PAC 12 Football Preview 2015
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PAC 12 Football Predictions 2015
Offense: The Ducks will be just as good on offense even with the loss of Marcus Mariota. Former Eastern Washington QB, Vernon Adams will start at QB. Adams should fit right in at Oregon and he posted monster numbers at EWU. He will have plenty of weapons as usual but running back should be special with Royce Freeman who exploded his freshman year with 1365 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. Thomas Tyner was effective in his 113 attempts averaging just over 5 yards per carry. The Ducks top receiver in 2015, Byron Marshall, had 74 receptions and over 1000 receiving yards. They have some top receiving talent coming in so do not be surprised if one of them emerges. The offensive line is really strong with several guys likely earning PAC 12 accolades.
Defense: The defense had it's moments last season but when they faced a talented offense they struggled. They really struggled against the pass and that will likely continue if they do not have a player or two step up. The defensive line will be solid with DeForest Buckner back. Buckner totaled 81 tackles from his line spot and had four sacks, 13 tackles for loss last season. Linebackers Tyson Coleman and Rodney Hardrick will need to be more disruptive this season in order for the defense to take a step forward.
Special Teams: The return game will always be in good shape with the athletes Oregon brings in. The kicking game is in good hands with Aidan Schneider who only missed one field goal. He will get more then 12 kicks this season though. Ian Wheeler could be much better after ranking 101 yards in average last season.
Forecast: The Ducks will remain at the top of the PAC 12 north. The defense will hope to improve this season after showing struggles vs high powered offenses. Oregon is always tough to stop on offense. They have a big time running back in Royce Freeman who could get some Heisman hype this year. Games at Stanford, at Arizona State and home vs. USC will tell the tale this season.
Offense: The Cardinal weren't good enough on offense last season to make Stanford a contender. They averaged 27.2 points per game which ranked them 11th in the conference. Kevin Hogan will need to have a bigger year. He only averaged 214.8 which will need to be higher, he was very accurate at 65.9 completion percentage. Hogans top targets from last season are gone, his top returning target is tight end Austin Hooper who tallied 40 catches. Four starters are back on the line which is always a strength of the team. They will be blocking for a running attack that hopes to get going. All the hype surrounds running back Christian McCaffrey who only had 42 carries last season but averaged over 7 yards in those attempts.
Defense: Stanford had the best defense in the PAC 12 last season. They only return four of those starters this season. The line is where they will struggle the most this year with not one starter returning. As usual Stanford will be strong at linebacker. Linebacker Blake Martinez led the teams in tackles with 102. The teams top returner in sacks is linebacker Peter Kalambayi. The secondary provides a lot of intrigue, they lose starting safety Zach Hoffpauir to Major League Baseball, Wayne Lyons to Michigan and have two players who once played different spots have more playing time under their belt.
Special Teams: Conrad Ukropina is in at kicker in his final year. He's made two of four field goals in his career. Punter will be up for grabs with Jake Bailey the favorite to grab the spot.
Forecast: The offense should improve slightly, the defense might not be tops in the conference but they will be in the top 3. They open the season on the road in Northwestern followed by a home game vs. UCF and then at USC. Two wins out of the three will be crucial to a good 2015 season.
Offense: Offensively they are one of the best in the league. It all starts with quarterback Jared Goff who led the Bears to the 6th best passing attack in the country last season. The Bears return just about every receiver from last season. The top targets for Goff will be Kenny Lawler, Stephen Anderson, Bryce Treggs and Trevor Davis. The line will be the main question mark for Cal. Three starters return on the line with several options for the other two open slots. The running game is not a primary focus for, but it needs to be at least a threat. Daniel Lasco averaged over 5.31 yards per carry and scored 12 touchdowns.
Defense: This is the area that is holding the Golden Bears back. Last seasons team rated among the worst in the country. With only five starters returning we will see if they can improve. The line will be filled with several new faces. DeVante Wilson will be one player to track during the season. Linebacker is the strength of the team with Micheal Barton and Jalen Jefferson back. A lot of the issues start in the secondary where Cal gave up 367.2 yards per game last year. If things do not turn around here Cal could be in big trouble.
Special Teams: Some improvement in place kicking would be helpful. They have one of the most dangerous guys returning kicks in Trevor Davis.
Forecast: The offense will be explosive with Goff and their wide receiver core. The defense will hope that newcomers will improve to a level that will keep the Golden Bears out of shoot outs every game. Sonny Dykes has gone 6-18 in his first two seasons, so this will be a big year for the Head Coach.
Offense: The rushing game was productive last season and it should be just as good this season with Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman back at running back. The offensive line that will be providing lanes for the backs will be serviceable. Quarterback is major concern with two young quarterbacks K.J. Carta-Samuels and Jake Browning. Expect to see both players through out the season. The two quarterbacks will have plenty of options to throw to. Look for Dante Pettis to have a big year after showing flashes of big play potential last season.
