In 2009, I went through all the major BCS conferences and created some semi-amusing, totally off-base and (eventually) inaccurate predictions and bowl projections for the upcoming college football season. In 2010, I was working nonstop throughout the summer without a break and never had the chance to put together some predictions. So now that I have some free time on my hands, it’s time to do some predictions – here’s the Pac-12. I took about two weeks off since I was prepping for a few job interviews, and I woke up absurdly early this morning, so I figured I’d make up the time by putting up my Pac-12 predictions.
Of all the the new-look leagues entering the 2011 season, I’m most intrigued by the Pac-12. While Utah and Colorado might not do much in terms of added competition for this season, I think the league’s addition of a championship game and divisional play will keep people interested in the league throughout the year, instead of having to follow the round-robin style the Pac-10 used in the past. I think it became tough for fans in central and eastern time zones to follow the teams on the west coast when it didn’t seem like the Pac-12′s regular season was very interesting. The addition of a championship game, even though it’s the “best team’s” campus, should help bring additional exposure and interest for the league.
1) Stanford 10-2 (8-1) – I have Stanford dropping their road game at Oregon State and home against Notre Dame. QB Andrew Luck will easily be a beast this year but with a new head coach and changed coordinator roles I’m uncertain about how likely they are to repeat last season’s success. I think they’re the best shot to win the Pac-12, especially since they face division “rival” Oregon in Stanford, but the aforementioned losses will keep them out of the BCS title chase.I would imagine the Cardinal will head to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl to play Wisconsin.
2) Oregon State 9-3 (7-2) – I really like this Oregon State team. I got to see them play last year against TCU and was really impressed with how well they fought against one of the nation’s best teams in the season opener. The Beavers have eight returning starters on offense but need to find a way to replace DT Stephen Paea’s terrifying presence on the defensive line. Regardless, I think OSU should impress this year and overachieve, with conference losses to Arizona State, UCLA, and Stanford. They head to Madison, Wisconsin to play the Badgers in week two, which by all accounts should be a loss. Either way, very nice season, which could end with either the Pac-12′s second bowl slot to the Alamo Bowl or third slot to the Holiday Bowl, both against Big 12 teams.
3) Washington 8-4 (6-3) – The Huskies return 15 combined starters from last year’s Holiday Bowl champion team, and even with the loss of Jake Locker at QB, I think their offense should find a way to be explosive. I loved what RB Chris Polk and WR Jermaine Kearse did last season – combining for 21 touchdowns and more than 1400 yards, so slotting in a new QB should be easy for coach Steve Sarkisian. Washington should win every home game at Husky Stadium but will run into trouble on the road – @ Nebraska, @ Stanford, @ USC, and @ Oregon State will be losses for UW. Regardless, another very solid season for the Huskies. I think they’ll go to El Paso for the Sun Bowl and face an ACC team.
4) Oregon 8-4 (6-3) – Shocking, having the defending Pac-10 champions in fourth place of their division? Sorry, but I have a feeling there will be some major off-field issues headed for Oregon in the coming months. I really don’t care that they’ve got oodles of award winners on the field, the Willie Lyles situation is going to harm Oregon now or in November, hence why I see them finishing 8-4. The Ducks will be 7-1 by week nine, but face a mini-murderers row in November – @ Washington, @ Stanford (ok, not the toughest place to play, but still…), then home vs USC and Oregon State. UO should finish 8-4 and be bowl eligible, but I don’t know if there’ll be postseason sanctions or not depending on how heavy the NCAA comes down on them. If Oregon stays postseason eligible, I see them headed to the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl to face a Mountain West team.
5) California 6-6 (4-5) – This seems like a very boring team capable of making the postseason. Jeff Tedford has been around forever and seems to always bring in good talent but underachieve in the regular season. They draw a pretty brutal schedule – five conference road games, plus a “non-conference/conference” game at Colorado in week two…and of those five true conference road games, I’d imagine four of them would be against ranked opponents. Either way, they’ll sneak their way to a bowl game.I see the Bears headed to the New Mexico bowl with the Pac-12′s last bowl slot, and play a WAC team.
