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

Brady Hoke addresses how defensive goals have changed in college football

New Oregon defensive coordinator Brady Hoke meets with members of the media at the Hatfield-Dowling Complex near Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. Hoke is a former head coach at Michigan. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP
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Brady Hoke is looking forward to getting back in coaching this season as Oregon’s defensive coordinator. A year away from the game from the coaching point of view after being let go by Michigan, Hoke is taking on a big task with revamping Oregon’s defense. With the offenses Hoke will see in the Pac-12, he knows the defensive goals that have been regular staples for decades in the past will no longer be what he believes to be a realistic goal.

It used to be the goal was 13 points or less. That was the standard everybody had,” Hoke said this week as he met with the Oregon media for the first time since being hired. “The style of offenses have changed. You can also see defenses evolving for the style of offense. If you’re going to play Stanford, your team goals for that week may be a little different, defensively, because of the style of offense.

“When you’re going to play Arizona, your points per possession become more important than holding [Stanford running back and Heisman Trophy finalist] Christian McCaffrey under 100 yards rushing. You have to be realistic for your players.”

It seems as though Hoke is prepared to give in on a few defensive goals he has lived by for years in hopes of achieving a larger vision with Oregon’s defense. Considering how much Oregon’s defense needs to improve. The Ducks ranked 117th in total defense in 2015. The lowlight of the season had to be the Alamo Bowl meltdown that saw a 31-point lead against TCU end up with a loss to the Horned Frogs. The question is what will be the goal for the Oregon defense in 2016, and how realistic will it be?

“If you set unrealistic goals — we want challenging goals, but unrealistic goals, that’s not fair to those kids,” Hoke said.

Helmet sticker to CoachingSearch.com.

Colorado promotes Darian Hagan to RB coach, shuffles offensive coaching duties

Handlers lead Ralphie, the mascot of Colorado, around the field before Colorado hosts Southern California in an NCAA football game in Boulder, Colo., Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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One of key members of Colorado’s 1990 national championship team is moving up on the coaching staff in Boulder. Darian Hagan, who played quarterback for the Buffs in 1990 and won three Big Eight titles when conferences actually had numbers reflective of the number of teams in their conference, has been promoted to the role of running backs coach. The school announced Hagan’s promotion among a couple of accompanying coaching staff changes on Saturday. Hagan had been serving as a director of player development.

For Hagan, this will be the second time he has held a role as an assistant coach on the Colorado sideline. He was an offensive assistant in 2005 under Gary Barnett and he was a holdover when Dan Hawkins was named head coach in 2006. Hagan moved to the role of director of player development in 2011 under Jon Embree and he continued in that role under  head coach Mike MacIntyre.

“Darian brings a lot of pride and passion to our football program with his history here, and also brings expertise to our running backs,” MacIntyre said. “In shifting our offensive staff assignments a little bit, he will give us another dimension in our running game and working with our running backs.

As Hagan gets moved into the coaching staff, MacIntyre adjusting the coaching responsibilities on the offensive side of the staff to make room. Klayton Adams, who was coaching the running backs and tight ends, will now coach the offensive line. Gary Bernardi will take on the coaching duties with the tight ends and fullbacks after coaching the offensive line last season.

 

Bowling Green WR Gehrig Dieter transferring to Alabama

Bowling Green wide receiver Gehrig Dieter makes a reception for a touchdown against Georgia Southern during the first half of the GoDaddy Bowl NCAA college football game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Mobile, Ala. (Mike Kittrell/AL.com via AP)
Mike Kittrell/AL.com via AP
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Alabama will be adding a 1,000-yard wide receiver by way of a graduate transfer from the MAC. Gehrig Dieter will transfer from Bowling Green to Alabama in 2016, and he will be available to play right away. Dieter announced the news of his transfer to Alabama on his Twitter account Saturday afternoon.

Dieter is scheduled to graduate from Bowling Green in May, which means he will be a graduate transfer. This makes him eligible to play right away next fall at any other FBS program with a spot available. That FBS program just so happens to be the defending national champions. With freshman Calvin Ridley breaking out for the Crimson Tide in 2015 en route to a national championship, it looks as though Alabama will have quite a 1-2 punch at the wide receiver position. However, there could be a minor snag preventing Dieter from playing this season. Because this will be Dieter’s third four-year football program, he will need a waiver approved by the NCAA in order to be cleared to play this season. Dieter previously played at SMU before heading to Bowling Green.

Dieter was Bowling Green’s second-leading receiver in 015 with 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns. Together with Roger Lewis (1,544 yards, 16 touchdowns), and quarterback Matt Johnson (4,946 yards, 46 touchdowns), Bowling Green had a dynamic offense that now faces a bit of an uphill battle heading into the spring. With Dieter transferring and Johnson graduating to the NFL and head coach Dino Babers taking a job at Syracuse, Bowling Green could be set to take a step back next fall.

Johnny Lattner, Notre Dame Heisman Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer, dies at 83

GPHR 45/1638:  Football player John Lattner, posed action diving in uniform inside the Stadium for Football Guide, May 1952.
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The Notre Dame football family lost a legend today. Johnny Lattner, winner of the 1953 Heisman Trophy, passed away at the age of 83 after battling lung cancer.

In addition to winning the Heisman Trophy in 1953, becoming Notre Dame’s fourth in program history, Lattner also received the Maxwell award in both the 1952 and 1953 seasons. He was also named a consensus All-American in 1952 and 1953. The Chicago native played halfback for the Fighting Irish under Frank Leahy from 1950 through 1953. The “bread and butter ball carrier” went on to be a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but a knee injury suffered during a two-year stint in the United States Air Force cut his pro career short. Lattner went on to dabble in some coaching at the high school level as well as at the University of Denver. He remained the head coach at Denver until the school shut down the football program in 1961.

Lattner was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979.