David Yankey, David Shaw, Shayne Skov

CFT Predicts: the Pac-12


As the 2013 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we examine the Pac-12.  

While we’re at it, be sure to check out our other conference predictions: SEC, Big Ten

Pac-12 North

1. Stanford (Last year: 12-2; beat Wisconsin in Rose Bowl)
What happened last season?
Though Stanford lost arguably the best quarterback to ever pass through the program in Andrew Luck, the Cardinal did something it couldn’t when Luck and Jim Harbaugh were on The Farm: win the Pac-12. David Shaw is quickly ascending the list of best college coaches in the country. I mean, the guy did a Ted Talk. Clearly Stanford is big-time now.

So why are they ranked here?
The Cardinal are experienced and there really aren’t many glaring weaknesses on either side of the ball. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is undefeated as a starter and has a solid offensive line and running game that brings back Tyler Gaffney. The defensive front seven returns plenty of starters too, including linebacker Shayne Skov. This is a solid team all around.

Anything else?
Things get a little more interesting schedule-wise in the second half of the season. The Cardinal play UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon in consecutive weeks before ending the year against Cal and Notre Dame. Weather that schedule and Stanford will absolutely be in the national title discussion. And I’d like their chances of winning it all (meaning, by rule of the jinx, they’ll go 8-5 and OMG I’m so sorry, you guys [sad face]).

2. Oregon (Last year: 12-1; beat Kansas State in Fiesta Bowl)
What happened last season?
Another BCS win for the Ducks would end up being the final game for coach Chip Kelly, who left for the NFL shortly thereafter. But the important story line here is that the one-point safety happened and we are all now better off as humans for seeing it.

So why are they ranked here?
The Pac-12 North looks like it could play out in a similar fashion to the SEC East, where Georgia and South Carolina could be slotted in either order as 1A or 1B. Oregon is actually the preseason favorite to win the North (and the league’s championship game) — albeit by the slimmest of margins — but if it comes down to it, I’m going to go with Shaw over first-year coach Mark Helfrich.

Anything else?
There’s a lot of national focus on Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel as far as as quarterbacks go, but keep an eye on Marcus Mariota. This redshirt sophomore was efficient in his first year as a starter, throwing for 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions while completing nearly 70 percent of his passes. He has great size (6-foot-4 and 211 pounds) and athleticism.

3. Oregon State (Last year: 9-4; lost to Texas in Alamo Bowl)
What happened last season?
Just when you think Mike Riley is on the way out of Corvallis, he orchestrates one of the more dramatic turnarounds in college football. (Not that I thought Riley was on his way out or anything… Okay, I did.) The Beavers started 6-0 before exchanging wins and losses through the rest of the year, which ended in a bowl loss to Texas.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s good offensive firepower returning for Oregon State. This team has two capable quarterbacks in Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, and running back has both talent and depth. The question will continue to be on the offensive line can pave the way for OSU to have a better rushing attack than the one that ranked 101st in the country a year ago. On defense, the Beavers’ secondary should be a strength even with the departure of Jordan Poyer.

Anything else?
It wouldn’t be surprising to see this team 7-0 headed into a huge home game against Stanford — and playing in Reser Stadium can be a thorn for opposing teams. But there are no gimmes on the schedule once late October rolls around.

4. Washington (Last year: 7-6; lost to Boise State in MAACO Bowl Las Vegas)
What happened last season?
This can be summed up in highlights and lowlights. Highlight: beating Stanford, however ugly it was, 17-13. Lowlight: a regular-season ending loss to Wazzu in the Apple Cup. In overtime. Woof.

So why are they ranked here?
Steve Sarkisian isn’t on the hot seat, but it’s time to win more than seven games. Keith Price returns as one of the more talented quarterbacks in the Pac-12, but he’s also never experienced the luxury known as pass protection. If he has time, this is an offense that can put up a lot of points. The defense made major strides in 2012 under Justin Wilcox and will need to keep pace against a schedule that features plenty of good offensive opponents.

