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    [2022] Pac-12 Pre-Season Overviews

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    The 2022 season is right around the corner!  Dear readers, we can't let you plunge headlong into the footballs without some preparation so we herald in the upcoming campaign with some pre-season looks at the various teams of the Pac-12.  Along with big-picture analysis and a look at key players lost and returning, we also highlight some first-year eligible players that look to make significant contributions.  The PAC coaches were also polled and asked to rank the teams based on where they think each school will finish this year.  Some also provided their comments on each team.  Some notes before we begin:

     

    • All stats listed are from the 2021 season.
    • Coach comments are unedited, and their names are kept anonymous.
    • Newcomers who are redshirt freshmen or JuCo transfers are marked as such.

     

    Without further ado in alphabetical order....

     

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    :zona: Arizona Wildcats (11-2 last year)
    Coach: @Jumanji (2nd year)

     

    Returning Starters: (Note: Estimated, at the time of this publication an official depth chart was not provided.)
    Offense: 5
    Defense: 7

     

    Key Losses: QB Sam Parish (250 of 363 [68.87%] for 3144 yards, 23/6 TD/INT, 262.00 YPG, 1 Fum lost), RB Shane Strong (142 rushes for 663 yards, 7 TDs, 82.88 YPG), WR Samir Palmer (61 catches for 910 yards, 10 TDs, 3 drops), C Marco Crum, DT Christian Barkley (11 TKL, 1 TFL, 4.5 Sacks, 1 FF), FS Cameron Bowden (23 TKL, 2 INT, 6 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR), ATH Ozzie Spillman (3 TKL, 1 INT)

     

    Key Returnees: OT Emil Colon, OG Luka Pratt, DE Tyler Toney (12 TKL, 4.0 Sacks, 1 FF), DT Darnell Herron (6 TKL, 2 TFL, 1 FR), OLB Josiah Benton (18 TKL, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 TD), CB Eric Hall (9 TKL, 6 INT, 6 PD)

     

    Key Newcomers: WR Zion Carroll (RFr), TE Avery Witherspoon, OT Julian Gilbert, SS Thierno Herbert (RFr)

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 3rd (2nd PAC South)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 9th (5th PAC South)

     

    Overview: Like several other PAC teams inconsistent recruiting over the last couple of seasons is coming due for the Wildcats this year, but in Arizona’s case it’s exacerbated by losing C Marco Crum and OLB Phillip Davenport early to the draft.  If they are to contend for the South this year it’ll be on the backs of a skilled “Desert Swarm” defense that has less questions to answer than the offense does.

     

    Position of Strength: Cornerbacks.  With Eric Hall returning for his senior season, he and fellow senior Shamar Chavis (6 TKL, 5 INT) make a formidable pair of corners.  Add in sophomores Nawkaw Rudd and Stephen Spencer, and you have the best CB group in the PAC.
     
    Position of Weakness: Offensive skill positions.  We expect the Wildcats to name QB Adam Slone, RB Keiki Tatupu, WR Eli LeDesma, WR Zion Carroll, and TE Avery Witherspoon as starters.  The first three names are 3.0/3.0s, the last two are 2.0/3.5s, and of all of them only Ledesma saw any playing time in 2021.  Not only are there going to be growing pains with Arizona's offense, the growing looks to have a limited ceiling.

    Position to Watch: Center.  Marco Crum leaving early was unexpected and seriously hurts the Wildcats’ line strength.  Now coach Jumanji has some tough decisions to make.  The best natural option at C is true sophomore Paul Abrams (2.0/3.0), who really needed another year of seasoning.  Could Arizona maybe slide guard Samuel Teague or Mark Vanhorn over?

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • The Wildcats have a top 25 defense combined with probably the worst offense in the Pac 12 and I don't see the defense carrying them to anymore than 7-8 wins this season. Eric Hall and Tyler Toney are going to feast on opposing offenses and put themselves into consideration as 1st round picks in next year's NFL Draft.
    • This team is a shell of itself. The defense should still be fine with some talent there, but whew that offense is brutal. A couple nice pieces on the o-line, but a 3.0 QB, 3.0 RB, and best WR a 3.5 spell disaster for this team.
    • They lost a lot of starters and will suck this year.
    • Need a new QB. Like me
    • This team is going to struggle immensely, quite a precipitous drop for a team that's been good for a long time. Eric Hall is just about the only player of consequence on either side of the ball.
    • Lost a lot of talent this year. Should struggle more than they are used to.
    • Very strong o-line and d-line and cornerbacks. Safeties and skill positions are a big question mark. Will depend if the o-line can hold the defense away to give the QB time to find his marks.

