Key Pac-12 Questions For 2017

Key Pac-12 Questions For 2017

Washington State

Key Pac-12 Questions For 2017

Key Pac-12 Questions For 2017


The big key Pac-12 preseason questions for 2017


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– CFN Preview 2017: All 130 Team Previews
Pac-12 Team Rankings
Pac-12 Schedules & Predictions
Pac-12 Bowl Projections
2017 CFN Pac-12 Preview: The Good & The Bad 
2017 CFN All-Pac-12 Team & Top 30 Players

Key Pac-12 Questions

Arizona Wildcats

Arizona Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Will there be a passing game to go along with the ground attack?

First of all, there’s no discussing anything about Arizona football last year without bringing up the ridiculous injury problem. Some teams use injuries as an excuse, but in Arizona’s case, yeah, it really mattered.

Anu Solomon was terrific in 2015 for a Wildcat passing game that finished 30th in the nation, but he wasn’t healthy last season, he only played in five games, and now he’s a Baylor Bear. Brandon Dawkins was okay, but he was far better as a runner, carrying an also injured backfield that didn’t get much out of Nick Wilson.

By the way, the Cats finished 108th in the nation in passing.

Dawkins is back and the job is likely his. If it’s not, that means Khalil Tate has gone lights-out and turned into the main man – that’s not a bad thing. However, three of the top four receivers are gone, but they didn’t do much.

It’s the RichRod offense. It’ll bounce back.

Arizona State Sun Devils

– Arizona State Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Will the Sun Devils find a defense?

Two years ago, Arizona State had the second-worst pass defense in college football. Last year, it had the second-worst total defense in college football.

It’s been a wee bit of a struggle for Todd Graham – to be nice about it – to put together a solid D, but it hadn’t mattered too much when the offense was rocking. Last year, though, the bad defense allowed over 50 points per outing over the final four games as the Sun Devils collapsed and missed out on a bowl.

Enter defensive guru Phil Bennett to step in as the new coordinator to try turning this whole thing around.

The biggest key, though, could be a veteran secondary that gets everyone back. It’s a positive start for a defense that returns nine starters to go along with a slew of young, promising players who’ll finally give the Sun Devils a little bit of depth.

California Golden Bears

California Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Just how much will the offense change around under the new guy?

The wing-it-50-times-and-hope offense is gone under new coordinator/former Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin, to a point.

As bad as things were at times for Cal, though, it was still tenth in the nation in total offense.

There will still be plenty of passing, and keeping up in firefights won’t be a problem, but there will be more of a pure pro-style attack now that won’t just be about going really, really fast.

The former Eastern Washington head coach knows how to crank up the offensive production, and yeah, there will be games when he puts the ball in the air a bazillion times. But it all has to fit into the defensive mentality of head coach Justin Wilcox.

Second-to-last in the nation in both scoring and run defense, the Bears couldn’t tackle. That’s going to change. The time of possession issues are going to stop under this new regime. There will be more balance, and it won’t be just about the offensive scheme.

Colorado Buffaloes

– Colorado Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Were the Buffs a one-year wonder, or can this last?

Colorado isn’t winning ten games again.

USC – better. Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA – won’t/can’t be as injured. Utah and Washington State – road games. Playing Washington from the North isn’t a plus, either.

Last year’s Buff team really was good – it wasn’t a fluke. However, it caught a massive break that Oregon stunk. Arizona State was down, the Utah and Wazzu games were at home, and again, UCLA and Arizona were banged up.

And then it lost to Washington and Oklahoma State by a combined score of 79-18.

With eight starters gone on D – along with coordinator Jim Leavitt – it’s going to be next to impossible to replace last year’s production. But if the veteran offense can find its groove early – the Buffs should start 3-0 before getting Washington – there won’t be a slide back into the doldrums.

Oregon Ducks

– Oregon Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Just how quickly can Willie Taggart make Oregon great again?

How about immediately?

Start by bringing in Jim Leavitt to take over the defense, and automatically the Ducks will be two wins better.

Last year’s team couldn’t hit anyone, got ripped apart by land and by air, and got hammered by everyone from UC Davis to Washington, USC to Oregon State.

With ten starters back for Leavitt to play with, the D will be far, far better.

RB Royce Freeman coming back for another year was a miracle, while Justin Herbert might be the hottest young QB in the Pac-12 if it wasn’t for that Darnold dude in LA.

If the really, really, really young line – four freshmen started by the end of last season – can jell quickly, look out. Oregon might not be quite back to national title-level good again right away, but it could be Pac-12 championship good.

Oregon State Beavers

– Oregon State Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Where’s the run defense under Gary Andersen?

Andersen did the impossible by making Utah State a devastating run-stopping program, and his Wisconsin teams were a brick wall, too.

In Corvallis? Not so much.

Oregon State allowed 218 rushing yards per game last season, giving up well over five yards per carry. The 3-4 system works – Andersen has proven he can do big things with his style – and it should be better with the entire two-deep for the front three back.

Manase Hungalu might be the Pac-12’s best linebacker no one pays any attention to, and he has help in the rest of the corps. The secondary is a concern, but if the front seven does its job, the Beavers will be better.

It starts with getting tougher, and that’s not just cliche coachspeak. This was a young D that guessed was too often early on, but improved as the season went on. The experience should matter – now this group can hit, hit and hit some more.

Stanford Cardinal

– Stanford Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

How, exactly, is the Cardinal offense supposed to be better without Christian McCaffrey?

The blocking has to improve.

The stellar recruiting class of future NFL starting offensive linemen will help the depth, but they’re not going to rock right away. Overall, the line should be devastating in 2018 but it might just rise up and improve in a hurry this year if the right starting five is found early on.

