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2011 Preview - CFN Thoughts On The Pac-12
Washington RB Chris Polk
Washington RB Chris Polk
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 8, 2011


Preview 2011 - The CFNers give their thoughts on the upcoming Pac-12 season.


Preview 2011

Pac-12 Thoughts


NORTH
- 2011 California Preview | 2011 Oregon Preview
- 2011 Oregon State Preview | 2011 Stanford Preview
- 2011 Washington Preview | 2011 Washington State Preview

SOUTH
- 2011 Arizona Preview | 2011 Arizona State Preview
- 2011 Colorado Preview | 2011 UCLA Preview 
- 2011 USC Preview | 2011 Utah Preview

- 2011 Pac-12 Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Pac-12 | 2011 Pac-12 Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Pac-12 Team & Top 30 Players | 2011 Pac-12 Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Pac-12 North Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Pac-12 South Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2010 Pac 10 Preview  

- Be Somebody ...  Blog About Pac-12 Football
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By Pete Fiutak

- I was right; the Pac 10 was awful last year. Outside of the one great win over Stanford, Oregon beat a fat load of jack squat, and the Cardinal came up with a nice win over Notre Dame and a great blow out over Virginia Tech. Throw in a Washington bowl win over a lifeless Nebraska, and that's about it. However, the Pac 10 fans who kept yelling at me were also right; it's not like any other conference was setting the world on fire.

- Look at Wisconsin's 2010 schedule.

- There's nothing more fun to watch than the Oregon offense when it's humming on all cylinders, but the gimmicky ground attack isn't going to work on a consistent basis against good defensive front sevens with disciplined, veteran linebackers. The 32 carries for 75 yards against Auburn wasn't a fluke.

- That's why the October 15th game against Arizona State will be telling. The Ducks will win at home, but the game might be more than just a Pac-12 title preview; it'll show just how good the running game can be. The ASU linebackers are fast, talented, and very good.

- Arizona State is my Lester Diamond. I fell hard in the 1990s when Jake Plummer was doing his thing, and there's absolutely no excuse for the program to not grow into a monster again. The aren't any excuses.

- Memo to Arizona State and the rest of the Pac-12 South: use this. You have about two years before the USC machine kicks back into high gear.

- Memo to Lane Kiffin: you have about one year before the sanctions excuse wears off. The fan base might understand in theory, but 8-5 doesn't fly around those parts.

- It can't be stressed enough when it comes to big-time programs; there has to be the monster carrot at the end of the stick. It doesn't matter what the outside circumstances are; if you're Texas, or Florida, or USC, and the national championship isn't on the table, and the season isn't going all that well, you're not going to have your mojo. Mack Brown blamed his players for a sense of entitlement, but it's more than that. Programs that consider a one-loss season a disappointment and suffer a couple of defeats early on just don't bring the A game week-in-and-week-out, and that includes the rivalry dates.

- USC never recovered from the punch-in-the-gut last second losses to Washington at Stanford in back-to-back weeks. Yeah, the 48-14 win over Cal the week after the loss to the Cardinal was good, but had the Trojans won those two early October games, the attitude would've been through the roof and last year would've been far different.

- With nothing to play for, USC was three plays away, take any of the dropped passes against Notre Dame as one of those plays, from being 11-2.

- UCLA, your window to take advantage of the USC situation is shutting ... wait for it ... wait for it ... now.

- How can you not win at UCLA? It's a good school with great weather and even better coeds. I refuse to believe that Rick Neuheisel can't coach, and the offensive miseries continue to be among the most puzzling failures in recent college football history.

- 100th in the nation in total offense? Really?

- Oh, don't you worry, Cal. We didn't forget about the nation's 90th ranked attack.

- Colorado will win a Pac-12 title before Utah will.

- Pac-12, keep thinking. Keep moving forward. Understand just how much the rest of the Big 12 hates being in the same conference as Texas, and very, very quietly, see what you can do about showing Oklahoma just how much it stinks to be in the shadow of the Longhorn Network.

- Notre Dame would join the Pac-12 before it would join the Big Ten. Don't diminish just how huge the USC rivalry is to the Irish brass, and don't dismiss the idea that being in the Pac-12 would help keep the identity as a national program. Staying home and joining a Midwest conference doesn't match the mindset.

- Yes, Pac-12, shoot for Oklahoma and Notre Dame. Get your contract lawyers on it and explore all the possibilities, and when that doesn't work, take Kansas and Missouri and become the Pac-14. Those two programs would help the basketball side of things, and getting the Kansas City and St. Louis TV markets would only add to the overall package.

- Remember, with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Seattle, Portland, and now Denver and Salt Lake City, along with the rest of the cities in between, the Pac-12 has the biggest combined TV market reach of any conference.

- $22 million guaranteed. That's what Cam Newton is getting as the No. 1 pick. It might not be all about the money for Andrew Luck now, but that will change next year at this time.

- Money supposedly wasn't that important to Jake Locker. Four years, $12.6 million. Forget about the Sam Bradford contract, Locker wouldn't have gone No. 1 overall last year, but the eighth pick in the 2010 draft, Rolando McClain, got a five-year, $40 million deal with $23 million guaranteed.

- Andrew Luck, Darron Thomas, Matt Barkley, Nick Foles, Jordan Wynn. The league is more than fine at quarterback.

- Yes, the Pac 10 sucked last year. The Pac-12 won't suck this year.

By Richard Cirminiello

No disrespect at all to the fine institutions of Colorado and Utah, but other than the revenue generated by a title game is the conference any better with the addition of two teams? I, for one, will miss the days when schedules included a date with every other Pac-10 member.

Oregon needs lead-footed Cliff Harris in order to make another run to the BCS Championship Game. An incredible all-around athlete, who’s serving a suspension for speeding with a suspended license, he makes the Ducks markedly better on defense and special teams. His absence will be noticeable in the opener versus LSU.