Defense: The Huskies lost three first round picks and one second round pick from last years defense. Last years team gave up over 286.6 yards through the air but this season that should change after several freshman played and started. Safety Budda Baker is the teams leading returning tackler. Strong Safety Kevin King is the second returning leading tackler. Expect to see a lot of young players get a go on the defensive line. Linebacker lost two players to the draft but have third year player Travis Freeny back. With some many key players gone it is hard to say just how good this defense will be, but it won't be as good as last season.
Special Teams: The return game will be special again this season with Pettis and Ross back. Cameron Van Winkle was impressive hitting 83.3 percent of his kicks. Punter Korey Durkee is one of the better punters in the league.
Forecast: The defense will not have the same amount of punch as they did last season. If the Huskies can find a stable quarterback they could get in the top three in the North. They draw a tough schedule with both Arizona schools from the south division.
#5 Washington State
Offense: Year after year, Mike Leach's passing offense is one of the best in the country. That has yet to translate into a lot of wins at Washington State. Everyone returns on the line to protect quarterback Luke Falk. Falk showed some flashes of being a great player but will need to cut down on the interceptions. The Cougars welcome back wide receiver Gabe Marks who was a top receiver in 2013. Expect River Cracraft to have a big year and possibly catching close to 100 balls. The running attack should be more of a factor with sophomore running backs Jamal Morrow and Gerard Wicks coming back.
Defense: Defensive line will have a heavy burden on this defense succeeding. They lose there best player to the NFL draft and the other returns on the line combined for five sacks. The secondary was one of the worst in the country last season. Linebacker should be the strength of the team with Kache Palacio and Jeremiah Allison back.
Special Teams: Plenty of question marks surround the kicking and punting game. Two guys who have lost position battles will be back as the starters at both spots.
Forecast: A really tough schedule makes it difficult for the Cougars to make any improvement over last season. The offense might be more diverse this season with more running game mixed in. On the other side of the ball things will likely be difficult.
#6 Oregon State
Offense: Storm Woods is the star of the offense, the hope is that he is the sole feature back this season. The line will return four starters but is one of the worst in the league. Several players a up for the starting quarterback spot. Hype is starting to build for freshman quarterback Seth Collins to get the job. Three of the top four wide receivers return for whom ever is under center.
Defense: Only two starters return from a defense that gave up too many points. Gary Andersen will need to instill his defensive tactics on this squad for them to stand a chance in the PAC 12. Not one returning player had an interception last season, that should tell you how thin they are. The Beavers only have two players who had two or more sacks returning as well.
Special Teams: Kicker Garrett Owens will take over full time at kicker. A new punter is in Corvallis, Nick Porebski.
Forecast: The forecast is gloomy with a 100 percent chance of bad weather. This will not be a good year for the Beavers. But hey, at least Oregon State somehow got Gary Andersen to come coach the team.
Offense: The Trojans will be the most dangerous offense in the league this year with Cody Kessler having a year of coach Sarkisian offense under his belt. Kessler who threw for over 3,800 yards last season have one of his top target back in Juju Smith. Adoree' Jackson and Steven Mitchell should catch a good amount of balls this season too. Running back will be impressive with Justin Davis, Tre Madden and freshman Ronald Jones. They will be running behind the best line in the league.
Defense: Sure the Trojans lost some serious talent but they are now at the stage where they can reload and have depth. Offenses will have to scheme to keep linebacker Su'a Cravens out of the backfield. He had five sacks and 19 tackles for loss. Adoree' Jackson will star in the secondary as well, he had nine broken up passes last year and expect quarterbacks to shy away from his side. The line will be strong with big man Antwaun Woods at nose tackle.
Special Teams: Kicker is up for grabs and will be decided during fall camp. Kris Albarado returns for his final year as the Trojans punter.
Forecast: This could be a special year for the Trojans. This offense is going to put up huge numbers with Kessler. The defense is going to be top five in the conference. Two big road games will determine if the Trojans will be playoff bound at Notre Dame and Oregon.
#2 Arizona State
Offense: Arizona State will not have a drop off at QB since Mike Bercovici proved he could handle the reigns by throwing over 450 yards vs. UCLA and USC. D.J. Foster will be the main man at wide receiver now that he will be primarily playing there. The line returns all three guys on the interior which should play well for the running back committee.
Defense: The defense was not to great the second half of the season giving up over 30 points in the last five games. The secondary returns three guys including the teams top returning tackler Jordan Sminoe with 100. The Sun Devils have a ton of depth at linebacker and which is a benefit with all the blitzing they do. If the defensive line can continue to perform at a high level they should be just fine.
Special Teams: Punter Matt Haack is one of the better punters in the country with an average of 43.32 yards per punt. Kicker Zane Gonxalez is no slouch making 22 field goals last year.
Forecast: Sun Devil fans feel comfortable with Mike Bercovici at quarterback. D.J. Foster returning and stepping in to a full time receiver role is big. The defense doesn't need to continue on that bad streak of giving up 30 or more points. The opener vs. Texas A&M is a monster game that could build up some serious momentum into the season.
Offense: Anu Solomon put up great numbers as a freshman with 3,793 and 28 touchdowns. The sophomore quarterback will have two great juniors to throw the ball with Cayleb Jones and Samajie Grant. Jones and Grant combined for 1,700 yards last season. Solomon wasn't the only freshman who had a big season, running back Nick Wilson had 1,375 and 16 touchdowns. Offensive line seems to be a strong point for the Wildcats except for center.