     

     

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    :asu: Arizona State Sun Devils (5-7 last year)
    Coach: @ndunkelbarger69 (5th year)

     

    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 8
    Defense: 7

     

    Key Losses: TE Ibrahima Harrison (34 catches for 420 yards, 2 TDs, 3 drops), OT Tywin Babcock, OLB Timothy Greer, ILB Omar Gore (25 TKL, 1 TFL)

     

    Key Returnees: QB Parker Townsend (183 of 284 [64.44%] for 2320 yards, 17/5 TD/INT, 193.33 YPG, 49 rushes for 360 yards, 5 TDs), RB Israel Carlson (280 rushes for 1551 yards, 18 TDs, 1 Fum Lost, 129.25 YPG), C Nikolas DeJesus, DT Alpha Goldman (29 TKL, 8 TFL, 5.0 Sacks, 2 FF), CB Jeremy Tolliver (6 TKL, 3 INT, 1 PD)

     

    Key Newcomers: ILB Jared Hansen

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 7th (5th PAC South)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 5th (2nd PAC South)

     

    Overview: At first glance it seems that ASU has too many question marks to contend for the Pac-12 South, but you should never count out a team that has a talent like Israel Carlson.  Still, if the Sun Devils make a serious run they’ll have to do it 1) behind a methodical ball-control offense that wants to stay on the field as much as possible, and 2) by dodging the Pipe.  Can they?  Maybe, maybe not.  But this year is probably their best shot at it.

     

    Position of Strength: Running game.  As a freshman Israel Carlson was second in the PAC with 1551 yards, behind only Oregon’s Trevon Yeldon.  With an offense that’s dedicated to the ground game (a scrambling QB, a run blocking bulldozer at FB, four of five linemen that specialize in run blocking) and Yeldon bolting to the pros, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Carlson as the PAC’s leading rusher this year by a comfortable margin.
     
    Position of Weakness: Defensive End.  With only three DEs on the roster and only one with a 3-star rating, there won’t be much edge pressure from this front four.  Although last year’s starters Parker Fry (3.0/3.0) and Yariel Ordonez (2.5/2.5) combined for nine sacks last season, we expect offensive tackles will still play on islands against the Sun Devils while the guards look to contain DT Alpha Goldman.
     
    Position to Watch: Depth.  Arizona State is one of a handful of PAC teams with very few capable backups.  The starting 22 has enough talent to compete, but they have perhaps the smallest cushion for injury in the conference - some positions can’t even field full two-deeps (*cough* OT).

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • Some real talent (Iz Carson might be the best back in the country) and some decent skill at key positions is hampered by absolutely no depth. ASU is going to basically be playing IronMan football this year, and that means problems.
    • I genuinely like the look of their offence
    • The fearsome Townsend and Carlson duo is back now with 2 5.0 WRs. Defense has some holes but is solid. Definitely one of the top favorites to win the South.
    • Israel Carlson rushed for over 1500 yards as a redshirt Freshman and he'll be even better this year. As Herm Edwards would say, "You gotta watch out for them devils." Very happy I don't have to play them this year. Let's see if the Sun Devils can turn it around on the recruiting trail this year.
    • Very strong corp of receivers with talented up-and-coming run game. thin depth at oline. This will be their strongest year for the next 2-3 seasons.
    • Might have the new "Yeldon" this year. If their RB is healthy they will remain a good team.
    • PAC12 Championship Contender

     

     

     

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    :cal: California Golden Bears (2-10 last year) 
    Coach: @Quasar (8th year)

     

    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 5
    Defense: 7

     

    Key Losses: QB Leonard Norris (227 of 364 [62.36%] for 2779 yards, 23/10 TD/INT, 231.58 YPG), OT Larry Byrne, DE Leon Maimoana (31 TKL, 3 TFL, 8.0 Sacks), SS Patrick Causey (10 TKL, 1 INT, 2 PD), K Sam Walsh (19/19 FGs, Long 55)

     

    Key Returnees: RB Zachary McFadden (208 carries for 904 yards, 7 TDs, 3 catches for 31 yards), WR Calvin Levesque (56 catches for 845 yards, 10 TDs), C John Eubanks, ATH/DT Adam Gibson (31 TKL, 6 TKL, 10.0 Sacks, 1 FR), ILB Ethan McIntyre (5 TKL), CB Blaine Lewis-Thompson (6 TKL, 1 INT, 2 PD)

     

    Key Newcomers: WR Spencer Sharpe (JuCo), TE Kahiau Alama (RFr), DE Jamal Dorsey (RFr), CB Shaq Kimbrough (JuCo), ATH/K Chris Darnell

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 11th (5th PAC North)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 8th (4th PAC North)

     

    Overview: On paper the Golden Bears looked better than 2-10 in 2021, but a young and porous defense let up the third most points in the conference and a young offensive line scuttled the Cal attack more often than not, leading to an ugly -74 point differential.  Now with a year of experience to lean on, the young Bears should be able to make a bowl game.  However, they still look to be a step behind the top teams in the North.

     

    Position of Strength: Cornerbacks.  Blaine Lewis-Thompson didn’t appear much in the stat sheet, but opposing teams didn’t feel the need to throw against Cal.  The boundaries of the field may still be off-limits to many QBs, because BLT and his partner Aaden Dent (4/4) both returned for their senior seasons.

     

    Position of Weakness: Safeties.  The deep middle of the field?  Now that might be a different story.  Neither Victor Gipson nor Lardarius Gilmore inspired any confidence in the coaching staff, so JuCo Kimbrough slides right in at FS - even though he’s a cornerback by trade.  How he handles the new position will be watched closely by Cal fans, and it’s questionable if SS Stephen Rawls has the chops and ability to cover for any mistakes Kimbrough makes.
     
    Position to Watch: The kicking game.  Quasar is giving both placekicking and punting duties to true freshman Chris Darnell.  The blue-chipper has the all the talent in the world, but will he be able to handle the workload AND the pressure?  

