Friday, 23 September 2016

Shortly before week 4 kicks off ..

If Fridays night’s ASU match-up against Texas San Antonio was a Hoers-d’oeuvre for the Pac12 weekend it was sugar free jelly on a stale saltine. The Devils did manage to eke out a win over a cupcake with a late score and in six weeks it will just be one in the win column. The most glaring “highlight” was a pair of 54-yard field goals that were the ONLY special thing about their special teams play for the night. Manny Wilkins displayed consistency in being just a little short on most of his long passes though he scattered a couple that hit his receivers right in the hands. It may not be any better in Tempe when Cal Shows up.

The Bears knocked off Texas for the second year in a row but the game didn’t feel right. The two sort of took turns having brain farts with Bears having one less. I look for the same when they take on the Sun Devils and am throwing a dart, not a trident, when I pick Cal to build up some false hope back home in Berkely.


After Utah Sacked Southern Utah, pretty much non-stop and the Trojans continued to forget about this guy named McCaffery again and a again to their detriment the two face off in Utah. It’s hard to see Utah scoring enough points in a low scoring game to win but it is just as hard to think USC has a game plan. They haven’t had one yet this year. I guess I’ll pick the home team by a few points in a contest that won’t produce a top-10 play on ESPN.

Boise State is leaving the Smurf Turf to play on the Cow Pasture in Corvallis. They took care of WSU, a PAC12 team with a better offense than Oregon State has. While the Beavers are better than they were last year, it won’t show in the final score. BSU will have a short flight home.

Stanford and UCLA might put together the only decent game on the schedule for the conference this week. It’ll be only one team doing it though. Rosen is still too inconsistent and McCaffery will find plenty of holes in the Bruins’ blind man bluff defense, He may not play much in the 4th quarter.

Washington is beginning to impress me, even against as much resistance as I can muster. Arizona isn’t. The Huskies will go home with one more win before disaster hits.
If Oregon understood reading, as in whether to go for one or two points after a TD, or math which could have been in their favor, they probably would have made it least to overtime against Nebraska. As it was one of the best kickers in the country watched the whole game from the bench as the Ducks went down by three. It won’t be that way this week. It could be a shoot-out or a wipe-out but Oregon’s scores will be divisible by sevens and threes with nary a two to mess things up. Speakink of twos Colorado’s dream lasted until the second half in Michigan and they won’t do much better in

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Last big show vs the rest of college football, excet Notre Dame.

This could be a sad week for the Pac12 during which their depth will have been tested or a few teams could surprise and put the conference back on the playoff map.

The almost sure suicide mission for the week is Colorado daring to travel to Michigan to play Big Blue. On the other hand, the Buffs have put up a lot of points and yards and stuff and could surprise me which would set up one of the most important games in the season when they host Oregon next week. The elephant in the room is that they have slaughtered teams they should have slaughtered which is a new trick from their bag.

ASU is coming of a nice win and looking a little bit like they might be a factor in the south. They won’t get much more than a scrimmage from Texas-San Antonio but that might be just what they need.

UCLA is the third Pac12 team BYU has faced. They won one on a last second Field goal and made the more guts than brains decision to go for a two-point conversion and a last second win rather than an extra point and overtime opportunity in the other. Opportunity never knocked as they failed badly vs Utah. UCLA is not the match-up they should want for the rubber game. Rosen hasn’t exactly impressed me but he leads the first real offense the Cougars will face this year. UCLA should win by at least a touchdown and deny BYU a last second decision play. The bruins may be playing in the conference championship this year.

To do that they’ll have to beat USC who I expect to give them their first step in that direction by embarrassing themselves in Palo Alto against a solid Stanford team. I don’t expect it to be a close game.

Washington state is going to sneak into the win column when as they tussle with mighty Idaho. What could have been season two of a rise to relevance has started out with two stumbles so I’m not expecting the Cougs to play in a bowl game this year.

Oregon State, Washington and Utah are three more teams not being tested this week as they take on Idaho, Portland State and San Jose State respectively. A loss by any of them will be hard to fathom.

Speaking of surprises Cal is going to lay a big one on me if they beat Texas who handled Notre Dame to signal they might be a real team. The bears haven’t done that yet and won’t this weekend.