Anything else?
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is currently dealing with a broken pinkie. There’s optimism he can return by Week 1, though, as Sarkisian said it was a clean break. Jenkins will be counted on a lot this season in the passing game, so his health is crucial.

5. Washington State (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
Yeah, Mike Leach‘s first season in Pullman didn’t exactly go as planned. The Cougars passed the ball a lot (go figure) but struggled to score and couldn’t stop anyone. But, hey, y’all beat Washington so huzzah!

So why are they ranked here?
There are still plenty of concerns on both sides of the ball, but Wazzu is not a team completely deprived of talent. Connor Halliday returns at quarterback, but the offensive line needs to come together to give him some more protection. Sacks and interceptions doomed the Cougars offense last season. If the offense can jell, a turnaround might start taking some form in 2013.

Anything else?
Wazzu doesn’t have to run the ball more, but they have to run it more effectively. This is a team that averaged 29 yards per game on the ground in 2012. Twenty. Nine. That’s, like, De’Anthony Thomas‘ yards-per-carry or something.

6. Cal (Last year: 3-9)
What happened last season?
The Golden Bears lost their shine and Jeff Tedford was shown the door. Things got really bad at the end when Cal lost their final two games by an average of 45 points.

So why are they ranked here?
Sonny Dykes will win in Berkeley, it just won’t be this year. True freshman Jared Goff will be thrown into the fire immediately as the team’s starting quarterback, and the schedule is unforgiving.

Anything else?
Cal will likely lose three of their first four games, but we could still get a decent understanding of what this team can potentially accomplish in Dykes’ first year if they hang tough with Northwestern, Ohio State or Oregon.

Pac-12 South

1. UCLA (Last year: 9-5; lost to Baylor in Holiday Bowl)
What happened last season?
The Bruins took a huge step forward under first-year coach Jim Mora by winning nine games and making it to the Pac-12 championship. UCLA got torched by Baylor in the Holiday Bowl, but the Bears were playing their best football at the end of the year.

So why are they ranked here?
There’s a new edge in Pasadena that previously wasn’t there. That’s a reflection on Mora, and things are only looking up for UCLA. Brett Hundley returns as one of the most gifted quarterbacks in the league. This is an offense that will need to find a replacement for Johnathan Franklin in the running game to take the pressure off of Hundley. The defense has to replace its entire secondary too. But this is a talented, young team.

Anything else?
Part of that talented youth is Notre Dame transfer Eddie Vanderdoes. The defensive lineman will be able to play immediately and he’s expected to do so.

2. Arizona State (Last year: 8-5; beat Navy in Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl) 
What happened last season?
First-year coach Todd Graham did a good job getting the Sun Devils to eight wins. And, of course, beating Arizona always helps.

So why are they ranked here?
ASU could be a sneaky good team this year. There’s a lot of hype in Tempe around Taylor Kelly, who already has a 3,000-yard passing season under his belt.  This team features 17 returning starters, including All-American defensive tackle Will Sutton. There’s room to grow at the receiver spot, but the Sun Devils have a good backfield with Marion Grice and D.J. Foster. Based on their 2012 play, this is a team that can right in the middle of the Pac-12 South hunt.

Anything else?
ASU has an interesting and difficult early part of the season with Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame in consecutive weeks. Winning both of those early Pac-12 games would be huge.

3. USC (Last year: 7-6; lost to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl) 
What happened last season?
USC went from the preseason No. 1 team to being unranked at the end of the season after losing a to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl in embarrassing fashion. Matt Barkley hurt his shoulder and couldn’t finish out his career with the Trojans. There were almost too many disappointments to list.

So why are they ranked here?
There are a lot of question marks on offense with the departure of Barkley and receiver Robert Woods. Marqise Lee is back though and figures to be a huge part of the game plan — if he can stay healthy. There was a lot of staff turnover during the offseason, so it could take some time for everything to come together. And let’s not forget the depth issues affecting this team while it rides out the scholarship reductions from the NCAA. Still, it’s not like USC is lacking talent. That should be enough to keep this team from going under .500 this year.

