David Yankey, David Shaw, Shayne Skov

CFT Predicts: the Pac-12

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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.

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

South
1. UCLA
2. Arizona State
3. USC
4. Utah
5. Arizona
6. Colorado

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

SEC overturns Florida WR Brandon Powell’s half-game suspension for phantom punch

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 03: Brandon Powell #4 of the Florida Gators scores on a 77 yard touchdown reception during the second quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels on October 3, 2015 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Fortunately for both Brandon Powell and Florida, common sense in the league office prevailed.

In the fourth quarter of UF’s loss to Tennessee, Powell was flagged for an unsportsmanlike call and ejected from the game for seemingly throwing a punch at a Vols player.  Because of SEC rules, Powell was also set to be suspended from the first half of this Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt.

The conference, however, overturned the suspension upon review, no doubt determining that Vols safety Rashaan Gaulden performed a flop of such magnitude that it would’ve made an international soccer star stand up and cheer, then bow down and claim they’re not worthy.

We’ve received word that he’ll go,” head coach Jim McElwain said Wednesday. “Nothing from there, so he was full go from Monday afternoon on.”

Powell is currently second on the team with 15 receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns.

Report: Season-opening starting QB Blake Barnett transferring from Alabama

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 3: Blake Barnett #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws against the USC Trojans in the first quarter during the AdvoCare Classic at AT&T Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Not surprisingly, the rise of Jalen Hurts has led to some turnover in Alabama’s quarterback room.

Citing unnamed sources, al.com is reporting that Blake Barnett has left the Tide football program and is expected to transfer.  Thus far, the school has declined to address Barnett’s status with the team moving forward.

Barnett started the season opener against USC but lasted all of two series before being replaced by the true freshman Hurts.  In his three starts since, all wins for the top-ranked Tide, Hurts has completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 609 yards and three touchdowns.  Most importantly, he hasn’t throw an interception, although he did toss one in relief of Barnett.

A five-star 2015 recruit, Barnett was rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 21 player overall on 247sports.com’s composite board.  The 6-5, 200-pounder took a redshirt as a true freshman.

Hurts also adds an extra dimension in the running game as he’s second on the team with 251 yards rushing and tied for the lead with three rushing touchdowns.

Should Barnett move on to another FBS program, he’d likely have to sit out the 2017 season.  He’d then have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2018.

With Barnett presumably gone, the Tide would likely turn to Cooper Bateman, who served as Jake Coker‘s primary backup last season and started one game, as Hurts’ primary backup.

Purdue’s Martesse Patterson facing felony battery charge

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: Purdue Boilermakers mascot Purdue Pete is seen during the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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A rather serious-sounding situation is the latest to trigger a resetting of the “Days Without An Arrest” ticker.

According to the Lafayette Journal & Courier, Martesse Patterson was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of battery resulting in serious bodily injury.  That charge is a felony.

Even more noteworthy is the fact that the charge stems from an altercation with a former teammate, ex-Boilermaker walk-on Alex Hilger.  From the Journal & Courier:

Hilger alleged that on Sept. 7, Patterson entered Hilger’s room at their residence in the 800 block of Hayes Street in West Lafayette “to borrow some property.” Hilger told Patterson he was not allowed to borrow the property, but Patterson took it anyway and returned to his room.

According to the affidavit, when Hilger approached Patterson to retrieve his possession, Patterson punched him in the face. Hilger sought treatment at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after sustaining a broken jaw requiring a two-day hospital stay. The affidavit cites medical records showing Hilger suffered a “displaced fracture of the left mandible and a non-displaced fracture of the right mandible.

Hilger, who played in 12 games last season but is not a member of the team this year, obtained a no-contact order against Patterson, who admitted to police that he both took the property and punched Hilger.

Darrell Hazell is aware of the situation, with a statement saying that the head coach “respects that there is a legal process that he will allow to evolve before further commenting.”

Patterson started the first two games of the season before being demoted for what Hazell described as a “personal matter.” The demotion came shortly after the incident that led to the charge.

Report: Arizona lineman Zach Hemmila’s death caused by toxic mix of prescription drugs

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 03:  Arizona Wildcats helmets display the #65 to honor offensive lineman Zach Hemmila who passed away in the off-season before the college football game against the Brigham Young Cougars at University of Phoenix Stadium on September 3, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Nearly two months after his tragic passing, a cause of death for Zach Hemmila has been confirmed.

Based on the autopsy report filed by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office, the Arizona Republic is reporting that the 22-year-old Hemmila’s death was the result of the combined toxic effects of two different prescription drugs. The two drugs, the Republic noted, were oxymorphone, an opiate painkiller, and alprazolam, an anxiety medication.

From the newspaper’s report:

Chewing tobacco was found in Hemmila’s mouth, according to the autopsy report. No intact pills were discovered in his gastrointestinal system. His lungs were “markedly congested,” per the report.

Hemmila passed away either very late on the night of Aug. 7 or early in the morning Aug. 8. A cousin discovered Hemmila’s body at the Arizona offensive lineman’s residence.

His death has officially been ruled an accident.

“Arizona Athletics continues to mourn the passing of Zach Hemmila,” a statement from the university said in response to the report. “We will honor the family’s request for privacy and support them in any way we can.”

Hemmila started six games last season. He was slated to start at center for the Wildcats this season.

The Wildcats will continue to wear a sticker the No. 65 to honor Hemmila for the remainder of the season.