Saturday, August 24, 2013

Buy, Pass, Sell: Pac-12 Edition

The Pac-12 should be the conference for QBs in 2013, with at least 6 schools coming in with established QB options, and every one of those options being just about top flight choices. Stanford has Kevin Hogan, Oregon runs with Marcus Mariota, Oregon State has 2 options in Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, Washington has Keith Price, UCLA has the reigning passing leader in Brett Hundley, and Arizona State has the most underrated guy in the group in Taylor Kelly. Hogan, Mariota, Hundley, and Kelly are all sophomores or juniors, so this QB capital trend could continue for some time. That being said, we are not looking at individuals, but overall team values here, and there's plenty to like in the Pac-12 in 2013.


Stanford: A viable national championship contender, Stanford looks loaded across the board, and they get UCLA and Oregon at home in conference play. David Shaw is 23-4 as head coach, has won a Rose Bowl, and has Stanford on a long term development program with a long term contract in hand. Kevin Hogan is only going to get batter at QB, and there is depth at RB that matches any program in the country. That group is so deep that RB Kelsey Young has moved to WR, and he could be the best of the group there, but receiver is the weak link to the offense. Then again, when have the Cardinal ever boasted major stars at receiver? The line is loaded, especially with David Yankey at RG. The defense only allowed 97 yards per game rushing last season (5th nationally), and led the nation with just over 4 sacks per game. Every spot on defense boasts star power. Buy in as soon as you can.

Oregon: In Eugene, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Chip Kelly has moved on as coach, but Mark Helfrich stuck around to lead the program with little transition needed. Scott Frost takes over at OC, and that really changes little as well. Marcus Mariota is as explosive a QB as there is in the nation, and De'Anthony Thomas may be one of the fastest human beings that I have ever seen run. Oregon is loaded across the board, and like Stanford, there are stars all over the defense. I predict that Whomever wins that battle against Stanford in Palo Alto on November 7th will be playing for a national title, with the loser playing in the Rose Bowl. That's a great thing.

Oregon State: The Beavers have come back from the abyss of a couple of seasons ago. Mike Riley has the luxurious problem of having two starting caliber QBs. If Oregon and Stanford were in another division, the Beavers would easily be competing for Rose Bowl births yearly. As it is, OSU could be playing a major spoiler role, much like Northwestern in the Big 10. This team should be strong once again.

UCLA: I almost decided to pass on the Bruins for now, but at the last second, I decided to pull the trigger and lock in on the buy. The Bruins should win the South Division, but the schedule is brutal, with Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon, and USC all on the road, and only 6 home games, one of which being Arizona State. The Bruins lose one of their best athletes in Jonathon Franklin at RB, but they have enough depth there to more than compensate. Brett Hundley should be the best overall QB in the conference this fall, and he broke a bevy of UCLA records last fall. There is youth along the line, but many of the young linemen played last season as freshmen, so there is experience. Defensively, the Bruins have a guaranteed top 8 pick in LB Anthony Barr, who may be the best LB in the nation in 2013. Eric Kendricks led the conference in tackles last fall, and is joined by underrated Erick Zumwalt at ILB. The Bruins have lost Owa Odighizuwa at DE for the year, but there is more than enough depth up front to make up for that, especially with the ruling that DT Eddie Vanderdoes will be immediately eligible after cutting out on his commitment to Notre Dame. The good news about being so young at CB is that the freshmen who are looking for playing time have had a big camp, and they look ready to go. My only concern is that schedule.

Arizona State: Every season is supposed to be the year for the Sun Devils, but the Devils are lined up to give UCLA a challenge in the PAC-12 South. Taylor Kelly went blow for blow last season with Brett Hundley when ASU lost narrowly to UCLA in Tempe, and is poised for a huge 2013. ASU goes four deep at RB, and TE Chris Coyle may be one of the best in the nation at that position. WR is a concern, but this is an opportunity for Kelly to make that position better, which is what great QBs do. The defense look to be solid, and they have the talent up front to rush off of the edge on a regularity. ASU has a big opportunity to win this fall, and the good news is that Todd Graham didn't bolt as coach after one season...again. That's always good.


Washington: The Huskies have under-performed the last few seasons. Steve Sarkisian walked into a loaded cannon when he took this job, but he's been here a while now (5th season), so it's time to get this program cracking. Keith Price is a very solid QB, and has had huge games during his career. He only has one season left with the Huskies, so the time to win is now. With Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State in the division, there will be challenges ahead for sure. Unfortunately, the Huskies don't seem prepared to make a run at those guys. The rebuild of Husky Stadium looks great, so that may be a chip to play alone. I am not ready to sell just yet.

Arizona: The Wildcats will breeze through the first three games with what should be easy wins against Northern Arizona, UNLV, and UT-San Antonio. After that, UA gets Washington and USC. There is no established QB after Matt Scott departed, but Ka'Deem Hardy is a huge talent at RB. Austin Hill is also a very talented WR. If the QB (BJ Denker most likely) situation is taken care of early on, the Cats could surprise. The first month may tell the tale, but October may be more telling.


California: I am a big Sonny Dykes fan, as he built up Louisiana Tech quickly. I got some time to pick his brain last summer at WAC Media Day, and came away very impressed with his philosophies about the game. The reason that I am selling is that Cal appears a couple of years away developmentally, and has to play in a division with Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, and Washington ahead of them. Winning may come, but it's an uphill battle that the program is hardly prepared to win right now. One note Bear fans, I will be at the Rose Bowl to watch your Bears take on UCLA on October 12th.

Washington State: Mike Leach has had a year to bleed out the dead weight (see Marquess Wilson) and start to toughen up this fairly weak minded and weak spirited program. There were several wasted years under Paul Wolff and Bill Doba, and Leach was a huge get for the administration. The program has the same disadvantage that Cal has, and so development is all relative this year. There is not enough here to buy just yet, but I do look forward to seeing some development of QB Connor Halladay.

USC: I am not sure why everyone is so disturbed nationally that UCLA has taken LA from USC. The Bruins owned the Trojans in the 80's and late 90's. The Trojans are once again going to be relinquishing the city crown, and may be more overrated than Texas nationally speaking. There is no QB, no real solid option at RB other than the overrated Silas Redd, and Marqise Lee is banged up a bit. He will be double teamed every down. The defense was a leaking disaster last season, and doesn't look to be much improved through camp this season. Expect a huge disappointment this season, and expect a new coach in 2014.

Utah: Kyle Whittingham is trying to stock the roster with a BCS level of talent. The Utes are not there yet, but I am not betting against Whittingham long term. Sophomore QB Travis Wilson is going to be fun to watch, and could join the above mentioned group this season. Overall, Utah could finish as high as 3rd in a watered down South this season.

Colorado: Mike McIntyre takes over as coach, and he is a talented guy with amazing coaching philosophies. He has a ton of work to do, and this is year one. If you can win big at San Jose State, he'll be able to do it at Colorado eventually, but they aren't there yet. Expect a bumpy ride in 2013, and probably 2014 as well. Beyond that, things could be changing.

Coming up next...Buy, Pass, Sell: SEC Edition

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