Pac-10 Conference Predictions

6 07 2010

After almost a week without a new post, I have finally completed the conference predictions. I didn’t include the newest members of the conference, and didn’t account for them in the rankings for each unit that you’ll see at the end of each team. I looked at every team’s schedule and posted which games that I predict them to lose. I ranked the offenses, defenses, and schedules of the teams to determine how they will finish the season. The schedule rankings were more heavily weighted towards conference schedules, but Oregon St took a big drop because their non-conference schedule includes two top five teams.

Offensive Rankings Defensive Rankings Schedule Ranking
  1. Washington
  2. Oregon
  3. Oregon St
  4. Cal
  5. Arizona
  6. USC
  7. Stanford
  8. UCLA
  9. Washington St
  10. Arizona St
  1. Oregon
  2. USC
  3. Oregon St
  4. Cal
  5. ASU
  6. UCLA
  7. Arizona
  8. Washington
  9. Stanford
  10. Washington St
  1. WSU
  2. USC
  3. Arizona
  4. Stanford
  5. UCLA
  6. Oregon
  7. Cal
  8. ASU
  9. Oregon St
  10. Washington

1. USC

The Trojans don’t have the explosive offense or dominant defense of their ’04 or ’05 teams, but they still have the deepest roster in the conference to go along with a favorable schedule. They get Oregon at home and they face Oregon St much later in the season (week 11) than the last two times they traveled to Corvallis. I’m projecting their game with the Beavers to be a loss, because the Trojans haven’t won there since 2004. The next most difficult match up will be against Arizona on the road. The Wildcats beat USC last year in LA, and the spread offense will give the Trojans young secondary a problem. Washington and Stanford could also pose a problem with strong QB play.

Projected Record- 11-2 (edited 7/15 to reflect a 13 game schedule)

Projected Losses- @ Arizona, @Oregon St

Tossup games- Stanford, Oregon, Washington

Offensive rank- #5, Defensive rank- #2, Schedule rank- #2, Total points- 9

2. Oregon

The loss of Jeremiah Masoli will really hurt this team offensively, which in turn will hurt them defensively. There were many times when Masoli extended plays with his legs and picked up first downs for Oregon, most notably in the Civil War on a 4th and 6 to keep the ball away from Oregon St and clinch the game. Masoli’s 668 yards rushing ranked second on the team and his threat of running the ball created opportunities in the spread-option offense for LaMichael James. Oregon will not have that luxury with Nate Costa, but he might be a better passer than Masoli who was average at best. If Oregon is going to compete for the Pac-12 championship this year it will need to have strong play from the QB position, because he’s not going to get much help from their average wide receiving corps and little depth. The running back depth will probably be better with blue-chip freshman Lache Seastrunk, but his running style is similar to LMJ.  Kenny Rowe led the conference in sacks last year and he has two solid linebackers behind him in Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger. This is a very aggressive defense and they miss a lot of tackles because of it, which led to their free safety John Boyett leading the team in tackles last year. The problem for Oregon is that they will be facing their top 3 opponents on the road this year in USC, OSU, and Cal where  Jeff Tedford has never lost to Oregon at home.

Projected Record- 9-3

Projected losses @Cal, @USC, @OSU

Tossup games: Arizona, Stanford

Offense Rank- #2, Defense Rank- #1, Schedule rank-#6, Total Points – 9

3. Arizona

Nick Foles and Juron Criner will form one of the top QB-WR tandems in the conference, but the Wildcats depth at WR took a hit when Deleshaun Dean violated the team’s gun policy and felt he needed to protect his pancakes at all costs. Arizona will face a tough test when Iowa travels to Tuscon in week three of the season. The strength of the Arizona defense will be at defensive end, but their lack of experience at defensive tackle and linebacker could create problems for the Arizona secondary.  Arizona was a descent road team last year beating OSU & USC, but they should have beaten Washington and were in a position to beat Cal if it weren’t for two once-in-a-lifetime plays (videos linked). I see them struggling against Stanford and Washington if they’re not able to pressure their QB’s. A lack of defensive experience is going to be the Achilles heel of this team in 2010.