It’s Hard to call Hawaii as they play Arizona with both teams looking weak. I suspect the Rainbow warriors will continue to forget what they are doing vs what they should be doing and hand Arizona a win, but the Cat’s might turn it down. Not great before Solomon got injured, Arizona is still searching to figure it all out.

Finishing it off is Oregon visiting Nebraska. Betters have Nebraska as a three-point favorite, but I have three points indicating there might be a better way to bet. First, Nebraska is coached by Mike Riley who has spent quite a few years failing to beat an Oregon squad. Second is Nebraska is a member of the Big10ish where non-conference games are often an adventure. Third, the Huskers are an unrated team facing a rated one. While none of those are solid reasons, together they will find the strength to produce a two touchdown or more win for the Ducks.

Of course if I were a Nebraska fan I’d say first, Oregon has not proven it can defend against the run. Second, Oregon has not proven it can defend the pass yet and third The Cornhuskers lost a lot of very close games last year and should win a lot more games this season.

Neither concoction of addled reason means much so I’ll still predict a solid win for Oregon.

Monday, 5 September 2016

And they're off ... way off in some cases

The 51-31 score Cal rolled up in Australia is about as far from indicative of how good the Bears are as the distance they travelled to show off their new team. Goff has not been replaced. That’s probably not a surprise. The guy with two last names threw downfield passes about as well as I ever have. I completed one once. Downfield seems to be about 10 yards for him. Several of his passes were both incomplete and probably would have been intercepted in conference play, indicating he has some adjustment to make before he pulls the trigger in future games. He hit most of his screen passes to pad his numbers and the team blocked pretty well on those. Beyond that Hawaii made enough mistakes to cloud what the score should have been and guarantee the Berkeley crew a win. Not sure there wasn’t a reality TV guy pulling the strings in this game. Hawaii, playing Michigan for their second game in about a week, proved lopsided losses are not a fluke for them by bowing to big Big Blue 63-3.  NEXT UP for the Bears is San Diego state who solidly beat New Hampshire but was only Moderately impressive in doing it. Neither team did anything to change a prediction that would have been made before the season started. Cal should walk away with an easy win. It remains to be seen if they look like a contender in the north … so far  … no.

Utah jumped onto the gridiron and pretty much confirmed they are going to depend on their defense again this year with a 24 zip win over Southern Utah, a FCS team. While the Utes failed to develop a consistent attack they at least avoided potential heart attacks for their fans who are getting used to games like this. Their bouts with sleep were more due to watching the game than “the big one”. NEXT UP is the closest thing to a rivalry the Utes have, despite the PAC12 setting it up for it to be Coloraduhoh. BYU comes to town for its second PAC12 game after narrowly beating Arizona in Tucson. While Utah has not made a lot of improvement since last winter, BYU is not a juggernaut either. Home field advantage and that rivalry thing should be enough for Utah to walk off with a close win.

Oregon State traveled to Minnesota, more or less outplayed the Gophers, and didn’t embarrass themselves. They didn’t win either. The touchdown difference was largely because they were inconsistent where and when it counted, especially in play calling. After torching UM several times as a runner and a receiver Ryan Nall didn’t see many touches until later in the game when he came back to torch them some more, In between coach Andersen must have been trying to hide his best weapon from the prying eyes of PAC12 scouts so they wouldn’t discover him (assuming they had no video of last year’s game against Oregon.) He might want a do-over on his play selection. NEXT UP is Idaho State but that is two weeks away so I’ll hide my prediction about as well as Oregon State did their best running back. This week it’s rest and repair for the Beavs.

Stanford hosted Kansas State or Kansas City, depending upon which announcer you were listening to. They were consistent, regardless of who was on the field. Ryan Burns took over at QB after Kevin Hogan moved on to the NFL and Ryan delivered a solid passing game, though nothing special. Every eye was glued to Christian McCaffery whenever he touched the ball, including those of Kansas State players. Most of the Heisman candidate’s carries were stopped for average gains, even a few losses. A 90+ yard kick return was cancelled by a penalty which limited his all-purpose yardage to what is commonplace for most first string running backs. The 26-13 win would have been more boring without hope of seeing McCaffery tear it up. NEXT UP is a terrifying confrontation with might USC in two weeks. While Stanford is working on a game plan, the Trojans should rip up the one they had to beat Alabama.