6) Washington State 3-9 (1-8) – The Cougs actually could be decent this year in comparison to the past three seasons under Paul Wulff with 15 returning starters. Wazzu has three seniors on the offensive line and solid experience at QB with Jeff Tuel, so they should manage to score a bit, but their defense was atrocious last season – giving up 35 points in eight games. Another tough year for Wazzu in 2011.
1) Arizona State 9-3 (8-1) – This ASU team could be extremely good in 2011. Their entire offensive line is back, along with almost all their big skill players. QB Brock Osweiler played late in 2010 after Steven Threet was injured, and seemed to impress. I recall during their last game of 2010 against Arizona he looked shaky early on, but quickly got into the zone. He finished the year with almost 800 yards passing and 5 TDs/no interceptions. ASU plays a pretty tough non-conference schedule with bouts at Illinois and home vs Missouri – both of which I think the Sun Devils will lose. If the semi-gangster Dennis Erickson can get a win in one or both of those games, they could be looking at an outside shot at a BCS bowl come the end of the season – and easily win the Pac-12 south title. Their toughest conference game is Oct. 15 at Oregon, but the rest of the way they draw all the tough teams in Tempe.I have them slated for the Alamo Bowl based on selection spot, but if the Alamo Bowl selects Missouri as their Big 12 team before ASU, they may end up in San Diego at the Holiday Bowl instead and see Oregon State go to San Antonio since bowl organizers “don’t like to see teams face each other again”.
2) UCLA 8-4 (6-3) – This will be a strange season for the Bruins – they face Houston and Texas in non-conference bouts, then travel north in consecutive weeks to Oregon State and Stanford. I think UCLA won’t be able to keep up with Houston’s offensive attack, so I have them losing that one, but they should be able to beat Texas with the same formula they used last year – run the ball! I love UCLA’s running tandem of Jonathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman, while QB Kevin Prince is entering his third season. With eight returning starters on defense, the Bruins should manage to finish above .500 in the Pac 12. I see the Bruins heading to the “Fight Hunger” bowl in San Francisco.
3) USC 5-7 (3-6) – I don’t see why people have the Trojans up so high this year. There’s literally nothing for them to play for this year but NFL draft prospects since they can’t go to a bowl game and can’t play for the Pac-12 championship. Hence, I see them going 5-7 in conference with a few decent wins but a few shocking losses – especially to Colorado after a let-down loss at Stanford on Oct. 29.
4) Arizona 5-7 (3-6) – I hate to do this to Mike Stoops because he seems like a good guy, but it looks like with five new offensive linemen their offense will struggle despite Nick Foles entering his third year at Arizona. Defensively, they’ve got too many question marks having to replace 17.5 sacks from 2010. If something can go right and Arizona catches a break, they’ll easily make a bowl game, but I don’t see it happening.
5) Colorado 4-8 (2-6) – I think a lot of people were bummed to see Colorado leave the Big 12 – including some boosters and alumni I spoke with in Kansas City at the Big 12 Basketball Championship this year – but ultimately it really is a nice fit for CU to have access to their recruiting/alumni base in California and other western vestiges. CU looked a lot better last year, dropping three Big 12 games by a combined margin of just 16 points. QB Tyler Hansen and RB Rodney Stewart made a very effective tandem last year, while almost all the other key players from 2010 are back too, minus 1st-round offensive line draft pick Nate Solder. Their defense was atrocious last year and I don’t see it being much better this year. CU will have a few nice wins, in particular, USC in Boulder, but that’ll be it.
6) Utah 2-10 (1-8) – The Utes lose their top two rushers from 2010 along with most of their skill position players, so I’m not convinced their offense, which struggled at times last year, can compete in the Pac 12. Utah has a pretty brutal schedule with games at BYU, USC, and Pittsburgh, and I just don’t see them being overly competitive this year. They’ll need a season to adjust to the Pac 12, but given Kyle Wittingham’s success in the past, they should be really good in 2012.
Here’s the spreadsheet standings: