Tag Archives: Josh Rosen

How Many Games Will the SEC Lose This Weekend?

The SEC has plenty of all-but-guaranteed wins in the first week of the 2017 college football season. But, the SEC also has multiple games that are toss-ups and some that look like likely losses.

As a lover of all things SEC football, I’ve been contemplating what kind of record the SEC will emerge from this opening weekend of games with.

Last year, the ACC proved to be stronger than many anticipated (even though I made an early call on that one). But with three at least decent ACC opponents scheduled for SEC teams this first weekend, should the SEC be worried?

There’s also that Michigan-Florida rematch from about a year and a half ago when the Wolverines annihilated the Gators in the Citrus Bowl. Should we go ahead and give this one to Michigan, too?

What about Texas A&M and UCLA? Aggies Head Coach Kevin Sumlin is undoubtedly on the hot seat this season. Will he be able to get his second-straight win over the Bruins and ease the pressure down in College Station a bit?

Unfortunately, I am not Brandon Stark and I do not have “the sight.” I cannot give you a completely confident answer for any of those questions I just posed. I can, however, give you a few game predictions along with my reasoning for my picks.

The NC State Wolfpack and South Carolina Gamecocks face off on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC. This game poses an interesting offense-defense matchup for the teams. NC State has a powerful defensive line but will be lacking in the secondary. South Carolina may be lacking on the offensive line, but boasts one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC this season in Jake Bentley. ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) gives NC State a 62.7% chance of winning this game. After seeing how the ACC fared last season and considering the intriguing matchup, I give a slight edge to the Wolfpack here as well. Regardless of the outcome, I expect this to be a close contest.

The Florida State Seminoles and Alabama Crimson Tide also face off in an ACC-SEC matchup on Saturday in Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. I’ll never be one to bet against Nick Saban and Alabama, but if I were going to bet against him, I would be considering this game. ESPN’s FPI may give the Tide a 59%-41% advantage over the Seminoles, but the computers don’t know everything. Alabama returns numerous important pieces of its puzzle, and so does Florida State. Florida State seems to have the advantage on offense while Alabama has the defensive advantage. At the end of the day, this will probably come down to coaching. And in that scenario, I’ll take Nick Saban.

The Tennessee Volunteers play another ACC opponent next Monday, when they also visit Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face off against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. A few weeks ago, I would’ve said Tennessee was likely in trouble in this game. After the Yellow Jackets dismissed top returning running back Dedrick Mills from the team, Tennessee’s chances to win this game surged. After a rough 2016 season defensively, the Vols might have had trouble defending such a dynamic offense. But the loss of Mills will be insurmountable for the Yellow Jackets at this point in the season, giving Tennessee a good shot at winning this game. And for what it’s worth, ESPN’s FPI also gives the Vols a good shot here with a 68.1%-31.9% advantage.

The Michigan Wolverines take on The Florida Gators on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. Due to a 41-7 Michigan win over Florida in the Citrus Bowl the concluded the teams’ 2015 seasons, there is doubt that Florida can even put up a good fight. Michigan returns almost nobody noteworthy from that 2015 team. So, I find that bowl victory to be irrelevant. Florida returns multiple starters, boasts a very talented receiving corps, and has very capable young defensive players to fill gaps left by last year’s departures. Michigan returns talent and has young players stepping up as well, make no mistake. But because of Florida Coach Jim McElwain, I’m leaning toward the Gators for this huge matchup. ESPN’s FPI isn’t any help here, being a near-toss-up at Michigan 50.5%, Florida 49.5%.

The Texas A&M Aggies travel to Pasadena, CA, this weekend to take on the UCLA Bruins. Last season, these two teams kicked off the season in College Station, TX, with an overtime thriller. The Aggies finished the 2016 regular season at 8-4 while the Bruins finished at 4-8. The Aggies lost countless starters, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Their season is as unpredictable as ever under Head Coach Kevin Sumlin. The Bruins finished 4-8 last season, only winning one game after losing starting QB Josh Rosen to a season-ending injury. With Rosen back, the Bruins could be poised to bounce back with a vengeance this season. Because of Rosen and Texas A&M’s departures, I have to give the edge to UCLA here. ESPN’s FPI will back me up on this one, giving the Bruins a 68.4% chance of winning this game.