Defense: Everything revolves around linebacker Scooby Wright and rightfully so. Wright led the nation in tackles 163 and tackles for loss 29. He is also the nations top returning player in sacks with 14.0. The linebacker position is deep which gives Rich Rodriguez plenty of options. A new face in the secondary is DaVonte' Neal who earned a spot at corner after being a receiver. Arizona won't be the best defense in the league but they will keep their team in games.
Special Teams: Arizona has a true weapon in Drew Riggleman who is one of the top punters in the nation. Kicker Casey Skowron made 20 field goals which is tied for 14 across the country.
Forecast: If the defense can just do enough, the young offense will put up big numbers. Anu Solomon and Cayleb Jones might go down as the best pass catch combo in Zona history. November will be huge with games vs. USC, Utah and Arizona State.
Offense: Utah gets a familiar face back at quarterback in Travis Wilson. Wilson improved on taking care of the ball from his 2013 season where he threw 16 interceptions, 2014 he threw only five. In the backfield will be running back, Devontae Booker who burst on to the seen with a monster year that included 10 touchdowns and just over 1,500 yards rushing. Good news for Booker is that a good portion of the line returns. Who will be Wilson's top target? Kenneth Scott who brought in a team high 49 catches last season. After Scott much of the receiving core is unproven.
Defense: It all starts up front and the Utes have one of the best lines in the conference. Hunter Dimick, Jason Fanaika and Lowell Lotulelei combined for 19 sacks last season. Linebacker Jared Norris had 13 tackles for loss and led the team in tackles with 116. The secondary is the weakest part of the defense. Watch to see if Utah's top recruit Cory Butler gets a shot at corner.
Special Teams: The best special teams unit in the country is in Salt Lake City. Kicker Andy Phillips was tied for fifth with field goals made with 23. Tom Hackett had 80 attempts and averaged 46.70 per punt.
Forecast: Trust in Kevin Wilson and Devontae Booker to get the offense going. The defense will be fine with the front four they have. Michigan and Utah State come to Salt Lake City to start the season. Those two games will be big moving forward.
Offense: Everything looks good for the Bruins on offense excpet for quarterback. Losing Brett Hundley will be tough to overcome even with one of the top freshman quarterbacks, Josh Rosen, arriving in Los Angeles. Rosen will have plenty of threats at his disposal. His top option will be running back Paul Perkins. Perkins is one of the top backs in the conference and is also a decent option to pass the ball to with 26 receptions last season. Other options for Rosen to pass to are Jordan Payton (67 receptions, 7 touchdowns), Thomas Duarte (19.29 yards per catch) and Devin Fuller (59 receptions). Four starters are back on the O-line after a up and down 2014 season.
Defense: The defense lost some key pieces but they return NFL talent as well. Myles Jack is one of the top linebackers in the country, Jack is very active and impacts all facets of the game. The teams top sack guy from last season is linebacker Deon Hollins with nine. The line is packed with first team all PAC 12 talent with Kenny Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes. The secondary wasn't very good last season four starters are back and in the mix for the starting jobs.
Special Teams: The Bruins were happy to see Ka'imi Fairbairn have a good year after missing a total of 12 field goals the two prior seasons. Matt Mengel will need to improve this season on his 40.20 average per punt.
Forecast: If Hundley were back we would all be hyping the Bruins like last season. With a freshman qb under center it leaves too many questions despite plenty of options around him. The defense has plenty of talent back but can they come together to improve on an average 2014 season. the Bruins have a tough conference road schedule this season with games at Stanford, Arizona, Utah, and USC.
Offense: Passing attack? Colorado? Yes they have finally found something that works on offense. Last season the Buffaloes were 18th in the country in passing yards per game. Give a lot of credit to quarterback Sefo Liufau who took a big step forward in his sophomore season. One thing Liufau needs to do better this season is take care of the ball as he had 15 interceptions. He also found Nelson Spruce who nearly doubled his productivity last season. Christian Powell is back at running back for his final season after leading the team in yards the past three seasons. If the line can hold up Colorado could be in for another good season offensively.
Defense: Here's where all the excitement surrounding the program stops. Colorado ranked in the 100's in most per game stats. They also had a difficult time forcing turnovers with only three interceptions last season all from one player, Tedric Thompson. The teams best player is linebacker Addison Gilliam who had nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and 64 tackles. They return nine starters which is good news for depth but how much will they improve is to be seen.
Special Teams: Don't be surprised is prize recruit Alex Kinney takes over both punting and kicking duties. Philip Lindsey will handle kick return duties again after posting 23.58 yards per return.
Forecast: The defense won't be good enough to take this team out of the basement. The offense went from horrid to watch to exciting. They went win less in conference play last season so winning a couple games would be positive. The Buffs' have three toughest home conference schedules with Oregon, Arizona, Stanford and USC.
PAC 12 Offensive POY
Cody Kessler, QB, USC
PAC 12 Defensive POY
Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
PAC 12 Coach of the Year
Sonny Dykes, Cal