All posts by Mike Wilson

Does the Sun Devil Surprise Continue in Colorado?

In every football season there are surprises. A team exceeds expectations or drops off the face of the Earth. Well, don’t tell anybody, but the Arizona State Sun Devils are quietly in the mix for the Pac-12 South division title going into their game with Colorado.

We still have a ways to go in this Pac-12 football season, however, there is a low-key confidence growing among the coaches and the players for the Sun Devils.

What has to happen for Arizona State to pull the surprise and win the Pac-12 South?

First of all, the Sun Devils have to get by an upstart Colorado team this Saturday. This is not going to be an easy thing to do. The Buffaloes have proven to be a team to not overlook. They were up big on a talented Michigan team, beat Oregon in Eugene, and fell just short against the USC Trojans.

The Sun Devils are well aware of how important this game is in terms of the Pac-12 South division. If Arizona State gets this win it’ll put the Devils a game up on Colorado and they will then control their own destiny.

The other aspect that can derail this season for the Sun Devils is injuries, especially at the quarterback position.

Starting quarterback, Manny Wilkins Jr., has been out with injury for the past couple of weeks. He is expected to return for the Colorado game. Being at Sun Devil practice, it is obvious that the coaching staff wants Manny Wilkins Jr. at quarterback on Saturday. Wilkins is going through all the drills that don’t involve contact. His replacement, Brady White, who played admirably in relief two weeks ago against USC is out for the rest of the season due to an injury that occurred last week in the win against UCLA.

If Manny Wilkins Jr. can’t play on Saturday it will be a difficult game for the Sun Devils in Colorado.

The next part of the equation for Arizona State is that leaky faucet defense the Sun Devils have. The Sun Devils have to make stops against Colorado. The defense needs to step up and that might include not relying on the blitz so much.

“The Sun Devils blitz when they walk off the bus. We know we will have some negative plays defending the blitz, but there will be chances for us to take advantage of it.” Said Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre on the weekly Pac-12 conference call.

Blitzing is the bread and butter for the Arizona State defense. Talented teams like Colorado can take advantage of the over aggressive style to make big plays. The Sun Devils bring pressure from every angle to try and confuse the offense. Arizona State gets to the quarterback, but also gives up many big plays with its blitzing.

I believe the Sun Devils need to dial back the aggressive play a bit. With a division title possible you have to play smart and being so aggressive is not always the smartest way to go.

Will the Sun Devils choose to dial the blitz back?

Don’t count on it. Coaches have a style that suits them. This is the style of Coach Graham.

I believe the Sun Devils will have Manny Wilkins Jr. at quarterback on Saturday, but how effective can Wilkins be coming off of injury? Colorado will be coming after Wilkins and if Colorado can get him out of the game, it’s game over for the Sun Devils.

When the clock runs out on Saturday, I believe the Colorado Buffaloes will be the victors. Colorado doesn’t have as many questions heading into this game, in my opinion. Buffaloes win, 45-28.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

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Can the Oregon Ducks Come Out of their Downward Spiral?

Success can be a difficult thing to attain. It can also be a difficult thing to hang onto. If you doubt that, just ask any Oregon Ducks fan right now. There are more Duck fans flying off the bandwagon than there are actual ducks heading south right now. What has happened to the Oregon Ducks?

Depends on who you ask.

I believe it has come down to recruiting and the inability to develop a quarterback, but not Mark Helfrich.

Let’s start with recruiting.

The Ducks don’t recruit the type of player they have in the past. The lack of playmakers on the team is apparent to anybody that watches Oregon games. Players like Marcus Mariota, Ed Dickson, Jonathan Stewart, and Patrick Chung aren’t walking through the doors of the football facilities at Oregon anytime soon.

From 2010-12 the Ducks put together recruiting classes that ranked in the top-15 nationally. Let’s also remember that this was during the Chip Kelly years. The recruiting classes that Kelly put together had an average of 10 players that had a four-star rating attached to their name. Getting that many quality players for three years was bound to make a difference for the Ducks. Here’s the issue though:

Since 2013, the average rank of Oregon’s recruiting classes has been 21st. The amount of four-star players has dipped to seven on average, and the Ducks have only had two five-star players since 2013.

