Oregon

The Fifth Quarter: Week 1 Rewind

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As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WACK-12
The Pac-12 came into the 2015 season looking to challenge the SEC for conference football supremacy.  While that may end up still being the case, it was a rough Week 1 in myriad regards for the Left Coast league, particularly its northern division.

First and foremost, No. 21 Stanford went into Evanston as heavy favorites only to be upended and upset by Northwestern.  And it wasn’t just that one of the preseason favorites in the North was beaten, it was that they were roughed up by the Wildcats and seemed to play timid on both sides of the ball.  More embarrassingly, a couple of hours later Washington State lost to FCS Portland State, which came into the game a 30-point underdog.

The South contributed to the first-week malaise as No. 15 Arizona State, viewed by some as a darkhorse playoff candidate (sheepishly raises hand), capped off the night with a 20-point loss to unranked Texas A&M.  At least that, though, was a loss to a Power Five school, and one from the stacked SEC West no less, in what was essentially a home game for the Aggies.

Add in Washington’s loss to Boise State — no shame in that — and Colorado’s loss to Hawaii Thursday night — a whole hell of a lot of shame in that — and it turned into a horrific lost weekend for the conference.  That said, remember how many were writing the Big Ten off a year ago at this time?  Yeah, it wouldn’t be wise to repeat that history.

WEAK 1?
If you thought that the Week 1 schedule, especially Saturday, was especially lacking when it came to compelling on-paper matchups, you’re not alone.  In fact, the raw data is sitting right along side you.

Opening weekend, and including the two still remaining, there were/are 87 games involving FBS teams.  Of that, 11 pitted Power Five vs. Power Five (for this exercise, I’m considering BYU a P5); another 47 — more than half — featured FBS teams playing an FCS team.  There were 22 Power Five teams that opened their season against an FCS team, with the ACC far and away leading the cupcake way with seven.  The Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 had four apiece, while the pastry alley that is the late-season SEC lagged behind with three.

There were also 23 games played between Power Five and Group of Five teams.  The SEC accounted for eight of those games, while the Big 12, Big Ten and Pac-12 saw four each.  The FCS-heavy ACC had three such games.

It wasn’t just the Power Fives feeding on the FCS, though, as 25 Group of Five teams opened against the former Div. 1-AA.  The remaining six games saw Group of Five squads squaring off against each other.

While most of the FBS feasted on their FCS cupcakes, a handful choked on them.  Two that lost to FCS teams were Power Five members in the aforementioned Wazzu and Kansas (South Dakota State, more on that below) and two were Group of Five teams in Army (Fordham) and Wyoming (North Dakota).

BAD BLOOD CHEAP SHOT?
Vernon Adams transferred from Eastern Washington to Oregon earlier this offseason and ultimately earned the Ducks’ starting quarterback job.  As luck would have it, Adams’ current and former teams squared off in the season opener in Autzen Saturday night, and there was one interesting development in UO’s 61-42 win.

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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.

Oregon lists EWU transfer Vernon Adams as starting QB

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It didn’t come with a grand proclamation (at least not yet) or a trumpeting of horns, just a line on a depth chart, mixed in with dozens others like it. Yet it is significant all the same: Oregon has listed Vernon Adams as its starting quarterback for the Eastern Washington game next Saturday.

Adams, of course, just arrived from Eastern Washington. As in, two weeks ago.

Oregon announced the addition of the record-setting EWU quarterback as a graduate transfer on Feb. 11, but Adams couldn’t join the Ducks’ roster until he completed his undergraduate coursework. That didn’t happen until Aug. 13.

Adams needed all of two weeks to beat Jeff Lockie out for Oregon’s QB1 job.

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In 37 career games at Eastern Washington, Adams threw for 10,438 yards with 110 touchdowns against only 31 interceptions while adding 1,232 yards and 11 scores on the ground. A 6-foot powder keg of extreme confidence, Adams has a knack for saving his best performances for the biggest of stages. He threw for 425 yards and three touchdowns (with two picks) in a loss to eventual FCS runner-up Illinois State in the FCS playoffs last December, a performance only surpassed by his spotless 475-yard, seven-touchdown effort in a 59-52 loss to Washington in September.

