Last year the Pac-12 was extremely exciting to watch, as the North continued its string of winning the Pac-12 title. There is going to be a lot of interesting story lines as we move through the season; does the hot seat talk for Steve Sarkisian end, or does it boil over? Are the Cougs able to [actually] turn things around in Mike Leach’s second year at the helm? Is Jim Mora Jr. the solution for the UCLA Bruins?..and many, many more.
That being said, the story lines are only part of what this post is about. This post is taking a look at how I think the Pac-12 teams rank going into the season.
That’s right folks, Pac-12 Power Rankings have returned; and we will start with the Northern Division.
1) Stanford: The Cardinal posted an impressive 12-2 record last season, as they won the conference and the Rose Bowl. Last season started off good for the Cards with an impressive upset win over the Trojans of Southern California in conference play. There success continued throughout the season (minus a couple of hiccups against he Huskies and Notre Dame); and ended with a 20-14 win in the Rose Bowl over Wisconsin.
This season, the Cards look ready to continue to build on the success that David Shaw had last season. Shane Skov looks poised to lead a very strong Stanford defense; but I don’t think too many Cardinal fans were worried about their defense…and they aren’t really questioning their QB anymore after Kevin Hogan played exceptionally well after took over for Josh Nunes. Hogan and Skov should be improved from last year, as well as the rest of the Cards; look for the Cards to be high in the BCS top-25 at the end of the season
2) Oregon: The Ducks have been to four straight BCS Bowl Games, and have also put their foot to the peddle on the Pac-12 facility arm’s race. Last season saw the Ducks pretty much romp all over everyone, but the Cards. They ended up capping of their incredible season with an exciting victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Now that Chip Kelly is gone and Mark Helfrich is at the helm, the Ducks look poised to continue their success going into the 2013 season. They return ridiculously talented (RS) Sophomore QB Marcus Mariota, who is deadly accurate form the pocket-in fact, his 2012 completion percentage was 68.5%. De’Anthony Thomas is the other major threat on offense (never forget what he did to Tyree Toomer, never!). As for the Ducks Defense, look for them to only get better as the talent level that Oregon is bringing in continues to be impressive.
3) Oregon State: The Beavers surprised the College Football world last season. Their offensive and defensive lines showed signs of growth from 2011, as well as the rest of the team. It was their meltdown in the Alamo Bowl that took a lot of the shine off of the Beavs impressive season last season. That being said, it clearly hasn’t impacted how the nation views the Beavers as they are in the Top-25 in the AP and USA Today Coach’s poles.
This year the Beavers have two very talented QB’s-whom saw a lot of playing time last season-in Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion. The QB Controversy has pretty much dominated the headlines going into the Beavs fall camp, and is something that fans of the Pac-12 should definitely pay attention to as the season goes along. For me though, the most intriguing are of the Beavers camp is going to be the battles going on for the spots in the trenches. That was were the Beavers were most improved last year and I fully expect them to continue improving going forward.
4) Washington Huskies: Everyone say it with me; “Sark Day is July 6th. Sark Day is July 6th. Sark Day is…”; well you get the picture. The Huskies completed their third straight season with a 7-6 record…and Husky fans are none to pleased. Despite losing the last two games of the season, the Huskies actually had a stretch of the season where they won four games in a row. During that streak the Huskies upset the Beavers and then took advantage of the Utes, Buffs, and Golden Bears. For some reason, Husky fans ignore this stretch when talking about 2012, and looking forward to 2013.
Keith Price’s struggles throughout last season are something that Husky fans like to focus on when talking about last season. His play is often looked upon as the key thing for the Huskies going into 2013; but I disagree, the most important thing for the Huskies is going to be massive improvement on the offensive line. The 2012 Beavers proved how easy it is for good skill position players to excel with good play in the trenches, and that holds true for the Huskies as well.
5) Washington State: SURPRISE! After a 3-9 season last season, and an embarrassing loss to Cal on Mike Leach Bobble Head night, there is no reason the Cougs should be ranked ahead of anyone else in the North…right? Not exactly, I mean…yes the 2012 season was an absolute disaster for multiple reasons (number one being attrition), but there is multiple reasons to expect the Cougs to be better-while not winning nearly as many games.
After such a disappointing season, I kind of expected recruiting to slow down quite a bit…fortunately it didn’t and Mike Leach pulled in the 46th best recruiting class in the nation (according to Scout). It probably is one of the best recruiting classes in school history; but it is going to take more than one recruiting class to turn it around on the Palouse. That being said, another year in the system seems to have benefited Connor Halliday and the offensive line a great deal; and that’s where the 2013 squad really needs to improve, because if they can do that…then this team just might win a few more upset games.
6) California: The Golden Bears struggled mightily last season in Jeff Tedford’s final season at the helm, and finished with the same record as the Cougars of Washington State. Outside of Keenan Allen, there really wasn’t much good to come from the Bears first season in newly renovated Memorial stadium. Maynard kept having issues trying to hit the broad side of a barn, and the entire team really struggled to do much of anything positive (outside of the ass whooping they laid on UCLA).
Tedford was fired after such a disappointing season, and Sonny Dykes was brought into replace him. Coach Dykes actually managed to assemble a pretty impressive recruiting class in his brief recruiting cycle in Berkeley; and with the recent improvements in facilities at Cal…I fully expect this to continue. In fact, Cal already has a pretty good collection of talent and I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up jumping the Cougs in my power rankings in the first couple of weeks. That being said, the air raid isn’t always an easy concept to pick-up on; and I feel like the ground game element that is involved in Coach Dykes’s system is only more challenging…but what the hell do I know, I’m only a blogger.