Let’s face the reality that coaches face. Talented players make their coaches look brilliant, but when the talent is running thin, that same coach doesn’t look so amazing anymore.

For the Ducks to get back to what the Ducks were a few seasons ago, they have to hit the recruiting trail harder. Oregon has to sell the University of Oregon much better. The mistake I think the Ducks make is that the their coaches believe that players are just lining up to come to Eugene. They are not lining up anymore. Not that they really were.

Oregon is not Ohio State or Alabama.

Secondly, since Marcus Mariota took his Heisman Trophy playmaking skills to the NFL, the Ducks haven’t had any consistency at the quarterback position. It’s hard to replace a legend at a school, but you need to at least have a plan in place to find someone to fill that role.

The logical choice may have been Jeff Lockie, but he came in and looked like he had never played football before. He was dreadful. Vernon Adams Jr, a graduate transfer, came from Eastern Washington University and played pretty well, but injuries hurt Adam’s overall effectiveness with the Ducks.

You would think the Oregon coaching staff would have a redshirt-freshman who might be able to take over the offense for the next few seasons.

Nope.

Oregon went fishing in the graduate transfer waters again, bringing Dakota Prukop up from the depths of Montana State. What has he provided?

Well, Prukop hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t horrible either. In effect, he has been a game manager. Prukop isn’t throwing for an insane amount of yards per game, but he’s not Jeff Lockie either.

With Oregon’s recent struggles, some have questioned whether or not Prukop can stay in his starting role. Some media types and fans want the Ducks to see what freshman Justin Herbert can do.

The most popular player on the team is always the back-up quarterback. However, Herbert has not taken any meaningful snaps and people want this young kid thrown out onto the field against the Husky defense this weekend? If you do that you risk his confidence being shattered into a thousand pieces. The Washington defense is nothing to take lightly. Put Dakota Prukop out there. It’s the smart move to make, Oregon.

Lastly, the coaching always comes under fire when things don’t go well. Especially considering the fragile mental state of most Oregon fans. The program has not been relevant for long, but the program acts like they have been around forever. This little downturn with their win/loss record is a reminder that you have to work hard to keep the talent coming.

Should Mark Helfrich be fired?

No.

Who do the Ducks think will come to Eugene? Not Les Miles or Tom Herman. Mark Helfrich is not Urban Meyer or Nick Saban, but those type of elite coaches are the exception, not the rule. I don’t see a better candidate available for this program.

The Oregon program has always wanted their football coach to represent the school in a classy way, positively represent the state of Oregon, and to conduct his life with integrity. To anybody outside the state of Oregon that may be hard to understand, but that is how it’s always been. Mark Helfrich does those things.

This is Helfrich’s first season of losing and now people want him gone. You want to fire a coach with a 35-11 record? That translates to a 76% win percentage. Yeah, that makes lousy sense. The tendency to have these knee jerk reactions is a symptom of social media. A quick fix is not going to change anything for Oregon. Helfrich knows the game and he relates to his players well. Helfrich is the guy for this football program.

You know what changes things for football teams? Talent. Recruit playmakers, Oregon. You got great talent to come to the little town of Eugene before. You can do it again.

Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson

Email Mike at mike (dot) wilson (at) campuspressbox (dot) com or follow Mike on Twitter @pigskinopinion

Washington Huskies Look for the Upset Against the Stanford Cardinal

As college football fans turn the corner into October, we start getting into match-ups that will determine division titles. The Washington Huskies and the Stanford Cardinal will battle each other on Friday night to gain an advantage in the Pac-12 North division.

The Washington Huskies are the team on the rise. It’s been a long time since the Dawgs have been even remotely relevant. Washington will have the opportunity to make a statement against the team that is the current big dog in the conference.

