CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions

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As the 2015 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 home of the defending national champion, the Big Ten. 

And while we’re at it, check out some of our other Power Five conference predictions HERE (ACC) and HERE (Big 12) and HERE (Big Ten) as the CFT team continues to take its month-long glimpse of the upcoming season.

PAC-12 NORTH

1. Oregon (Last year: 13-2, lost to Ohio State in College Football Playoff national championship game)

First thing’s first, replacing Marcus Mariota is not exactly easy for Mark Helfrich. The Heisman Trophy winner from a year ago leaves big shoes to fill. Fortunately, Oregon added one of the top quarterbacks in the nation to transfer schools this offseason with Vernon Adams leaving FCS powerhouse Eastern Washington to join the Ducks (he is now listed as the starter). The transition will go well enough for Oregon’s offense to continue making big things happen, especially with Royce Freeman looking to join the young crop of running backs expected to have a big season. The good news is Adams has a pretty solid offensive line back with starting experience, but road trips to Michigan State and Arizona State will be tough to return home with wins. Oregon finishes the season with two wins, which puts last year’s national runner-up on the fringe of the playoff conversation at the end of the season.

2. Stanford (Last year: 8-5, beat Maryland in Foster Farms Bowl)

Stanford will once again be Oregon’s biggest threat in the Pac-12 North this season, while Washington takes some time to rebound and Cal’s defense a major work in progress. Defense will be the consistent key to the Cardinal this season even though it returns just a small handful of starters from last season. The biggest concern for Stanford last season was a slow-starting offense. The offense finally started to click at the end of the year and must get off to a better start this year. Kevin Hogan has nearly his entire starting offensive line back this fall, and Stanford should have a decent running game to work with. Stanford gets Oregon at home and an early road trip to USC could be a toss-up.

3. Washington (Last year: 8-6, lost to Oklahoma State in the Cactus Bowl)

I still believe good things are coming to Washington under Chris Petersen. I just think this is a step back before the Huskies start stepping forward. There are just too many holes on the roster right now after losing a load of talent to the NFL. Give Petersen some time though and Washington should be an improved team in 2016. This season could get off to a rough start on the road against Boise State and a home game against Utah State. Good for the Mountain West Conference. Not so good for the Pac-12. Washington also gets USC, Oregon and Stanford in consecutive weeks in the middle of the year. Ouch.

4. California (Last year: 5-7)

No win total will justify how fun this team will be to watch this season. The offense is there with Jared Goff leading the offense. The defense is a different story, as it will struggle to slow down anybody. Cal suffered some close calls last season. Getting to six wins is not impossible if the Bears can get off to a fast start. I’m just not sure if they will do that. A 1-3 record before hosting Washington State is what I’m seeing in the cards, and that cannot happen if Cal is to go bowling this season.

5. Oregon State (Last year: 5-7)

Mike Riley left for Nebraska, and he may have taken the good vibes with him this season. In steps Gary Andersen, fresh off a 59-0 beatdown at the hands of Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game last year. Andersen is a good enough coach to make Oregon State do some good things, but his defense returns just two starters and he inherits an unstable quarterback situation lacking in experience. They may be up and down in the first half of the season but they run into a wall starting with, believe it or not, Colorado.

6. Washington State (Last year: 3-9)

The Mike Leach experiment at Washington State may come to a close soon if things do not show promise and progress this season in Pullman. After winning just three games last season, the Cougars added some junior college experience to the roster this season. If Leach can channel his inner Bill Snyder (whom Leach once called a sorcerer), maybe the Cougars can scratch together enough wins to reach the postseason. I’m not sure I see enough of those wins though, especially in Pac-12 play.

PAC-12 SOUTH

1. Arizona State (Last year: 10-3, beat Duke in Sun Bowl)

The Sun Devils do few things extraordinarily well, and getting out of the Pac-12 South unscathed will be difficult for every team in the division. So it must be the schedule, right? You may actually like Arizona State’s chances in the opener against Texas A&M in Houston, and they get USC at home a few weeks later. Tough road tests at UCLA and Utah before the bye week are not automatic losses, although those games could spell trouble. Fortunately for Arizona State,they score an upset at home on a Thursday night after a bye week against Oregon (setting up an eventual rematch in the Pac-12 championship game) and they will not lose again in the regular season. Quarterback Mike Bercovici finds a comfort level with receiver D.J. Foster as the Sun Devils put a streak together at the perfect time. While all that is happening, cannibalism within the division will help place Arizona State on top of the pile.

2. USC (Last year: 9-4, beat Nebraska in Holiday Bowl)

The Trojans were tabbed the media preseason favorite at Pac-12 media days. Sure, USC looks attractive, but don’t we need to see some more consistency out of Cody Kessler and to see Steve Sarkisian win a big game before buying into the hype? Throw in the fact this is a tough division, is anybody sure USC gets out of it without a couple of losses along the way? That said, they are in the running for the Pac-12 South crown, but I do not see them getting by Arizona State on the road the week after hosting Stanford. I have USC splitting those two games, but it could just as well end up being an 0-2 setback heading into the bye week (sure, I suppose it could also be 2-0). I also think USC comes back from South Bend with a loss to Notre Dame and a road game at Oregon is a probable loss as well.

3. Utah (Last year: 9-4, beat Colorado State in Las Vegas Bowl)

Utah is my wild card team in the Pac-12 South this season because they play what may be the best defense in the division, if not the conference. Utah will be extremely difficult to beat at home, but three tough road games ultimately hold Utah back from reaching the Pac-12 championship game (Oregon, USC, Arizona). I do think things get off to a good start at home against Michigan, spoiling Jim Harbaugh‘s debut as head coach of the Wolverines, and the next week against Chuckie Keeton and Utah State. They even get a chance to knock off Arizona State at home in the middle of the season. Potential is there, but the offense needs to keep its foot on the gas to make any run.

4. Arizona (Last year: 10-4, lost to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl)

After coming up small against Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl last season, the Wildcats still look to be moving forward. Anu Solomon is one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and should be ready for a big season with Caleb Jones back as his go-to receiver. The offensive and defensive lines have some holes to plug, but the Wildcats have linebacker Scooby Wright III at linebacker to pick up the slack in the middle of the defense. What I do not like about Arizona is the schedule. Arizona plays 12 straight games without a bye week. It will be a grind, but Arizona is capable of being in the hunt in this crazy division and may be welcoming that bye week at the end of the season if things fall into place again this fall. I think the final four games could be hitting a wall for Arizona though, as I have them losing three of the final four games (three of the final four on the road).

5. UCLA (Last year: 10-3, beat Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl)

The Bruins were the trendy pick last summer. Now it seems we are taking a much more scaled-back stance on UCLA. But why? UCLA returns a ton of starters from a year ago and has added a new defensive coordinator in Tom Bradley that should help. The talent is there with just one key position to address; quarterback. If Josh Rosen can step right in and have an impact, UCLA will be a contender in this competitive division. But freshmen, even the great ones, can make mistakes. Rosen has the hype, and there is a good chance to get comfortable early on with home games against Virginia and BYU and a road game at UNLV. UCLA can play itself into controlling the fate of the Pac-12 South coming down the stretch, but back-to-back road games at Utah and USC to end the season is not an easy draw.

6. Colorado (Last year: 2-10)

Colorado is not going to return to its 1990s powerhouse form in 2015, but we should see some signs of continued progress with the program under Mike MacIntyre. Colorado has a chance to enter October with a winning record, which would be a promising start. The Buffs return nine starters on defense and six on offense, so the hope is experience helps develop some talent to continue being competitive. Colorado lost some close calls last season. If they can turn a couple of those close games the other way, Colorado and a bowl trip is not out of the mix. Seriously.

PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Oregon over Arizona State

Oregon remains my team to beat, and they could be hitting a stride just at the right time by the time the conference championship game comes around. Oregon would be playing in the title game for the third time in five seasons while Arizona State would be in the game for the second time in three years. Oregon’s offense once again leads the way, but Arizona State gives them a run.