If the improbable return of QB Andrew Luck doesn’t spur WR Chris Owusu to get on the field for all 13 games, nothing will. A tremendous talent, with next-level size and speed, he’s been limited by durability issues. The graduations of leading receivers Ryan Whalen and Doug Baldwin have created an opening for some lucky Cardinal to become Luck’s go-to guy in 2011.

Growing expectations are going to haunt Arizona State this fall. LB Vontaze Burfict aside, there isn’t a lot of scary talent in Tempe, where the hope is that a South Division title can erase the memory of three straight bowl-less postseasons.

Monte Kiffin’s reputation as a defensive genius will be under heavy scrutiny this fall. His mulligan at USC now squandered, he must elevate a talent-rich Trojan D that imploded last season.

USC sophomore Robert Woods doesn’t get mentioned in the same sentence as the nation’s other elite wide receivers, such as Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery. That changes by December.

The move out of the Mountain West affords Utah’s Kyle Whittingham a well-deserved bigger spotlight to showcase his head coaching skills. The coach and his staff have quietly been magnificent since replacing Urban Meyer seven years ago, routinely transforming marginal high school recruits into all-stars and draft choices.

On a national scale, Washington RB Chris Polk is one of the most underrated players in the Pac-12. An authoritative 215-pound runner, he’s the kind of physical back who should project nicely to the NFL following his junior season.

How desperate has Cal gotten at quarterback in the post-Aaron Rodgers era? The Bears are poised to give the ball to a transfer from Buffalo, southpaw Zach Maynard. Higher-profile recruits haven’t worked out for Jeff Tedford, so maybe a two-star athlete from the East Coast will be the answer.

There are modest expectations for Oregon State in 2011, which probably means that the Beavers will be in Pac-12 contention in November. That’s just the way Mike Riley has always rolled in Corvallis.

No coach in America—not even Georgia’s Mark Richt—is under more scrutiny this season than UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel. That he’s gone 15-22 in three years, failing to take advantage of USC’s struggles, goes down as an unforgivable lost opportunity.

The Pac-12’s best import from Boulder is Rodney Stewart. He instantly becomes one of the league’s top backs, a 5-6, 175-pounder who does not operate like a “small” back.

After suffering through some harrowing growing pains over the last three seasons, Washington State just might be in a position to exit the league cellar. There’s a decent amount of talent in Pullman, and the Jeff Tuel-led passing game will fuel at least one upset.

By Matt Zemek

Arizona, if you can’t win the Pac-12 South this year or the next, good luck making your first-ever Rose Bowl. No pressure, Mike Stoops. No pressure at all. By the way, Mr. Stoops: Maybe all that anger you release on the sideline isn’t getting you anywhere. We know you’re passionate, but since teams do mirror their coaches, the reality of life in Tucson is that you convey a lack of a sense of poise to your team. Show more self-assured confidence, and you might change some mindsets near the Old Pueblo.

Utah, you will note that the USC Trojans can’t win the Pac-12 South this season. Welcome to the West Coast. Now make the first Pac-12 Championship Game… or else. No honeymoon for you, Kyle Whittingham.

The player who must substantially improve more than anyone else in the league in order for his team to have any championship aspirations whatsoever: Ryan Katz of Oregon State. The young man was never the same after a mistake-plagued third quarter at the University of Washington last season. How the strong-armed junior responds to his brutal sophomore season will determine the form and flow of the Beavers’ 2011 campaign.

Tick, tick, tick… Rick, Rick, Rick. Will the UCLA Bruins wrest control of Los Angeles from USC this season? If not now, when? The Bruins haven’t owned a dominant offense in the 21st century. Neuheisel, entering his fourth season, needs to show some progress on that side of the ball in order for his tenure in Westwood to develop into a feel-good Hollywood movie.

Oregon’s “Win The Day” slogan doesn’t own the same authenticity it did in a pre-Willie Lyles world. Stanford lacks the same swagger it had when Jim Harbaugh patrolled the sidelines in Palo Alto. Which loss of psychological strength will matter more? Ducks-Cardinal on the Farm is already circled in blue ink (might as well use a neutral color) as one of the few can’t-miss games of 2011. Give the nudge to the Cardinal at home, but we’ll see where each team stands come game time.

Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

- Chip Kelly might be the head coach when Oregon takes the Jerry World field against LSU Week 1, but he'll be the storyline.

- Despite that, Oregon will still contend for the national title, even if they fall to LSU. The biggest game of the season will be at Stanford, which will decide the North division and possibly vault the one-loss Ducks back into the chase for New Orleans.

- Utah will join the Pac-12 and win the South division in its inaugural season. The Utes don't play Stanford or Oregon out of the North, and one of their primary competitors in the South - USC - is ineligible for the conference championship game.

- The reason that the Utes will make the championship game is because UCLA and Arizona State will both be extremely disappointing. Dennis Erickson and Rick Neuheisel will both be looking for jobs this winter.

- Oh yeah, and Andrew Luck is really, really good.

NORTH
- 2011 California Preview | 2011 Oregon Preview
- 2011 Oregon State Preview | 2011 Stanford Preview
- 2011 Washington Preview | 2011 Washington State Preview

SOUTH
- 2011 Arizona Preview | 2011 Arizona State Preview
- 2011 Colorado Preview | 2011 UCLA Preview 
- 2011 USC Preview | 2011 Utah Preview

- 2011 Pac-12 Preview
- CFN Thoughts on the Pac-12 | 2011 Pac-12 Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN All-Pac-12 Team & Top 30 Players | 2011 Pac-12 Schedules & Picks
- 2011 Pac-12 North Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 Pac-12 South Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2010 Pac 10 Preview