Pac-10 Positive Outlook

30 08 2010

I can’t remember a time when the conference was as wide open as it is this year with seven teams legitimately competing for the championship. Some people have UCLA as a dark horse, but their offensive line has been decimated in the off-season from players leaving for missions, injuries, and now academic ineligibility.

I’m tired of ESPN plugging the SEC as the top conference in the country just because they signed a $2.0 billion deal to cover their games. That conference is always top heavy with a couple teams that can beat anyone, but they also have six bottom feeders that would be average in any BCS conference. I don’t think Florida or Alabama could go undefeated against the top 7 in the Pac-10, but both of them somehow came out of the SEC unscathed until the conference championship. If I was betting on these Pac-10 teams to win the conference championship it would be due to the reasons mentioned below.

Oregon

  • Darron Thomas will be a household name by the end of the year, but not because he’s being mentioned on the police blotter like a former Ducks QB. Oregon fans will tell you about how awesome he was in the spring game and that he’s a more accurate passer than Masoli.  He will also be playing behind a talented offensive line and a stronger LaMichael James. If he’s anything near Dennis Dixon 2.0 then the Ducks could repeat as conference champion.

Cal

  • This team has all of the pieces in place, but the one thing that will make them a contender for the championship is the bump in production that typically happens to Pac-10 quarterbacks. Joey Harrington, Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller, Derek Anderson and Sean Canfield all know what it’s like to trod with mediocrity for three years only to see things slow down like Neo in the Matrix during their senior season. Kevin Riley is capable with the weapons he has at his disposal which could push the Bears over the top.

Oregon State

  • The Beavers have as much firepower as any team in the conference, but this year they will combine that with increased production in the trenches. Last year’s team ranked 8th in the conference in sacks allowed and the defense ranked 9th in sacks. Ryan Katz will have a much smoother transition with a more experienced offensive line and defensively the new linebackers will be looking for Stephen Paea to create gaps for them by taking on double teams.

Arizona

  • This team is replacing their defensive coordinator, both starting defensive tackles and their entire linebacking corps, but their defensive ends (Brooks Reed & Ricky Elmore) will be the best pass-rushing tandem in the conference. Combined with the fact that they have one of the best secondaries in the conference, they’ll have a solid defense to match their powerful offense.

USC

  • There’s been coaching turnover, players transferring, and the distractions of Reggie Bushgate, but USC  still has the talent to contend for the Pac-10 championship. The best USC teams of the decade had monsters on the defensive line that could get to the quarterback with a four man rush which allowed the linebackers and secondary to create turnovers. Jurrell Casey is one of the top defensive tackles in the country and Armond Armstead has shown big upside at defensive end.

Stanford

  • Kirk Hirbstreit already put the dreaded curse on Stanford by predicting that they will win the Pac-10 championship, but Jim Harbaugh wants to know what his deal is for adding pressure to an under the radar Stanford team? They have the best quarterback in the Pac-10, but for them to compete for the Rose Bowl it will be because of their currently underrated stable of running backs Jeremy StewartTyler Gaffney and Stepfan Taylor. The Cardinal offensive line proved that they’re one of the best in the conference, but even moderate production from the ground game will allow Andrew Luck to do whatever he wants through the air.

Washington

  • The Huskies have the most balanced offense in the Pac-10, but if they’re going to compete for the championship it will be due to a scrappy defense that creates turnovers. Nick Holt has seven returning starters which should translate into a better understanding of his schemes. With two all-conference calibur players in cornerback Desmond Trufant and linebacker Mason Foster, I’m anticipating a much more aggressive campaign from the Huskies.

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Best Pac-10 Non-Conference Games

19 08 2010

Week 1  – September 4th

UCLA @ Kansas State

Kansas State is the first of three Midwest teams that UCLA faces this year and the weakest team before they begin Pac-10 play. Will Kevin Prince be healthy by the time the season starts or will junior college transfer Darius Bell take the pistol offense to desert eagle status? Can the UCLA defense contain Daniel Thomas without Brian Price and Reggie Carter?

Oregon St vs TCU

This should be one of the top non-conference games of the year, and TCU returns 16 starters from a team that posted a 12-1 record in 2009, but they’ll be without their two best defensive  players who were drafted into the NFL- Daryl Washington and Jerry Hughes. Oregon State’s two best players (JacQuizz & James Rodgers) hail from Texas, but they bring with them a contrarian version of  “everything is bigger in Texas” by packing huge punches in small packages.   Mike Riley needs to break his streak of slow starts and a victory against TCU in Cowboy Stadium would likely bump them into the top 15 rankings.

