Ranking the Pac-12 North: Post-Spring Edition

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

By Coug-A-Sutra

Hello Followers.  Hope you’re doing great!

Yesterday, I ended months of silence by re-capping my view of Spring Ball. Today, I rank the Pac-12 North post-spring practice.


Followers, in about two months, I will offer our Blog’s pre-season predictions for how I think each team will finish the 2014-2015 season.    And, as a part of that yearly drill, I will pick every single game—factoring in stuff like whether key games are played at home or on the road, the spacing and prevalence of bye weeks, the scheduling of each team’s opponent the week prior, and so forth.   For that reason, my pre-season picks always reflect how I think teams will finish at season’s end.  They don’t always reflect who I think are the better teams heading into the season.

With that in mind, my rankings for today are conducted without any reference to a team’s “strength o schedule”, their home-road split, and so forth.   In other words, I’m ranking these teams based on how I think they rank headed into the season..…So, let’s get to them rankings!

#1  Oregon

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

Not much of a surprise here, I know.  What might surprise you is that I think the Quack are going to fall twice this year in conference—and that doesn’t include the Pac-12 title game.  In fact, depending on what happens to the Arizona schools (and Utah which is also a HUGE wildcard) this year, I think there’s a good chance that multiple Pac-12 North teams could be within a game of the Ducks at season’s end.

Ultimately, I think Oregon’s losses in their back four combined with a new Defensive Coordinator is going to make the Ducks more vulnerable than some might think.  And I wonder what happens to that group if they get spanked by Michigan State at home early in the year?

But when you combine what the Quack has back on offense with what they have back in their front seven, well, I think that they are the clear front-runners to represent the North in the Pac-12 Championship game in 2014.  But, I look for that game to be played in Los Angeles this year…

#2  Oregon State

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition
The Big Sky is AWESOME!

Part of me REALLY wants to put our Cougars here, but I don’t have enough faith in our Linebackers and secondary to do that.  To be sure, losing Crichton and Cooks is going to hurt the Beavs a lot—with the loss off Crichton topping the list.  But, for me, Riles has a lot back from a team that seemed like they figured it out after their meltdown against Washington.  I mean, not only did they manhandle Boise State in their bowl game, but they clearly outplayed Oregon in the Civil War—and at Oregon no less.   And a lot of that had to do with the return of their running game.

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition
Ward to Your Mother

The key games for OSU will be home games against us and then against the Oregon in Reser in November.  Win both of those games and the Beavs will be playing for their first outright conference title since the 1960’s.  Regardless, the presence of Mannion makes them my #2 heading into fall camp.  I think they’re going to win 9-10 games—assuming they can make it past week 1!!!!

#3  Stanford.

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition
Shaw-Shank Redemption Part IV?

So, I said that I wasn’t going to talk about scheduling in this post.  But when it comes to the Trees, WILL YOU LOOKING AT THEIR STINKING SCHEDULE????!!!  I mean, their first three conference games are SC, @ Washington, and then at home against the Cougs.  So, even if you happen to think that WSU should be a laugher for the Trees, consider that the WSU game comes a measly five days AFTER they trip to Notre Dame for what should be a tough, primetime contest.  BRUTAL!!!!

Of course, in spite of all of their losses to graduation and the pros, the Trees return a lot of 4th and 5th year guys that have a ton of experience—experience that just happens to include FOUR STRAIGHT BCS bowl trips.  And even better for them,  they return a quarterback that has shown an ability to “just win baby”—a la two straight conference championships…

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

But in spite of all of those strengths, I really don’t like the fact that when I watched him in the Spring Game, Kevin Hogan still doesn’t look like he can throw an intermediate ball to save his life.  I also think the loss of Gaffney is not trivial—even though I think Barry Sanders will become special in time.  And then you have all the questions marks about how they can replace all the leadership and moxey from last year’s group, including their defensive coordinator who seems like he just might have been  a pretty good coach…

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

So, keep an eye on the Trees. If they can make it past SC and UW early, then my sense is that they’ll find themselves back at the top of the Pac-12.  But, honestly, I think they’re going to drop a notch this season.   In fact, I’d be very surprised if they won the Division this year, in large part because I think they may be a taco short of being able to REALLY assert a true power game.  And if you can’t do that against Oregon, you can’t keep up…

#4.  Washington State

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

Can the Cougs stop the run?  More to the point, can the Cougs mount any type of consistent defense again the read option?  And if they can, will they also be able to match Stanford’s physicality in the trenches when they play the Trees on the road in October?

