D.J. Foster

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Pac-12 Predictions

4 Comments

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.

CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: Top 25

24 Comments

Yes, I know — another meaningless preseason poll tossed atop the overflowing pile of myriad other meaningless preseason polls. Hey, but at least this one isn’t SEC-heavy, so we have that going for us, which is nice.

OK, technically it’s not as SEC-heavy as others as this one contains “just” six teams from that conference and just two in the Top 10, the same number that comes from the Pac-12 for the former and one less than that league’s three in the latter.  For comparison’s sake, the preseason coaches’ poll included eight teams from the SEC (three in the Top 10), while the FWAA Super 16 poll saw five teams man those 16 spots (three Top 10 as well).

The Big 12 and Big Ten are also well-represented here, with four teams apiece making the cut.  The ACC brought up the Power Five rear with three teams included.

Rounding up the Top 25 conference-wise was one from the football independents (guess who!) and just one, Boise State, from the Group of Five.

Below is the entire Top 25, which was a consensus of polls cobbled together by myself, Kevin McGuire and three other individuals who would prefer to remain nameless.  Below that is where you may complain and/or whine and/or moan about how disrespected your team and/or your conference is.

Enjoy.  And complain/whine/moan.

1. Ohio State
With all due respect to those who think otherwise, how could any other be team be slotted in this spot? Not only are they the defending national champions who topped the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the country to end the season — not to mention putting a 59-0 Big Ten title game pasting on a Wisconsin team that finished the season ranked 13th — but the Buckeyes return 15 starters from that squad. And then there’s the schedule. After a season-opening road trip to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech, the only team to leave a blemish on last year’s 14-1 mark, OSU will be double-digit favorites in every game leading up to the Nov. 21 home game against Michigan State. A repeat is far from a given, but given the combination of returning talent and schedule, it’s a given the Buckeyes will have a realistic shot at going back-to-back.

2. TCU
With Trevone Boykin back leading the offense as a Heisman Trophy favorite, you know the Horned Frogs should have plenty of sizzle on offense. TCU returns 10 starters on offense, and Gary Patterson should manage to keep the defense up to par to live up to Big 12 favorite hype. TCU could very well run the table this season, assuring the Big 12 of not being left out of the playoff this season.

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwu4ntgznjrlzde2ndvmzdaxndvhmmy1nwrlywu3ymq13. Auburn
As detailed in the Six-Pack of Storylines, the SEC’s hope for a return to Title Land could very well hinge on the Tigers.  And the Tigers return to prominence could very well hinge on Will Muschamp, the fired Florida head coach who was brought in by Gus Malzahn to revamp and rebuild an AU defense that spewed water and oil all over the field in 2014.  The run-heavy spread offense should be in capable hands, even with new triggerman Jeremy Johnson under center; how the defense fares with Muschamp as its general will determine just how far Malzahn’s troops will go in 2015.

4. Oregon
The Ducks may still be the team to beat in the Pac-12, but the gap could be closing between Oregon and other Pac-12 contenders. Gone is Marcus Mariota but the offense should continue to pile up big numbers with FCS transfer Vernon Adams likely stepping in. There could be a bit of an adjustment, and an early road contest at Michigan State could be trouble, but Oregon should still manage to be among the best out west.

5. Michigan State
The Spartans have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Connor Cook, a stout offensive line and, despite the loss of coordinator Pat Narduzzi and all four “No Fly Zone” starters in the secondary, one of the top defensive in the Big Ten, but could still find themselves anywhere from a one-loss team to one with three or more.  Why the latter projection?  One, they have to replace their top two running backs.  Two, their schedule includes road trips to Ohio State, in-state rival Michigan and Nebraska, as well as a home game against an Oregon team in Week 2 that will be a consensus Top-Five squad.

6. Arizona State
In a conference with plenty of quarterback talent, Arizona State’s Mike Bercovici could be one of the best. With a sturdy offensive line in front of him, Bercovici will still have to build some new chemistry with his receivers, but D.J. Foster is back and he can provide some options in Todd Graham’s offense. Defensively the Sun Devils bring back seven starters and should be one of the more stable defensive units outside of Utah and Stanford.

(more…)

Ohio State, Ezekiel Elliott the betting favorites for national title and Heisman

8 Comments

As we continue to inch toward the beginning of a new college football season, the odds continue to be updated. With quarterback Everett Golson transferring to Florida State was reason enough to take another look at some of the betting odds for the national championship and Heisman Trophy pictures, but it continues to be Ohio State and Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott at the top of the betting lines as the favorites in 2015.

Ohio State still has the best odds to win the national championship with Bovada listing the Buckeyes at 7/2 odds. With the loaded roster returning in 2015 that seems top make sense, however history would suggest it would be wiser to count on making money with another team. There have been just two back-to-back crowned national champions since 1990 and the last time a team from the Big Ten won consecutive national titles was in 1940 and 1941 (Minnesota). Alabama is always a top favorite, and the Crimson Tide are sitting ins second with 7/1 odds, followed by TCU (10/1), Auburn (12/1) and Florida State (12/1).

As for the Heisman Trophy, Elliott’s strong surge en route to a national championship has made him the betting favorite with 6/1 odds. LSU’s Leonard Fournette follows with 15/2 odds. Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, Georgia running back Nick Chubb and TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin each have 8/1 odds according to Bovada. Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones (12/1), Braxton Miller (25/1) and J.T. Barrett (28/1) each have listed Heisman odds as well if you want to place an early bet before knowing which of the three may be starting in the fall.

In honor of David Lettermen, remember this is for entertainment purposes only.