Colorado Was the best looking, most surprising conference team to take the field in week 1. Colorado State has carried their play to legitimate rivalry level for the past few years. This year the Rams had no better luck figuring out how to keep the game close than did the announcer did having in discovering what the plural of “buffalo” is. According to him the Buffaloes did really well, and they did. Without seeing CU vs a better team, it is hard to tell if they will be as successful in the future but they looked like a real PAC12 team this week, something they did not do last year. NEXT UP Idaho State is not going to give us any better idea when the Buffalo become a 2-0 team with little trouble

USC has recruited almost as well as Alabama has while building its present team, with the caveat that those wearing the Tide uniforms play much better. I blame it on coaching, not this year but every year USC has had their guys on campus. There has been a lot more uncertainty since the days the Trojans received long overdue NCAA sanctions. Finished with those now, for a quarter USC looked like they had a clue and some toughness. Both dissolved in the second quarter and were washed away completely for the reminder of the game. I’d talk a little about their offense at this point if they had one, or their defense if they had one of those. NEXT UP I’m going to go out on a limb and pick USC over Idaho State this week.

I thought UCLA had the second toughest game of the week but I was a Wrong (Yep, with a capital) and it was indeed a tough assignment going to play Texas A&M. Josh Rosen got a lot of his creds because he plays in LA. While the defense kept the game close, Josh managed one great drive in the fourth quarter to tie the game and was moving down the field … until he threw a very late interception sending the game to overtime, where Rosen failed again. Don’t get me wrong; Josh is a servicable quarterback but not the guy to carry the team like the great ones can. NEXT UP UCLA should be able to roll against UNLV and even their record. Barring running the table the Bruins are out of the picture for a championship game slot.

The team that really had the 2nd toughest game must have been Washington State who is probably also out of the playoff picture. It appears they are building a new tradition, besides someone waving their flag every week for Game Day, by opening their seasons with losses to FCS teams, though they did come within a few points of a tie to send the game into overtime. This is now a two year tradition they might break next year by not scheduling a tough game like that. NEXT UP Once upon a time Boise State was a pushover team. This week they will send WSU to 0-2. (Maybe they could do so even if they were still a pushover team)

ASU waited until way after I was in bed before they posted an expected dominating score over Northern Arizona. They probably didn’t expect me to bother watching my recording on the hopper, and I almost didn’t. Going into the final quarter, they were up by 11 and it wasn’t a shootout. A tired NAU couldn’t keep up but still used some their nearly 350 yards of passing offense to score a TD in the final stanza. But for a few breakaway plays and a short field score thanks to their defense, their offense and their point total was far from what they should have displayed. NEXT UP  Seeing a stronger team next week when Texas Tech comes to town, I have to predict a loss for the Sun Devils. They need a deluxe version of that improvement that usually takes place between games 1 and 2 for the season to make me wrong.

Washington also had a misleading score even though they better than tripled up on Rutgers. They cruised to an easy win, the caveat being Rutgers looking a lot like a CCS team of their own volition. The Scarlet Knights were probably scarlet because of their clueless play and questionable play selection. The Huskies were enough better they’d have won even with a little more resistance. Both running and passing skills were amplified by the opposition. It was a neither questionable showing nor an indication they are serious contenders in the PAC12 North. For week 1 it was a decent start. NEXT UP They will have another week to work out any kinks and impress someone with Idaho coming to Husky Stadium.

Oregon broke in their latest transfer quarterback with expectation they’d give their number 2 guy a chance to get his feet wet. They’re still dry unless coming in with 17 seconds left and handing the ball to a running back counts. USC Davis scored first after a muffed punt and got field position again later in the game thanks to a fumble on a kick return. Both offense and defense showed effect from having four redshirt freshmen on the O-line and a whole new defensive set-up. Prukop looked comfortable and utilized his tools well to put up 53 points including three TD passes and another TD he ran in. It’s another team that has work to do before their next game. NEXT UP Virginia was supposed to come into to town as a step up from UC Davis but got clobbered by a lower level team (albeit one of the best at that level). Ducks should be able to use it as a tune up before they face Mike Riley and his Cornhuskers.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Fire when ready!