Five Buckeyes among 50 named to Walter Camp Player of the Year watch list

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Award watch list season is drawing to a close, but not before the Walter Camp Foundation released its list of 50 players worthy of consideration for its player of the year honors.

TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin was a second-team Walter Camp All-American last season, and he is among the popular candidates for the Walter Camp Award this season. Other previous Walter Camp All-Americans joining Boykin on this watch list are Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III and Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins. Of course, there is a handful of players from Ohio State, as has been the case on multiple watch lists thus far. Ohio State quarterbacks Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones each made the watch list. So did running back Ezekiel Elliott and defensive end Joey Bosa.

The list of candidates will be trimmed down to 10 semi-finalists in mid-November and the award will be presented on December 10 at the annual college football awards show. Last year’s winner was Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. A quarterback has won the award all but five times since 2000. USC has been the home to a nation-leading six Walter camp Award winners, including running backs Reggie Bush, Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson (twice). USC quarterback Cody Kessler and linebacker Su’a Cravens each appears on this year’s watch list.

2015 Walter Camp Award Watch List

S Dante Barrett, Kansas State
QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
RB Devontae Booker, Utah
DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
QB Trevone Boykin, TCU
DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
DB Jeremy Cash, Duke
RB Nick Chubb, Georgia
RB James Conner, Pittsburgh
QB Connor Cook, Michigan State
LB Su’a Cravens, USC
QB Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky
DB/KR DeVon Edwards, Duke
RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
RB Kenneth Farrow, Houston
RB Leonard Fournette, LSU
RB Jarvion Franklin, Western Michigan
RB Royce Freeman, Oregon
DB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame
QB Jared Goff, California
QB Everett Golson, Florida State
QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State
LB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
RB Derrick Henry, Alabama
WR Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
QB Taysom Hill, BYU
QB Kevin Hogan, Stanford
RB/LB Myles Jack, UCLA
RB Devon Johnson, Marshall
QB Cardale Jones, Ohio State
QB Cody Kessler, USC
QB Gunner Kiel, Cincinnati
QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis
LB Blake Martinez, Stanford
RB Elijah McGuire, Louisiana
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio State
DE Shaun Oakman, Baylor
RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma
RB Paul Perkins, UCLA
QB Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
QB Keenan Reynolds, Navy
QB Anu Solomon, Arizona
QB Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
DB Darian Thompson, Boise State
WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
WR Duke Williams, Auburn
LB Scooby Wright III, Arizona
QB Malik Zaire, Notre Dame

A mere two dozen QBs placed on O’Brien watch list

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“You call that a watch list?  The Lombardi Award scoffs in your general direction.” — the Lombardi Award, speaking in the third person.

Be that as it may, the Davey O’Brien Award released the shortest preseason watch list of the year thus far, with a mere 24 quarterbacks posted to the initial grouping.  Interestingly, and unlike the Maxwell Award, there’s only one Ohio State quarterback on this list — Cardale Jones.  Neither Braxton Miller nor J.T. Barrett were included, although the O’Brien explained that Jones “[f]inished last year as Ohio State’s starting quarterback” and OSU “has not yet named a starter for the 2015 season.”

Those who actually are on the list includes 2014 finalists Trevone Boykin of TCU and Dak Prescott of Mississippi State, who finished behind winner Marcus Mariota in the voting last year. Additionally, 2014 semifinalist Connor Cook of Michigan State is on the initial watch list this year.

The O’Brien also notes that there are nine players appearing on the watch list for the second straight year: Cook and Prescott, along with Jared Goff (California), Christian Hackenberg (Penn State), Taysom Hill (BYU), Kevin Hogan (Stanford), Chuckie Keeton (Utah State), Cody Kessler (USC) and Keenan Reynolds (Navy).

All 10 FBS conferences placed at least one player on the watch list, with the ACC and Pac-12 leading the way with four each. The AAC, Big Ten and SEC had three apiece, while the MAC, with two, was the only other conference with more than one.

By class, there are 11 seniors, eight juniors and five sophomores.

