Washington v Arizona State

CFT 2014 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions


As the 2014 season draws near, we peek into our crystal ball and guess project how each of the five major conferences will play out. Today, we will be examining the Pac-12. 

And while we’re at it, check out our CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository for our team’s looks at the upcoming season.


1. Oregon (Last year: 11-2; beat Texas at Alamo Bowl)
The Ducks have been on the cusp of elite status as a program for the past four seasons. It’s time for the program to get over the hump and win a national title. This year’s squad may have the best chance to capture the school’s first national championship. It all starts with the quarterback position. Marcus Mariota is the best signal caller currently playing collegiate football. Yes, that includes Florida State’s Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston. Mariota may have hoisted the trophy last year if he didn’t suffer a knee injury late in the season which hampered his style of play. Mariota is extremely efficient as a passer, highly intelligent with his decision-making and a deadly athlete when he decides to run with the football. The Ducks also return key starters at vital positions. Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and center Hroniss Grasu may have been the top players selected at their position in May’s NFL draft. Yet, they decided to return to Eugene.  The team’s leading rusher (Byron Marshall), tackler (Derrick Malone) and sack artist (Tony Washington) return as well. As Mark Helfrich enters his second year as head coach, there aren’t any excuses for the Ducks this season. It’s a national championship or bust. This is the year for Oregon to prove its more than a flashy offense and uniform trendsetters.

2. Stanford (Last year: 11-3; lost to Michigan State in Rose Bowl)
Cardinal faithful will almost certainly remind anyone who will listen that their team beat Oregon the past two seasons and claimed Pac-12 conference titles. However, the Cardinal simply aren’t as talented from top to bottom as the Ducks. The key players Oregon retained; the Cardinal lost. The team lost it’s leading rusher, tackler, sack artist and four of its starting offensive linemen. While Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan may be entering his second full season as the team’s starter, he’s a notch below the elite quarterbacks in the Pac-12 conference.David Shaw is one of the best coaches in college football. This team will continue it’s winning ways. But Stanford will likely take a slight step backwards as the Ducks reclaim the honor as the best team in the Pac-12 Conference.

3. Oregon State (Last year: 7-6; beat Boise State in Hawai’i Bowl)
College football’s leading-returning passer resides in Corvallis, Oregon. Quarterback Sean Mannion returns for his senior campaign after throwing for 4,662 yards and 37 touchdowns. But Mannion won’t have Biletnikoff Trophy winner Brandin Cooks to throw to anymore. And that ‘s a good thing. Mannion’s experience behind center is a major positive for the Beavers, but Oregon State head coach Mike Riley admitted the coaching staff became enamored with throwing the football due to their dynamic duo at quarterback and wide receiver. This season, the Beavers will be more balanced on offense and more closely resemble the team that went 9-4 in 2012 instead of the one that was 7-6 last season. Senior Terran Ward and junior Storm Woods combined for 1,060 rushing yards last season. They should receive bigger workloads. With a more balanced attack, the Beavers hope to avoid another five-game losing streak in Pac-12 play. The team seen during its 38-23 victory over Boise State in the Hawai’i Bowl is the one Pac-12 opponents should expect to face Saturdays this fall.

4. Washington (Last year: 9-4; beat BYU in Fight Hunger Bowl)
The University of Washington did the impossible; they pried Chris Petersen out of Boise and made him their new head coach. Petersen inherits a talented roster built slowly over time by previous head coach Steve Sarkisian. After three straight 7-6 seasons, the Huskies finally broke through with an 9-4 campaign in 2013. The team then lost it’s head coach, quarterback and workhorse running back. Change of that degree will likely cause the Huskies to take a small step back during the upcoming season. While Peterson was ultra-successful during his eight seasons at Boise State, his team stumbled last year and lost four games for the first time in eight years. The last coach to have that type of success at Boise then finish with a four-loss team before moving to the Pac-12 was Dan Hawkins. Furthermore, there are still questions at quarterback for the Huskies. Cyler Miles hasn’t shown he’s ready to take over the team. Until one of the quarterbacks does, the Huskies will have to rely on a talented defense, particularly a defensive line that features nose tackle Danny Shelton and defensive end Hau’oli Kikaha.