The question I posed remains. How many losses will the SEC endure in its first week of play this season? If you go by my answers here, it’s only two. But with a couple of my SEC wins being close calls, I wouldn’t be surprised to see three or four losses from the SEC this weekend.

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You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @KristenBotica.

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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Big Pac-12 Football Games for 2016

Before any football season starts fans and writers take a look at what games look to be considered the big games. Sometimes it’s a non-conference game, but most of the time it turns out to be a few games during the regular season that fans look forward to. It’s time to take a look at what the Pac-12  big games will be for 2016.

September 3: UCLA at Texas A&M. The Bruins are considered by many to be the favorites in the South division and by some to be the favorites to win the conference. However, if they want to live up to those expectations they need to get a win at College Station. Heisman Trophy talk will certainly pick up for Josh Rosen if he can lead his team to a convincing win against the Aggies, so there will be a ton of eyes on this opening game for the Bruins. This is a table-setting type of game for UCLA if they can get the win.

September 3: USC vs Alabama. Head coach Clay Helton has a daunting task in front of him and his team right out of the gate by taking on the defending national champion. Many people consider this game a win for Alabama, but the outcome of this game will have repercussions for both the Pac-12 and SEC for the rest of the year. The playoff committee will certainly have their eyes on this game and it will be appointment television because of the tradition for both of these programs.

September 17: USC at Stanford. This will be the first big game test for the Cardinal and their own quarterback issues for which they still haven’t named their starter. Will Stanford be able to make a statement in terms of the playoff race and conference crown with a win here? Can USC avoid being 0-2 after a possible loss to the Crimson Tide or will they be building off an incredible win? At least we won’t have to worry about Pat Haden coming down from the press box to defend his coach.

October 1: Oregon at Washington State. This will be another one of those statement games for both teams. Washington State is coming off a season in which they had a lot of success. Some of that success was beating the Ducks in Eugene and that is no easy feat. This will be the first big game for new Duck quarterback Dakota Prukop and we will see if he can handle the pressure of a hostile crowd. This will also be a game in which Luke Falk can put his name into some possible Heisman Trophy talk.

October 8: Washington at Oregon. This is a rivalry game that hasn’t been much of a rivalry. The Ducks have 12 straight victories over the Huskies, but I think this is the year that Washington breaks through. The Huskies may have one of the best backfields in the conference and possibly in the country. Jake Browning, Husky quarterback, is looking to stay away from the sophomore slump and prove that he is an elite Pac-12 quarterback. For the first time in a while, the Huskies may have the same amount of talent that Oregon does, so keep your eye on this game in early October. I’m taking the Huskies in this one.

October 22: Utah at UCLA. Once the season rolls around to this game we may be looking at both of these teams being in a spot to challenge for the division title and certainly a conference title game berth. Utah has Joe Williams replacing Devontae Booker this season and Williams proved he is more than capable of replacing the All-American Booker. Will UCLA be able to put the Utes challenge down in a pivotal game at The Rose Bowl?

November 19: USC at UCLA. This just may be the game that decides the Pac-12 South division. Will Josh Rosen have the Bruins primed to crash the College Football Playoff? Do the Trojans come into this game with an undefeated record or with one loss? If the scenario is having both teams vying for a playoff spot or at the very least being in the conversation then the eyes of Southern California and probably the rest of the country will be on this game. I will take the Bruins in this game because I believe Rosen will have the Bruins rolling by this time.

The Pac-12, as always, will be a conference that will eat its own. The 2016 season will be no different and I still believe that the conference is left out of the playoff for a second consecutive season. I hope that I am wrong with that statement, but with a ton questions at the quarterback position, it’s going to be tough for a Pac-12 team to break through.