While McCaffrey and Bryce Love cranked up plenty of big runs – the Cardinal averaged over five yards per carry – the line allowed 34 sacks for a woeful passing game that never found a groove.

Love showed he could rock when he got the shot, running for over 100 yards in three games including with bowl win over North Carolina. He leads a strong backfield that’ll miss McCaffrey, but will be more than fine.

The line will be a work in progress this offseason with Nate Herbig a rising star at one guard spot and, then lots of guessing after that. However, whatever finally comes together for the opener against Rice – and the week after against USC – might be among the most talented in college football. Eventually.

And if by some chance super-recruits Foster Sarell and Walker Little are ready right away, look out.

UCLA Bruins

– UCLA Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Comments about school aside, is Josh Rosen really that good?

Get ready for one of the most interesting storylines of the 2017 season – is Rosen really a future NFL franchise quarterback to build around?

Head coach Jim Mora has hinted that his main man might just be that special, but is Rosen really at the same level as Sam Darnold and Josh Allen?

He’s shown decent accuracy, but he’s also been too inconsistent and too mistake-prone, giving up 16 interceptions in his 19 games of work. He’s thrown for a ton of yards, but you would’ve hit the 400-yard mark against the Arizona State secondary last year – he had to throw thanks to a non-existent Bruin ground game.

The spotlight is now on new offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Jedd Fisch, who’ll be in charge of turning Rosen from great to yup-that’s-the-guy, and he’s got the pieces to work with.

With four starters back up front and the top two targets – Darren Andrews and Jordan Lasley – returning, as long as Rosen stays in one piece, the UCLA offense should blow up – at least, it had better.

The stats will be excellent, but of course, it’ll all come down to whether or not Rosen gets the big wins, the big game against USC, and the big performances compared to Darnold.

USC Trojans

– USC Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Are the Trojans going to be overhyped?

Not ready to go there quite yet, but yeah. Considering just about everyone will put USC in their preseason top five, overhyped, overblown, and overrated – probably.

The Rose Bowl win over Penn State and the strong victory over Washington in Seattle were terrific, but seven of the ten wins came against teams that didn’t go bowling, and no matter how much you want to explain away the start of the season – team jelled, Sam Darnold took over, etc. – it was still an ugly 1-3 start.

But that was last season. As good as Darnold is, three starters are gone off the O line. Most of the top receivers are gone, and the secondary loses its best players. It’s USC, so there are plenty of good talents ready to step in, but this might not be the slam-dunk College Football Playoff team it’ll be expected to be.

With Stanford and Texas early on, the Trojans will get tested early on. Get through that, and forget the hype – they might just roll at will through the rest of the slate.

Utah Utes

– Utah Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Is there life for the running game after Joe Williams?

Lost in the early season retirement narrative of star RB Joe Williams was how Utah went 3-1 without him. But the loss was inexplicably to Cal – he would’ve run for 300 yards against the miserable Bear run D.

Of course, he came back, ripped off six 100-yard games in the final seven, tore off 332 yards and four scores against UCLA, and the Utah running game was special.

And the Utes went 3-3 in the rest of the regular season when he returned, and – despite a huge performance from Williams – struggled to win a bowl game over an Indiana team going through a coaching controversy/change.

To put it another way, with more of a passing game being added into the mix, Utah should be fine.

Zack Moss was second on the team in rushing last year, and he was find when called on, running for 90 yards in the win over USC and with 382 yards and two scores on the season. Backing him up with be Jordan Howard and Armand Shyne – Shyne ran for 363 yards and four scores in six games before getting hurt.

Again, the Utes should be fine.

Washington Huskies

– Washington Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Does the defending Pac-12 champ have staying power?

Why not? Nothing much is changing.

The defense is still going to be amazing, the offense is still going to be efficient and effective, and the coaching is still going to be stellar.

The Pac-12 North is going to be stronger – Stanford will be better, Oregon won’t be so bad, and Oregon State and Cal should improve – but the Huskies might be getting better, too.

For all the talk about USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and Oregon’s Justin Hebert, Jake Browning is still around after throwing 43 touchdown passes and just nine picks.

Two starters are gone on the O line, and top target John Ross is gone, but the backfield is deep and there are more than enough good receivers ready to do more.

Head coach Chris Petersen proved he could reload the defense in a hurry. The secondary might be a problem early on, but there aren’t any high-powered passing teams on the schedule until Cal – and it’s changing its style – in early October. The loaded front seven should be able to pick up the slack.

There’s no USC on the schedule, the Oregon game is at home, and there’s just one game against a bowl team from last year – Colorado – until November 10th.

Washington State Cougars

– Washington State Preview
– Schedule & Prediction

Is this Mike Leach’s best Wazzu team yet?

And it might not even be close.

With QB Luke Falk and All-American OG Cody O’Connell coming back, the offense has the two stars to make up for the loss of top targets Gabe Marks and River Cracraft. Six of the top eight pass catchers return, the top five rushers are back, and three starters are back up front.

The defense that made such major strides last season welcome back nine starters – at the very least, this will be the best D yet under Leach.

With the first five games at home – even if one of them is against USC – this might just be the hot team everyone is talking about going into October. There’s no excuse to be anything less than great.

– CFN Preview 2017: All 130 Team Previews
Pac-12 Team Rankings
Pac-12 Schedules & Predictions
Pac-12 Bowl Projections
2017 CFN Pac-12 Preview: The Good & The Bad 
2017 CFN All-Pac-12 Team & Top 30 Players

 

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