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • Team looks okay. About the same as last year, which was brutal, so hard to say how they'll do.
    • Cal might be a bit of a surprise team in the North, if their all-new backfield can get it together. Adam Gibson is as good as it gets, and BLT needs a bounce-back year after disappearing in 2021. Cal is gonna notch a few upsets, but ultimately look like a fringe bowl team.
    • Kind of a wild card. Will win quite a few games imo.
    • PAC 12 North Contenders
    • A team that finished 2-10 last year and only marginally improved. I could see them winning 4-5 games this year, but the Golden Bears shouldn't be worried. The recruiting classes they've been pulling in will eventually flourish and this team will be a competitor. For now, however, they are not.
    • Good receivers.
    • Great group of receivers. Will compete for a conference championship next year.

     

     

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    :colorado: Colorado Buffaloes (5-7 last year) 
    Coach: @paperllamasunited (2nd year)

     

    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 8
    Defense: 6

     

    Key Losses: QB Evan Torres (181 of 299 [60.54%] for 2136 yards, 12/9 TD/INT, 178.00 YPG), ILB Malik Graves (23 TKL, 1.0 Sack), FS Seth Scott (17 TKL, 1 INT, 2 PD)

     

    Key Returnees: RB Latavius Murray (232 carries for 1089 yards, 11 TDs, 3 Fum Lost, 2 catches for 34 yards), WR Patrick Reardon (42 catches for 544 yards, 5 TDs, 1 Drop), DE Travis Napier (38 TKL, 5 TFL, 10.5 Sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR), OLB Sam Caron (26 TKL, 1 TFL, 3.5 Sacks), CB DeSean Barkley (12 TKL, 7 INT, 4 PD)

     

    Key Newcomers: QB Mike Naylor (RFr), TE Kameron McCrary (RFr), CB Chad Manuel (RFr), ILB Robert Dodson (RFr)

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 10th (6th PAC South)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 6th (3rd PAC South)

     

    Overview: An oddly inconsistent 2021 Buffaloes squad gives way to a 2022 team that looks like it can compete for the PAC South crown - if they can answer two big questions.

    Position of Strength: Defense.  There are studs all over the place.  On the line twin 4.5/4.5 bookends Josh Bain and Travis Napier are set to wreak havoc, and behind them could come OLBs Frederick Grant and potential 2023 first-rounder Sam Caron.  The backend is buoyed by yet another possible first round player in CB DeSean Barkley, and the rest of the secondary aren’t slouches themselves.  However...
     
    Position of Weakness: Question 1: Defensive scheme.  The Buffs look like a defense in transition.  Are they a 3-4 or a 4-3? The majority of their personnel seem to dictate a 3-4, but that miscasts 1-Gapper Aaron Doty as a nose tackle.  On top of that OLB Jaden Rogers is sliding inside to play the Mike, which seems really ambitious.  Perhaps we’ll see a heavy dose of blitzing from the Colorado defense this year.
     
    Position to Watch: Question 2: Offensive scheme.  Redshirt freshman Mike Naylor looks to be as polished a player as you could ask for from a first-year starter.  There’s lots of talent surrounding him, from Murray to the experienced receiving corps and offensive line.  But Naylor is much more of a scrambler than his predecessor Evan Torres was.  But considering that Colorado scored the lowest amount of points in the PAC last year maybe a scheme change isn’t a horrible thing to implement.  Does coach llamas see shades of Walt Sutherland and Byron Suggs in Naylor?

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • Run game is the strong suit, average most other positions
    • Worst team in the best div? ;)
    • The Buffaloes had a pretty disappointing collapse last season, finishing 5-7, after starting the year 3-0. However, this season's team could very easily finish the year with 9 to 10 wins. Latavious Murray is entering his final year in Denver and should be rushing for close to 1500 yards behind a good, but not great, offensive line. My only concern is about how committed HC llamas is to the college game. DeSean Barkley is a STUD.
    • Top 10 D. Really depends on their Freshman QB, have them as the 2nd best team in the PAC.
    • Naylor and Murray are an interesting pair on Offense. Caron, Napier, and Barkely are formidable on Defense, but there is not a lot happening on the OLine or much past these studs. Naylor, despite his 4/4 skill, is still a (FR). Ups and downs. Looks like 5-7 wins to me.
    • Solid all around team with some star seniors in there. Struggled last year but could contend for the division this year.

     

     

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    :oregon: Oregon Ducks (10-4 last year)

    Coach: @bingo415 (3rd year)

     

    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 5
    Defense: 9

     

    Key Losses: RB Trevon Yeldon (282 carries for 1,999 yards, 27 TDs, 166.6 YPG), QB Michael Coe (196 of 308 [63.6%] for 2,471 yards, 17/6 TD/INT, 205.9 YPG), WR Max Bakhtiari (45 catches for 707 yards, 6 TDs), CB Tre'Davious Dikes (15 TKL, 6 INT, 5 PD, 1 INT Ret TD)

     

    Key Returnees: QB Jason Baum (Redshirt in 2021), WR Kristian Hope (45 catches for 593 yards, 5 TDs, 3 Drops), DE Daniel Cuevas (34 TKL, 3 TFL, 10.5 Sacks), OLB Blake Martin (48 TKL, 6 TFL, 7.0 Sacks, 3 INT, 2 PD, 1 FF), CB Jamir Lacey (6 TKL, 3 INT), CB Donte Terry (1 TKL, 1 INT)

     

    Key Newcomers: TE Jack Booth, TE Aboubacar Dukes (JuCo), C Brian McMedley (RFr), OLB Jacob Gaines (RFr)

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 2nd (1st PAC North)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 4th (3rd PAC North)

     

    Overview: Losing Yeldon early to the draft is a huge blow to the Ducks’ natty aspirations, but they should still be considered among the early favorites for the Pac-12 title due to an excellent defense that returns virtually everyone from last year.  