The Huskies have a lot going for them. The Huskies have a quarterback that one could argue is the best in the conference,  have running backs that can break off a big play at any moment, and have a physical defense that can also make plays.

Jake Browning, Husky quarterback, is one of those dual-threat quarterbacks that makes life miserable for defensive coordinators. He has led the Huskies to perfect start so far and was instrumental in the Huskies overtime win last week against Arizona.

However, Browning has his first big test of the season with Stanford. The Cardinal defense will certainly try and go the physical route with trying to contain Browning. The Cardinal have to make sure Browning doesn’t get out and extend plays. If Jake Browning is able to extend plays and make big plays it will be a long night in Seattle for Stanford.

Not only do the Cardinal have concerns with Browning, Stanford doesn’t have either starting cornerbacks. Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder went down against UCLA last weekend. That plays right into the hands of the Husky offense. The receivers are fast and having new cornerbacks on the perimeter will be something to watch as the game progresses.

The offensive line for Washington has to hold strong on enough plays so the Huskies can make plays down the field with Jake Browning’s accurate arm. In my opinion, the offensive line of Washington will be the key to victory for the Huskies.

Husky Stadium will be loud and rocking. I’ve been there for games and it is one of the loudest stadiums in the country. You can’t underestimate the effect that a loud crowd can have on an opposing team. Stanford is experienced in playing in big games, but having a new quarterback in this type of situation can be an adventure.

Myles Gaskin, the ultra-quick running back for the Huskies, has not gotten off to the start that he had hoped for. Gaskin is listed as the starter and certainly could make this game his 2016 coming out party. However, look for running back Lavon Coleman to get some more touches. Coleman came into the game last week against Arizona and ran for 188 yards. Having a combination like these two could prove deadly against a weakened Stanford defense. I look for the Huskies to try and exploit this advantage when the Washington offense is on the field.

Defensively for the Huskies, the goal will be to hold Christian McCaffrey in check. I know, easier said than done. Look for head coach Chris Peterson to try and make some adjustments in the kicking game. Peterson will want to limit McCaffrey to as little return yards as possible. I would kick at angles to make the sideline an extra defender. We all know all dangerous Christian McCaffrey is when he is on the field, so controlling him is a must. The Huskies have to limit McCaffrey to 150 all-purpose yards to be in the game. With the speed the Huskies have, this is a possibility.

When it’s all said and done at Husky Stadium, I believe this will be the first big upset in the Pac-12 this year. The Dawgs will come out on top in a tight game. Huskies win 35-24.

Email Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson

Questions Remain Despite Arizona State Beating California

To predict how an Arizona State football season will end up you might want to call a psychic into your house. The moment you think the team is good, they disappoint. When they actually fly under the radar they end up being a quality team. What do we have in Tempe?

What the Sun Devils are is still a mystery to me. Entering their game with the California Golden Bears, the Sun Devils were 3-0 and looking for more. That’s right, the Sun Devils had not been beaten yet.

Getting to 3-0 had not come easy for the Sun Devils, but by no means does this mean that the Devils are a lock for a post-season bowl game. This Sun Devil team is a “bend, but don’t break” type of team. With a legit quarterback in Davis Webb for California, the defense had its challenge right in front of it.

Defense wins games right? Right now, I would settle for a Sun Devil defense making a stop or two.

The Sun Devil defense had to make stops against California. Sonny Dykes has that Chip Kelly quality with running plays at the speed of light, but does not have Kelly’s flare. With that in mind, it was imperative that the Devils defense kept up with the California offense.

On California’s second possession of the night, it exposed the middle of the Sun Devil defense, which has been a problem. Davis Webb torched the defense and got the Bears up 7-0.

This game had the feel of the Sun Devil and Texas Tech game, but sometimes the feel of the game doesn’t happen for a while.

It wasn’t exactly like the Texas Tech game, but both teams tried to put the hurt on each other. California’s Davis Webb is a bona fide pro prospect with how he can throw the ball. I was immensely impressed with how he tossed it around the field. He had 234 yards of passing in the first half and his team was up 24-10.

