with athletes, and DC Justin WIlcox will waste no time utilizing that talent to create a formidable defense this season in Trojan Land.

My Other OSU Picks:

  • WR Victor Bolden (Round 10): Hard to believe the guy slotted to be OSU’s top WR lasted this long. With that in mind, he has to be my “Steal of the Draft.” He won’t put up Cooks numbers most likely. But 800 and 7 isn’t out of the question.
  • RB Ryan Nall (Round 22): Nall was my final pick. There’s a chance he redshirts and doesn’t play at all. Or he plays, but only on special teams. Then again, if OSU struggles to run the ball, maybe he gets thrown into the fire because of his bruising style.

And in case if you are wondering about where some other top OSU players were drafted:

  • QB Sean Mannion: Round 1 (Pick 5. Marcus Mariota, Marshall, Brett Hundley, and Taylor Kelly were taken ahead of Mannion.)
  • RB: Storm Woods: Round 6
  • RB: Terron Ward: Round 5
  • RB: Chris Brown: Round 16
  • WR: Richard Mullaney: Round 4
  • WR: Malik Gilmore: Round 15
  • Conner Hamlett: Round 4
  • TE: Kellen Clute: 15
  • Defense: Round 9

What do you think? Which Beavers got drafted too high or low?