     

    Position of Strength: Defensive Line.  The Ducks return all four starters from a productive line that racked up 57 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 17.0 sacks, and a safety between them.  All four stand a good chance at playing on Sundays, with senior space-eater Landry Everett likely to be the first to do so.

     

    Position of Weakness: Middle Linebacker.  True freshman Ryder Gruber (1.0/4.0) is the future at ILB for the Ducks, but coach Bingo may feel that he has to be the present also because all the other options are either young as well or simply emergency depth material - the other best option is probably redshirt freshman Bill Talbot (2.0/3.5).  Oregon’s saving grace is that there is so much talent on this defense that they don’t have to ask too much of the MLB.

     

    Position to Watch: Kicking game.  Senior Jaden Ross struggled last season; 13 of 19 (68.4%) on FGs with a long of 46.  But the sad truth is that the Ducks have no definitively better options, so they’ll just have to hope that his misses don’t hurt them in the long run.

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • Solid
    • Offense will definitely struggle due to mediocre QB and RB, but the rest of the team is good enough with bingo's coaching to be one of the top teams this year.
    • Going to regress this year after losing yeldon.
    • Trevon Yeldon is gone. The Ducks offense is really going to feel his loss. This team will only go as far as it's defense takes it. Good thing that defense is ridiculously good.
    • Big question at running back. Receiving anchored by Kristian Hope. O-line will be best in the conference next year. D-line may be impenetrable. May be the best defense in the conference this year.
    • Coach has to get creative on offense due to a lack of high-end talent at the skill positions, but the OLine is good and should be a strength. The defense will keep them in games all season. Might not make it 3 North titles in a row.
    • Will really miss Yeldon. This should be a down year, but with the recruiting they have had previously it won't be long until they are competing for the PAC again.

     

     

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    :orst: Oregon State Beavers (8-5 last year)
    Coach: @DoesItFitInABreadBox (1st year)

     

    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 8
    Defense: 6

     

    Key Losses: OLB Thomas Metzger (28 TKL, 1 TFL, 3.5 Sacks, 1 PD, 1 FF), CB Jamari Turner (8 TKL, 4 INTs, 1 PD, 1 TD)

     

    Key Returnees: RB Lloyd Samuels (244 carries for 1146 yards, 11 TDs, 5 catches for 84 yards), WR Richard Rolle (52 catches for 749 yards, 8 TDs, 1 Drop), OT Mason Hamby, K Elliot Ellis (19 of 21 [90.48%] FGs, long 49)

     

    Key Newcomers: DE Larry Swain (RFr), CB Dylan Talbert (RFr)

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 8th (3rd PAC North)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 12th (6th PAC North)

     

    Overview: Undoubtedly the feel-good story of 2021 was the Oregon State football team.  The owners of a CFBHC record 27-game losing streak shocked the world with not just achieving their first winning record, not just making it to their second-ever bowl game, but winning said bowl game (and giving @constapatedape the unique distinction of losing to the Beavers twice in a season).  But that was last year and 2022 is what this article is about.  So can the Beavers do it again and finish in the top half of the North?  
    Not without some help.  The team overall is solid to decent across the board but doesn’t have any noticeable advantages to leverage.  They now have new coach DoesItFitInABreadBox to gameplan, and he’s going to have to be to good at it because Oregon State will be out-talented for the majority of their games.
     
    Position of Strength: Team consistency.  They project to have no one worse than 3.0/3.0 or 2.0/4.0 anywhere in the starting 22.  Beaver opponents have to work harder to beat them, as there’s no obvious weak point.
     
    Position of Weakness:  Secondary.  Having said that, a 3.0 isn’t quite as good as a 3.5 or a 4.0. And this is the area where there are more 3.0s potentially starting than anywhere else.  FS Adam Harden is one who is expected to start, and it will be a three-way dance between 3-stars Sincere Harris and Daveed Lawton, and redshirt 2.0/4.0 freshman Dylan Talbert for the two starting CB spots.  Offenses will be tempted to look here and see if they can bend more than the rest of the defense.

     

    Position to Watch: Head coach.  Coaching the Beavers is the “Challenge Mode” of the Pac-12.  They have a competitive team, but one that isn’t likely to be favored in many conference games if at all.  More than any other PAC team they need a steady hand to guide and gameplan them to victory while recruiting well for their future.  No pressure, DoesItFitInABreadBox.