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The Face of the Pac-12: Christian McCaffrey or Josh Rosen?

When you think of your favorite conferences or teams in this country you usually associate a player with said conference or team. Many people like to call it “The Face of the Franchise.” It got me thinking about how that saying applies to football in the Pac-12 Conference? Who is the face of the Pac-12, Josh Rosen or Christian McCaffrey?

At first glance, you might say Christian McCaffrey due to his finishing second in the 2015 Heisman Trophy voting and the highlight reel he created in his record-setting season last year.

If you believe Josh Rosen is the face of the Pac-12 then you are probably thinking long-term because he’s only going to be a true sophomore in 2016. He plays in the entertainment capital of the world and the amount of publicity you can get when you’re good in Los Angeles is unparalleled. Rosen has created his own highlight reel as a true freshman, but is it on the same level as McCaffrey’s?

What about Heisman Trophy possibilities for 2016?

Both of these players have a shot at winning the Heisman Trophy, but to different degrees.

Let’s start with Josh Rosen.

Rosen was the number one quarterback coming out of high school in 2014 and won the starting quarterback position at UCLA. Hcertainly proved to be worth the risk of starting a true freshman at, arguably, the most important position on a football team. The success of Rosen last season should have head coach Jim Mora excited about the prospect of an even better season in 2016.

The Bruins were 4-0 out of the gate last season, and while they did fade a little bit toward the end of the season, it was quite apparent that Rosen was going to leave his imprint on the Pac-12 by the time he’s done.

Here’s the imprint he’s made so far.

Josh Rosen threw for 3,669 yards, 23 touchdowns, had a quarterback rating of 134, and earned First Team Freshman All-American honors.

He also showed that he had a big arm that is accurate downfield and the ability to break down opposing defenses. Here is the other aspect that will have Rosen’s name in the Heisman talk: He takes care of the ball. He had a streak of 245 consecutive passes without an interception last season.

For writers who are asleep by the time Rosen is on the field, that consecutive pass statistic will be something they latch onto when they look at whether or not Rosen should be a legitimate Heisman candidate.

To me, Rosen is a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate. Every Heisman winner has “Heisman moments/highlights” and Rosen will have to have those in 2016 to even have a shot at it.

Christian McCaffrey, like Rosen, comes into the 2016 season with impressive stats and a highlight reel that is second to none in college football.

Unlike Rosen, however, McCaffrey already is placed at the top of many Heisman Trophy voters’ lists.

What McCaffrey did in 2015 was nothing short of a phenomenal. He should have won the Heisman, period. He’s the most versatile player in the conference and you could make the argument that he is the most complete player in the country. Sorry Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State fans, if he were on your team you would believe the same thing as all of us on the West Coast.

To provide some context for why Christian McCaffrey is getting all this love, let me remind you of his statistics.

McCaffrey had 3,496 all-purpose yards (NCAA record), 2,019 rushing, 6.0 yards per carry, 645 yards receiving, 13 total touchdowns, and 832 yards on kick returns/punt returns. If there was ever a drop the mic moment for a player, this would be it.

What are the odds he gets the Heisman this season? Well, if you ask Vegas odds-makers, Christian McCaffrey is in third place with 6-1 odds. Good odds, but to win the Heisman he is going to have to show that he can replicate what he did last season. Does that mean he’ll do it? Not at all.

He’s not sneaking up on people like he did last season. Pac-12 defenses will be focusing in on him and scheming their defenses to stop him. Plus, there will be a new quarterback for the Cardinal. That will put even more pressure on McCaffrey to perform at a high level.

At the end of the day when you take a look at both Josh Rosen and Christian McCaffrey and try to figure out who is the face of the Pac-12 you go with Christian McCaffrey. People know of Josh Rosen, but I don’t think they look at him as appointment television just yet. He doesn’t yet have the highlights that Christian McCaffrey has.

When you make fans stand up every time you touch the ball, you have captured something with them.

