Tag Archives: Arizona State Sun Devils

The Oversaturation Killing the NFL is Good for College Football

All this time, the NFL has seemed so bullet-proof, but we’re seeing vulnerability in the armor. People aren’t watching as much, and they don’t like the way the product is being dispersed.

What plagues the professional game actually seems to aid college football. While we understand Saturday remains the best day to see the best games, we don’t feel like the occasional Thursday or Friday games are scheduled to do us dirty.

You want to play one of these games on the moon at 4 o’clock on a Tuesday, College Football fans will adjust. Just tell them when/where the tailgate is, and they’re cool.

Tell an NFL fan that Sunday Ticket is only offering a game that his antenna won’t in the late spot on Sunday, and they’re livid with London and Thursday Night Football. The presentation of the NFL game is too clean for fans to adapt to these random game-time windows.

College Football fans see Thursday, and now also Tuesday and Wednesday, as an opportunity to showcase a game that might be buried on ESPNU or some dreaded streaming option at noon on Saturday.

Western Michigan is the “Other” Team

Last Tuesday, the nation’s “other” unbeaten team had the undivided attention of the College Football diehards in Muncie. Maybe a 32-point win over Ball State isn’t that sexy on paper, but did you see what Corey Davis did?

Do you feel anything was flukey about Western Michigan’s 9-0 start? Maybe you understand the pecking order, and where the Mid-American Conference gets pecked. Maybe there’s an obligation to qualify the two road wins over the Big Ten by reminding everyone that Illinois was one of those wins. Maybe you wonder if the MAC juggernaut deserves to be on the field with a mid-major darling like Boise State.

Friday night, by the way, a nationwide audience was given a chance to watch the other Broncos bounce back from their first loss of the season, which happened on October 29.

Remember the 80s?

Just for kicks, you could have watched games involving Oklahoma and Colorado last Thursday. Maybe something like that would have excited you more 25-30 years ago, but those games affect the outcome of the Big 12 and Pac-12, because the present is weird.

You love it, and it takes nothing away from Saturday afternoon or evening.

Election Threads and Football on the Diamond

This coming Tuesday, Eastern Michigan will continue a semi-annual MAC tradition of paying homage to democracy with Election Day uniforms, back in Muncie–for #MACtion. Speaking of everyone’s favorite non-defense-playing conference, you’ll be sure to see Cubs fans from DeKalb to Northern Ohio trolling Guaranteed Rate Field on Chicago’s south side this Wednesday.

It’s football at a baseball stadium. Yeah, Northwestern and Illinois got Wrigley on a Saturday, and GameDay went to Wrigleyville. This next chapter in the great Toledo-Northern Illinois saga might get Roy Philbott, Rocky Boiman, and an ESPN2 production crew to urban Illinois on a school night.

Does Anyone Get Pac-12 Network?

Thursday, we get Utah in the Valley of the Sun, for the FS1 weekend preview. It’s up to the Utes to prove that anyone other than Washington is worth a damn in that conference. This game isn’t being stolen from ABC at 3:30, but more likely from a channel you don’t get, even if you live in Phoenix or Salt Lake City.

NBC is Glad It’s You, Not Them

CBS gave you three games on Saturday, just as they would when they have London and the 1 PM/4 PM doubleheader on Sunday. They got Notre Dame because they have Navy rights. Notre Dame lost again; great moment for Navy. Is College Football worse off for the Irish’s 3-6 campaign?

I doubt CBS or Navy care. They’re going to care about records a lot more in December when they’re selling some lousy SEC East team’s upset potential against Alabama in Atlanta.

Hurts Donut?

Speaking of the Tide, Jalen Hurts may have provided the only offensive spark for Alabama in a 10-0 win in Death Valley at night. There’s a joke to be told including Alabama’s quarterback’s last name and a breakfast food that looks like a zero, but I’m striking out.

The networks are hitting it out of the park though and in doing so, they’ve won us over with quantity over quality. More may mean too much on Sunday, but we love it on Saturday, Thursday, and sometimes Tuesday.

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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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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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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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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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Predicted: 2016 Power 5 Conference Champions

This week’s piece is the second of three pieces i will be writing previewing the college football season. Last week was a focus on predicting the champions of the group of 5 conferences, and if you want to read that first, you can find it here. Next week will be the finale of the preview series, with a look at the NY6 Bowl Games and the College Football Playoff.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Clemson Tigers (12-0) vs. Miami Hurricanes (9-3)

Both sides of the ACC are going to be races between the top 2-3 teams. In the Atlantic decision, those teams are Clemson, FSU, and a sleeper Louisville, while in the Coastal those teams are Miami, UNC and VT. I expect the Clemson Tigers to ride Deshaun Watson to another undefeated regular season, with its biggest challenge obviously being down at FSU. None the less, I expect Clemson to be matured by its title game run last season, and I see the Tigers edging out FSU in a tightly contested match.