Projected Record 8-4

Projected Losses Iowa, @Stanford, @Oregon, Washington

Tossup games USC, Cal, OSU

Offensive rank-#5,  Defensive rank- #7, Schedule rank-#3, Total points – 15

4. Cal

The Golden Bears were Pac-10 champions  in 2006, but this team has been an enigma ever since. Jeff Tedford was supposed to be one of the premier quarterback coaches in the nation, but four years into the Kevin Riley project has the guru still searching for answers. The Bears had significant turnover in their coaching staff this off-season losing their Defensive Coordinator Bob Gregory and letting go of Special Teams Coach Pete Alamar. Despite the lack of consistency at QB, and an offensive line that gave up 31 sacks a year ago, the Bears have some weapons at their disposal. Mike Mohamed led the conference in tackles last year, and Cameron Jordan is one of the top defensive lineman in the conference. Cal landed the top outside linebacker recruit of 2010 in Chris Martin and he’s expected to be the weapon off the edge that they’ve lacked since Zack Follett’s departure to the NFL. Shane Vareen quietly had a productive 950 yards and 12 TD’s a year ago, but look for his numbers to go up as he’s slated to be the starter all season.  Mel Kiper has ranked Anthony Milleras the number one tight end in the country among juniors and Marvin Jones was Kevin Riley’s favorite target a year ago at WR. The Bears get Oregon and Washington at home, but they have to travel to travel to USC, Arizona, and Oregon St.

Projected Record 9-3

Projected Losses @USC, @Arizona, @OSU

Tossup games: Oregon, Washington, Stanford

Offensive rank #4, Defensive rank #4, Schedule rank #7, Total points – 15

5. Oregon St

For six consecutive years the Beavers have lost at least 2 of their first four games and 2010 won’t be any different when they face Boise St and TCU in the first three weeks of the season. The Beavers have the top two play makers in the conference in the Rodgers brothers, but there will be a significant drop-off at QB after losing first team All-Pac 10 member Sean Canfield. I’m expecting Jacquizz to see more carries at running back, but teams will be looking to stack the line against the Beavers to beat them with the pass. Although this is a great year to be breaking in a new QB with lots of unsettled secondaries in the conference, Oregon St also had trouble protecting their QB last year giving up 29 sacks. They return four starters on the offensive line, but there’s a big difference in their run and pass blocking capabilities. Inexperienced quarterbacks are more prone to turning the ball over if they are uncomfortable in the pocket, and it could be a real problem for the Beavers. They face the top two opponents in the conference in Oregon and USC at home, and even with projections of beating both of them I still see this team struggling on the road to finish with three conference losses.

Projected Record: 7-5

Projected Losses: @TCU, @Boise St, @Arizona, @Washington @Stanford

Tossup games: USC, Oregon

Offensive rank#3, Defensive rank #3, Schedule rank #9, Total points – 15

6. Washington

Jake Locker is going to be the leader of 11 returning starters on offense, but unless he can suit up on defense the Huskies are going to have a hard time winning on the road. All of the pieces are in place offensively with one of the best tandems in the country at wide receiver in Devin Aguilar & Jermaine Kearse, a solid tight end in Kavario Middleton, and a capable weapon at running back in Chris Polk – all protected by an offensive line that accounts for 88 career starts. As good as the offense is going to be, the defense might be as equally bad. Mason Foster has great instincts at LB which led to 3 interceptions, six 6 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery in 2009, but other than that the cupboard is sparse in terms of depth and talent. Even worse for the Huskies is their brutal road schedule that includes trips to the better team in every region – Oregon, USC, Cal, and Arizona. They will have an opportunity to gain some hype early with a game against a preseason top 10 team Nebraska, but a loss will certainly damage their confidence going forward.

Projected record: 8-4

Projected losses: Nebraska, @USC, @Oregon, @Cal,

Tossup games: @Arizona, Stanford, OSU

Offensive rank #1, Defensive rank #8, Schedule rank #10, Total points – 19

7. Stanford

Stanford’s had the second best offensive line in the nation by only giving up 8 sacks all year. Part of the reason for low sack totals has to do with the success they had running the ball (537 attempts), so they only threw 313 passes all year. That luxury is gone now that Gerhart is playing on Sundays, so I’m expecting that total to go up. The guys behind Gerhart might be quicker, but they are not going to wear down opposing defenses and Andrew Luck will be the primary weapon that defensive coordinators will try to stop. The strong offensive line will help, but I’m expecting some drop-off in the offense this year. The defense has switched to a 3-4 in the off-season, but they lack the right personnel to be good this year. They have a strong linebacker corps led by Shane Skov, but they don’t have the big defensive lineman to hold the blocks and create opportunities for them. It will take a couple years of recruiting to get the right pieces in place for this defense as their crosstown rival Cal is finding out. The Cardinal were 2nd to last in the Pac-10 defense last year giving up 402 yards per game, and it could be even worse this year without a strong running game to burn the clock. The Cardinal get USC at home, but have to play Oregon and Washington on the road.