Anything else?
Well, that’s the thing. Lane Kiffin can’t afford to go under .500 — or .500 at all —  and realistically expect to keep his job. The scholarship reductions hurt, but they don’t have any impact on failed two-point conversions, or switching numbers between plays midway through a game. Pull shenanigans like that and win seven again, and Kiffin could be headed for the unemployment line.

4. Arizona (Last year: 8-5; beat Nevada in New Mexico Bowl)
What happened last season?
Rich Rodriguez rebounded from his short Michigan gig by winning right away with Arizona. The highlight of the year included a 39-36 win over what was then a top-10 ranked USC team.

So why are they ranked here?
Matt Scott waited his turn and had himself a banner senior season. He left for the NFL as one of the more intriguing quarterback prospects. But while the Wildcats have to replace him, they do bring back Ka’Deem Carey, who was the country’s leading running back last year. Carey figures to be the focal point of the offense this year, which may need to win some shootouts again.

Anything else?
The defense was the worst in the Pac-12 last season at giving up points. Jeff Casteel is a fine defensive coordinator, so that’ll be a unit to watch to see if any significant improvement can be made.

5. Utah (Last year: 5-7) 
What happened last season?
It was another disappointing year for Kyle Whittingham. The offense, especially the passing game, couldn’t get going and Jordan Wynn had to end his oft-injured career earlier than he’d hoped.

So why are they ranked here?
Dennis Erickson been brought in as co-offensive coordinator to light a fire under one of the worst passing games in the Pac-12 last season. The defensive line loses three key players as well in Star Lotulelei, Joe Kruger and Dave Kruger. There’s a lot to replace and plenty of tough games on the schedule.

Anything else?
Erickson is more than just another offensive mind to add to the staff. He’s familiar with the recent Pac-12 landscape from his time with Arizona State. That should pay dividends for the Utes, but just how soon remains unclear.

6. Colorado (Last year: 1-11) 
What happened last season?
The Buffaloes were terrible and Jon Embree got fired. During Embree’s final press conference, it become abundantly clear from a national perspective just how much work this program has to do to get back to its former winning ways.

So why are they ranked here?
Mike MacIntyre did wonders at San Jose State. He’ll need to work those miracles again in Boulder, but 2013 looks like it could be another brutal year for this program. The Buffs have a dire QB situation right now, though it appears Texas transfer Connor Wood will get the nod. There is a lot of experience returning for Colorado (17 starters), but how long it takes them to adjust to MacIntyre remains to be seen.

Anything else?
It won’t count toward Pac-12 standings, but Colorado can make a big splash at the start of the season by beating Colorado State. When little is expected to go your way, grabbing a win over an in-state rival goes a long way.


John Taylor‘s prediction:
1. Stanford
2. Oregon
3. Oregon State
4. Washington
5. Washington State
6. Cal

2. Arizona State
3. USC
4. Utah
5. Arizona
6. Colorado

Ben’s Pac-12 champ: Stanford
John’s Pac-12 champ: Stanford

Ex-Penn State TE Brent Wilkerson gets probation and must register as sex offender

Brent Wilkerson

Former Penn State tight end Brent Wilkerson will serve five years of probation and must register as a sex offender after pleading guilty to indecent assault on Tuesday.

Wilkerson was accused of pushing a woman upstairs to her bedroom back in February. The two fell asleep but the woman claimed to wake up to discover she was being kissed and fondled by Wilkerson. A police report said Wilkerson was drunk but the woman was not.

Wilkerson was slated to be a key contributor to Penn State’s offense in 2016, but after initially being suspended by the program in the spring, he was dismissed by the program weeks later.

DeShone Kizer says Notre Dame players still trust Brian Kelly

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 17:  DeShone Kizer #14 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts to a touchdown during the first half of a game against the Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Stadium on September 17, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Notre Dame may be going through a disappointing college football season, but quarterback DeShone Kizer says the players have not lost their faith in their head coach, Brian Kelly.