Washington @ BYU

Jake Heaps was the top prep quarterback last year and hailed from Sammamish, WA, but he spurned the local team for an opportunity have polygamist relationships while he’s in college. The Dawgs didn’t win a road game last year and Jake Locker needs a victory to keep his name among the Heisman candidates.


Week 2 – September 11th

Colorado @ Cal

Cal would like to welcome Colorado to the conference with some rookie hazing, and I think the loser’s coach should have his head shaved by the victor. Hawkins probably won’t agree to it, because Tedford is already balding, but maybe he could agree to a tattoo bet in its stead.

Oregon @ Tennessee

Kudos to the Volunteers for scheduling their third Pac-10 team in the last four years, but Oregon is bringing a high powered offense against a young Vols defense. Chip Kelly lost his big non-conference game last year against Boise State and the defensive coordinator for the Broncos was none other than the current Tennessee Volunteers DC Justin Wilcox.

Week 3 – September 18th

Houston @ UCLA

Case Keenum is likely a Heisman candidate and the Houston Cougars were the number one offense in the country last year averaging 42.2 points per game. They’ll be facing arguably the top secondary in the Pac-10 led by UCLA’s All-American Rahim Moore.

Iowa @ Arizona

Nick Foles took over midway through the Iowa game last year and nearly stole the game from the Hawkeyes. This year he’ll be playing from the start and will be looking for payback. Their girls look like they will fit in just fine in the desert.

ASU @ Wisconsin

Wisconsin is probably the most overrated team that starts off the season in the top 10, but they are tough at home because they make their opponents eat a half dozen bratwursts for breakfast the day of the game. John Clay ran for 1,517 yards and 18TD’s last year, but Vontaze Burfict is the most dangerous defensive player in the conference and will be chasing him all over the field. Wisconsin also boasts an efficient passing game with Scott Tolzien throwing for 2,705 yards and an impressive 64% completion percentage last year. His 11TD’s to 16INT’s ratio proves that he’s still vulnerable if you can apply some pressure on him.

Nebraska @ Washington

The Cornhuskers welcome back 16 starters and a couple defensive players that will be playing in the NFL next year, most notably Prince Amukamara who’s rated #3 on the ESPN draft board . Washington also sports one of their own on the draft board with the number one overall player in Jake Locker. Nebraska will start the season in the top 10, but at times last year their offense was about as exciting as watching paint dry so look for the Huskies to try to get into a shootout.

Week 4 – September 25th

UCLA @ Texas

The Texas Longhorns were scared of the competition they would face in the Pac-16 so they backed out at the last minute, but the Bruins are just the team make them regret that decision. Rick Neuheisel will be taking a page out of Rocky Balboa’s strategy by taking punches & points on the chin with hopes that it will wear Texas down. Side bets will be taken for which team wins the battle of the coeds? Longhorns bring more blondes, but UCLA has blondes, brunettes, and some of the hottest Asian women you’ll ever see.

Oregon State @ Boise State

This game should feature some of the worst jerseys in the NCAA and it will be played on the ugliest turf in the country. If Oregon State comes out of their non-conference undefeated, they’ll be in the top five in the country.

Stanford @ Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s only chance will be Touchdown Jesus strapping up his cleats and playing for the Fighting Irish secondary, because Andrew Luck is going to spank them harder than their catholic priests ever have.

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Pac-10 Blue Chip Team Scores

11 08 2010

I had a lot of trouble with the formatting of this article, so I just had to put the information into excel and made some jpeg files out of the information which look blurry on the blog, but will be clear if you click on them. Mike Lombardi came up with this blue-chip formula to determine how much talent is on each team in the NFL, but I only follow former Pac-10 players and wanted to see how our conference would look applying the same scoring system. The outside linebackers account for 2.5 more points than the middle linebackers, which makes sense for the NFL where most teams are using a 3-4 defense, but the majority of teams in college are still using a four man front and the middle linebacker can impact the game more than an outside linebacker – think Casey Matthews of Oregon and Vontaze Burfict of ASU. I was also concerned that the red chip secondary players received the same 7.5 points as the blue chip players. There are many talented players in the NFL secondaries, but in college there aren’t that many cornerbacks and safeties that would make as big of an impact as many of the blue chip players at other positions.