Arizona State didn’t look interested in the first half and it showed. California seemed like it had control of the game, but looks can be deceiving.

It’s always amazing how the flow of a game can change with a couple of stops on defense, yet the game still up in the air. Stopping the air attack from the Golden Bears was the key to any success the Sun Devils would have on Saturday night.

By the end of the third quarter, the Sun Devils had fought their way back to within one possession.

Arizona State showed its critics that it had some fight, however it still had a hill to climb.

The fourth quarter is where the rubber hits the road in a close game. Unfortunately for the California Golden Bears, they were the ones who got run over.

With defensive stops, interceptions, and Manny Wilkins making some key passes, the Sun Devils turned a sluggish start into a Sun Devil monsoon at the end.

The Sun Devil defense does have holes in it, but it made the plays down the stretch. Don’t get me wrong, they still gave up 41 points, which something that has to be solved. However, they were a big part of this 51-41 win over California.

Say what you want about Arizona State. It is 4-0 heading into its games with the USC Trojans and then the UCLA Bruins. This game was a confidence boost for the Sun Devils. They have to figure out how to be more consistent on defense and not as sluggish to start games. They fix those two things and who knows what happens.

Well, the psychic might. Forks Up, Sun Devil fans.

Email Mike at [email protected] or follow Mike on Twitter @pigskinopinion

Image: Courtesy Mike Wilson

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The Stanford Cardinal is the Big Dog in the Pac-12

We are beginning conference play in college football now. In the Pac-12, the Stanford Cardinal is showing why it’s their conference to lose.

They are still my top team in the Pac-12, by far. They have already used their bye week in week two. That extra time allowed them to get ready for USC. The extra time gained was put to good use. Stanford made the Trojans look like a team that didn’t know what they were doing on the field.

Christian McCaffrey is up to his usual game day highlights. I don’t think there is a defense in the Pac-12, or the country, that can shut this guy down. McCaffrey had 265 all-purpose yards against the Trojans, but it could have been much more. Having stats like those is becoming the norm for him. Coming into the Pac-12 season, head coach David Shaw was adamant about using his star player in different ways, but didn’t want to overuse him.

“We plan to get Christian the ball whenever and however we can. We have many sets that we plan to use to utilize his talents,” Coach Shaw said at the Pac-12 Media Days.

Shaw is becoming a master at getting his star player the ball. He’s used him in the backfield, slot, out on the perimeter, punt return, and kick-off return. If he could play defense, Coach Shaw would use McCaffrey there as well.

Players of Christian McCaffrey’s caliber don’t come along very often, but when they do they are fun to watch.  Going into his sophomore season I talked about him as a potential play-maker for the Cardinal. However, nobody foresaw the type of play-maker he has become. He has exceeded all expectations set forth by his coaches and it has allowed Stanford to reach heights only dreamed of before.

However, football is not a one-man show. Behind every great team is a great coach.

The other part of the equation for Stanford has been head coach David Shaw. Coach Shaw has a vision for his program and he doesn’t waver from it. He goes after players that fit that vision, but doesn’t stray from the vision he has.

“If a player doesn’t fit the culture we have at Stanford. He’s not for us,” Shaw said recently.

In my opinion, David Shaw is the best coach in the Pac-12 and possibly the entire country. Sorry, Alabama fans.

Shaw has shown that he is flexible in his offensive and defensive schemes. He’s not afraid to be different from the rest of the Pac-12 Conference. While Stanford is known for its physical play and pound the ball type of offense, it has shown that running some tempo offense is not out of its repertoire.

“Most people don’t know about the speed we have on this team. It’s an overlooked facet of our team. We have people that can flat out fly down the field. We would be crazy not to take advantage of the speed we have,” Shaw said.

Coach Shaw has a monster growing in Palo Alto, so he will continue to feed the beast at Stanford to make them the class of the West Coast.

Rumors swirl every year that he might leave for the NFL. He isn’t going anywhere, so keep wishing NFL fans. Stanford is full of intelligent people and to let David Shaw escape campus would be the worst move the school could make.

