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Pac-12 Football: Then, Since, & Later

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


The Pac-12 Conference, thought by many to be challenging the SEC as college football’s premier league, has become predictable based solely on its unpredictability.

Prior to the season, the league was thought to have as many as 5 or 6 contenders for this season’s playoff.  However, since those days prior to the action on the field, each of the aforementioned contenders have lost, leaving people like myself collectively scratching our heads regarding what was, is, and will be for a collective group without a truly great team.

Then, Oregon and Stanford were thought to be legit, the Los Angeles schools were contenders, and Arizona and Arizona State had an argument as well.  Most thought Utah would be solid, Cal was on the rise, and due to coaching turnover and/or inferior talent the others were left from the mix.

Since, Stanford lost to an undefeated but slightly above-average Northwestern team, only to rebound by pounding everyone else including the “Men Of Troy.”  Oregon was embarrassed and relegated to the “Unsullied” (See Game Of Thrones) by a good but not great Utah team.  UCLA dominated Arizona only to be freight-trained by the Sun Devils a week later.  And USC with their notably pickled coach, was unceremoniously dismantled by a previously anemic Stanford offense…on their home field.  Let us not forget Washington State’s loss to FCS Portland State, and Colorado’s defeat at the hands of a Hawaii team a stone’s throw from dropping football altogether.

Where does that leave us?  Lost.

That’s right, no one with an honest bone in their body would tell you they believe what they think will happen over the remainder of the Pac-12 season.  For instance:  I think USC is the best team in the Pac-12, Utah is overrated, and Oregon will lose anywhere from 2-4 more games this year.  But I’m also fully aware that each and every one of the aforementioned proclamations could be proven woefully wrong, based simply on the track record of 2015 predictions to this point.

Admittedly, I took the bait regarding UCLA and Arizona State.  Seemingly every year we go through the preseason song-and-dance regarding both’s legitimate championship potential.  Yet, as sure as the sun will rise, the Devils will lose 2 indefensible games and the Bruins will fail to walk the perpetual talk of one of the most overrated coaches in the college game (I’m looking at you Jim Mora).  I also fell into the trap of believing Stanford’s goose was cooked on the heels of that week-1 loss in Evanston.  Their defense wasn’t what it always had been, and I’d seen enough good quarterback releases to know that Kevin Hogan’s three-quarter approach wasn’t capable of hitching the wagons to.  Fast forward a month, and the Cardinal are rolling and appear at least for now to be the most well-rounded team in a conference full of teams with holes.

So what should we expect later?

Will Oregon get better at the quarterback position, grow defensively, and get back in the Pac-12 North race?  I don’t think so.  They’re too young, too inexperienced, and too due for a letdown to truly compete this season.  Normally their offense could carry a subpar defense, but without a true signal-caller and with an average offensive line, the hill seems too steep for players and coaches faced with their first real adversity in years.

Will UCLA and/or Arizona State right their ship after equally embarrassing losses?  Yes, right up to the point of another equally embarrassing loss.  It’s too them to consistently win for any real stretch of time, and even if they were to beat the odds and string together wins en route to playoff contention, they’d fail epically in a conference championship or rivalry game with the whole enchilada on the line.

Can USC parlay all that talent into a 1-loss year and ticket to the college football playoff?  Sure, they can, but will they is the better question.  In spite of the century’s worth of sanctions they’re still recovering from (Yes, that’s sarcasm based on Steve Sarkisian’s endless rant about sanctions still affecting his ability to coach from one of the top-5 most advantageous college football catbird seats), the Trojans dwarf any other Pac-12 teams top-tier talent, and by all rights should win the South and be in position to win the league and qualify for this year’s playoff.

Can Utah keep it going?  Unlikely.  Yes, they one-hundred percent dominated Oregon and beat a seemingly pretty good Michigan team, but I still lean on the idea that they’re good not great.  A great game does not make a great team.  They will struggle offensively, and in this league, against the amount of offensive weaponry this league has to offer, they’ll ultimately be incapable of overcoming the couple occasions their defense has an off night.

And the rest?  Cal…sorry, the other shoe will eventually drop.  Washington and Oregon State are far too young to compete.  And Arizona, while equipped to an extent to compete, lacks the type of consistency to match the depth of talent they’ll see by year’s end.

So, while we know the contenders for the Pac-12 Conference, it’s become less clear over the first month of action who – if anyone – is the cream of a crop consistent merely by its inconsistency.

I wish them all luck, but I wish the rest of us the same luck simply trying to figure it all out.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Top Pac-12 College Football Players

Here are some of the Oregon players who have managed to make it into the 2014 Top Pac-12 Players List.

Prev Next

#22 Byron Marshall

College: University of Oregon

Position: Running Back

In 2013 he had 168 carries, 14 touchdowns, 13 catches, 155 receiving yards, and 1,038 rushing yards.  It’s no wonder he makes it as #22 on this list.  Not only do these stats make him a player to watch, but also a player with a lot of potential to climb the rankings.


Photo Credit: Scott Enyeart (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#19 Isaac Seumalo

College: Oregon State University

Position: Offensive Lineman

This Offensive Lineman managed to block QB Sean Mannion who set the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards passing.  With his abilities to block in the manner of which he did makes him a prime candidate to possibly win the Rimington Trophy, Outland Trophy, and/or Rotary Lombardi Award.


Photo Credit: Karl Maasdam (Own Work) (Image Cropped) Courtesy Oregon State University

Prev Next

#10 Hroniss Grasu

College: University of Oregon

Position: Center

As a junior in 2013 he became one of three Oregon native players to be named All-Pac-12 two seasons in a row.  He has managed to lead the offensive line to the conference’s number 1 rushing attack.  Entering his final year at U of O, Grasu has started all 40 games of his career at UO making him one of the Duck’s greatest players.


Photo Credit: Daniel Hartwig (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#6 Sean Mannion

College: Oregon State University

Position: Quarterback

Ranking here for breaking the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards thrown, 35 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, this is a player the NFL is watching closely. Already sitting at #10 on the conference’s all-time passing list, it’s going to be a breeze for him to pass Matt Barkley’s record of 12,327 yards thrown.


Photo Credit: Karl Maasdam (Own Work) (Image Cropped) Courtesy Oregon State University

Prev Next

#4 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

College: University of Oregon

Position: Cornerback

In 2013 he was the second Ducks player to have 84 tackles with 3 interceptions, and 9 passes defended.  He is a force to be reckoned with.  It has been unanimous that he is to be the 2014 Preseason All-American.  It’s also been hinted that he may not last too long in the 2015 NFL draft.


Photo Credit: Daniel Hartwig (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#1 Marcus Mariota

College: University of Oregon

Position: Quarterback

With stats such as completing 63.5% of his passes with 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, rushing a total of 715 yards with 9 touchdowns, this makes him a hot candidate for the NFL.  He has managed to make U of O one of the Pac-12 favorite college teams as well as a national title contender.  He has also set a U of O single-season record throwing 4,380 total yards and set a Pac-12 record by attempting to throw 353 consecutive passes without interception.  He is also in the running to win the Heisman Trophy as a 1A option.


Photo Credit: Scott Enyeart (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)


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