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • I wish someone would stay here
    • Oof. Beavs are gonna be bad. No real talent across the board, and they have a tough schedule. Beavs staring at 1, maybe 2, wins.
    • Receivers are a weak spot, but a balanced run game could help a lot. Average oline and dline. Mason Hamby will be the team captain until he leaves. All around average team.
    • Need a committed and consistent coach
    • Turrible. Had the most success they ever had last year, can't see them replicating that this year.
    • Average. That's the only word that comes to mind when I look at this team. Nothing really jumps out at you when you look at the Beavers' roster. Average is in no way a bad thing, however. Average is probably good enough for a 4th place finish in the North.
    • They were okay last year with rotating coaches. I wouldn't project them to do much this year, but they've proven they can so you never know.

     

     

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    :stanford: Stanford Cardinal (1–11 last year)
    Coach: @stinsy (3rd year)

     

    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 8
    Defense: 6

     

    Key Losses: QB Clint Campbell (233 of 397 [58.69%] for 2678 yards, 24/12 TD/INT ratio, 223.17 YPG), WR Joshua Freeman (51 catches for 637 yards, 11 TDs, 2 Drops), WR John O'Donnell-Beavers (63 catches for 784 yards, 6 TDs, 6 Drops), OLB Xavier Collier (17 TKL, 2 TFL, 3.5 Sacks, 1 PD), FS Damani Sheppard (27 TKL, 2 INT, 4 PD)

     

    Key Returnees: FB Sebastian McCain, TE Zachary Shields (6 catches for 86 yards, 1 TD), DE Jeffrey Russell (24 TKL, 3 TFL, 5.0 Sacks, 1 FF), CB Donovan Powell (7 TKL, 3 INT)

     

    Key Newcomers: QB Troy McMurray (JuCo), WR Aboubacar Oates, WR Jake Britton 

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 12th (6th PAC North)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 10th (5th PAC North)

     

    Overview: When stinsy took over as coach, Stanford’s roster was a mess due to the previous coach’s inattention.  The Cardinal have some promising pieces, but they are still very much a work in progress with several notable holes. Stinsy has them moving in the right direction but they’re at least a good year or two away from contention. 
     
    Position of Strength: Safeties.  Even with free safety Damani Sheppard moving on to the pros, replacement Marc Fox and SS Javier Hayward (11 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 PD) make for a pretty good last line of defense - useful when your 2022 schedule includes the potent passing attacks of USC, Washington, SDSU, and UCLA among others.

     

    Position of Weakness: Wide receiver.  The only returning WRs are all true sophomores and none is better than 1.5/2.5.  Highly touted receivers Aboubacar Oates and Jake Britton will likely go straight from high school to starting roles as true freshmen. 
     
    Position to Watch: Quarterback.  Stinsy managed to grab JuCo QB Troy McMurray to replace departed started Clint Campbell.  McMurray looks like a player, but outside of TE Zachary Shields he has zero reliable targets to throw to.  If he comes anywhere close to 2300 yards passing and 20 TDs it’s probably a minor miracle, and coach stinsy may have to incorporate McMurray’s legs into the Cardinal offense a lot this year.

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • A couple pieces a way, but they are key pieces. Should struggle this year.
    • McMurray should help them get an extra win or two, but there's too many holes for them to be a serious contender.
    • Eh they’ll be okay.
    • Very very young WR corp may waste talents of Troy McMurray. Zachary Shields may be the number one receiver. Lot of questions at defense.
    • Stanford still has a couple of years left in their rebuilding process and that's very apparent with how many holes their team is filled with. They do have a shiny new toy with quarterback Troy McMurray, but with no real receiving threats and no real threat of a run game, this team is in for another rough season. I don't predict more than 4 wins for the Cardinal.
    • They need Andrew Lu-... oh wait

     

     

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    :ucla: UCLA Bruins (9-4 last year)

    Coach: @cultur3 (2nd year)

     

    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 6
    Defense: 7

     

    Key Losses: QB Steven Gore (354 of 566 [62.54%] for 4238 yards, 41/6 TD/INT ratio, 353.17 YPG), WR Jay Arreola (89 catches for 1383 yards, 17 TDs, 1 Drop), OG Angelo Denny, OT Ryan Redding, OG/C/ATH/TE/WR/KR/Left Field/Goaltender/Flight Attendant Darius Waters.

     

    Key Returnees: RB Frederick Girard (112 carries for 404 yards, 4 TDs, 3 catches for 23 yards), WR Ronan Humphreys (72 catches for 1066 yards, 11 TDs, 3 Drops), WR Noah Tumaalii (63 catches for 890 yards, 11 TDs, 2 Drops), C Maurice Poindexter, DE Blake Tipton (25 TKL, 6 TFL, 10.5 Sacks, 1 FF), OLB Tavarius Hicks (45 TKL, 1 TFL, 1.0 Sack, 2 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR), SS D'Andre Curry (11 TKL, 2 INT)

     

    Key Newcomers: QB Aaron Harden (RFr), WR Brian D'Angelo (JuCo), OT Shane Reese (RFr), DE Shia Abernathy (RFr), FS Nathan Tolliver 

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 4th (3rd PAC South)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 7th (4th PAC South)

     

    Overview: UCLA had a better 2021 than what many observers thought they would.  But a big portion of that potent 2021 offense is no longer here, and there’s enough of a talent gap between them and some of the other South teams that any picks for the Bruins to win the South should be qualified with the word “darkhorse.”

