2013 Pac-12 Preview - North Team Breakdown
Stanford QB Kevin Hogan
Preview 2013 - CFN Pac-12 Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish
Pac-12 South Team By Team
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2013 CFN Prediction: 10-2
2013 Pac-12 Prediction: 7-2
Offense: Chip Kelly is in Philadelphia. The high-octane spread-option remains in Eugene. The Ducks offense won't be changing now that Mark Helfrich is the head coach. Why mess with success? Last season was proof of the plug-and-play nature of the Oregon system. The program had to replace its quarterback, top back, to receiver and two starting linemen, yet still ranked No. 2 nationally in scoring. Giddy-up. Now that QB Marcus Mariota is back for an encore to his scintillating debut, Helfrich and new offensive coordinator Scott Frost are banking on even more explosive plays and lopsided victories. The Ducks will continue to spread the ball around, feeding any number of speedy playmakers, from the electrifying De'Anthony Thomas to TE Colt Lyerla or one of many speedy wide receivers. There is some trepidation regarding backfield depth, though young Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner are poised to allay many fears. C Hroniss Grasu and RT Jake Fisher will be the anchors of another very productive O-line. Fisher, in particular, is a shooting star, with the foundation of skills to catapult into the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Defense: Somewhat overshadowed during Oregon's recent run of excellence have been the contributions of Nick Aliotti's defense. Take last season, for instance. The Ducks led the country with 40 takeaways, while only allowing 21 points per game. Oh, and some of those points yielded came when backups were on the field during the second half of Oregon routs. A healthy number of starters return from the 2012 edition, though Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay must be replaced in the front seven. As the linebackers adjust to fresh faces, the Ducks will put a little more of their weight on an imposing D-line and one of college football's most disruptive secondaries. DE Taylor Hart leads a three-man front that averages just under 300 pounds, and features three seniors. CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is the centerpiece of a frenetic defensive backfield that'll encourage opposing teams to test the Ducks' ability to stop the run as they breaks in new starters at the second level.
2013 CFN Prediction: 9-3
2013 Pac-12 Prediction: 6-3
Offense: After highly successful offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton left for a job with the Indianapolis Colts, head coach David Shaw quickly promoted Mike Bloomgren to the opening. The move made a ton of sense—not only does Bloomgren maintain continuity, but he was the coordinator of the run game, the backbone of the offense. The Cardinal will remain a power program that uses a fullback and a tight end or two out of pro-style formations. The attack is dealing with turnover, such as all-time leading rusher Stepfan Taylor, the tight end tandem of Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo and C Sam Schwartzstein. But at least the situation at quarterback is more settled than it was at this time last year. After making the improbable ascent from buried backup to Rose Bowl champion, Kevin Hogan is cemented as the starter behind center. His skills as a runner established, he'll spend this fall improving as a passer. Replacing Taylor will require more than one player. Tyler Gaffney has returned to the Farm after doing a one-year stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates. And Anthony Wilkerson is out to prove he has feature back ability.
Defense: Ever so quietly, coordinator Derek Mason continues to do an outstanding job of attracting and coaching up the defensive talent at Stanford. His 3-4-based D was suffocating again last year, leading the Pac-12 in run defense, scoring defense and total defense. More of the same is expected in 2013. In fact, the Cardinal will boast one of this year's nastiest defenses. All but three starters return, meaning there are all-league, if not All-American candidates, at each level of Mason's attacking, disciplined group. The front seven is especially dominant, a looming handful for every opponent on the schedule. Stanford is loaded with big and physical playmakers, ranging from ends Ben Gardner, Henry Anderson and Josh Mauro to yin-yang linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov. Forget running the ball on this D, even as new NG David Parry gets broken in. Throwing on the Cardinal? Not a whole lot easier, particularly with safeties Ed Reynolds and Jordan Richards roaming around and looking to capitalize on mistakes. The corners aren't elite, but you'll rarely know it with all of the support they receive.
2013 CFN Prediction: 9-3
2013 Pac-12 Prediction: 6-3
Offense: In an attempt to reverse last season's tepid offensive results, the Huskies want to rev up the tempo and pick up the pace this season. The objective is simple—put QB Keith Price in a position to think less and react more as the pilot of the offense. Price suffered a major regression in 2012, part his doing and partially the result of poor protection. The encouraging news is that he's surrounded by outstanding skill position talent, and he's the same guy who performed at an All-Pac-12 level just two years ago. Helping him get out of a funk will be a dynamite collection of skill position players that includes RB Bishop Sankey, WR Kasen Williams and star TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins. However, the fate of the offense rests squarely on the shoulders of the blockers, a unit that had all kinds of problems keeping the pocket clean last fall. RT Ben Riva and LG Dexter Charles have anchor potential, but the group as a whole needs to stay healthy and improve their fundamentals.
Defense: Expectations are soaring for the Washington D entering 2013. Thank you, Justin Wilcox. Wilcox became the new coordinator last year, promptly transforming a team that finished 106th nationally in total defense to one that ranked 31st. It was a remarkable job for an upwardly-mobile assistant who'll continue to mix up his looks in order to keep offenses on their toes. And best of all, after using a gaggle of sophomores, just about everyone is back. In fact, of the seven Huskies to earn at least honorable mention All-Pac-12, only CB Desmond Trufant has graduated. U-Dub has budding talent at each level, such as NT Danny Shelton, LB Shaq Thompson and CB Marcus Peters. The key, though, will be for the D-line to generate more of a push this fall. Last year's unit lacked consistency, a big reason why the defense ranked No. 10 in the league in sacks and yards per carry yielded. There's cautious optimism that Wilcox might be the caretaker of the best Huskies' defense in over a decade.