Opening shots are, depending upon the level of planning, to see where the damned shell lands or to hit close to the target with adjustment to come. I used to do that professionally. This opening salvo is a confusing mix of both, pretty much what you can expect for the first several weeks because I am not going go ACD on getting to know teams outside the conference on purpose. Kind of like the way my wife sees my house cleaning expertise. I’m retired but still don’t have enough time to get that involved in either endeavor and am in no way fearful I’ll lose my job here on the blog.

My first test comes on August 28 when California hosts Hawaii in Australia. Now that’s the way to host a party; in someone else’s house so nothing important gets broken. As near as I can figure Cal’s defensive philosophy is to hope the other team self-destructs before they score on a drive. On the other side of the ball they hope things aren’t as bad a losing somewhere around 80% of the players who produced on offense last season. In both cases, hope is going to be answered positively in this game. I’m not betting that will hold true for the rest of the season. Hawaii comes in not much better off. Their Offensive Coordinator was the Coach’s center when he played at Hawaii. My gut feeling is Cal winning the game by a touchdown or two.

Southern Utah plays a Thursday night game in Utah. Considering the difference in play level of the two schools this is an easy shoot from the hip trick, at least as far as predicting a win for Utah. The Utes should be able to pitch a shut-out and even their probably anemic offense should score at least three touchdowns. Their defense alone could easily outscore Southern Utah in a game they should win by at least 28 points.

When Oregon State opens the same night in Minnesota they have several things going for them. First is if they lose, only a few of their cow country fans probably have access to the Big10 network, the only place to watch the game. Second is they are playing the Gophers. Farmers know how to handle those. Both teams are in about the same shape. Maybe Minnesota has a QB who can continue to remain a strong mediocre one while we don’t know OSU has. Ryan Nall will run the ball for the Beavs against a bend-but-don’t-break defense and the last time he did so he gained a lot of yards against Oregon. Neither head coach has proven capable of establishing a great recruiting record in their early years at their respective schools so a team making radical improvement won’t emerge. Only because of my anti-east-coast bias will I predict a touchdown or so advantage for Oregon State.  That and the Big 10ish tradition of losing early season games to mediocre teams.

It took more time to find my football magazines (see opening paragraph remark about my housekeeping skill) than to predict a Friday night win by Stanford over Kansas State. Even remembering the Indians’ opening game loss last year to an inferior team I’m sticking to that. That fiasco should serve as a wake-up for this year. KSU predicted to finish 8th in the 9 team Big 12 is on the road vs a strong contender in the Pac12 north. Wildcat fans are probably happy this is not a home game.

Meanwhile in Colorado it’s a tussle between the Rams and the Buffalo. Common sense says most Pac12 teams should beat most Mountain West teams. The key word here is “most”. CSU has proven a tough opponent almost every year Colorado has been a member of the conference. The last three years CU has watched other teams play bowl games while the Rams have played in them, and probably will again this year while the Buffs probably won’t. Colorado State has a great chance, and will probably capitalize on it, to give their instate rivals a loss by a touchdown or so.

Rutgers plays UW on the first Saturday. While I don’t see Washington as good a team as most prognosticators do, I don’t see the Scarlet Knights as good as the Huskies are. However, if there is a trap game in Week 1, this is it.  In the end the scoreboard should indicate a touchdown or two more for the home team.

UCLA is good match against Texas A&M even on the road. Regardless of how the rest of the season goes the Bruins usually open with a strong showing on the road. They don’t play Oregon this year but this game could be a good substitute. Unless it is high scoring UCLA should be OK. They have plenty of experience facing fast paced read option type teams and TAMU is not going to be a finished product right out of the box. IF the visitors have a quarterback they will pull off an upset by about 10 points. You CAN get ten points in overtime, right?

UC-Davis and Northern Arizona vs Oregon and ASU respectively aren’t worth mentioning except for the fact they are on the schedule. If either PAC12 team loses there is a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.

It won’t be that easy in Tucson where BYU will be as loaded as they ever are. 16 starters from a team that went 9-4 last year and a couple former starters returning from injury will populate their line-up. There’s bound to be a returning missionary or two worth mentioning on top of that. I don’t see Anu as a QB who can win a shoot-out, which this might not be if Arizona doesn’t click on offense. Sorry Cat fans, this one is a loss, possibly a smashing one.