If they can then you can go ahead and slide the Cougs right up to the #2 spot.  Because while last year’s crew wasn’t good enough on offense or defense to win in a shoot-out (see Oregon State at home), this year’s team will be good enough to win those games on the offensive side of the ball.  What’s more, if Halliday stays healthy, WSU figures to pull off most of those high scoring contests—simply because of the diversity of their arsenal.  So, if the Cougs can find a way to keep teams under 30 points on a consistent basis, then this team is going to win 9 games this year—not counting a bowl.  And that will put them not only in the top 3 in the league but also the top 25 in the country.

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

Of course, winning nine games depends on a host of big “ifs.”  And because there are so many of those big “i” words hanging out there right now, they’re ranked #4 heading into 2014.  But look out—they are the under radar team of 2014—just like they were in 1997…

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

#5.  Washington

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

Note to both Husky and Cougar fans:  Chris Petersen is going to be VERY successful at the University of Washington.  It’s just a matter of time.

And if you’re a Husky fan, you can be rest assured that you aren’t going to have to wait much past this year to hit pay dirt—the Dawgs are going to be really good, really soon.  Hell, maybe they’ll even be good this year—their schedule seems tailor made for at least 8 wins.

That said, while Sark left behind a lot of talent for Coach Pete to work with (and Petersen did remarkably well recruiting with a late start in January), there are still some BIG holes on that roster that don’t seem easy to fill.

For instance, it isn’t easy to build a divisional contender when, amidst a coaching change, their starting quarterback wasn’t able to take a snap during spring ball.  That’s a big loss for their program no matter how good of a coach Petersen is.

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

I also think it’s going to be pretty hard for the Mutts to replace Sankey and his production.  After all, we’re talking about the loss of an ELITE player who some think is the cream of the RB crop in Thursday’s NFL draft (Note of full disclosure: I also thought that Chris Polk was virtually irreplaceable).

On top of those issues, it seems noteworthy that ASJ commanded A LOT of attention from opposing defensive coordinators the past few years—even if his final season wasn’t what the fans of Muttlake had hoped for.  Moreover, I happen to think that Justin Wilcox is a sliver short of a football god.  And because of that, I think losing him—together with the uncertain pieces under center and in the secondary, could make this a transitional year for the Dawgs.

To be clear, if you assume that the Pac-12 North is going to be an offensive division this fall, having a new QB that is NOT familiar with his new coach and system is a game changer—especially when teams of similar talent have that same type of experience in spades.

#6.  California

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

A couple of years ago when we were primed for another scintillating 3-9 campaign, there were five things we were excited about:  (1) A returning young quarterback that showed considerable promise the year prior; (2) A returning group of VERY talented wide receivers; (3) A returning group of VERY talented wide receivers; (4)  Did I mention that very talented wide receivers?;  and (5 )  A defensive backfield that appeared like it was talented.

Ranking the Pac-12 North:  Post-Spring Edition

Well, those five features pretty much sum up the 2014 Berkeley Bears .  While I think CAL has the fire power to beat someone up in 2014—and let’s hope it’s not our Cougars!!!!—I’m prepared to bet the farm that Sonny Dykes is going to enter the 2015-2016 year with one of the hottest, “hot seats” in the country.  The keys for the Bears:  Improve the play of the front seven on defense, while also improving their ability to run the ball on offense.   Completing the right side of the offensive line might also be nice for them too…..

In other words, it’s going to be another cellar dwelling year the Bears!


Okay, that’s all the time I have for today—and probably for the rest of the month.

So, moving forward, here’s what you can expect (or not expect) from this here blog:

In June, when work begins to clear up a bit, I will offer a few thoughts about the World Cup.  Hopefully, I can convince Huddy to aid that effort as well.  If not, our temporary transformation to the WSU Futbol Blog will last about as long as the US is still in the tournament (not long)…….

In July, I’ll have a few posts here and there as we head toward media day and fall camp.  Then, in August, I’ll try to fire up as much nonsense as I possibly can muster like I do every year.  Perhaps others will join me, and if not, well, something tells me that life will continue to roll along for all of us…

In the meantime, I hope all is great for you and yours–and thanks for your on-going readership.   Enjoy the rest of spring and the first part of the summer as well.

The fall is going to be really great this year, folks!  And I mean REALLY great!!!

All for now.  Go Cougs.

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