With the coaching ability of David Shaw and the playmaking ability of Christian McCaffrey it is little wonder why the Stanford Cardinal is the big dog of the Pac-12 Conference.

 

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

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China is a Bad Match for the Pac-12

The recent business pulled from North Carolina due to a transgender law on the books brought up a question about the Pac-12. If the social justice warriors are so upset about the law in North Carolina, what about the Pac-12 doing business with China?

People get behind things that fit their own personal narrative about what is right and wrong. However, when it comes to China people see business and money, not social justice.

If you follow world politics, you know that China is one of the biggest human rights violators. China is a communist country for those of you that conveniently forget that. They also provide a ton of business for the United States. Thus, the crux of the question with China.

The Pac-12 is no different from any other entity, it is looking to expand its brand in this new global economy. While I am all for the Pac-12 expanding its brand and making money,  doing it in China is a bad idea.

I have many questions about this expansion of brand.

What is the end game of these dealings in China? How much is the league spending on this Asian adventure? Do the human rights violations mean anything to anybody?

It is something that does confuse me.

Larry Scott calls this branding expansion a Global Initiative.

“It’s about international brand building, engagement and relationship development. Asia is globally significant to us,” Scott said.

Last year, when the Washington Huskies and the Texas Longhorns had a basketball game in China, the importance of China was clearly shown by university presidents.

David Pershing, the University of Utah President went with the Pac-12 contingent to China for that basketball game. His team wasn’t even involved in the game.

Why would Pershing come along? University presidents see a population that could possibly attend and spend money at their school. Once again, the bottom line is what they see.  They don’t see what the Chinese government does to its citizens.

I understand the attraction of China. It’s a market with a billion people, but it is a market that is suppressed by the government.

Doing business in China means doing business with the Chinese government. The same government that squashed a pro-democracy movement at Tiananmen Square in 1989. People stood in front of tanks, sacrificed their lives, and the lives of their families by taking a stand against their government.

One of the things that the Pac-12 prides itself on is being transparent in its business dealings. Well, excuse me if I don’t buy the transparency part when you crawl into bed with the Chinese.

The conference spent approximately $726,000 on these Global Initiatives in China. Shouldn’t this amount of money be put towards fighting human rights violations in China?

If you want a true Global Initiative, that would be a good one to start for the Pac-12.

I think the conference presidents would benefit more from that with their students, instead of spending that money on athletics.

The Pac-12 Conference should be about what is good for the whole, not just itself. By telling China thanks, but no thanks, you tell other businesses that human rights are more important. Money takes a back seat to what benefits society.

While we throw our monetary condemnation on North Carolina for having a ridiculous law, we need to have the same reaction when we go over to China to do business. If Chinese officials want the business of the Pac-12, they need to show that they are serious about being fair to their own citizens.

However, that won’t happen. Money is what college athletics is about and that will not change anytime soon.

The Chinese will continue to do what they do and the Pac-12 will continue to turn a blind eye to human rights in China.

 

E-mail Mike Wilson at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

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Pac-12 Teams Have Something to Prove in Week Two

The Pac-12 Conference is not expected to make the playoff for the second straight year and after the performance of some of its teams last weekend that could be an easy assertion to make. Which teams need to prove something going into week two?

Arizona State

In reality, the Sun Devils were not going to contend for a division crown this year. What Arizona State had to show to its fans was that they were ready to play right out of the gate, especially with lower division teams. First up was Northern Arizona University.

The ability to put a lower-tier team down quickly is still not there. Well into the third quarter this game was a one possession game. Really ASU? This contest should have been over by halftime at the latest, but the Sun Devils let the Lumberjacks hang around too long. The Devils need to get out of the shoots quickly and not take their time getting warmed up to their opponent.

I know people will say that, with all the new coaches and players, it takes time. That is hogwash.  That’s what the spring and summer camps are for. Get it together Sun Devils.

If the Sun Devils play this slow against Texas Tech, they will lose easily.