We have complete confidence in coach Kelly,” Kizer said, according to The Indy Star. “He has experience, he’s a winning coach, he knows how to win and he’s going to figure out whatever it takes to win. And as long as we continue to have the mentality that he is the successful coach that he is and trust in that, we’re going to be fine.:

Notre Dame is just 2-5 this season, with their bowl hopes fading quickly. As Notre Dame has struggled, Kelly has come under some fire for how he has handled the season thus far, which has included throwing others under the bus, a change at defensive coordinator and poor coaching decisions along the way. The preseason expectation of being a potential playoff contender in the eyes of some set the bar high for Kelly and the Irish, and so far Notre Dame has come nowhere close to living up to those standards.

Kelly has already received a vote of confidence from Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick. Now he has his starting quarterback behind him.

“We’ve been all over the place in this first half of the season from different motivational speeches to different mindsets each week trying to figure out what’s the best way of getting a win and doing whatever we can,” Kizer said. “But from here on out, it’s just having a good time, taking this opportunity to play for Notre Dame and doing whatever you can to bring home wins.”

Minnesota adds BYU and Colorado to future schedules

03 Nov 2001 : A giant Minnesota flag is waved during the game at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapoils, Minnesota. The Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Minnesota Gophers 31-28. DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Elsa/Allsport
Mandatory Credit: Elsa/Allsport
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Minnesota was busy on the scheduling front today with the announcement of future home-and-home series with Colorado and BYU.

Minnesota will host BYU on September 26, 2020 and travel to BYU five years later on September 20, 2025. In between, Minnesota will complete a home-and-home with Colorado from the Pac-12. Colorado will host the Gophers on September 18, 2021 and Minnesota will welcome the Buffs to their turf on September 17, 2022. (FBSchedules.com notes the Minnesota-Colorado series has been known since 2012, leaving it a mystery why it was announced today).

For Minnesota, all four game swill satisfy their nonconference scheduling obligation in the Big Ten. Big Ten teams must schedule one game per year against another power conference opponent, or one deemed to be equal in status. BYU meets that standard for the Big Ten. The Pac-12 has no such scheduling obligations for its members.

Colorado is 3-0 all-time against the Gophers, with the most recent meeting between the two coming in 1992. Minnesota and BYU have never met in football.

LSU CB Dwayne Thomas says Tigers are “going to dominate” Alabama next week

Dwayne Thomas, Dak Prescott
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Alabama has clearly been the best team in the country this season, which is supported by being a near-unanimous No. 1 in both the AP and coaches polls. Either LSU cornerback Dwayne Thomas hasn’t been paying attention, watching or got the memo, but he is certainly not mincing words when he looks forward to next week’s SEC West clash with the Crimson Tide.

“I really see us dominating this offense. I really see us dominating this team,” Thomas said when discussing next week’s game with Alabama (LSU and Alabama are each off this week). “This is the year. We’ve been letting them off the hook for the last couple of years. This is my senior year. We’re going out with a bang. It’s time for us to bring that win back. We’re going to be at home. I feel like we have the edge to take it to them, and we’re going to take it to them. I feel like we’re going to dominate this game.”

Alabama has the nation’s 15th-ranked offense, averaging 498.0 yards per game. LSU has the 14th-ranked defense, allowing just 313.9 yards per game. If there is an area of concern for Alabama that LSU could exploit, it may be in the turnover game. The Crimson Tide have lost the football 12 times. Alabama has made up for it on defense though, with 16 takeaways and a ton of points scored by the defense.

Alabama has won five straight games in the series, starting with the 2012 BCS Championship Game. LSU has not scored more than 17 point sin a game against Alabama during that run. Alabama will be a solid favorite against the Tigers this season, but LSU has started to turn a corner since making a coaching change. Ed Orgeron is 3-0 since taking over for the fired Les Miles, and the impact of having a healthy Leonard Fournette was on full display last weekend against Ole Miss. LSU may be playing their best football at the best possible time. Will it be enough to give Alabama a challenge?

We’ll just have to wait to find out for sure, unless you want to just skip it and take Thomas at his word.