5. Washington State (Last year: 6-7; lost to Colorado State in New Mexico Bowl)
This will be Mike Leach‘s third year in Pullman, Washington. It was in Leach’s third year at Texas Tech he was able to lead the Red Raiders to a nine-win season. He won’t be as lucky with the Cougars. It’s taken Leach some time to implement the “Air Raid” offense that far north. This should be the first season in which it’s fully functional with senior Connor Halliday as the trigger-man behind center. However, the team’s defense struggled mightily in 2013 and finished 102nd overall. Leach’s run at Texas Tech was special, because he could out-scheme nearly everyone in the Big 12. But he could always rely on the talent he recruited in the state of Texas. The state of Washington doesn’t present the same level of talent. In three recruiting classes, only one former four-star recruit, wide receiver Gabe Marks, is expected to contribute for the Cougars this season. And that talent disparity will keep Wazzu toward the bottom of the Pac-12.

6. Cal (Last year: 1-11)
The hiring of Sonny Dykes as Cal’s head coach was an absolute disaster. The Golden Bears finished 1-11. They didn’t play any defense whatsoever. Players were leaving the program as soon as possible once the season ended. The only expectation for the team this season is to improve on last year’s record and actually win a conference game. Cal should be able to move the ball in Dykes’ version of the “Air Raid” offense. Quarterback Jared Goff enters his second season as starter after he put together a solid season as a true freshman. Plus, four of Goff’s top five receivers return. The Golden Bears will be able to throw the football, but the question is whether or not the defense will be able to stop anyone. History says no. Art Kaufman was hired as the team’s defensive coordinator this off season, and he has an uphill battle in front of him. Even when Dykes led Louisiana Tech to a 9-3 record, a national ranking and nearly defeated a Texas A&M team led by Johnny Manziel, the Bulldogs were the worst defensive team in college football. Dykes’ emphasis falls on the offensive side of the ball, and that is not going to change. It’s only a matter of time before Cal is looking for another head coach once the school’s new athletic director is named.


1. UCLA (Last year: 10-3; beat Virginia Tech in Sun Bowl)
Expectations are sky high at UCLA. And they should be. In two short years, Jim Mora has completely rebuilt the culture in Westwood. Plus, the Bruins are fortunate to have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Brett Hundley. If Hundley declared for the NFL draft this year, he would have been a first-round selection. He’s projected to be a Top 10 pick for next May. The quarterback is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talent on this roster. Senior Jordan James and sophomore Paul Perkins return in the backfield after combining for 1,107 rushing yards in 2013. Devin Fuller is a dynamic play maker out of the slot. And the defense may be even more talented. The two-way superstar Myles Jacks is one of college football’s top linebackers and a pretty good running back too. Erik Kendricks is highly instinctive and a tackling machine. Sophomores Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes will be one year better and impossible to move along the defensive interior. And the secondary is experienced with Anthony Jefferson and Ishmael Adams returning. The No. 1 one goal for the Bruins will be to claim a Pac-12 championship, but this team has legitimate national championship potential. They simply have to get past Oregon and Stanford to prove they’re worthy of a berth in the College Football Playoff.

2. USC (Last year: 10-4; beat Fresno State in Las Vegas Bowl)
It’s hard to maintain momentum from one season to another. Although, USC appeared to regain its confidence and swagger as a program when it won six of its last seven games under the direction of interim head coach Ed Oregeron. Despite the team’s late season success, Oregeron wasn’t hired to become the team’s permanent head coach. Enter Steve Sarkisian, a former co-offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll. Despite sub-par seasons by USC’s standards in recent years, the team has two things in its favor. First, the talent from the top of the roster to the bottom is always among the best in college football. Second, the team’s depth will continue to improve as the bottom of the roster is rebuilt after being previously hamstrung by NCAA sanctions. The Trojans will be led by a strong defense which features the potential No. 1 overall pick in May’s NFL draft, defensive lineman Leonard Williams. The unit finished 13th overall in total defense last season. The offense, meanwhile, will continue to grow under the direction of offensive coordinator Clay Helton and junior quarterback Cody Kessler. The offense played at a much higher level once Lane Kiffin was fired and Helton became the primary play-caller. It was a smart decision by Sarkisian to retain Helton on his staff.  All the pieces are in place for the Trojans to become a factor in the Pac-12 again. USC faithful has to hope Sarkisian was the right hire to keep them in the national conversation.