California

California had to start their season in Australia against Hawaii. That is asking a lot of any team, but getting the amount of rest that they have got after that game is the bonus side of that equation.

California needs to prove that their offense with new quarterback Davis Webb should be taken seriously because it appeared to struggle at times with Hawaii. Davis did find some rhythm during the Hawaii game, but he needs to show a greater ability to read defenses.

Against San Diego State this weekend, the Bears will have to show a great command on the offensive side of the ball. Webb has to clean up his play on deep balls and show the fans that they can trust him to win ballgames.

The bigger question will be if the defense line can muster any kind of rush at the quarterback. If they can’t get at the opposing quarterback, it’s going to expose the secondary again.

With all the high-powered offenses in the Pac-12, the Golden Bears are going to have to stop somebody, otherwise they will be battling for last place.

USC

What the hell do we do with the USC Trojans? All this hype, all those five star athletes, and all these people thinking that the Trojans are finally back. How did all that work out in the first week?

You saw what happened.

USC needs a dose of reality brought to the program, quickly. They are not as good as everybody makes them out to be. Every single time we think this is the year the Trojans make some noise, they fall flat on their backsides.

The Trojans have the most to prove this week because they have the crazy expectations from everybody.

Is Clay Helton the guy?

He’s 0-3 as the official head coach of the Trojans, not exactly a record that endears himself to the USC fans.

With the Utah State Aggies coming into the L.A. Coliseum the Trojans better have their hard hats on because the Aggies are not a team you want to take lightly. They are 1-0 and looking for more. Utah State has nothing to lose and the Trojans have everything to lose.

Tempers flared up during this week at practice and that causes me to raise more red flags with this program. When you have players fighting each other it usually doesn’t bode well for the following game, or even for the rest of the season.

Washington State

The Cougars came out and laid another opening game egg. For all the talk that Washington State has got over the summer, they’re still showing us they may not be ready for primetime.

Last year, the Cougars did the same thing by losing to Portland State at home, but managed to turn their season around. There is a difference between last year and this year, to me.

Washington State is not sneaking up on anybody this year like they may have done in 2015. There is a bit of a target on their back and they have raised expectations due to their success last year.

Head coach Mike Leach was frustrated with the defense.

“We couldn’t play any dang’gum defense last week,” Leach said in the weekly conference call with the media.

The other issue I saw was with leadership from the quarterback, Luke Falk.

Luke Falk has to show that he can take that next step in getting his team to win games that they should. Falk puts up video game numbers, but to be a great quarterback, leading your team to wins is what it is all about. He needs to show he can put a team on his back and win the game. He didn’t do that in week one.

Week two is against the Boise State Broncos on the road. Boise State is a quality team and playing on the smurf turf has brought many teams to their knees. The Cougars certainly have their work cut out for them this weekend.

If the Cougars can’t get this win the whole season could be a disaster for them. Mike Leach bought some time with the winning season last year, but reverting back to a mediocre team will make his seat hot.

E-mail Mike at mike {dot} wilson {at} campuspressbox {dot} com or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion

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Jim Mora Isn’t Afraid of the Challenge at College Station and that’s Refreshing to Hear

Being able to talk to coaches during game week is something that many media types enjoy because of possible story lines being made. It can also very mundane because all you get is “coach speak”. Coaches are going to let you know what they want you to know and dodge any tough question. With that being said, the Pac-12 had their weekly conference call on Tuesday.

The coaches were talking in general terms, but there were a couple coaches that were not afraid of being up front about things. Hearing that confidence was like getting a nice, cool breeze on your face in the summer.

What was said during this conference call?

Let’s start with the biggest name in the conference. USC.

The USC Trojans have the most difficult schedule in the country. They are lining up against National Champion Alabama. Head coach Clay Helton is very familiar with the OC of the Crimson Tide Lane Kiffin and what he likes to do. According to Helton, he certainly is trying to use what he knows about Kiffin against him.