Stanford is going to be on the t.v. quite a bit this season and it’s going to be because of one person: Christian McCaffrey, the face of the Pac-12 Conference.

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Pac-12 Links: Less Than 100 Days to Kickoff

Now that Memorial Day weekend is over, college football fans have a countdown initiated until we kickoff the 2016 season. It’s still only June and summer practice has not started, but that won’t stop fans in the Pac-12 from wondering what is going on with their respective teams. Let’s take a look at some of these Pac-12 teams and their summer goals.

Arizona State

The Sun Devils have a ton of goals during this upcoming summer. One of them is figuring out who will be their starting quarterback. For the first time in four seasons they don’t have a starter already named. Mike Bercovici graduated and moved onto the NFL, so now the Devils are trying to decide between Manny Wilkins, Brady White, and Bryce Perkins

All three quarterbacks have the dual-threat quality to their game.  With the scheme that new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will be running, it will be interesting to watch which quarterback will pick it up the quickest to separate himself from the other two players.

The battle between juniors Kalen Ballage and DeMario Richard for the starting running back position will also be fun to watch. Both bring a pounding type of running style to the field, but Ballage is 6’3”, 230 and trying to bring down a beast like that is difficult prospect for any defender. Demario is 5’10, 220, and is just a bowling ball when he has a full head of steam. Do the Sun Devils go with size or do they go with a guy that disappears once the o-line stands up?

I believe they go with Kalen Ballage because of his size and speed.

Utah

My dark horse pick to win the Pac-12 South has to replace its stud running back for 2016. A solid running back is a quarterback’s best friend. What are they doing up in Salt Lake City about their running back position?

The player that is set to replace Booker for the 2016 is Joe Williams. Joe who? That is exactly what many fans may be asking as well. However, he is not a total unknown to the Utah coaching staff.

Williams did get some playing time once Booker went down with a season-ending injury and did reasonably well in Booker’s place.

He ran for 121 yards against UCLA, had an even bigger game against Colorado, gaining 187 yards, and garnered some MVP consideration for the Utes in the Las Vegas Bowl by posting 91 yards and two touchdowns.

Can he do it being “the guy”? That is a great question.

He won’t be a secret to Pac-12 teams, so he will have step up his preparation once the summer practices start. He is certainly a player to keep in mind once the Pac-12 season starts.

UCLA

Are the UCLA Bruins the favorite to win the Pac-12 South? To many fans, writers, and other media they are. Why?

Josh Rosen.

However, like I said earlier, a solid running game is a quarterback’s best friend. What does UCLA have now that Paul Perkins is gone?

Paul Perkins was a player who rushed for over a 1,000 yards. When Rosen was able to turn around and the hand ball off to Perkins it kept the defense from just pinning their ears back and coming after the quarterback.

The Bruins have three players ready to take Paul Perkins spot. With Soso Jamabo, Nate Starks, and Bolu Olorunfunmi ready to take over, the big question is which player will be number one on the depth chart?

Based off what we saw last season you would think Jamabo is the front runner. He was the second-leading rusher with 404 yards and had a 6.1 yards per rush. Jamabo runs like a sprinter and has a high pad level. He will have to work on keeping his pads low so he doesn’t get pounded so hard during the game.

Nate Starks is just as talented and had five touchdowns to go with a 6.4 yards per rush average. The upside to Starks is that he has had an extra year in Coach Mora’s offense and, based on last season, he looks like a starter.

My thought is that the Bruin coaches will give Jamabo and Starks about the same amount of touches until one of them separates himself from the other.

Final Thoughts

There are so many questions with each and every Pac-12 team going into next season that I believe that the conference will be left out of the football playoff. The team that wins the Pac-12 will have two losses, maybe three. To get into the College Football Playoff you need to be undefeated or have just one loss. It’ll be another fun season in the Pac-12, just not a playoff year.