Washington State is taking the day off so that leaves only one more game to predicticate. Let’s see  … oh yeah … ‘Bama is visiting USC in a very un-SEC like opening game. Normally before their first tough game the Tide has rolled over a couple of opponents like Sisters of the Poor or the School for the Hopeless  … both as home games. Most people would predict USC won’t fare much better but Saban can do less with more than any other school except USC.  Alabama has the top recruiting class often enough they should win the national championship nearly every year. They win some but not as often as they should. The Trojans aren’t far behind in recruiting but have dropped back a way in winning games or even keeping coaches and AD’s. This may be a turnaround year.

I explained why SC’s loss of scholarships problem is the excuse but not the reason for their records the past few seasons in my last post. They have been a full participation for a couple of years. Now they have a new AD and a new head coach which are past due. I look for them to settle down and play much better. We don’t know how Alabama is going to do with a new quarterback, opening on the road vs a tough opponent. I’m looking for Troy to pull off the upset,

Saturday, 13 August 2016

A real close look at 2016

If last year was the year of the quarterback in the Pac12, this year is the year of who’s the quarterback. Even the teams with returning QB’s aren’t bragging about it, at least until last call at the local bar. With Sarkisian gone, they aren’t even doing it there.

When you get right down to it, the best experienced quarterback in the conference is, wait for it – I told you I have a green and yellow bias and I promised you humor –, in Eugene where grad transfer Dakota Prukop was an all-American at the FCS level playing the same type of offense and has been on campus since spring practice. Arizona should step up and argue that with me and Washington fans would if they read this thing.  Anu Solomon has grown up from a flashy freshman to become a journeyman signal caller, but journeyman does not equate with stellar anywhere it is used. “Jake Browning”, “Jake Browning” I hear echoing from up north. Well, Jake was surprisingly good for a freshman (see Anu Solomon, two years ago model) which made him a serviceable quarterback with a lot to prove his second season. The only decent team UW beat last year was USC while the Trojans were still a bit of a hot mess. They did that by two points in a low scoring game.

If the Quarterback is not a dead cinch to carry you, the running backs have to. There are really only two who have the ability to do that. Some guy named McCaffery in Palo Alto and Royce Freeman for Oregon can tote the ball for 100 yards or more most games, against anybody. Miles Gaskin for UW has the potential to join the club if Browning proves to be a good passer. Otherwise, if he is expected to run, he’ll have a tough time getting to that level.

At this point you may have noticed I haven’t high-lighted any southern division schools. USC should stand out from the group. They have had grade A recruiting classes for more years than I have fingers and the only place I am a butcher is in this blog. They have for quite a while produced grade B and C teams. Troy’s diary has a lot of blank pages, at least as far at football games go. They have a coach who should last the season now and will likely start building a machine again, but not this year.

Everybody gets around to talking about wide receivers and tight ends, except me. Those guys break plays, look exciting, and sometimes make a difference in the game, but everybody except Utah has a stable full of them. They are replaceable because, let’s face it most of them are bigger than the defenders, run routes they and the quarterback know are coming, and are fast. Decent ones are good for seven or eight yards per play while better ones make downfield blocks and occasionally break free for long gains. Everybody has lots of those except Utah.

Defense, we are told, wins games. In the Pac12 nobody has one except Utah. Cal relied on one until last year but lost the recipe as well as lot more games than a team with the number 1 NFL draft pick should have. Stanford simulates one largely because they play efficient old fashioned smash-mouth offense and gives their defense more time on the sideline. Oregon State used to try that but, for a while now, have failed to consistently put an offense of any kind on the turf. The Utes can actually hold teams down so their anemic offense can produce enough points to win some games. Otherwise I could drop my opening sentence in this paragraph regarding the conference.

The greatest enemy of any defense, on either side of the ball, is an offense that runs a play every 20 seconds or so, maybe less. A lot of the conference teams do that because it wears out the opposing defense as the game moves along. Post Chip Kelly, there are a lot of enemies in the offenses out here, some made more dangerous to their own counterparts by the dreaded three and out. With only a minute or two the D has to come back out and ply their trade before they get much time to recuperate. Ask Oregon about the two halves of their bowl game last year.