     

    Position of Strength: Wide Receiver.  Even with Arreola leaving early this is a formidable group.  Ronan Humphreys (4.0/4.0) caught over 1000 yards himself last season, while slot receiver Noah Tumaali (4.0/4.5) had nearly 900 himself and is expected by observers to take over the #1 WR position.  JuCo Brian D’Angelo (3.5/4.5) looks to have inside position on the slot receiver role and all three of these pass catchers are at least 6’3”, making them matchup nightmares for defensive backs.

     

    Position of Weakness: Quarterback.  Redshirt freshman Aaron Harden is clearly the man now for the Bruins, but for all his talent the fans will have to remember he isn’t Steven Gore.  Harden redshirted last year, so this will be his first experience of real in-game action.  On top of that Harden was a passer that liked to roll out and be on the move in high school; how will that mesh with the vertical concepts UCLA used last year?

     

    Position to Watch: Running back.  As in, “Will Frederick Girard actually see some use?”  He chipped in 404 yards on the ground last year on only 112 carries so his legs are quite fresh.  Harden could probably use a stronger running game to take some of the pressure off his arm this year.

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • Hot weather, average results
    • It all hinges on Aaron Harden. If he's good as a freshman this team could be really good. If he has typical freshman struggles, this team could be really bad.
    • Quarterback Aaron Harden is an exciting prospect, but he's young and might make a lot of mistakes. Good thing he has some great receivers to help relieve the pressure on his first starting season. The Bruins have come a long way on defense from last season and should be pushing for a spot in the Coaches Poll.
    • Bruins will go as far as Aaron Harden takes them. If he plays like a Freshman, they'll struggle. But here's guessing his veteran WRs and OLine will step up. Can the secondary stop anyone? Who knows, but the front 7 is goooood.
    • Lost a lot of major contributors to the draft. Young team, will live and (mostly) die by their young quarterback
    • Redshirt freshmen at QB with lots of potential. Hopefully a solid WR will help settle him in. O line is up and coming and may become one of the best in the conference in a few years. Defense has some holes, especially in the secondary, but overall very, very strong.
    • Overrated. Possibly the most overrated team in the site.
     
     

     

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    :usc: USC Trojans (7-6 last year)

    Coach: @Jumbo (2nd year)

     

    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 7
    Defense: 5

     

    Key Losses: RB Bernard Shook (272     carries for 1,349 yards, 11 TDs, 122.64 YPG), DE Cameron Goode (25 TKL, 2 TFL, 8.5 Sacks, 2 FF), DT Ben Beckwith (19 TFL, 3.0 Sacks, 1 FR), CB Donovan Singleton-Blake (5 TKL, 3 INT, 4 PD)

     

    Key Returnees: QB Marc Lockwood (146 of 217 [67.28%] for 1765 yards, 10/4 TD/INT ratio, 196.11 YPG, 41 carries for 267 yards, 4 TDs), RB Charles Bowser (no 2021 stats), WR Samuel Gulla (45 catches for 641 yards, 7 TDs, 2 Drops), WR Marc Ponder (38 catches for 544 yards, 3 TDs, 1 Drop), C Conor Hall, OLB Gregory Gibson (27 TKL, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PD), ILB Nate Garrett (63 TKL, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR)

     

    Key Newcomers: OT Anthony McGregor, DE Damien Bethea (JuCo), DT Oluwatoke Abiodun (Nigeria), DT Christian Callahan, CB Maximillian Wilcox

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 6th (4th PAC South)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 1st (1st PAC South)

     

    Overview: The Trojans may be 2022’s #Pac12AfterDark designated representative, thanks to a potent offense and a defense long on talent but short on experience.  If USC doesn’t win the South it’s primarily due to lean recruiting classes they suffered before Jumbo arrived.  But it won’t stop the Trojans from being entertaining.

     

    Position of Strength: Offense.  Most defensive gameplans will focus on stopping the receiving trio of WR Samuel Gulla, WR Marc Ponder, and TE Mualu Sititi.  But redshirt sophomore RB Charles Bowser will pick up where the graduated Bernard Shook left off, and a talented offensive line will give both the Trojan air and ground games time and space to get going.

     

    Position of Weakness: Secondary.  The likely candidates for both starting cornerback spots and the nickelback are all true freshmen.  The only returning starter, FS Justin Grayson, is a true sophomore and is in a heated battle with yet another freshman.  There’s talent here, especially CBs Maximillian Wilcox (2.0/5.0) and Darren Tamayo (1.5/4.0), but if they play this year they’re going to learn the hard way.

     

    Position to Watch: Quarterback.  The Trojans may want to invest in bubble wrap for Marc Lockwood.  When he went down with a rotator cuff injury against the Utes in week 4, so did USC’s chances at winning the division.  If the Pipe again visits Lockwood, it’s probably on junior Sebastian Reardon to pick up the slack.  If that happens hopefully he does MUCH better than last year. (18 of 38 [47.37%] for 216 yards, 1/4 TD/INT)

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • My pick for the best team in the Pac 12 this season. I believe they have a top 5 offense nationally and should be in the running for a College Football Playoff spot.
    • Gonna be a tough out each week
    • If the QB stays healthy, should be a good season.
    • Probably the most complete team in the conference. Will compete with Oregon blow for blow.
    • This is looking like the best team in the South by a long shot. Biggest question: secondary play. If they keep passing teams under 300 yards, they'll win every Conference game.
    • Times are on the up
    • I hate those losers. They should be favorites to win the PAC and should make the playoffs this year.
       

