PAC-12 North Division Preview: Win Total Over/Under [PAC-12 Football]
The North division of the PAC-12 mirrors the PAC-12 South in that there is the clear front runner on a collision course of the conference championship game, but there is also the second team that could pose a threat to the champion. I would say the North is most likely to be more entertaining than the South because Oregon is the top team, Stanford is a good second, and Cal and Washington are probably equally talented but have win totals going in opposite directions. Oh, and there’s Mike Leach, which is awesome.
1. Oregon (10.5)
The Ducks are clearly the top team in the conference after winning it for three straight years. Many people are so sure of Oregon’s chances in every game leading up to USC, that they only talk about USC. Only 5 starters return to this offense, most importantly though, three of them are on the offensive line and the two replacements have a lot of experience.
Marcus Mariota was named the starting quarterback on Friday and I’m excited a redshirt freshman was the best quarterback on the team. Kenjon Barner who has a slightly different skill set than LaMichael James is in the backfield along with De’Anthony Thomas, a dark horse to win the Heisman. The receivers are the biggest question mark for the team as the position struggled mightily last season to be decent.
The biggest question is how Oregon handles the month of November. They play at USC on November 3rd, but the trickier part is win or lose, they have to play at Cal the following week. At Cal is like the twilight zone for Oregon, weird stuff seems to happen for no reason. The Oregon hosts Stanford the following week. I would say those are the toughest games on Oregon’s schedule and they are back to back to back.
Football Outsiders predicts that Oregon’s offense will be fifth best and defense will be 14th purpose. I like the over because the only game the Ducks could legitimately lose is USC.
Let’s just get this one out of the way first. Over. Over, 1,000 times again. Andrew Luck was an amazing quarterback in college, but the Stanford offense wasn’t very quarterback dependent. Luck only accounted for just over 50% of offensive production. There are things he did that are harder to quantify such as making the right play calls but the Cardinal are a very run-based team.
There are three starting linemen, the starting tight end, the starting full back, and the starting running back all coming back. Stepfan Taylor rushed for 1330 yards and 10 touchdowns last year averaging 5.5 yards a carry. All the returning running backs averaged over 4 yards a carry.
7 starters return on defense to a team that only allowed 21.9 points a game last season. The guaranteed wins for the year are San Jose State, Duke, Arizona, Washington State, Colorado, and Oregon State. That is six teams right there. Now you have games against Washington, Notre Dame, California, and UCLA that are more likely to be won by Stanford. Like I said, this is pretty obvious that Stanford is going over.
Cal is always one of the most frustrating teams to watch throughout the year. They beat Colorado in overtime, lose to Washington, get crushed by Oregon and USC, but then crush Utah, then the following week lose to UCLA! It doesn’t make sense.
Zach Maynard started for the first time last season and his completion percentage was in the high 60% at the tail end of the season when Golden Bears put up good fights against good teams. Iso Sofele remains one of my favorite names to yell on Saturday’s after rushing for 1322 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, an average of 5.2 yards a carry. Keenan Allen is the star of the offense though. He almost got 100 receptions last year, had 1343 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns last year. Three starting offensive linemen return.
The defense has the biggest questions as only 5 starters return. The nose tackle, a linebacker, and 3 defensive backs. Clancy Pendergast has had some great defenses the past year, including defensive schemes that have brought Oregon to a near halt. Cal excelled against the pass last season.
Tedford has done a great job with quarterbacks throughout the year, but his lack of overall wins seems to have put him on the hot seat among Cal fans. I would say something similar to people who want to fire Tedford as I do to Beaver fans who want to fire Riley. Who are you going to get? Who wants to come to Cal and what can you afford to pay them?
Wins over Nevada, Southern Utah, Oregon State, and Arizona State are sure wins. Which means they need to get three wins against Ohio State, USC, UCLA, Washington State, Stanford, Utah, Washington, and Oregon. Utah, Washington State, and UCLA I would say are good bets for Cal. I’m not confident though, I would side with the under.
The Huskies are the hardest team right now to get a read on. They have 6 starters coming back on offense and 7 on defense. The defense was absolutely atrocious last year, giving up 35.9 points a game. A GAME. This is a team that is nine months removed from Baylor scoring 67 points on them in the Alamo bowl.
Keith Price returns to an offense that scored 33.4 points a game last season and Price himself threw from 3063 yards and 33 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions with a completion percentage of 66.9%.
The biggest change was on the defensive coaching staff. Former Duck Justin Wilcox moves from Tennessee to be the new defensive coordinator. Washington has the talent on defense from good recruiting hauls but you have to wonder how quick such a bad defense can get turned around.
Their first game is at San Diego State, which will be very telling before they travel to a night game in Death Valley to play LSU. Good luck with that one. Their next four games are Portland State (Walk through), Stanford, Oregon, USC. The Huskies will best case be 2-4 heading in to their final games. To pass the over they would need to the rest of their games against Arizona, California, Oregon State, Utah, Colorado, and Washington State.
I’m going to go with the under and I don’t know if these guys are going to make a bowl game. There is a 50-50 shot of them not getting to 6 wins.
Washington State (5.5)
Mike Leach is in Pullman, Washington! I couldn’t be happier. I’m waiting on pins and needles for a “fat little girlfriends” comment. Again, I’m so so so so so so so so so excited for Mike Leach to be in the conference.
Washington State has been running the air raid offense for a while, so now the team just has to adapt to Leach’s offense, which isn’t all that crazy. He teaches the offense in 3 days and then re-teaches it in 3 day units. It’s fascinating. Jeff Tuel will be the starter after a lost season last year. Marquess Wilson has Heisman odds and will put up ridiculous stats after 82 receptions last year with 1388 yards and 12 touchdowns. Big boy numbers.
The biggest question is on defense as Leach has never spent a lot of time there as a coach. Mike Breske is the defensive coordinator who dominated at FCS with lesser talent. Bringing in coaches who succeeded with only a little talent was a key move and will show dividends. Leach made bowl games at Texas Tech, the Big-12’s version of Washington State.
Eastern Washington, UNLV are sure wins. Four wins need to come from Colorado, Oregon State, Utah, UCLA, Arizona State, Washington, and California. I honestly think the Cougars are going to surprise a couple teams this year so I’m going to go over.
Oregon State (4.5)
Don’t think I’m doing this because I hate the Beavers, because I don’t. The Beavers are my second favorite team in the conference. Sure Oregon State is the rival, but it is way more fun when they are good. (Washington is the enemy and I hate them with a burning passion. I don’t think Oregon State is going to be good this year.
Sean Mannion is the returning starter at quarterback and Riley quarterbacks tend to make a jump in their second year in the offense, but that didn’t happen last year for Katz. Markus Wheaton is a great wide reeiver. The biggest questions come on both lines, which weren’t good last year and don’t appear to look good this year. Oregon State didn’t even have a left tackle on the depth chart leaving spring practices.
Looking over the schedule Nicholls State is the only team that looks like a sure win, and even then Oregon State botched their game against Sacramento State last year to open the season. The Beaves will be the underdogs in every game they play this season. I just don’t see how they are going to win more than 4 games. I really hope they do, but I don’t see it. Under.