“Every team has tendencies. You try and find tendencies by groupings and personnel groupings. Lane has things he likes in short yardage, on the goal line, and between the 20’s. I’m looking forward to the chess match.” Helton said.

Through all the questions on Kiffin, Clay Helton let nothing but compliments fly out over the phone. No surprise there. Helton and Kiffin worked together. Lane Kiffin gave Clay Helton his shot at coaching at USC, so expecting anything but praise from Helton would be a surprise.

Washington head coach Chris Peterson has a team that is receiving a lot of hype was excited about getting the season started. I was expecting him to deflect the hype.

“We have talked about the hype. They know that we have to prove it on the field. We were only 7-6 last season and now we are supposed to be some great team. The players know the hype means nothing unless we show it on the field.”

With Peterson and his Husky squad fully taking on the hype, knowing it’s there, but realizing it means nothing is refreshing to see. There is talent on the Huskies, but they absolutely have to show it on the field. The number 14 ranking they got by the AP was too high in my opinion. That ranking was based on pure speculation that the talent they have takes the next step.

Prove me wrong Washington. I’d love to see a return of the Dawgs.

UCLA comes in as the favorite in the south division. Jim Mora is looking forward to the game with Texas A&M.

“Our young men love to compete. We are getting that opportunity on Saturday. An SEC environment, a chance to compete is what our guys are after. We want to take advantage of that.” Mora mentioned.

Mora’s Bruins do not want to back down from anybody this year. They know the target is on their back.  He is certainly putting it out there that his Bruins are not afraid about getting a tough first game.

If people think the Bruins will be bothered by the noise at College Station, think again. Dealing with noise is nothing new for UCLA.

“Oregon, Arizona, and Washington all have some of the best stadiums in terms of crowd noise, so College Station won’t be anything new for us.” Mora explained.

“The players know that College Station is going to be loud, but we practice with noise to try and help with communication.” Mora said.

Mora is doing his part to make sure his team is ready for the challenge of an SEC team.

Coaches don’t let anything out of the bag on a game week and hearing them talk about their upcoming games that was evident.

However, I liked how both Chris Peterson of Washington and Jim Mora of UCLA were straightforward in their answers about the season. They both had a matter-of-fact tone in their voices.

Dodging questions about your opponent or not saying what you think about your chances in a particular game is pretty stupid. Don’t be afraid of bulletin board material.

Putting up bulletin board material up for the other team is overrated to me. Fans and media make too much about that. Peterson and Mora sound like they expect to win and really are not afraid to say so. I like it when coaches show the confidence in their team. A little bravado doesn’t hurt anybody.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @pigskinopinion.

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The 2016 Pac-12 Champion Will Be One of These Two Teams Not Named USC

Winning the Pac-12 Conference in football is a difficult thing to accomplish. The conference is known for being one that eat its own, and this year won’t be any different. The question that gets asked this time of year is who will be playing for the Pac-12 Championship?

Stanford and UCLA will be the two teams left standing at the end of the season.

Why?

Stanford

Stanford returns to the title game after winning the Pac-12 title in 2015. Under head coach David Shaw, the Cardinal has won conference titles, gone to three Rose Bowl’s, and was very close to squeezing into college football playoff. The experience of this success will be something for Stanford to rely on in 2016. Experience counts for something in football and Stanford has experience in spades.

Christian McCaffrey will have something to say about the Cardinal getting to the title game. McCaffrey is coming off a season that was one for the record books, but he will be will looking to show that 2015 was not a fluke.

Coach David Shaw has one plan.

“We will get Christian the ball as much as humanly possible. We would be crazy to think otherwise.” Shaw explained at the Pac-12 Media Days in July.

The other part of Stanford that I believe will help them return to the Pac-12 title game is their ability to line up and smash teams. The Pac-12 is a finesse conference, so having the ability to line up and act like an SEC team is advantageous for them.

Stanford is replacing a couple of players on the offensive line, but they have shown that they can find big, tough guys for the offensive line and it works.

Being in the Pac-12 North will be tough on Stanford. They have to play at Oregon, at Washington, and Washington State at home. Nothing easy there. Plus they have to travel to Notre Dame, so that’ll be another challenge.