3. Arizona State (Last year: 10-4; lost to Texas Tech in Holiday Bowl)
Since the Pac-12 South is generally considered the weaker division in the conference, it’s been somewhat overlooked that the Sun Devils played in the league’s championship game last year. Head coach Todd Graham has built a team that is known for its fast-pace offense and aggressive defense. In fact, Arizona State features the best quarterback-wide receiver tandem in the Pac-12 with Taylor Kelly behind center and Jaelen Strong creating mismatches for defenses. Kelly, in particular, has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the Pac-12 the past two seasons. And running back D.J. Foster is a dangerous weapon out of the backfield. Arizona State may even be able to challenge UCLA and USC atop the Pac-12 South, but the team’s previously devastating defensive front is being completely rebuilt. The team lost it’s top tackler, sack artist and two-time Pac-12 Defense Player of the Year Will Sutton to the NFL. Graham will continue to blitz every chance he gets, but he no longer has the talent to win individual match-ups on a regular basis. The offense will score points, but the defense will have trouble stopping anyone. 

4.  Arizona (Last year: 8-5; beat Boston College in AdvoCare V100 Bowl)
Is the year the Wildcats are ready to take the next step under head coach Rich Rodriguez? During his first two seasons with the program, Arizona finished with an 8-5 record. The problem with Rodriguez is the passing game and defense suffer from the coach’s insistence to implement his offensive scheme, which is a zone-read heavy. The x-factor this season will be whomever Rodriguez’s names as his starting quarterback. Last season, B.J. Denker didn’t provide any consistency throwing the football. It will either be redshirt freshman Anu Solomon or senior transfer Jesse Scroggins which takes over the offense. Solomon reportedly has a slight lead in the competition during fall camp. These two will have to be better dual-threats out of the backfield than Denker was. And the defense has to be better after surrendering 401.1 yards per game last season. If these two things happen, the Wildcats will finish higher in the standings than CFT currently projects. But, it’s unlikely.

5. Colorado (Last year: 4-8)
A 4-8 record for any other program would be a disappointment. Colorado, however, isn’t just any program. It’s a school that went through an ugly divorce with previous head coach Jon Embree. Four wins by first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre was actually a three-game improvement. MacIntyre has a history of rebuilding a program in a similar fashion. He took San Jose State from a one-win team to 10 wins in three seasons. While the growth at Colorado should be far more incremental, the Buffaloes will continue to improve under the current coaching staff. The team returns 16 starters, including quarterback Sefo Liufau, and has a manageable non-conference schedule. There are at least five games the Buffaloes could be considered the favorites to win. It will be up to the coaching staff and players to steal one or two more wins from Pac-12 opponents.

6.  Utah (Last year: 5-7)
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham enters his 10th season with the program, and it could be his last if the Utes fall to the basement of the Pac-12 South. The problems start on the offensive side of the football. Whittingham used numerous different play-callers in recent years, but the Utes’ offense continued to sputter. Utah finished 76th overall in total offense during the 2013 campaign. Last season the defense wasn’t the team’s saving grace either. The Utes finished 60th overall in total defense. Whittingham will need key players to step up this season if the team has any hope of consistently competing in the Pac-12. Quarterback Travis Wilson has to improve after throwing 16 touchdowns and 16 interceptions as a sophomore. Another 5-7 season or worse will likely signal change within the program.

Oregon over UCLA

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh says replay decision was the ‘worst call he’s ever seen’

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Jim Harbaugh talks with a referee while playing the Illinois Fighting Illini on October 22, 2016 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Michigan won the game 41-8. Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Jim Harbaugh has been known for using a bit of hyperbole from time to time but it sounds as though he was really, really, really upset at a call in the final few minutes of No. 2 Michigan’s 41-8 win over Illinois on Saturday.

Wolverines quarterback John O’Korn had completed a third-and-nine pass to Drake Harris that officials had marked short of the first down by nearly two yards. Harbaugh quickly challenged the spot but Big Ten replay officials upheld the call to force a fourth down decision that was a little longer than it should have been according to the coach.

“I’ve never seen a worse call in the game of football,” Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. “My understanding of the rules and the review system is it’s the spot, it’s to get the correct spot.”

