CONFERENCE PREVIEWS: Pac-12 North, Where Chaos Reigns Supreme
Three interchangeable contenders. Two chaos-driven wild cards. Oregon State. Huskies and Ducks and Bears OH MY!
By now, you’ve noticed that there is a narrative surrounding every division in the Power 5. The B1G West is an amorphous blob or gross, homogeneous, mediocre football. The B1G East has three teams that will win 10-12 games, and four who…won’t. The Big XII has four very good teams, four potentially good teams, and two teams who should be relegated. And the other division in the Pac-12 should belong to Los Angeles, but both teams there have gone 6-3 each of the past 3 years.
(This is why I love college football.)
The Pac-12 North is different because Pac-12, but similar to the B1G East in that it has three contenders, weird teams who make you uncomfortable, and…well, Oregon State is gonna take some time.
6) Cal. Yeah, I said Oregon State was markedly the worst team in the division, but…Cal is a tough sell. Jared Goff is gone, along with 12 more starters from last year’s 8-5 “climax”. Utah is the closest thing to a winnable home game (not just in-conference, period) as they play Hawaii in Australia, then go Texas, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Stanford, UCLA. Ouch. Hell, at San Diego State is tough. At Washington State is destined for a final score of 77-73, so toss-up at best. And they also visit…
5) Oregon State. So, turns out Nice Guy Mike Riley is a damn good coach. OSU3 is three years removed from rising to #7 in the polls (404: record not found) and never really tanked. Last year, they tanked. They were minus-207 yards per game in the Pac-12 last year, which is bad. I don’t see how that turns around anytime soon.
4) WAZZOOOOOO. They lost to Portland State and still went 9-4 last year, which rates as LEGENDARY on the ‘great hustle’ scale. They return practically everyone, including 4561 yard, 38 TD, 8 INT QB Luke Falk. Their D wasn’t horrible last year, amazingly.
3) Washington. Bill Connelly and Phil Steele are the two best college football prognosticators in the business. They both have Washington pegged in the 10-15 range, and Steele has them winning the damn conference. Call it an eye test vs. advanced stats test case. I love advanced stats, and Connelly’s S&P+ had them in the top 15 last year, a la 2014 Arkansas. Their first three losses were by a combined 15 points, and every win besides USC was a blowout. The Huskies just reek of “calling for ascent a year too early” to me. Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin are true sophomores. The D has been stout, but not quite carry-the-team good. Check back with me next year.
2) Oregon. I’m firmly entrenched in the school of thought that Mark Helfrich is probably a nice guy, but is going to eventually derail the bullet train that was Chip Kelly’s Oregon. Their recruiting has dropped off, they’ve resorted to stopgap QBs to run their (still crazy explosive and talented) offense, and their defense is atrocious. Is squeaky Brady Hoke the answer for the D? Probably not.
In the twilight of the Duck Dynasty, the offense is geared for one more run. Royce Freeman leads a ridiculous skill group, and they’ll outscore most teams on a manageable schedule. But make no mistake– the Ducks are becoming more Washington State and less…well, Oregon.
1.Stanford. When in doubt, go with the one who is one injury-riddled season short of 5 straight seasons with a minimum of 11 wins, returns the guy who should’ve won the Heisman, and is,at worst, the least volatile of them all. \
And yet, they play four EXTREMELY loseable games in the first half of the season. If they survive a gauntlet of USC/at UCLA/at Washington/Washington State/at Notre Dame unscathed, they should be #1 in the first CFP polls.
Five Games Worth Watchin’
- Stanford’s September: Just mentioned above: USC, at UCLA, at Washington is ROUGH. An opener with K-State preceding this ain’t exactly UC-Davis.
- Washington at Oregon, Oct. 8: Oregon has a 12-game winning streak against the Huskies, putting them firmly in Florida/Tennessee territory. This division sorts itself out QUICK.
- Stanford at Oregon, Nov. 12: The only non-first half tilt of contenders. If both teams hold serve and bury Washington, this is the Pac-12 playoff watch eliminator.
- WAZZU at Cal, Nov. 12: This game will kick off at 11 EST and not end until 4 in the freaking morning. Which makes it possibly not worth watching, but this is Roller Derby On Ice Skates Football. Watch at your own risk.
- Oregon at Washington St., Oct. 1, at Cal, Oct. 21: See #4.
Players to Watch
I’m not entirely convinced defensive players matter in this division.
Christian McAffrey, Renaissance Man, Stanford: Should’ve won the Heisman.
Royce Freeman, RB, ORegon: 1800 yards and 17 TDs on the ground last year.
Sidney Jones, CB, Washington: Okay, found a defense guy. Only a junior, he was a blanket last year.
Jake Browning, QB, Washington: PROVE ME WRONG!
Luke Falk, QB, Washington State: He’s a Mike Leach QB with experience. Numbers have no meaning in Pullman.