Projected record: 6-6

Projected losses: @Notre Dame, USC, @Oregon, @Washington, @Cal, @UCLA

Tossup games: Arizona, ASU

Offensive rank #7, Defensive rank #9, Schedule rank #4, Total points – 20

8. UCLA

Coach Rick Neuheisel is coming off his best recruiting class since arriving in LA, but when you’re expecting freshman to make a big impact on your team, you’re in trouble. UCLA has a combined 92 career starts on the offensive line, but they gave up 28 sacks last year so the talent on the line is as big of a question mark as every other position on this team. The Bruins have two preseason All-Americans with linebacker Akeem Ayers and safety Rahim Moore, but I’m expecting their production to decrease with Brian Price going on to the NFL. Neuheisel brought in two blue-chip guys on the defensive line in Owa Odighuizuwa (try saying that five times fast) and Cameron Marsh, but it won’t be enough to take over games or compensate for their lack of offense. UCLA also faces a tough schedule with Kansas St, Texas, and Houston before they start conference play. The young guys will either gain quality experience or have their confidence shot in the process.

Projected record: 4-8

Projected losses: Houston, @Texas, @Cal, @Oregon, Arizona, Oregon St, @Washington, USC

Tossup games: ASU, WSU, Kansas St

Offensive rank #8, Defensive rank #6, Schedule rank #7, Total points -21

9. Arizona St

It was only three years ago that Arizona St was competing for the conference championship, but they are 9-15 since 2007 and are riding a six game losing streak into 2010. The offensive line has been a major problem for this team in the past three years and one of the main reasons they averaged only 22.3 ppg in 2010. The Sun Devils only welcome back three starters on offense and could be even worse than last year, their defense should be salty and will be led by the All-American Vontaze Burfict at MLB. They only return four starters, but they have are solid at defensive end and have proven the ability to stop the run. The schedule has them facing the best team of every region on the road (USC, Cal, Oregon, Washington), but they weren’t likely to beat them anyway so all of their home games become winnable. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them post a winning record at home, but for now we’ve got them pegged at 3-9.

Projected Record: 3-9

Projected losses: @Wisconsin, Oregon, @Oregon St, @Washington, @Cal, @USC, Stanford, Arizona, UCLA

Tossup games: WSU, Stanford, UCLA

Offensive rank #10, Defensive rank #5, Schedule rank #8, Total points – 23

10. Washington St

The good news for Washington St is that they face the best team from every region at home (Oregon, Cal, USC, Arizona) the bad news is that they won’t be able to win any of them. The Cougars only have a couple chances to get a conference win, and it will have to be against UCLA or ASU on the road. They have two capable QB’s in Jeff Tuel or Marshall Lobbestael, and I’m expecting both of them to play this year based on the 53 sacks they gave up a year ago. This is the deepest team that Paul Wulff has fielded since he’s been here, but they are still a couple years away from making some noise in the conference.

Projected record: 2-10

Projected wins: Montana St, SMU

Tossup games: ASU, UCLA

Offensive rank # 9, Defensive rank #10, Schedule rank #1 Total points – 20

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Pac-12 Championship

30 06 2010

This is what it all comes down to, a playoff championship. The Pac-12 should disband from the NCAA and form its own conference so it can have one of these every year. With Cal and USC playing for the championship on the same day as the Twilight Eclipse premier I noticed that each team shared some characteristics with the rivalry between Team Edward and Team Jacob. Both the Pac-12 championship and Twilight have the good vs evil, favorite vs underdog (or underwolf), and competition for the love of the fans.

USC fans are notoriously known for their pretentious attitude, which happens to be the same way Edward Cullen carries himself in Twilight (at least the first two movies). Edward and the Cullen’s are in the same tax bracket as USC fans, and like USC coach Lane Kiffin and Athletic Director Mike Garrett, their condescending tone gets old quickly. Like USC, Edward has the speed and power that make men want to be him, and the women want to be with him. He has been sitting in his room and thinking about 16 year old girls since Abraham Lincoln was President, which makes him like one of those three guys in high school that’s pulling tail left and right, but with 100 years of experience to hone his craft. In a similar fashion, USC has a long-lasting tradition of Rose Bowls, National Championships, and Heisman Winners. Edward’s advantage is that he can read minds, USC’s advantage is that they buy their star players houses in San Diego and give them cars with ridiculous looking rims.