However, when it’s all said and done, the Stanford Cardinal will be the representative from the North Division.

UCLA

The Bruins come into this season as one of the teams that has a returning quarterback, and at this level that means a hell of a lot.

Josh Rosen is becoming a household name, and if he leads the Bruins to a conference championship he becomes a nationwide name. Rosen is the biggest key to the Bruins chances in the Pac-12 South.

Josh Rosen is easily the most talented Bruin, but he’s not the only talent on the offensive side of the ball for the Bruins.

Rosen has a talented trio of running backs that will provide much-needed punch to the offense. Keep your eye on Soso Jamabo, Nate Starks, and Bolu Olorunfunmi. There is plenty of speed between the three of those players to create problems for the opposing team.

UCLA will be the winners in the South because of Rosen and the ability of the offensive line to protect him. There are some new faces on the line, but Texas transfer Jake Raulerson joins the Bruins this season to solidify the o-line.

The schedule for the Bruins is one that works well for them. They avoid Oregon and Washington, but have to face Stanford, USC, Utah, and Arizona at home. Three those four teams are South division teams, so those wins are crucial.

UCLA has the talent, schedule, and quarterback to get them to the Pac-12 Championship game against Stanford.

Pac-12 Champion

Stanford wins the conference title again with Christian McCaffrey as the best all-around player in the country, a tough offensive line, and the best coach in the Pac-12 in David Shaw. I trust what Coach Shaw is doing with his program. Shaw’s results speak for themselves. UCLA is talented and has the best quarterback in the conference with Josh Rosen. However, Stanford just has more experience, toughness, and talent right now than UCLA. Stanford beats UCLA 45-21.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

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Brady White can Energize the Arizona State Fan Base

The Arizona State Sun Devils are in the exact opposite position that they found themselves in at this point last season. In 2015 the Devils had an established quarterback ready to go, but with three weeks to go before the 2016 opener against Northern Arizona University they have yet to name their starting quarterback.

New offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey has to make a decision quickly, in my honest opinion. The sooner the offense can get used to a voice in the huddle and leader on the field, the better it’ll be for the Sun Devils.

There are three candidates that Lindsey has to choose from. They are sophomore Manny Wilkins, true freshman Brady White, and sophomore Bryce Perkins. However, with Perkins dealing with an injury, Lindsey’s choice is only between Wilkins and White.

With one of his choices being a true freshman, the coaching staff might be willing to have a go at the two-quarterback system if either player doesn’t separate themselves in fall camp. Going with a two-quarterback system is a recipe for disaster.

If you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterback, because part of football is building consistency within the team. By possibly changing quarterbacks every other series, the consistency is lost for an offense that needs to establish itself as quickly as possible.

True freshman Brady White is the best option for the coaching staff to go with.

White is one of the most highly recruited players to ever don a Sun Devil uniform, and head coach Todd Graham has every reason to be impressed with the albeit young quarterback.

As Graham explained at media day, “He’s confident, mature, and highly intelligent. You don’t have to remind him about what needs to be done with every play.”

For only being 18 years of age, this is high praise coming for Graham. White is also a highly competitive player who’s not going to take a back seat to anybody on the field. When I asked him what could separate him from the other quarterbacks, he was very matter-of-fact.

“I have that next level quarterback mentality. I am confident in my abilities and I want to succeed on this level.” White said.

This is the self-confidence that is needed on this Sun Devil team and it’s something that White learned from watching last year’s starter, Mike Bercovici.

“He (Bercovici) never doubted himself even when things were not going well for him or the team. He had full confidence in what he was doing. I want to be like that.” White said during the ASU media day.

White will commit mistakes like all freshmen quarterbacks tend to do, but if the coaches are committed to letting him learn from those freshman moments, the team and White will benefit in long run.  Arizona State needs a jump start to the program and a way to keep the fan base interested and a young, confident quarterback is exactly the type of player who can energize the fan base.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.