I like kickers in football as much as I do in soccer so I won’t talk about them except to say, if they become important, several other things need fixing.

It’s always too early to predict the final standings given the injuries and surprise breakout players. Still, us pundits whether anointed or self-proclaimed, have to step up and let loose sooner or later. Here’s my shot.


Oregon            Prukop looks like the real thing and is still being pushed for the job, meaning all of the duck eggs are not in one basket. I’m betting Brady Hoke improves the defense.

Stanford          It will be largely the McCaffery show but he is a hell of an actor. They play Oregon in Eugene which could make the difference but the Indians are not unfamiliar with pulling upsets there.

Washington/Washington State          Whoever wins the Apple Bowls finishes third. Washington’s bandwagon has to travel to Palo Alto and Eugene where it will empty out some each time.

California        Because the other northern team is Oregon State

Oregon State   Because they have to finish somewhere.


            USC                  Sooner or later all that talent has to do something right.

UCLA               Almost against my better judgment, but they had a couple pretty      recruiting years.

Arizona/Utah   Which ever one can find an offense, or even simulate one, first. I lean toward the Utes

Arizona State   Because the other Southern team is Colorado

Colorado         Because they have to finish somewhere.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Ignore last year .. I'm back for sure in 2016

The most important thing in evaluating a fast approaching college football season is to listen to the talking heads. I assume they have never been mistaken and have proven so reliable they haven’t been far off in any season of the past decade or so. THE go-to guys season after season are going to show up and inform us, accurately enough that we rush out and buy the magazines they are attached to. In defense of the few times they have missed, arm them with the excuse that they begin writing at about the time the clock runs out on the championship game of the previous season, maybe before in some cases. To be fair, there are gurus who are more pensive, or better procrastinators, who put everything together minutes before they start turning out their report the night before deadline. A few of them are good enough they don’t seem to need any research at all.

    That being the case, I’ll introduce you to some of those guys. First I must establish my own credentials. I have never missed a call in this blog in predicting the winner of even a single game. You can attribute that to this being the first year I have prognosticated here if you want to but it remains a fact. Not one of those guys can say that about their past guesses AND … I don’t charge a penny for my thoughts, meaning you are guaranteed to get your money’s worth.

    Now ... to the pretenders.

    Doug Haller takes the helm for Lindy’s, a preseason magazine Lindy Davis started putting on the stands 35 years ago. I’ve got no idea how well they’ve done in the past, but they are wrong this year, at least regarding the Pac 12. I’ll tell you why after I finish my research. Odds are I will be right.

    First of all, he let them put the Pac-12 on page 168 of the magazine. That’s a big one.

    Then, at first glance, I see Christian McCaffery of Stanford predicted to be the conference MVP. BUT … BUT he predicts Oregon’s Royce Freeman to be the best offensive player. Either could be true but Doug, old boy, both play offense. If either of their teams win they could well be the MVP and for the team to do it, that player is probably going to have to be the best offensive player. Are we into new math here, which probably gives Christian the edge, considering Stanford’s academic reputation? It also helps that Stanford has not had a wide array of stars over the past few seasons, just a few who were good enough to win a lot of games, and appears to be in a position to keep doing it. Oregon spreads it out a lot more and looks to be in position to keep doing that.

     Doug, or his crew, then goes on to predict as defensive player of the year and newcomer of the year players whose names I can barely spell, let alone pronounce. What’s with that, Doug?

    When the season ends the individual stars will be a lot easier to predict which is the main reason I’ll wait to pick them. My guess is that Justin and the rest of the crew will have a lot more hemming and hawing to do in explaining their misses than I will.

    Mainly, Mr. Haller explains that quarterbacks have a lot to do with how well the teams are going to do. Amazing.

  Lindy’s picks are for Stanford and USC to meet in the conference championship game. Some other surprises are for Washington to beat out Oregon, who will edge out Washington State for third in the north. In the south, UCLA is their pick to challenge the Trojans while Utah sits above the rest of the watchers.

    Read the mag for all the details. I’m not writing cliff notes for their work.