Cal fans desperately want what USC has the way Jacob wants Edward’s girlfriend Bella. Bears and werewolves are both fetid creatures like Cal hippies, and you’ll probably find Cal fans wearing the same jorts & birkenstocks as Jacob Black and his buddies. The pack that Jacob rolls with is native american and these tree-sitters that delayed the Memorial Stadium upgrade tried to make a case that the land surrounding the area was a sacred Indian burial ground. Luckily for the Bears, this is football, not fantasy. The games actually have to be played instead of dancing around and flirting with each other.

The Trojans came in as seven point favorites, but you couldn’t tell based on how the teams were played inthe first half. The Bears received the kickoff and gashed the USC defense for an 8 play 73 yard drive that was capped by a 12 yard Anthony Miller TD in the corner of the end zone. Matt Barkley would march his troops all the way into the red zone before a tipped pass was intercepted by Sean Cattouse in the middle of the field. With the Cal offensive line holding its own, Kevin Riley was able to find Marvin Jones on a play-action pass for a 36 yard pickup to put the Bears past midfield. After a Jeremy Ross reverse and HB screen to Shane Vereen the Bears went up 14-0. The Trojans would come right back though with Allen Bradford plowing over Cal freshman linebacker Chris Martin to pick up 15 yards. Matt Barkley started to find his groove completing 3 of 5 passes with a beautiful over the shoulder pass to fullback Stanley Havili on a wheel route that resulted in a touchdown. The Bears struggled the rest of the half as the Trojan defense started to get more aggressive. Devon Kennard and Jurrell Casey each notched a Kevin Riley sack with Casey’s resulting in a fumble and recovery for USC. The final score of the half was USC freshman Dillon Baxter’s 25 yard TD out of the wildcat to cut the halftime score to 20-17 in favor of the Bears.

The Trojans came out in the second half and looked undisciplined offensively by racking up two false start penalties in the first five plays. This set up a 3rd and 12 for Kiffin in his own territory and he played it conservatively with a delayed hand off only to see CJ Gable hit in the backfield by Cameron Jordan. After a Trojans punt the Bears drove right down field in 6 plays, but failed could only manage a field goal to go up 23-16. USC looked like they were about to tie it up on their next possession, but a Matt Barkley fumble at the Cal 6 yard line shifted the momentum to the Bears.  Just when Cal fans thought Jeff Tedford would go to his classic we-only-have-a-one-score-lead-but-will-play-ultra-conservative strategy, Kevin Riley was throwing on 3 consecutive downs to move the chains back into Trojan territory. Shane Vereen would have a 15 yard TD called back on a Jeremy Ross holding call and the Bears would have to settle for another field goal to put them up ten points. Trojan wide receiver Ronald Johnson finally got into the mix with a 47 yard completion to get them back in the red zone. Two plays later Matt Barkley would hit Bryce Butler in the middle of the field for a 19 yard touchdown to get within three with 6 minutes to play in the game.

Isi Sofele would collect the ensuing kickoff for the Bears and take it all the way back to the Cal 43 yard line. We were certain that Jeff Tedford would milk his lead, but he came out with play-action on first down that he tossed it to the H-back Spencer Ladner for a 13 yard gain and a first down. Two out of the next three plays were out of the wildcat formation, but Shane Vereen would only gain seven yards and failed to get a first down. The Bears were forced to punt with 3:45 to play and Bryan Anger delivered by pinning it at the five yard line. With the Trojans 95 yards away from victory, everyone expected a drive similar to the one Matt Barkley had the year before against Ohio St. With the Bears dropping eight into coverage to prevent the long-ball, CJ Gable took a screen pass 8 yards. Freshman WR Robert Woods and caught a  10 yard pass to give them a first down. Matt Barkley then hit Kyle Prater on the sideline for a 25 yard pass, but it was called by on a holding penalty and resulted in an 8 yard loss. Matt Barkley shook it off and went right back to business hitting Ronald Johnson on a slant play resulting in a 15 yard gain. On second and three Lane Kiffin tried to keep the defense honest by running the ball one more time, but Bradford failed to pick up positive yards or run out of bounds and it kept the clock running. With only 60 seconds to play the Trojans started to feel desperate and pick up the pace, but two incompletions by Matt Barkley would end the USC’s drive. Cal fans stormed the field and the band was on the field!

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