Arizona has a total of 80 points with a good mix of offensive and defensive players, with points coming from both the skill positions and in the trenches. Arizona State only has 30 points with 22.5 of those coming from the defensive side of the ball, so don’t expect them to be lighting up the scoreboard any time soon. Cal surprised me with 82 points, but Tedford has recruited as well as any coach in the conference not named Pete Carroll.
Arizona Points Arizona St Points Cal Points
Nick Foles 12.5 Lawrence Guy 7.5 Mitchell Schwartz 10
Adam Grant 10 Vontaze Burfict 7.5 Cameron Jordan 10
Ricky Elmore 10 Omar Bolden 7.5 Anthony Miller 7.5
Juron Criner 7.5 Thomas Weber 7.5 Matt Summers-Gavin 7.5
Colin Baxter 7.5 Mike Mohamed 7.5
Trevin Wade 7.5 Bryan Anger 7.5
Robert Golden 7.5 Mychal Kendricks 7.5
James Brooks 7.5 Sean Cattouse 7.5
Nic Grigsby 5 Kevin Riley 7
Shane Vereen 5
Marvin Jones 5
Chris Guarnero 5
Derrick Hill 5
Oregon brings 82.5 points with strength in the trenches. I think Casey Matthews is more valuable to their defense than the 7.5 points he’s allotted, but Paysinger received a higher rating in the formula and evened out the same number of points I would have given them combined. Oregon State has a lot of skill players, but without much depth in the trenches their team only accounts for 55 points so this tells me that they should be relying on the big plays this season. Stanford brings almost all of their 67.5 points on the offensive side of the ball. Chris Owusu probably would have made the list as the next red-chip wide receiver, but he gets 7.5 points for his kick return abilities.

Oregon Points Oregon St Points Stanford Points
Bo Thran 10 JacQuizz Rodgers 7.5 Andrew Luck 12.5
Kenny Rowe 10 James Rodgers 7.5 David DeCastro 7.5
Spencer Paysinger 10 Joe Halahuni 7.5 Chris Owusu 7.5
LaMichael James 7.5 Stephen Paea 7.5 Chase Beeler 7.5
Carson York 7.5 Lance Mitchell 7.5 Delondo Howell 7.5
Casey Matthews 7.5 Justin Kahut 7.5 Ryan Whalen 5
John Boyett 7.5 Michael Philipp 5 Jonathan Martin 5
Talmadge Jackson 7.5 Alex Linnekohl 5 Owen Maracic 5
Jeff Maehl 5 Andrew Phillips 5
Mark Asper 5 Shane Skov 5
Brandon Bair 5

UCLA will be carried by their defense and special teams this year, but that’s two thirds of the game so maybe they’ll do better than the 8th place finish the media projected them for. Still, they are only bringing 45 points to the table and having a kicker be the most dangerous weapon on your offense is never a good sign. USC is stocked with talent throughout the roster so it’s no surprise that they are the Leader of the Pac with 84 points in the blue chip scoring. The Washington Huskies totaled 42.5 points and will be relying on a strong passing game to win some games for them, but there’s not much talent on the offensive or defensive lines.

UCLA Points USC Points Washington Points
Akeem Ayers 10 Tyron Smith 10 Jake Locker 12.5
Kai Forbath 7.5 Butch Lewis 7.5 Mason Foster 10
Rahim Moore 7.5 Kris O’Dowd 7.5 Desmond Trufant 7.5
Jeff Locke 7.5 Jurrell Casey 7.5 Jermaine Kearse 7.5
Sheldon Price 7.5 Shareece Wright 7.5 Chris Polk 5
Nelson Rosario 5 Malcolm Smith 7.5
Michael Morgan 7.5
Matt Barkley 7
Nick Perry 7
Ronald Johnson 5
Stanley Havili 5
Chris Galippo 5

Here’s all of the team points in alphabetical order and these are pretty consistent with my conference predictions which were posted a month ago.

Points
Arizona 80
ASU 30
Cal 82
Oregon 82.5
Oregon State 55
Stanford 67.5
UCLA 45
USC 84
Washington 42.5

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QB Ratings in the Pac-12

6 08 2010

I got this idea from the Bill Simmons Sportsguy podcast about rating the NFL teams with a blue-chip rating. They evaluated teams in the NFL based on a point system that Mike Lombardi came up with. I like the term “Blue Chip” because this is the preferred nomenclature for the cream of the crop high school recruits in the country. I’ll be working on my blue chip team ratings in the next couple of days, but while I was searching for the formula online I stumbled upon a QB predictor rating that ESPN uses to predict the success of quarterbacks in the NFL.