Trevone Boykin (TCU, Senior)
Connor Cook (Michigan State, Senior)
Joshua Dobbs (Tennessee, Junior)
Brandon Doughty (Western Kentucky, Senior)
Blake Frohnapfel (UMass, Senior)
Jared Goff (California, Junior)
Christian Hackenberg (Penn State, Junior)
Taysom Hill (BYU, Senior)
Kevin Hogan (Stanford, Senior)
Jeremy Johnson (Auburn, Sophomore)
Cardale Jones (Ohio State, Junior)
Brad Kaaya (Miami, Sophomore)
Chuckie Keeton (Utah State, Senior)
Cody Kessler (USC, Senior)
Gunner Kiel (Cincinnati, Junior)
Fredi Knighten (Arkansas State, Junior)
Paxton Lynch (Memphis, Sophomore)
Dak Prescott (Mississippi State, Senior)
Keenan Reynolds (Navy, Senior)
Anu Solomon (Arizona, Sophomore)
Zach Terrell (Western Michigan, Junior)
Justin Thomas (Georgia Tech, Junior)
Deshaun Watson (Clemson, Sophomore)
Marquise Williams (North Carolina, Senior)

LSU’s Leonard Fournette headlines 44 named to Paul Hornung Award watch list

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It’s early July, so you know what that means: Slow news days and everyone’s favorite, watch lists! Today’s list of players who could win an award in December is for the Paul Hornung Award, given annually to the nation’s most versatile player

The list:

Ishmael Adams, UCLA
Budda Baker, Washington
V’Angelo Bentley, Illinois
Rashon Ceaser, Louisiana Monroe
Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
Trevor Davis, California
Matt Dayes, N.C. State
Cameron Echols-Luper, TCU
DeVon Edwards, Duke
Tyler Ervin, San Jose State
Leonard Fournette, LSU
Autrey Golden, UTEP
Jamal Golden, Georgia Tech
Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech
Janarion Grant, Rutgers
Carlos Harris, North Texas
Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech
Myles Jack, UCLA
Adoree’ Jackson, USC
Corey Jones, Toledo
Isaiah Jones, East Carolina
William Likely, Maryland
T.J. Logan, North Carolina
Byron Marshall, Oregon
Jalin Marshall, Ohio State
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
Elijah McGuire, Louisiana Lafayette
Isaiah McKenzie, Georgia
Ronnie Moore, Bowling Green
Teldrick Morgan, New Mexico State
Charles Nelson, Oregon
Speedy Noil, Texas A&M
Daz’Mond Patterson, Ohio
De’Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska
James Quick, Louisville
Alex Ross, Oklahoma
R.J. Shelton, Michigan State
Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
Jahad Thomas, Temple
Jaylen Walton, Ole Miss
Shane Williams- Rhodes, Boise State
Stanley Williams, Kentucky
Myles Willis, Boston College
Dontre Wilson, Ohio State

Fournette should be the early favorite here — in the Music City Bowl against Notre Dame, he rushed for 143 yards on 11 carries (including an 89-yard TD run) and returned a kick 100 yards for a score.

Then again, Fournette could be considered a favorite to win just about any award he’s eligible for in 2015.

VIDEO: Cal QB Jared Goff really jacked over catching a baseball

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I’ve attended hundreds of professional baseball games in my four-plus decades on this earth, and I’ve grabbed exactly one “foul ball” in my life.  And that wasn’t even technically a foul ball as, at the old Municipal Stadium in Cleveland — remember where the bullpens were located, old-timers? — a reliever bounced a warm-up pitch off the ground, the catcher and then the left-field foul pole before it landed, literally, in my unaware lap.

The circumstances didn’t matter; I had an official MLB baseball in my hands — and I still have it — and I was absolutely jacked about it.  There’s almost nothing like that prize when you’re a kid.  Or when you’re the starting quarterback of a Power Five football program, it seems.

Cal’s Jared Goff is such a player, and he was at the San Francisco Giants game Thursday night.  And he was on the receiving end of a baseball courtesy of a ground-rule double.  And he acted EXACTLY the same way I did when I got mine.

 

Bravo, Mr. Goff.  That was refreshing, seeing you channel your inner kid over something as simple as a baseball.