    Bruce Pasco who also writes for the Arizona Daily Star heads the team for the Sporting News, that has been around for a lot longer than I have been alive, and I have been receiving social security checks for a while now. But, what do they know about football in Tucson, other than that the Cats will usually beat a favored Sun Devil Squad in the annual ‘So What’ matchup. I think they have about one conference football championship between them since they turned the PAC8 into the Pac10 then tried to make it into the Pac8 again.

     Pasco starts out better in getting the conference up to page 116. Of course I have them on page 1, where they belong.

     In just a few different words the Sporting News staff comes up with an identical predicted finishing standing. Are these guys copying off of the Lindy’s group or is it the other way around? In the end they are guaranteed to be equally wrong.

    Phil Steele’s presentation is more geared toward performance on the betting platform, citing results, some of which were produced by players who have moved out of their lockers … some years ago.  Coaches are studied into performance results. It seems a little risky given the coaching staff changes most teams go through year to year. However, if you like two or three letter/number abbreviations in place of frequently used phrases, this is the magazine for you. If you like predictions, he sometimes gets a few right. In fact, he does better than most, but he hasn’t gone against me yet.

    Don’t get me wrong. His is the first magazine I read. He does more real research than most of the others. If research was all that great, I’d have won in a whole lot more fantasy baseball leagues.

   I read ESPN’s magazine later because it hit the newsstands later. Actually, I’m not sure why I read it, only why I read it later. They do move the conference up to about the middle of the magazine which is thinner, in a lot of ways, than the others. In the end their results are about the same as the others with Oregon in third, behind conference champion-to-be Washington and also-ran Stanford. They will meet USC in Palo Alto while UCLA and Arizona gnash their teeth after barely missing out. Utah and ASU fans wonder why they are picked below the Wildcats all of a sudden. Actually, I don’t, but that’s for a later blog.

  Sports Illustrated is going to throw its hat in the ring closer to opening weekend. Being a weekly magazine they have an advantage there. That's their only advantage and they don't use it well. As far as their record of predicting outcomes goes, they always have great sports photographs. I’ll probably see it and giggle a little when it hits the stands. They are to sports what their publishing partner “Time” is to news. 

There have to be some good sites on the interwebz, Everything good and bad is there someplace. Given time and luck, I’ll discover them as the season rolls along. I’m sure they will provide fodder for next year’s opening volley. One I know about now is worth visiting,  The guys there seem to know what they are talking about and have lots of shiny and sparkly charts for those into those sorts of things.

I’m also lazy enough to accept your discoveries and, until the first kick-off, your predictions.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Opening Week … Might as well be closing for a few Pac12 teams

   I’ve let everything fester, or ferment, or something long enough. If I wait another day I’ll start making my thoughts about two games for some teams. While much clearer in my mind, it wouldn’t be a fair way to trot out my prescient thoughts. I’d look better but feel worse, maybe. Anyway my conscience says I must plunge ahead with a review of the games last week.

   Starting with the Northern division favorite, which got a whole lot more favoriter, Oregon took on Eastern Washington in a game that would not have been as interesting if the QB for the Ducks hadn’t abandoned Oregon’s first week opponent, Eastern Washington, as a graduate transfer. The Eagles might have challenged with him still there but, on the other hand, he couldn’t have been a lot more successful than the two QB’s  EW still has in hand, who put up monstrous passing numbers. Their running game was less impressive and their defense even less so.

   Meanwhile Oregon ran and passed at will, piling up over 700 yards of offense, mostly via the ground game. Adams (the itinerate QB) threw for a high percentage of completions, a couple of which were TD’s, and ran for just under one hundred yards. He probably ran for at least one too many times, providing an EW defender an opportunity for a cheap shot that took him out of the game which was already well under control

   Oregon hid two facets from their 2nd week opponent, pass defense and punting. Neither did much. The punter might as well have worn flip flops to the game. The defense just flopped.

   USC, the consensus favorite, but not mine, played “Fight On” and probably left a trail of road apples on the sidelines. After 60 minutes of clock time they had a big win over a little team, Arkansas State, at home. I don’t like the Trojans so I’m not got going to write anything good about them, at least this week.

   Arizona State was the apple of a lot of eyes, but they were a small minority in a ‘neutral site’ game in Houston where Texas A&M made apple sauce out of them. The inevitable ‘but it wasn’t really a neutral site’ excuse fell pretty flat as far as I am concerned. Didn’t anyone in Tempe know they would be more than slightly outnumbered in the stands playing a Texas team in Texas.