The formula takes into account three statistics: Career starts, completion percentage and touchdown-interception ratio. The theory is that experience, accuracy and production versus mistakes can provide substantive indicators for college quarterbacks.

The formula for BCS quarterbacks
(Career Starts x 0.5) + [(Career completion pct. – 60)x5] +[(Career TD/INT ratio – 2.25)x10]

I wanted to see how our Pac-10 QB’s stack up this year so I decided to plug all of their numbers into an excel chart. I added the two newest QB’s in the conference from Colorado and Utah, but I also wanted to see how our QB’s stack up against the top QB’s in the country. There’s been a lot of hype in the off-season about Jake Locker and Andrew Luck so this might be something that factors into their draft status next April.

The biggest surprise to most people will probably be Jake Locker low on this list, but I’ve seen him play at least a dozen times and despite him possessing elite athleticism he doesn’t read defenses quickly or check down as fast as other QB’s in the conference. His accuracy (58.2% in 2009) is the biggest reason that his rating is so low and will need to be above 60% this year to make the Husky offense dangerous.

Looking more closely at Andrew Luck’s rating, you can see that his 56% completion percentage from 2009 needs improvement. For the most part he was consistent, but in the two games that Toby Gerhart struggled to run the ball (Cal & Oregon St) he went 22-60 for 36% completion percentage in losing efforts. I’ve already stated in my conference projections that I think he will have a more difficult time passing the ball this year, but I still think he’s the best quarterback in the conference.

Here are the other top quarterbacks in the country with Greg McElroy being the Leader of the Pac with a great passing percentage and TD/INT ratio. I used his career stats, but his completion percentage in garbage time in 2007 and 2008 inflated his numbers almost five percent. Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State and Christian Ponder of Florida State have 22 starts a piece to go along with solid, but unspectacular completion percentages and TD/INT ratios, but they have better numbers than some of the Pac-10 quarterbacks. Ryan Mallett being at the bottom of this list came as a surprise to me, because he’s regarded as the third best quarterback in the country behind Locker and Luck.

As you can see from this chart, only Nick Foles of Arizona stacks up well with the other top quarterbacks in the country, but Andrew Luck and Jordan Wynn of Utah are right on the cusp. There’s going to be some exciting football to be played in the conference this year with strong quarterbacks and uncertainties in multiple secondaries.

Here’s what some notable NFL players  rated heading into the draft

cores of First-Round Quarterbacks, 1997-2008
Group I: Strong likelihood of success
Player School Draft year Score
Matt Leinart USC 2006 64.04
Philip Rivers NC State 2004 48.44
Tim Couch Kentucky 1999 47.64
Alex Smith Utah 2005 44.88
Aaron Rodgers California 2005 40.58
Peyton Manning Tennessee 1998 39.47
Jason Campbell Auburn 2005 38.75
Byron Leftwich Marshall 2003 36.39
Ben Roethlisberger Miami (Ohio) 2004 33.85
Chad Pennington Marshall 2000 33.53
Daunte Culpepper Central Florida 1999 30.00
David Carr Fresno State 2002 23.97
Joe Flacco Delaware 2008 23.92
Eli Manning Ole Miss 2004 23.14
Donovan McNabb Syracuse 1999 21.62
Group II: Hit-or-Miss
Player School Draft year Score
Brady Quinn Notre Dame 2007 18.93
JaMarcus Russell LSU 2007 18.64
Rex Grossman Florida 2003 18.39
Vince Young Texas 2006 18.21
Carson Palmer USC 2003 16.35
Matt Ryan Boston College 2008 9.14
Patrick Ramsey Tulane 2002 9.06
J.P. Losman Tulane 2004 7.86
Jay Cutler Vanderbilt 2006 2.39
Group III: Busts
Player School Draft year Score
Akili Smith Oregon 1999 0.00
Cade McNown UCLA 1999 -6.41
Joey Harrington Oregon 2002 -6.85
Michael Vick Virginia Tech 2001 -11.32
Ryan Leaf Washington St. 1998 -16.92
Jim Druckenmiller Virginia Tech 1997 -20.25
Kyle Boller California 2003 -50.67

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