In the Coastal Division, while VT could pose a threat, I think this division title is really between Miami and UNC. And that being said, UNC’s out of conference schedule is much more difficult, with a game vs. Georgia at the Georgia Dome to kick off the season. Miami, on the other hand, starts off its season with three super tough opponents…Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic and Appalachian State. Given that start to the season, I think Miami advances to the ACC Championship by a game over the Heels. It is important to note that FSU, with only a single loss to Clemson, would still be a huge contender for the CFP.

Conference Champion: Clemson Tigers

Big 12

Conference Contenders: Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State and Baylor

While 2017 may be the return of a championship game for the Big 12, the lack of one this year will make the conference title race an interesting one to say the least. While OSU and Baylor will factor in, this race should and will come down to Oklahoma and TCU. And looking at its respective schedules, it’s hard to not see a difference between the two. TCU starts off with South Dakota State, Arkansas, Iowa State (who, for the record, always has an upset up its sleeve) and SMU. I would be surprised if going into its week 5 matchup with Oklahoma, TCU was not undefeated. Now, Oklahoma’s road to that matchup is extremely different. Going into the TCU matchup, Oklahoma has to battle through Houston and Ohio State, and to a much, much lesser degree the ULM Warhawks. Personally, I think the Sooners drop both the UH and Buckeye games. But, even if Oklahoma makes it out of those games without a loss, it will be exhausted from the extreme competition it has faced already. Even with two weeks to prepare for the TCU matchup, I believe the Sooners will be at a disadvantage, and lose to the Horned Frogs. After that matchup, I think the Big 12 conference matchups will give both TCU and Oklahoma some trouble, and I see both dropping a total of 2 in conference matchups.

 

Conference Champion: TCU (10-2)

Big Ten

Prediction: Ohio State (12-0) vs. Iowa (9-3)

Oh boy, here we go again. We finally have a Big Ten that is properly returned to form. And with that return to form, I have a bold prediction. On November 26th, ten years and 8 days after the historic matchup, we will see “The Game of the Century” Part 2 in Columbus, Ohio. Going into, what I believe, is the biggest rivalry in college, and maybe all of, sports, other than Ohio State’s challenge in Oklahoma, and both of their needs to beat Michigan State, we could easily see both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines be undefeated going into the matchup. Now, for me personally, this idea sends shivers down my spine, as, having grown up in the great state of Ohio, I both hate Michigan and also attended the 1 vs 2 game back in 2006. Now because of J.T. Barrett, Heisman finalist (and for my sanity as an Ohioan), I see the Horseshoe being stormed with Buckeye fans after a thrilling victory over the team up north. …oh, sorry, Big Ten West, I (and everyone else in the country) almost forgot about you. Iowa should be able to take the Big Ten west crown, and I see them doing so at a pace of 9-3.

Conference Champion: The Ohio State Buckeyes

Southeastern Conference

Prediction: Alabama (11-1) vs. Tennessee (10-2)

The SEC division titles seem to be two sets of three team races. Tennessee, Georgia and Florida will fight for the East, whilst ‘Bama, LSU and Ole Miss will fight for the West. I would be shocked, given the strength of the conference as a whole, to see any team come out of the SEC undefeated. That being said, however, Alabama is an easy pick for a division champ, as the Crimson Tide are of course, the reigning national campions. And nothing has shown me anything to doubt ‘Bama coming into 2016. LSU, behind Fournette, a Heisman candidate, will give Alabama a run for its money, but I think ‘Bama will prove to be the superior team.

Now in the East Division, things are more of a crapshoot. While Tennessee may be the most likely division champ, the Volunteer’s inconsistent play over the last several years is what the Bulldogs and Gators are counting on. If Tennessee falters, even slightly, one of those two will look to poach the division. However, I think Florida’s current QB situation makes it a less likely champion than UGA or Tennessee. Expect Tennessee to, despite some struggles, grind out the East.

Conference Champion: Alabama Crimson Tide

Pac-12

Prediction: Stanford (10-2) vs. UCLA (9-3)

The Pac-12 is a mess. It currently lacks a single team to help bring the conference back into prominence. Oregon will be good this year but not great, as the Ducks will get between 7-9 wins in the North. Oregon needs to watch out for its out of conference games against Virginia and Nebraska, as both teams could send the Ducks into a tail spin (pun intended) early in the season. I think Washington State, though the current favorite for conference champion, will struggle with its early conference matchups, as they play a large number of difficult conference opponents to start the Cougars conference play. I think the consistently decent Stanford Cardinal will be able to once again claim the North.

