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.

——————————————-

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

Auburn WR Jashawn Sheffield arrested twice in one-week span last month in Georgia

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Thanks to an Auburn football player, it’s a two-for-Tuesday on the arrest front.  And, to clarify, that’s player in the singular.

According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Jashawn Sheffield was arrested May 9 in Georgia on one count of disorderly conduct.  But wait, there’s more.  Exactly one week later, the Tigers wide receiver was arrested in the Peach State yet again, this time “DUI Less Safe.”

Both of those charges, incidentally, are misdemeanors.

No details of what led to either arrest have been released.  As for the DUI charge?  The Advertiser writes that “[i]n the state of Georgia, a ‘DUI Less Safe’ can be charged if a law enforcement officer believes a driver is less safe behind the wheel because of alcohol consumption, even if that person is under a specific blood-alcohol content.”

As a result of the two off-field incidents, though, Sheffield has been indefinitely suspended by the Auburn football program.  AU football players are set to return to campus next week to commence voluntary workouts.  Because of the suspension, the receiver won’t be one of the ones returning.

Sheffield was a four-star member of the Auburn football Class of 2019.  The Georgia native was the No. 28 player in his home state regardless of position.  The 6-1, 183-pound receiver also played in the Under Armour All-America game.

As a true freshman, Sheffield appeared in one game.  He didn’t catch any passes in that lone appearance.  He did, though, rush for 30 yards on a pair of carries.

Because he played in four or fewer games, however, Sheffield was able to take a redshirt for the 2019 campaign.

(Tip O’ the Cap: The Fulmer Cup)

LSU adds first-ever games vs. Grambling, Southern to future schedules

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Amidst these trying times across the country, LSU has made a couple of historic additions to its future football schedules.

Monday, LSU announced that it has added a pair of one-off football games with Grambling and Southern.  LSU will face Southern on Sept. 10, 2022.  Grambling and LSU will then tangle Sept. 9 the following season.  Obviously, both of those will be played at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

Both Grambling and Southern are Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the state of Louisiana.  It will mark the first time LSU has ever played either in football.

“This is an incredible opportunity to join our fan bases of these historic Louisiana institutions and championship programs,” athletic director Scott Woodward said in a statement. “These dates will be days to celebrate not only football, but the state of Louisiana and all of our people. It’s time and we are all proud to be a part of it.”

“We are excited to announce our games against Southern and Grambling in the future,” LSU head football coach Ed Orgeron said in his statement. “We have a great relationship with all universities in our state. It is important to LSU to have a great relationship with all of the universities in our state.”

The two games also complete LSU’s nonconference schedules for both seasons.  In addition to Southern, LSU will face Florida State (Sept. 4, New Orleans), New Mexico (Sept. 24) and UAB (Sept. 28) in 2022.  The following year, its Florida State (Sept. 3, Orlando), Army (Oct. 21) and Georgia State (Nov. 18) joining Grambling.

Report: Two Marshall football players test positive for COVID-19, are in isolation

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It appears Marshall will serve as a guinea pig for the rest of the college football world.

Monday, Marshall announced that three individuals — two student-athletes and one university employee — tested positive for coronavirus.  It was subsequently reported that the two student-athletes are Marshall football players.  According to the school, none of the three cases are related.

All three, incidentally, are asymptomatic.  None of the names are being released by the university.

Ahead of the return to campus, the individuals were tested for the virus.  All three are, per university protocol, now in isolation.  Their close contacts are being identified and instructed to follow appropriate protocols, including quarantine or self-isolation, the university stated.

Below are some of the guidelines being followed by the university:

  • All student-athletes arriving on campus are in mandatory self-isolation for one week;
  • Following the completion of the self-isolation period, all student-athletes are tested for COVID-19 and must return a confirmed negative result before being allowed out of self-isolation;
  • All Athletic Department employees who come in close contact with student-athletes are being tested; and
  • Any student-athlete returning a positive test is required to quarantine and follow positive test guidelines. A student-athlete who tests positive will be required to secure a negative test before completing the quarantine period.

“It shows that what you are doing is working,” said Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick. “If a positive comes up, we’ve caught it and we can quarantine them. Everyone else was negative and what we set out to do with our testing is working. I think that’s the positive thing about it. You want to know. That’s why you test.”

Notre Dame-Navy game moving from Dublin to Annapolis

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As expected, the pandemic will impact this year’s matchup between Notre Dame and Navy.

Notre Dame and Navy are scheduled to open the 2020 season Aug. 29 in Dublin, Ireland.  While there were talks about moving the game, Navy’s athletic director was confident the game would still be played as scheduled.  And where scheduled.  In late April, though, it was confirmed that, even if the game could be played in Dublin, it would likely be fan-less.

Tuesday morning, the inevitable occurred as it was announced the matchup between Notre Dame and Navy will not be played in Dublin.  Instead, it will take place in Annapolis at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

This will mark the first-ever time the rivalry game has been played at the home of the Midshipmen.

“We are obviously disappointed not to be traveling to Ireland this August,” the Navy AD, Chet Gladchuk, said in a statement. “But, as expected, our priority must be ensuring the health and safety of all involved. I am expecting that we will still be able to play Notre Dame as our season opener, but there is still much to be determined by health officials and those that govern college football at large. Once we have a definitive plan in place, we will announce the specifics pertaining to the game. I am extremely grateful to all that were involved in the planning of our game in Aviva Stadium, especially John Anthony and Padraic O’Kane who created what would have been another extraordinary event in Dublin. I realize many are disappointed and were looking forward to the spectacle of this event and a visit to the Emerald Isle, but I do know there is a complete understanding of why it’s in our best interests to make every effort to relocate the game.”

“Our student-athletes have had great experiences competing in Ireland and are very disappointed not to be returning to Dublin in 2020,” said Gladchuk’s counterpart with the Fighting Irish, Jack Swarbrick, in his statement. “The change of venue has been a very difficult decision for our colleagues at the Naval Academy, but we are in full support of their choice. We are also grateful for everything our partners in Ireland have done to make this a smooth transition. We look forward to going back to Ireland for a game in the not too distant future.”

In addition to the venue change, the date will be changed as well.  While not yet determined, it will be played Labor Day weekend on either that Saturday (Sept. 5) or Sunday (Sept. 6).

This year’s game will mark the 94th-consecutive meeting between the programs, making it the longest-continuous-intersectional rivalry in the country.