College Football is right around the corner and I will look to continue my College Previews with a look at North Division of the PAC-12 Conference. Here are the current Odds (Courtesy of BetOnline) for teams to win the North Division this year. Oregon (-250); California (+450); Washington (+500); Stanford (+950); Oregon State (+950); Washington State(+1200). Below is how I see this division stacking up this year.
Oregon: The Ducks had a special year last year as they went 12-2 overall, beat UCLA in the PAC-12 title game and then beat Wisconsin in their bowl game, but they have lost a lot from last year’s teams, especially on offense. Oregon lost QB Darren Thomas and RB LaMichael James, but in comes QB Marcus Mariota and RB De’Anthony Thomas. Mariota is a magnificent athlete with better touch as a passer than Darron Thomas. De’Anthony Thomas isn’t going to start, but he will have an increased role in the offense after averaging 10.8 yards per carry and scoring 7 TD as a freshman. The running game will also have the luxury of running behind one of the best OL in the nation. The Ducks get back seven defensive starters, including S John Boyett (108 tackles) and DE Dion Jordan (7.5 sacks). Overall this unit ranks 2nd in the PAC-12 and will most assuredly allow better than the 24.6 ppg they allowed last year. The Ducks have a very good team and they get Stanford at home, which should help them win the North division of the PAC-12 for the second year in a row.
Washington: I really like this Washington squad this year as they may be one of the most improved teams in the country. Keith Price (3,063 pass yds, 33 TD, 11 INT) returns at QB after a brilliant year in 2011, along with a solid group of young WR’s. The running game could be an issue, however, as Washington lost RB Chris Polk to the NFL and has a very banged up offensive Line, but I still expect at least the same 33 ppg they put up last year. Highly regarded Justin Wilcox, formerly the defensive coordinator for Boise State and Tennessee, takes over as DC and gets back seven starters. The secondary is going to be stronger than in 2011, but they have a long way to go to erase last year’s debacle (285 pass YPG allowed, 5th-worst in nation). Overall I do expect them to at least chop off a TD from last year’s 35.9 ppg they allowed. Sarkisian has done a great job, taking an 0-12 team before he got here, to a team that has gone to BB bowl games and a 19-19 record the last 3 years. This is his best team yet, and I while the schedule may be a bit tough, I look for the improvements to continue and for the Huskies to have their best year yet under Sarkisian..
California: The Cal Bears have really under achieved of late as they are just 21-24 in conference play the last 5 years but they may be in store for a very good year. Their offense should be solid as they are getting back junior QB Zach Maynard (2,990 pass yds, 17 TD, 12 INT), RB Isi Sofele (1,322 rush yds, 5.2 YPC, 10 TD) and WR Keenan Allen (98 rec, 1,343 yards, 6 TD). This team will be able to put up a lot points, especially considering Maynard has improved during the spring. Cal fans should also be excited about the fact that the team’s strong recent defensive recruiting classes should now start to pay dividends. The Bears held three Pac-12 opponents to 10 points or fewer last season, and they led the conference in total defense (333 total YPG, but duplicating that feat may be hard. Cal fans should also be excited about the fact that the team’s strong recent defensive recruiting classes should now start to pay dividends. The Bears do have 5 conference home games and are solid on both sides of the ball, so I look for them to be in a tight battle with Washington for second in the North Division.
Stanford: Life without Andrew Luck begins for the Cardinal and that should mean a drop in offensive productivity. Stanford will need to choose between Brett Nottingham and Josh Nunes for the starting job, and neither will be asked to do too much, plus whoever wins the job will have an inexperienced WR corps to throw to. RB Stepfan Taylor (1,330 rush yds, 10 TD) will be featured heavily in an offense with a good offensive line and a great playbook. Taylor carried the football 35 times in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State, racking up 177 yards and two touchdowns. Because the Offense won’t be as explosive as the last few year, this team will have to rely even more on the ir defense and they do have a good one. The Cardinal has one of the best front sevens in college football, and their physicality in the trenches will make them tough to move the ball against, especially on the ground, where they ranked third in the nation with 84 rush YPG allowed. Stanford is still a very good team, but the offense will not be as good as last year and while the defense is solid, I do see a drop in the standings by the Cardinal this year.
Oregon State: The Beavers had a rough 3-9 last year, but they should be a much better team this year. The Beavers return seven offensive starters as well as eight defensive starters. QB Sean Mannion threw for 3,328 yards last year, but also threw more interceptions (18) than he did touchdowns (16), and that will have to change. Coach Mike Riley has already stated that this team will be more committed to the running game, which will consist of numerous running backs. This team also has a good receiving corps with senior WR Markus Wheaton (73 catches, 986 yards, 1 TD) leading the pack. The defense returns 9 of their top 11 tacklers from last year and should be much improved from over a unit that allowed 30.8 PPG and 411 total YPG. The Beavers have solid linebackers and defensive backs returning, but the line is an issue. The Beavers should also be a healthier team after losing 54 starts to injury last year, plus that has added to their depth as they bring back 52 lettermen overall. This will be a much improved team and with 5 conference home games and if their offense improves then this team has a chance to move even higher. This could be a team to watch this year.
Washington State: The Mike Leach Era is underway at Washington State, and his first important move as head coach will be naming QB Jeff Tuel the starter. Tuel, who was limited to just two games after breaking his collarbone, made a very strong first impression this spring and should be ready to break out in 2012. The Cougars get back leading rusher Rickey Galvin (602 rush yds, 5 TD) as well as stud WR Marquess Wilson (1,388 rec yds, 12 TD), but the OL is rated as one of the worse in the PAC 12. Stil this could be a very potent offense. Leach has stirred things on defense from last year and the changes should benefit an aggressive group of linebackers, featuring LB Travis Long (4 Sacks), who loves to get after the quarterback. Still this group allowed 31.8 ppg and 410 ypg and are rated in the bottom 3 of the PAC 12. The Cougars will score points, but the defense will keep them in the basement of the North Division.
Overall I expect the USC Trojans to meet up with the Oregon Ducks in the 2012 PAC-12 Title game, with USC coming out on top. Here are the current overall Odds to win the PAC-12 Title this year (Courtesy of BetOnline). USC (-220)... Oregon (+200)... Washington (+1000)... California (+1500)... Stanford (+2000)... Arizona (+3000)... Utah (+3200)... Arizona State (+4000)... UCLA (+4000)... Washington State (+4000).... Oregon State (+5500)... Colorado (+8000).
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Also check out these threads at Pregame--- Dave Essler's Week 1 CFB Thoughts... Mike Hook getting ready for CFB... Tony George's Big 12 Preview.
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