The South is in no better shape, as UCLA, USC, Utah, ASU, and Arizona are all decent teams, but not one of them stands out from the field. I think UCLA, being the program at the highest level of the current South Contenders, will be able to take the South in fairly mild fashion. The Bruins biggest challenge is facing BYU and Stanford in back to back weeks, but UCLA needs to make sure that they can recover in the possibility that it loses both games. If UCLA does start to falter, the South could still be very much up for grabs.

Conference Champion: Stanford Cardinal

E-mail Cooper at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @uf_goetz.

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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.

The Washington Huskies’ Bark is Worse than its Bite

Hype can be a dangerous thing for any football team. It can motivate a team to loftier goals or it can do just the opposite. Hype causes expectations to get raised by the media, fans, and players. The 2016 Pac-12 Conference team that is receiving hype is the Washington Huskies. Have the Huskies done something to deserve the hype? Can they live up to the hype or will they wilt under this new pressure?

I don’t think the hype is warranted for the Huskies.

First of all, the Huskies have not beaten a team of consequence in the Pac-12. Beat an Oregon, a UCLA, Stanford, and I’ll buy into the hype that a lot of people want to throw upon Washington. The program has lost 12 straight to the Ducks and with the game being in Eugene this year, that streak doesn’t appear to be ending. Stanford is favored to win the conference, so that’ll be a game in which getting a win will be tough. UCLA has probably the best quarterback in the conference and that’ll make defeating the Bruins that much harder.

The Huskies did beat USC last season, but beating the drama filled Trojans last season isn’t saying much.

Here’s why I don’t trust the Huskies and all this hype. In one possession games last season, they were 1-3, with the lone win being over USC. However, when you take into account the six other top-50 programs that were on the schedule they were a dismal 0-6. Washington was competitive in those games, but being competitive is one thing, while actually winning those games is something totally different.

Win those games this year and I’ll climb on board the Husky train. Until then, I don’t think so.

The hype has surrounded their young quarterback Jake Browning, but putting this pressure on Browning can actually work against his development. If things start going south for him it could get ugly. Young quarterbacks start forcing things into tight windows on their throws and doing things that they are not ready to do. Browning is good, but being ready to lead can be a difficult thing for any quarterback. He needs to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump for Washington to make believers out of more than their fans.

Do the Huskies have some nice pieces? Absolutely, but these pieces don’t warrant Pac-12 Championship talk. At least not yet.

Having seen them in person against Arizona State last season I certainly saw the potential with the team. Washington was as athletic as anybody, but their youth was evident. Turnovers and penalties helped destroy what would have been a nice road win.  The good, young skill players that they have still needed some seasoning.

Chris Peterson spoke of this breakthrough moniker at the Pac-12 football Media Days. He compared the hype surrounding his team to the new Pokemon game that is taking over everyone’s phone.

“We’re amused-that’s probably the best word-that we continually get better every single week with doing nothing. We have as much hype as the new Pokemon game that nobody knows anything about, but thinks is really cool.” Peterson said.

Peterson has a point. The Huskies are coming off a season where the record was only 7-6. He seems a bit befuddled about why his team is getting this love.

“We want to get out there, and get better, and we want to get a chance to go prove that we’re getting better.” Coach Peterson explained at the Pac-12 Media Days.

At the end of the day, the Huskies have a tough road ahead of them in the Pac-12 North division. They have to battle two of their biggest rivals in Oregon and Washington State. The Huskies also have to contend with Stanford as well. Washington has to beat two out of these three teams to legitimately have a shot at the division crown.

The Washington Huskies may be the hyped Pac-12 team going into the season, but don’t expect the hype to be fulfilled.

 

Image: google

Pac-12 Football Media Days: Day Two

With the second day of the Pac-12 football media days, we got to hear what the other half of the conference believes in regards to their football program. Arizona State, Colorado, Oregon State, Stanford, UCLA, and Washington concluded the media days here in Hollywood, California.

The VP of Pac-12 officiating, David Coleman, started things off today. With the reputation that the Pac-12 has with their football officials this had the possibility of being an interesting question and answer session. Did it turn out that way?

Not at all. Very few questions were asked. The conference will be able to use replay again to help determine targeting on a defenseless player. Players won’t be allowed to trip anymore, but to me that rule could almost be called every play.

David Coleman seemed pleased that 76% of on-field and replay staff earned postseason game assignments. He did acknowledge that while that number was good, it can still go higher. Coleman also stated that they are constantly refining their techniques to be better on the field and in the booth. Of course they are, with the reputation the Pac-12 has, they better be refining their skills as much as possible.