Michigan won the game in blowout fashion of course and the call was irrelevant to the final score as the Wolverines got the first down on the next play and then kneeled down to end the game. But the comments and decision to challenge a call over a few feet does show the level to which Harbaugh will compete on the field.

Apparently that is something that is now well-known by Big Ten officials too.

Clemson RB Wayne Gallman says hit that knocked him out of N.C. State game was “dirty”

CLEMSON, SC - OCTOBER 01: Wayne Gallman #9 of the Clemson Tigers carries the ball against the Louisville Cardinals during the second quarter at Memorial Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Clemson, South Carolina.  (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images)
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Clemson running back Wayne Gallman has been dealing with the aftereffects of a concussion that knocked him out of the team’s win over N.C. State.

He seemed pretty clear on what he thought about the hit that caused that concussion however, telling the Associated Press that the play was “dirty.”

“You saw him lead with his head,” Gallman said of Wolfpack defensive back Dravious Wright. “He came with his head.

“I wanted somebody to hurt him that was in the game if they could.”

Gallman was knocked out on the play and said he didn’t recall anything until a few minutes later. Clemson apparently sent video of the hit to the ACC office, but was told that it was a legal play (no flag was thrown on it either).

The tailback was held out of some of the Tigers practices last week as they rested on their bye but added that he will be good to go for this week’s matchup with Florida State in a game that could seal the ACC Atlantic division for Clemson with a win.

Gallman, a redshirt junior, is expected by many to enter the NFL Draft after the season so it means he likely won’t be facing N.C. State again on the field so it looks like he’ll have to take his frustration about the play out on the Seminoles on Saturday.

Bob Stoops defends brother Mike following Oklahoma defense’s performance at Texas Tech

LUBBOCK, TX - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Bob Stoops of the Oklahoma Sooners talks to his players on the bench during the first half of the game between the Texas Tech Red Raiders and the Oklahoma Sooners on October 22, 2016 at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
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Oklahoma’s defense has not had the best of weeks.

The Sooners gave up 59 points on Saturday to Texas Tech and allowed quarterback Patrick Mahomes to set an FBS record for total offense as he did just about whatever he wanted in the passing game. While the team ultimately won the game, giving up that many points and yards has naturally led to some questions about Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator.

Head coach Bob Stoops isn’t having any of that however, and it’s not just because the coordinator in question is his brother Mike Stoops.

“It’s all of us, too. It isn’t just my brother and I. It’s also coach [Kerry] Cooks, coach [Calvin] Thibodeaux, coach [Tim] Kish, everybody in there,” Stoops said Monday, according to the Associated Press. “It’s the same coordinator that also led the league in every defensive category a year ago, and made it to the final four. We’re not running a new defense. He didn’t bring in something different. It’s the same defense. If it’s worked before, it’ll work again, and I’ve got confidence in it. And I’m also part of what we’re doing.”

Oklahoma is ranked 16th in the country and remain one of the favorites to win the Big 12 this season but it’s clear that they won’t be doing that if things don’t improve on the defensive side of the ball. The Sooners are allowing over 40 points per game in conference play and are last in the league in pass defense.

Luckily there is a cure for some those defensive ills coming up this week as Oklahoma hosts 1-6 Kansas for homecoming. It’s probably safe in saying the defense will be able to bounce back against the lowly Jayhawks but if they struggle again, you can bet those calls for Stoops to make some changes on his coaching staff will grow even louder.

UCLA QB Josh Rosen dealing with nerve issue in his throwing shoulder

PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 01:  Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the first half of a game against the Arizona Wildcats  at the Rose Bowl on October 1, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has missed the team’s last two games dealing with a host of injuries but it turns out that one might be more serious than was initially indicated.

Rosen was hurt in two separate incidents in the Bruins’ loss at Arizona State three weeks ago. While he appears to have recovered from a minor lower leg injury, he has yet to play for the team in losses to Washington State and Utah as the result of his shoulder injury.

Backup Mike Fafaul has taken over and thrown for nearly 800 yards in Rosen’s absence but it’s clear that the team needs their star quarterback back if they want to end their current three-game losing streak and get a chance to make a bowl game.

If there’s one bit of good news it’s that the signal-caller is getting some extra time to rest up as UCLA is on their bye this week before traveling to Colorado next Thursday.