Bovada’s latest 2015 national championship odds:

Ohio State 7/2
Alabama 7/1
TCU 10/1
Auburn 12/1
Florida State 12/1
USC 18/1
Baylor 20/1
Notre Dame 20/1
Clemson 22/1
Oregon 22/1
Georgia 25/1
Michigan State 25/1
Oklahoma 25/1
LSU 28/1
UCLA 28/1
Stanford 33/1
Arkansas 40/1
Michigan 40/1
Mississippi 40/1
Texas A&M 40/1
Tennessee 50/1
Arizona State 66/1
Florida 66/1
Mississippi State 66/1
Nebraska 66/1
Oklahoma State 66/1
Texas 66/1
Miami 75/1
Wisconsin 75/1
Arizona 100/1
Georgia Tech 100/1
Louisville 100/1
Penn State 100/1
South Carolina 100/1
Utah 100/1
Virginia Tech 100/1
Washington 100/1
Missouri 150/1
Boise State 200/1
BYU 200/1
Kansas State 200/1
Texas Tech 200/1
West Virginia 250/1
North Carolina 300/1
Boston College 500/1
California 500/1
UCF 500/1
Cincinnati 500/1
Duke 500/1
Iowa 500/1
Marshall 500/1
Maryland 500/1
Minnesota 500/1
Northwestern 500/1
Oregon State 500/1
Pittsburgh 500/1
Rutgers 500/1
South Florida 500/1

Bovada’s Latest 2015 Heisman Trophy Odds

Ezekiel Elliott (RB Ohio State) 6/1
Leonard Fournette (RB LSU) 15/2
Trevone Boykin (QB TCU) 8/1
Nick Chubb (RB Georgia) 8/1
Dak Prescott (QB Mississippi State) 8/1
Cardale Jones (QB Ohio State) 12/1
Cody Kessler (QB USC) 12/1
Everett Golson (QB Florida State) 14/1
Derrick Henry (RB Alabama) 16/1
Paul Perkins (RB UCLA) 18/1
Connor Cook (QB Michigan State) 20/1
Jeremy Johnson (QB Auburn) 20/1
Samaje Perine (RB Oklahoma) 20/1
Deshaun Watson (QB Clemson) 20/1
Braxton Miller (QB Ohio State) 25/1
J.T. Barrett (QB Ohio State) 28/1
Corey Clement (RB Wisconsin) 33/1
J Royce Freeman (RB Oregon) 33/1
Seth Russell (QB Baylor) 33/1
Justin Thomas (QB Georgia Tech) 33/1
Dalvin Cook (RB Florida State) 40/1
James Connor (RB Pittsburgh) 40/1
D.J. Foster (RB Arizona State) 40/1
Taysom Hill (QB BYU) 40/1
Brad Kaaya (QB Miami) 40/1
Mason Rudolph (QB Oklahoma State) 40/1
Nick Wilson (RB Arizona) 40/1
Malik Zaire (QB Notre Dame) 40/1
Jared Goff (QB California) 50/1
Jacoby Brissett (QB North Carolina State) 66/1
Jalen Hurd (RB Tennessee) 66/1
Laquon Treadwell (WR Mississippi) 66/1
Marquise Williams (QB North Carolina) 66/1
Scooby Wright (LB Arizona) 66/1

Arizona State announces three captains for 2015 season

Leave a comment

Who’s ready for some actual football talk?

Senior quarterback Mike Bercovici, senior wide receiver D.J. Foster, and senior safety Jordan Simone will serve as Arizona State’s captains for the 2015 season, the club announced Tuesday.

Bercovici played in all 13 games a year ago, filling in for starter Taylor Kelly during an extended mid-season stretch, completing 115-of-186 passes for 1,445 yards with 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Foster led the Sun Devils in rushing a year ago with 194 carries for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns while grabbing 62 passes for 688 yards and three touchdowns. He figures to see an increased role in 2015 after the departure of Jaelen Strong and a spring injury to Cameron Smith.

Simone ranked second on the team in tackles with 100 stops, 4.5 TFL, one sack, two interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and two passes defended.

The Sun Devils also designated senior cornerback Lloyd Carrington, senior center Nick Kelly and junior linebacker Laiu Moeakiola as co-captains. And for the first time under head coach Todd Graham, Arizona State named special teams captains, with junior kicker Zane Gonzalez and sophomore defensive back DeAndre Scott winning the honors.

Injury costs Sun Devils their leading returning receiver for 2015 season

Leave a comment

The Arizona State offense already knew it would have to replace All-Pac-12 wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who left early for the NFL draft.  Now, the Sun Devils will have to replace the player who was thought to have the best shot at replacing the lost production as well.

Tuesday afternoon, head coach Todd Graham announced that Cameron Smith recently underwent surgery for a knee issue that’s reportedly been bothering him for some time.  As a result, Smith will miss not only the remainder of spring practice, but the entire 2015 season as well.

It goes without saying that this is a significant blow to ASU’s passing attack.

Last season, Smith was third on the team in receptions (41) and receiving yards (596), and was second in receiving touchdowns with six.  That means that, with the losses of Smith and Strong, the Sun Devils will be looking to replace a total of 123 receptions, 1,761 yards and 16 touchdowns.  That’s nearly half the team’s total of 281/3,556/34.

Outside of running back-turned-slot receiver D.J. Foster, tight end Kody Kohl‘s 16 receptions and four receiving touchdowns, and Gary Chambers‘ 204 receiving yards are now the top numbers from returning players.

The injury news comes one day after reports surfaced that JUCO transfer Davon Durant, expected to start at linebacker this season, had been indefinitely suspended following an arrest on charges related to a reported domestic violence incident.