Arizona State

Coming off a disappointing 2015 campaign, the Sun Devils are looking for a turnaround for this upcoming year.

First thing is first, will they have a field to play on come September 3?

“We are looking forward to this remodel of Sun Devil Stadium and what it means for the school and community. What I have been told, we will be good to go for our first game against Northern Arizona.” head coach Todd Graham explained.

One point of emphasis will be getting Tim White, their punt returner, kick returner, and receiver the ball as much as possible. White is a guy who has speed for days.

“That’ll be his job. Get the ball and go.” Coach Graham said when talking about Tim White.

There is uncertainty surrounding the program after the lofty expectations last season and not living up to those expectations.

One thing is certain, the Devils have to get back in the conversation of a division crown.

Oregon State

Well, what can we say here about the Beavers? There are in the midst of a massive rebuild of the program that was lefty empty by Mike Riley.

However, head coach Gary Andersen remains upbeat about the program, but is also realistic at the same time about the current state of the program.

“I want the kids to know that they can compete when they come running out of the tunnel. Not just running their lips or running up and down the field at the beginning of the game, but to feel that they can compete with any team.” Andersen said.

When I asked him about the status of Seth Collins, the former quarterback, who left the program, but returned under some pretty tough conditions.

“Seth is back and doing everything asked of him and he will be used on the outside, slot, and even under quarterback to change up the look of the game.” Coach Andersen explained.

Coach Andersen is looking for new quarterback Darrell Garretson to lead this team. Garretson’s teammates have noticed his command of a huddle.

“He gets everybody in the huddle and takes charge of it. There is no doubt who is control in the huddle.” Victor Bolden, Beaver receiver, mentioned.

Whatever Coach Andersen is doing, he’s going to need time. Be patient Beaver Believers.

UCLA

The Bruins are heading into the next season with a target on their back. They are one of the teams in the conference coming back with an experienced quarterback.

Sophomore, Josh Rosen, will be coming to put his mark on the storied program at UCLA. Coach Mora is pleased with the progress he’s seen in Rosen.

“He’s certainly stronger. He’s been in the weight room and is showing better footwork.” Coach Mora said.

If Rosen comes back and puts together a season like everyone has envisioned since he arrived on campus, watch out. Most analysts believe he is the best quarterback in the conference and has the ability to put a team on his back to secure a win.

Expectations are high at UCLA, but that is nothing new for them. They embrace the challenge.

Washington

The preseason hype with the Huskies is immense. However, you would need to convince Coach Petersen that it matters.

“I know the rankings mean something for the fans, but for us, it doesn’t mean anything. We are concentrating on getting better everyday, not any type of ranking we may have.” Coach Petersen said.

Much of the attention that the program is getting is due to talented quarterback Jake Browning who is coming off a successful freshman season.

When asked about Browning and his progression as a quarterback Coach Petersen came with an interesting response.

“He will get better when the offensive line, tight ends, receivers, running backs get better. Browning understands that. He’s only as good as the people around him.” Petersen said.

The interesting thing will be how the players respond to the heightened attention they are getting this season.

Stanford

David Shaw’s opening remark was good.

“Hello everybody, I’m David Shaw. Not sure if you know me.” Shaw said.

Stanford was chosen by the writers to win the Pac-12 this upcoming year. With players like Christian McCaffrey on his team, there is good reason to believe that they accomplish that goal.

Coach Shaw was asked about his comments about the type of player they recruit and his saying that going to the south may not be a choice for the Cardinal.

“Let me speak slowly. When we recruit, we have like 20, 22 guys on the board. We don’t recruit 30-35 kids. It’s not about going to the south or the northwest. We have guidelines we need to stick to that other schools don’t.” Shaw said.

He’s right. Unless the player has the grades to attend Stanford, they won’t go after that kid.

Stanford has the players and the talent to win the conference. Now let’s see if they can do that.

Colorado

Is this the year? Buff fans have been saying this for a couple seasons now. The fans want to see some progress, but when you don’t win, it’s tough on a program.

Coach Mike MacIntyre was upbeat the improvements to the stadium and around the program to help in recruiting.

“We are hopeful that the improvements we are making as a program will lead to more talent coming to CU.” MacIntyre said.

The key to Colorado this season will be the health of returning quarterback Sefo Liufau. He sustained a leg/foot injury last season and killed any momentum the program had. Liufau has been told he will be good to go for the beginning of the season.

Colorado has been playing catch with the rest of the league since Coach MacIntyre arrived.

“We’ve made progress, but everybody was driving 80mph, and we were caught in the slow lane with car problems.” MacIntyre explained.

Colorado is still in catch up mode, let’s see if they can get to that fast lane of the Pac-12 Conference.