In a game only surpassed by Washington at Boise State in terms of awkward Week 1 reunions, Adams’ first game as Oregon’s quarterback will be against Eastern Washington next Saturday in Eugene.

Adams’ former head coach, Beau Baldwin, spoke out against the graduate transfer rule that allowed Adams to leave and play immediately at Oregon. “It’s not what the rule is intended for,” Baldwin said. “… Ultimately we feel like, you know what, we were also the ones who developed [Adams] from a level where obviously out of high school he wasn’t at that level.”

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Playoff Predictions

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Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? Year One of the College Football Playoff brought a new energy to the sport of college football, begging many to ask after each week of games just where teams stood in the playoff hunt. Sure, the conversation and debate over playoff position may have been forced or manufactured at times, but there was no escaping the idea that playoff hopes could be dashed in almost any given week. Then, as the season drew to a close we were left wondering just how the selection committee, a group of characters from all walks of life brought together and locked into one single meeting room, would emerge with the final say.

Alabama. Oregon. Florida State. Ohio State. (Sorry Baylor and TCU).

That was last year. We learned a few things along the way as we watched the selection committee dive head first into this brand new playoff format. We learned that conference championship games matter more than some were led to believe. We learned it is still OK to lose early, as it once was under the BCS system. We learned that going undefeated may not necessarily make you a lock for one of the four golden tickets. And we learned that being left out leads to some bitterness and resentment. Of course, we also learned that predicting how this whole thing will play out can be a difficult task, with rankings changing week by week using a logic that seems to change just often enough to throw you off your game once you think you figured it out. And guess what. We haven’t even learned everything yet.

This season will see a brand new set of scenarios brought to the table for discussing inside those closed doors. How will the selection committee handle things not yet seen? That is anybody’s guess, just as it is anybody’s guess which four teams will finally reach the playoff on New Years Eve.

Ohio State and TCU look like strong contenders out of the gate, locking down the top two spots in the national polls that have been rendered even more meaningless than they already were. The SEC and Pac-12 feel like conferences strong enough to send a team back to the playoff even if the conference champion wears a crown with one loss or two. The ACC has some potential candidates as well with Clemson and Florida State, although the margin for error may not be as wide as it is for whichever team comes out of the SEC, be it Alabama or Auburn or Georgia. Oh, and let’s not forget about Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish always seem to wiggle into this conversation with some serious merits in the preseason.

Below are the College Football Playoff predictions from the College Football Talk crew, as well as a few extra special guests.

John Taylor: Orange Bowl: No. 1 Ohio State over No. 4 Clemson (Orange Bowl), No. 2 TCU over No. 3 Auburn (Cotton Bowl). Ohio State over TCU in CFP championship game.

Zach Barnett: Baylor, Ohio State, Michigan State and Auburn – not necessarily in that order.

The four teams that reach the College Football Playoff will be great in two areas: quarterback and defensive line. Sure, you want your offensive line stout and your defensive backfield deep, but no positions hold sway over a game, a team, and a season like those two. Those four teams will allow their quarterbacks to make plays while making their counterparts miserable, and they’ll be the ones playing on New Year’s Eve.

Kevin McGuire:  No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Oregon (Orange Bowl), No. 2 TCU vs. No. 3 Auburn (Cotton Bowl)

I have gone on record saying I believe Ohio State and TCU will each run their respective tables in the regular season, and I’ll throw Ohio State a 13th win with a Big Ten championship game victory over Nebraska. TCU will not be left on the outside looking in this season if they manage to avoid a trip along the way. A 12-0 record gets the Big 12 in this season. Oregon manages to sneak in at the end of the season, and Auburn pulls down the other spot despite having a pair of losses. That’s right, we’ll have a 2-loss SEC champion in the fun while the ACC champ gets left out.

Vinnie Duber (CSN Chicago, Big Ten Talk): 1. Ohio State, 2. TCU, 3. Auburn, 4. USC

The Buckeyes seem like a lock for the CFP with all their returning talent at nearly every position on the field, plus they seem like they should be even better than last year’s team, which obviously won it all. TCU boasts maybe the nation’s best quarterback in Trevone Boykin, who has the experience to beat out Baylor in what should be a Big 12 dogfight. Auburn should pile up points behind quarterback Jeremy Johnson and could be snuffing out opposing offenses behind new defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, though the SEC West is always a gauntlet. And finally, USC has the Pac-12’s best QB in Cody Kessler, allowing the Trojans to edge out an Oregon team replacing Heisman winner Marcus Mariota.