   That the Sun Devils were out-numbered on the field wasn’t much of a surprise either. They have not demonstrated the ability to stop up-tempo spread type teams in the past, and continued to write that story in game 1. ASU always looks like a strong contender, and then underperforms up through their annual loss to Arizona during the last day of the scheduled season.

   Speaking of Arizona, they have a better scheduler. A decent test with UNLV provided the opportunity for a winning warm-up. They might have picked the best week possible to lose Scooby Wright for a few weeks. He may be the best defender in the conference. If he returns after sitting out, with an injury, a couple of games vs cupcakes, in time for the UCLA game. If not, things could get ugly early in conference play. UCLA is not going to lose many games this year.

Which, of course, segues me right into the Bruins. UCLA returns what could be the most impressive group of returning players south of Eugene. What they might have been missing is a quarterback who could handle the opportunity. It’s hard for a freshman quarterback to step into the starting spot at the Pac-12 level. If last week was an indicator, Josh Rosen just might do it. His composure and skills were all the Westwood faithful could have hoped for, vs a decent opponent. One more week like that and the Bruins will be my new Southern favorite.

   A little farther north the press is always looking for excuses why Stanford is going to eclipse Oregon in the north. Most of the excuses on the field, vs a mediocre Northwestern, were playing for the Indians’ (I will never go PC and call them the Cardinal) version of offense. It was a little more than a run run pass failure, a game plan which the Boilermakers see regularly in the Big-10ish. They evidently overcame their disappointment at not becoming the Boilermaker Union and sent Stanford home to their schoolbooks, which I presume they handle much better than they did the football. Kevin Hogan must have had his mind on the first day of class rather the first football game of the season. Go figure. He’ll probably make a whole lot more money doing something else next year.

   Utah, who most Michiganans designated the opening cupcake, probably due to Big Blue’s usual scheduling pattern, surprised them much more than they did me. After all of the Harbaugh hype, everyone ignored the probability that a team who sunk as far Michigan did is probably in a submarine rather than a battleship. Coach recruited well but has a bit more work to do.

 They’ll have a better idea of how big that job is when they host Oregon State this week, led by a very familiar, very successful coach they faced as he coached Wisconsin last year, and his new Beavers who are in a transition of style, with players not recruited to run the new game plan, The Corvallis crowd did better than expected in their opener. Seth Collins was the other Pac-12 Freshman quarterback who stood like a man in his first college game. Neither team is ready for prime time. Which one will nose ahead this week? I have a premonition they will be wearing Orange and Black, or whatever color Nike hangs on them now that they have joined the new age. The Beavs played a little better defense.

   Something else (well, one of the many somethings else) I don’t have a clear picture of is the California Bears team. They used a good quarterback and an undefinable rest of the team to a steamrolling of Grambling, who has not been a big challenge for quite a few years now. This week they will get some more practice time vs San Diego State, and I still won’t have a good handle on them. When they play Texas after that, I should be able to sound a little more like I know what I am talking about when they are the subject of my babble. Good scheduling, Bears.

   And now to the wait til next year squads.

   A couple of years ago Washington brought over Boise State’s miracle worker, Chris Petersen, but this is not a league peopled by such as the little sisters of the poor. He has well over half of his team with two or less years experience.  That may or may not have been a good plan. During Year 2 of the experiment the Huskies are going to be challenged by all but their next two opponents, at least in theory.

   Opening away, on the Smurf Turf in Boise, very little promise emerged for his offense. His version of a first year quarterback looked more like that deer-in-the-headlights frosh you’d expect. While UW defense kept them in the game, Jake Browning, seemed to have little idea where he was. Recruiting windows close quickly at the Pac-12 level and Petersen’s is closing really quickly, especially when about the best class he can hope for this season (without a BIG turnaround) could well be between sixth and ninth best in the conference.

   Even so, Washington may not be the worst in the state. WSU has at least an equal grip on the honor after a loss to Portland State to open the season. The Vikings people a mediocre team in the next best division in major college football, the one at the bottom. Maybe the Cougars should recruit a running back and draw up some plays for him.

   When looking at the teams in the conference, a lot of people forget about Colorado. This would be a good year to do that.