     

    md-ncaa-football-california-utah2.png

    :utah: Utah Utes (11-3, CFBHC Playoffs last year)
    Coach: @Kirby (1st year)

     
    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 4
    Defense: 5

    Key Losses: QB Donald Culver (306 of 465 [65.81%] for 3826 yards, 37/6 TD/INT, 318.83 YPG), OG Fletcher Joyner, DE Derrick Hightower (18 TKL, 5 TFL, 7.0 Sacks), ILB Javon Knox (41 TKL, 3 TFL, 3 PD, 1 FF), OLB Patrick Haines (33 TKL, 5 PD, 1 FR)

     

    Key Returnees: RB Savion Talley (160 carries for 705 yards, 8 TDs, 18 catches for 243 yards, 2 TDs), WR Sawyer Lawrence (68 catches for 1023 yards, 13 TDs, 4 Drops), WR K.J. Simpson (45 catches for 698, 8 TDs, 3 Drops), OG Silolo Siula, CB Zion Hooker (9 TKL, 3 INT, 4 PD), SS Brody Gibbons (27 TKL, 2 INT, 3 PD)

     

    Key Newcomers: DE Dion Pryor 

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 1st (1st PAC South)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 11th (6th PAC South)

     

    Overview: The Utes achieved way more than anyone could have dreamed last year, forcing their way into the CFBHC playoffs behind the right arm of the Mormon Lasercannon Donald Culver.  It’s a good thing for new coach Kirby that he has all these playoff recruiting points to work with because between graduations, early declarations, and non-existent 2020-2021 recruiting Utah is in very real danger of being a first-to-worst story in the South.

     

    Position of Strength: Pass catchers.  There’s a pair of highly-experienced wideout atop the WR depth chart in Lawrence and Simpson.  Combine them with receiving TE Aneterea Tupuimatagi and RB Savion Talley and there will be a lot of targets for new QB James Coulter to choose from.
     
    Position of Weakness: Defensive line.  It’s.... not good.  The only returning starter on the line is 2.5/2.5 DE Devon Dunbar who did manage to rack up 3.0 sacks.  His opposing number is 3-star true freshman Dion Pryor, who is forced to play way too soon and in between is 2/3.5 Marlon Spencer who has decent size (6’1” 294) but not the experience.  Also, Dunbar and Pryor are the only two DEs on the entire roster.
     
    Position to Watch: Quarterback.  Culver’s shoes were always going to be next to impossible to fill, but still, Ute fans have to be nervous watching 3-star Coulter taking snaps now even though he’s clearly the best of the bunch.   It’s no wonder local recruit QB Finn Leonard’s twitter has been blowing up with a lot of #GoUtes hashtags.

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • Without Culver, and with a brutal front 7, this looks like one of the worst teams in the conference this year. It's going to be bad.
    • This is not going to be fun year in SLC. Those stud WRs are going to be starved for any sort of consistent passing game, and Brody Gibson is going to have to try to rally the entire (outmanned) defense. 3-4 wins for the Utes is all.
    • Just turrible. Better get some good use out of those recruiting points.
    • Going to decline heavily this year. Might finish last in the south.
    • A team that, in my opinion, was mostly carried by Donald Culver last season will hit a very big speed bump this year. Utah will finish last in the South and I don't think it will be close.
    • Need a QB. Eye spy with my little eye (also need depth in just about every position)
    • Questions at defense end, but secondary may bail out the dline and linebackers.

     

     

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    :uw: Washington Huskies (8-5 last year)

    Coach: Jieret (1st year)

     

    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 8
    Defense: 7

     

    Key Losses: DE Miles Slater (17 TKL, 5 TFL, 5.5 Sacks, 1 FF), TE Omeri Maimoana (27 catches for 362 yards, 1 TD, 1 Drop)

     

    Key Returnees: QB Jake Davis (262 of 436 [60.1%] for 3,290 yards, 23/9 TD/INT, 274.2 YPG), WR Davis Harley (69 catches for 963 yards, 9 TDs), OG Logan Romano, DE Jermon McKnight (34 TKL, 5 TFL, 10 Sacks), DT Julius Mercer (18 TKL, 3 TFL, 3.5 Sacks, 1 FR), CB Kofi Dennis (9 TKL, 5 INT, 1 PD)

     

    Key Newcomers: WR D.D. Dyson (RFr)

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 5th (2nd PAC North)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 2nd (1st PAC North)

     

    Overview: Coach Jieret arrives in the Pacific Northwest after two MAC championships, a playoff appearance, and a 34-7 record in three seasons with the Western Michigan Broncos.  If he can harness the potential of this team, they are a solid contender for the North division crown.  But a few weak spots and the incredibly top-heavy nature of this team should temper fan expectations.

     

    Position of Strength: Passing game.  Junior QB Jake Davis looked like he figured some things out in the second half last year.  If that’s true then he’ll be able to do a lot of damage, especially with a solid and experienced receiving corps in Davis Harley, Jason Ivy (25 catches for 451 yards, 3 TDs), and Adrien Araujo  (52 catches for 800 yards, 6 TDs).  That’s a lot of weapons for Davis, and we didn’t even mention redshirt freshman D.D. Dyson (2.0/5.0) until now.