Ben Kercheval (Bleacher Report, former CFT contributor): TCU, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Auburn

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: 10-Pack of Premium Games

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In exactly nine days — four if you’re a degenerate like me who counts defending FCS champion North Dakota State at Montana this coming Saturday — the 2015 major college football season kicks off, with all eyes initially focused on Charlotte as border rivals North Carolina and South Carolina will jumpstart the FBS portion of the schedule.  That same evening features other FBS vs. FBS matchups, including Michigan-Utah (welcome back. Mr. Harbaugh), TCU-Minnesota (underrated early road test for the Horned Frogs), Oklahoma State-Central Michigan, Western Kentucky-Vanderbilt, Ohio-Idaho and FIU-UCF.

As we have been and will continue doing throughout the month of August, CFT marches on with previews of the upcoming season, with the 10 games that could have the biggest impact on both key conference races and the national landscape.  Said national landscape will include, for the second consecutive season, a College Football Playoff to determine the FBS national champion.  Of course, the reality once we get into the season can change greatly from the preseason perceptions, but the following 10-pack should form some sort of solid guide through what’s certain to be yet another eventful season in the great game of college football.

So, without further ado and for your reading pleasure — and armed with the knowledge that there are a hell of a lot more than 10 games that merit mention — here’s a sampling of some of the top games on the 2015 slate.  And, as always, you can whine/bitch/moan in the comment section that your team/conference was snubbed…

OHIO STATE AT VIRGINIA TECH, SEPT.7
LAST MEETING: Sept. 6, 2014, a 35-21 Virginia Tech win in Columbus
SERIES RECORD: Virginia Tech leads 1-0
THE SKINNY: There’s one reason and one reason only this game made the cut: revenge.  Well, that and it’s being played in Blacksburg this time around, making it a seemingly stiff(ish) opening challenge for a Buckeye squad embarking on the defense of its 2014 national championship.  The first-ever meeting between the two programs in Week 2 last season served as OSU’s lone loss, with the Buckeyes ripping off 13 consecutive wins thereafter to claim the title in the inaugural College Football Playoff.  The biggest difference between this game and last year’s is at the quarterback position for the defending champs.  J.T. Barrett was making just his second start in 2014, and his first against the kind of quality defense constructed and coached by Bud Foster, and it showed as the then-redshirt freshman was harassed into three interceptions as he completed just 31 percent of his passes.  Barrett went on to set a Big Ten record for total touchdowns, and it will either be him or postseason hero Cardale Jones under center this time around, giving OSU experience at the position they didn’t have a year ago.  Add that to the embarrassing riches of returning talent in Columbus, and the Buckeyes should be able to exact some savory revenge on the homestanding Hokies Labor Day night.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Ohio State 41, Virginia Tech 13

OREGON AT MICHIGAN STATE, SEPT. 12
LAST MEETING: Sept. 6, 2014, a 46-27 Oregon win in Eugene
SERIES RECORD: Oregon leads 3-2
THE SKINNY: This is arguably the most anticipated non-conference matchup of the season, with both teams likely entering the contest in East Lansing deep inside the Top 10.  The Ducks used the nearly three-touchdown thumping last year to propel themselves into both a berth in the playoffs and spot in the championship game.  That, though, was with 2014 Heisman winner Marcus Mariota in charge of the offense; in this game, and on the road no less, UO will hand the keys of the offense to a first-time FBS starter at quarterback.  The fact that the Spartans will be led by senior Heisman Trophy candidate Connor Cook, and the game is being played on their turf, could tip the scales in favor of a Sparty team that looks to have the talent to be in the mix for a playoff berth throughout the season.  One final note before getting to my prediction actually involves my prediction from a year ago:  Oregon 48, Michigan State 27.  Be afraid, Ducks.  Be very afraid of the resident Nostradumbass going all blind squirrel/nut in back-to-back years.
THE WAY-TOO-EARLY PREDICTION: Michigan State 31, Oregon 24

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