4. Oregon State
2013 CFN Prediction: 7-5
2013 Pac-12 Prediction: 5-4
Offense: Cody Vaz or Sean Mannion? It's the question that'll dominate the football chatter around Corvallis for the next couple of months. Both veteran quarterbacks played last year, to mixed reviews, and neither was able to padlock the job in the spring. The closely-watched competition continues in August. Whoever gets the ball from Mike Riley will spend most of his fall looking for superstar WR Brandin Cooks, and handing the ball off to downhill runners Storm Woods and Terron Ward. The Beavers will again be balanced this season, keeping defenses on their heels with a mix of the run and the pass. They might also be salty at the point of attack for a change as well. Four starters return to the O-line, led by C Isaac Seumalo, LT Michael Philipp an RG Grant Enger. Oregon State is loaded with potential and physicality in the trenches, but now needs to block with more consistency in order to unleash the team's best skill position players.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Mark Banker and his Beavers helped initiate a complete defensive turnaround in 2012. Now they'd like to maintain that high level of play for the upcoming season. Oregon State went from 89th nationally in scoring D in 2011 to 22nd a year ago, properly leveraging all of its veteran talent. The 2013 edition welcomes back seven quality starters, such as all-league DE Scott Crichton and CB Rashaad Reynolds, and borderline all-stars in LB Michael Doctor and FS Ryan Murphy. There's enough talent and leadership for the Beavers to remain very feisty, though shoring up the middle of the D and replacing ball-hawking CB Jordan Poyer must be addressed in August. Oregon State will unveil new starters at defensive tackle, likely a pair of JUCO transfers, and at middle linebacker. Reynolds' partner in the secondary has yet to be decided, with underrated senior Sean Martin holding a razor-thin margin on another JUCO newcomer, Steven Nelson.
2013 CFN Prediction: 3-9
2013 Pac-12 Prediction: 2-7
Offense: With the arrival of inventive head coach Sonny Dykes and coordinator Tony Franklin comes a spread attack that features a lot of power running and play-action passing out of shotgun formations. Cal is going to be up-tempo, looking to dictate the pace of the game. Welcome to the new Bear Raid offense in Berkeley. Does the program have the personnel to adequately impersonate Dykes' Louisiana Tech squad, which led the FBS in scoring in 2012? Not quite. The quarterbacks are green, with redshirt freshman Zach Kline the favorite to be at the controls in September. There's a lot to like about the skill position players, such as RB Brendan Bigelow and an exciting corps of receivers led by Bryce Treggs, but they must remain healthy. Operating out of the shotgun will give the quarterbacks an extra second or two to survey the field and find the open man. Good thing, too, since the retooled O-line had all kinds of problems protecting the pocket last year.
Defense: The big news on defense this year is that under the direction of coordinator Andy Buh, the Bears are shifting from a 3-4 to a 4-3 alignment. For Cal, it means that a number of last season's outside linebackers, like Chris McCain and Brennan Scarlett, are moving down a level to defensive end. It also means there's a greater need for tackles Deandre Coleman, Mustafa Jalil and Vili Moala to rise up and shut down the gaps that were exploited with such regularity in 2012. The program harbors talent. It often does. But somehow, last fall's results need to be reversed. Cal was clueless down the stretch, allowing 121 points in just the final two games. The D is better than it looked a year ago. It'll be up to Buh and his assistants to prove it with a reworked unit breaking in three new starters in the secondary.
6. Washington State
2013 CFN Prediction: 3-9
2013 Pac-12 Prediction: 1-8
Offense: Patience will need to be exercised when it comes to the Washington State offense. Getting the Cougars to play up to head coach Mike Leach's expectation will be a process. After installing the Air Raid in 2012, the coaching staff is hoping to see better execution and a higher degree of output this fall. Leach made an important offseason addition, adding inventive offensive assistant David Yost, who'll bring fresh energy and ideas to the staff. Obviously, Wazzu plans to air it out, spreading the field with four receivers to create wider lanes for all of the playmakers. For starters, the Cougars need to see improvement at quarterback, likely Connor Halliday, and with an O-line that's been the bane of the offense for many years. Halliday is the veteran, looking to hold off freshmen Austin Apodaca and Tyler Bruggman. The strength of the attack will be at wide receiver, a corps of young pass-catchers on the verge of becoming assets to the passing game. Sophomores Dominique Williams and Gabe Marks, in particular, are about to hit the runway.
Defense: All things being relative, Washington State took some forward steps in its first year under Mark Breske and his 3-4 alignment. But the Cougars are a long way off from being Pac-12-caliber on this side of the ball. The unit will continue to attack with a group of athletes who can cause problems in opposing backfields, yet often at their own expense. Wazzu lacks the size, depth and overall talent pool to keep pace with the league's better attacks; in the month of November, it yielded an average of 42 points over four games. The Cougs are going to feature playmakers on the front seven, such as linebackers Darryl Monroe and Cyrus Coen and tackles Xavier Cooper and Ioane Gauta. The secondary, though, will be easy pickings for quarterbacks, especially since BUCK Travis Long is no longer around to pressure the pocket the way he did the past few seasons. Washington State really needs someone, like Logan Mayes, to give the pass rush some teeth off the perimeter.