     

    Position of Weakness: Depth.  Except for a handful of positions, there is a HUGE difference in the skill levels of the starters versus the backups.  No one is safe from the Pipe, but the Huskies are particularly susceptible - even a few random visits would spell disaster, never mind if they hit a key player like Davis.

     

    Position to Watch: Running back.  Last season’s starter Darius Armstrong returns, but even accounting for the pass-heavy offense his numbers weren’t all that impressive (171 carries for 679 yards, 6 TDs).  Expect redshirt sophomore Kofi Walls to put up a spirited fight in training camp.

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • Very strong team. Deep at CB, but lacks a true leader. Linebackers a question mark. Strong offense.
    • Might be the preseason favorite in the North, but they're going to have to get some real production out of a secondary that appears to only be OK on paper. Jake Davis has turned a corner and has some real talent to work with at WR, but Kofi Walls needs to give them a LITTLE balance for real success.
    • Crooting hurt them the last few years, but with a new coach there will be some new excitement. Should be a really good team.
    • Jake is going to have a breakout year and help make the playoffs.
    • If Jieret can coach up Jake Davis, this team is gonna rip through the entire conference this year.
    • New coach who dis. Jieret made the move from Kalamazoo to Seattle and has a top 25 team in his hands. I'm very excited to see how Jake Davis performs under his guidance. Easy Playoff contender in my opinion.
    • Hunky new coach.

    (Editor's note: Again we would like to remind the readers that the Coaches' Comments are not only unedited but also did not come from Jieret.)

     

     

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    :wsu: Washington State Cougars(5-7 last year)

    Coach: @Arc1126 (1st year)

     

    Returning Starters:
    Offense: 8
    Defense: 9

     

    Key Losses: WR Eric Krause (44 catches for 738 yards, 7 TDs, 2 Drops), TE Eduardo Cantu (27 catches for 462 yards, 7 TDs, 6 Drops), FS Darius Patton (11 TKL, 1 INT, 1 PD)

     

    Key Returnees: QB Bradley Hassan (247 of 381 [64.83%] for 3217 yarads, 30/11 TD/INT, 268.08 YPG, 7 rushes for 16 yards, 1 TD), WR Luke Sikuli (75 catches for 1080 yards, 12 TDs), OT Riley Greenfield, DE Henry Negron (39 TKL, 6 TFL, 8.0 Sacks), DE Quincy Hobson (17 TKL, 3 TFL, 5.0 Sacks, 1 FF), ILB Aaron Mathis (56 TKL, 2 TFL, 3 PD,1 FF)

     

    Key Newcomers: DE Emmanuel Knox (JuCo), CB Darron Rucker (JuCo), FS Lardarius Braswell Jr. (RFr), SS Thomas Gay (RFr)

     

    Last Year’s Conference Finish: 9th (4th PAC North)
    2022 Projected Conference Finish: 3rd (2nd PAC North)

     

    Overview: After longtime coach constapatedape left for $Texas, Arc1126 moved cross-country from Syracuse to take up Ol’ Crimson.  He inherits a roster that returns more starters in the 22 than any other PAC team, and Wazzu surely should improve on their disappointing 5-7 2021 campaign - perhaps even to the point of being a contender to the PAC title.

     

    Position of Strength: Defensive Ends.  It isn’t often we talk about rotational depth, but Washington State has three potent defensive ends between JuCo transfer Knox, Negron, and Hobson (who is good enough that he could declare early and be a potential first-round pick).  Opposing QBs and their offensive tackles aren’t going to get much rest.

     

    Position of Weakness: Wide receiver.  Leading WR Luke Sikuli returns, but there isn’t anyone behind him that looks like a credible threat.  True sophomore Landon Muse will likely be the #2, but expect the Cougs to run multiple 12 and 22 sets to maximize their passing game with TEs Antonio Greer and Andre Riggins.

     

    Position to Watch: Safeties.  The Cougs are breaking in two new starters on the backend.  Both FS Lardarius Braswell Jr. and SS Thomas Gay have performed well in camp but they are still both redshirt freshmen, so it remains to be seen how they hold up in actual games.

     

    Coaches’ Comments:

    • If coach ape was still in Pullman, I might pick the Cougs to be the top dog on the West Coast, but I don't know what direction new arrival Arc will be taking the team in, so I'm hesitant to rank them #1. This team has a scary defense and probably one of the best linebacking units in the nation. Washington State @ Washington will be a huge game with a lot on the line.
    • The Apple Cup is going to a great battle. Cougs look like they have a boatload of skill in good spots. Bradley Hassan is good, but why is Luke Sikuli WR2? Coug DLine is gonna be fun to watch.
    • Poor mans Huskies
    • JUCOs really helped them out. Should be the best improved team in the nation and should contend for a PAC championship
    • Improving but have a long way to go.
    • This team has some good players at random positions, but they just kinda scream mediocrity to me.
    • Safeties a question mark, relatively balanced oline. skill positions above average.
       

    :pac::pac::pac:

     

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    If coach ape was still in Pullman, I might pick the Cougs to be the top dog on the West Coast, but I don't know what direction new arrival Arc will be taking the team in, so I'm hesitant to rank them #1. This team has a scary defense and probably one of the best linebacking units in the nation. Washington State @ Washington will be a huge game with a lot on the line.

     

    making me want to go back 

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