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Top 10 NCAA Quarterbacks for 2016

Quarterback is the most important position in football. (I’ll give you a moment to recover from this earth-shattering news) but this is especially the case in college football. Because of the talent discrepancies between top and bottom tier teams, even within a conference, a quarterback can single-handedly propel his team to the college football playoff. Additionally, top-notch quarterbacks who have exceptionally running ability can take over a game simply in that manner in a way that isn’t possible in the NFL. A great quarterback can make up for losses at the skill positions and keep his team in the game during shootouts.

Today, we’ll look at the top 10 quarterbacks heading into the 2016 season. This isn’t simply which quarterbacks had the best stats last year and are returning this year, or the ones that will have the best stats this year. It is a combination of statistical proficiency, pro potential, and who could lead their team to great things in 2016.

10. Chad Kelly – Ole Miss

Kelly is basically the de facto best quarterback in the SEC as he is the only returning quarterback to even finish in the top half of the nation in passing yards in 2015. That shouldn’t be a slight against Kelly since he put together a great year in his first season as the Rebels starting quarterback. It will be much tougher this year however without Laremy Tunsil protecting his blindside and fellow NFL draftees Laquan Treadwell and Cody Core gone from the receiving core.

9. Brad Kaaya – Miami (Fl.)

If Kaaya can regain his touchdown total from his freshman year (26) and add that to his improving accuracy (61% last year) it might be enough to make this list. It’s his potential however that has scouts salivating. Deshaun Watson is the favorite to be the number one pick in next year’s draft, but Kaaya is getting first round buzz as well. That buzz partially stems from the arrival of new coach Mark Richt, who has produced a plethora of quality quarterbacks in his career (Matthew Stafford, David Greene, Aaron Murray to name a few). If Kaaya wants to move into the top five, he’ll have to prove he can elevate Miami to outperform its run-of-the-mill expectations.

8. Notre Dame Starting QB

Alright this is a bit of a copout, but whoever ends up getting the starting gig for the Irish cannot be ignored. DeShone Kizer stepped in last year after Maliz Zaire got hurt early in 2015 and nearly led the Irish to a playoff spot. Zaire now returns as a junior after showing vast potential in his limited playing time for the Irish. If he’s able to beat out Kizer after the season Kizer had, Notre Dame fans know they are in good hands. On a team that is poised to make a run at a playoff spot again, whoever starts for the Irish will be a household name.

7. Josh Rosen – UCLA

There is a lot of potential put into this ranking of the UCLA sophomore, but it’s not as if Rosen has done nothing to warrant such hope. It can be tough to walk in as a prized recruit and perform from the moment you step on campus, but all Josh Rosen did was throw for 23 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and finish top 20 in the nation in passing yards as a true freshman. He’ll look to build on those numbers and to help him do so, he’s packed on some muscle which should help prevent him from wearing down as the year goes on. The Pac-12 doesn’t have a clear contender entering 2016, and Rosen has the talent to make the Bruins the front-runner as the year goes on.

6. Greg Ward Jr. – Houston

Ward might be the preeminent dual-threat quarterback in the country after rushing for 21 touchdowns and over 1,100 yards a season ago. First-year coach Tom Herman took Greg Ward’s (and Houston’s) offensive performance to the next level, and if they make even the slightest improvements from last year, Ward may find himself at the Heisman ceremony. Not just a runner, Ward Jr had a respectable 8.2 yards per attempt and a near 3:1 TD:INT ratio. Adding to his importance? The Cougars only loss of 2015 came in the game he all but missed.

5. Luke Falk – Washington State

I could go on and on about Falk, but our guy Mike Wilson did a great job detailing the Wazzou quarterback this past week. What I will say about Falk is this: he threw for 300 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in a blizzard in Washington State’s bowl game. As a fan of Miami (the Cougars’ opponent that day) I was thankful there was a snowstorm because it felt like he could go for 500 easily.

4. Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma

Getting to some heavy hitters here as many thought Mayfield deserved to be a Heisman finalist in 2015 after leading the Sooners to a spot in the college football playoff. He enters this year with the fourth best odds to take home the honor, and team expectations will be high as well with Oklahoma assuredly starting the year in the top 10. Mayfield was often the force behind keeping the Sooners’ hopes alive last year, but they may prove more difficult in 2016 without the help of superb wideout Sterling Shephard. Mayfield also won’t get the numbers that other top quarterbacks may achieve because of the running back tandem of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, maybe the best duo in the nation.

3. Seth Russell – Baylor

Russell is just the next quarterback in line to lead a prolific Baylor Bears offense. After stepping into the role a year ago, Russell was carving up opponents to the tune of 29 touchdowns, six picks, and an astonishing 10.5 yards per attempt just halfway through the season before a neck injury ended his year. Russell will be without first-round draft pick Corey Coleman this year, but Baylor is stocked with top WR recruits and with a usually questionable defense, Russell will be slinging it well into the second half. Well, when the Bears are playing a real team anyway.

2. J.T. Barrett – Ohio State

It’s easy to forget just how good Barrett was in 2014 after Cardale Jones’ 3-game run to end the year and the subsequent season-long offensive non-sense in Columbus in 2015. Barrett merely completed 64-plus percent of his passes on 9.0 yards per attempt, accounting for 45 touchdowns during his freshman campaign two years ago. Now that the team is his again, I expect a lot more of 2014 J.T. Barrett to come.

1. Deshaun Watson – Clemson

Sometimes the right answer is the most obvious one. Watson fulfilled the potential he showed in his freshman year by leading Clemson to a national title appearance, falling short against Alabama even though he threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns against arguably the nation’s best defense. After finishing as a Heisman finalist in 2015, Watson is the favorite to land the award in 2016 when he’ll lead an offense that returns eight starters, in addition to potential first-round pick at WR Mike Williams, who missed basically all of last year.

Featured image courtesy Tom Magliery

 

Josh Rosen: Sophomore Slump or Superstar for UCLA?

When you are 18 years old and people have already called you “The Chosen” things in your life may be a little different for you. Josh Rosen, quarterback for UCLA, is that person. Ever since he arrived on campus for the Bruins expectations have been placed upon his shoulders that most college football players never receive during their entire career.

Coming into the 2016 season, the level of expectation for Rosen will be enormous. During last season he showed glimpses of what made him the top quarterback coming out of high school a year ago. Having seen him play in person and numerous times on television it is apparent to me that he can make all the throws necessary at the division one level. He can throw the deep ball, he can throw the out route, he can throw with touch, so what does he need to do to improve?

For UCLA to have a special season Josh Rosen needs to be more consistent with every snap, every series of downs, and every game. As unique and special a quarterback as he is, he was still a freshman last year and he was making freshman mistakes. There were plenty of times where the speed of the game caught up with him and he was trying to make throws that would have been touchdowns or completions in high school, but the speed of division one players made those same passes incompletions or interceptions.

With spring practice coming to a close in Westwood, Rosen’s coach Jim Mora wants his star pupil to develop his sense of urgency this year. There were times last season where Rosen seemed to be going through the motions and Mora didn’t enjoy the lack of focus from Rosen.

“You’re not at… Bellflower St. John Bosco!” Mora screamed at him a practice and referring to Rosen’s high school.

Rosen has to pick up his level of play for the Bruins this season and not have the dreaded sophomore slump because UCLA could make some noise this year in the Pac-12. They are one of the few teams that have a returning, experienced quarterback. In a conference where that will not be the norm, the Bruins can take advantage of that experience to possibly win the Pac-12 South and then the whole conference.

Is that too much to put on a young man’s shoulders? It might be. However, Rosen has shown a level of maturity that goes beyond his years. To say that Rosen doesn’t understand what he needs to do to improve would be a lie. He would tell you that he is the farthest thing from a perfect quarterback, but that it is something that he is striving for like any quarterback at the college level.

With the change in offensive coordinators at UCLA, the offense should take a swipe at making Josh Rosen’s talent the focal point of the offense. That would require changing up the schemes a bit as well. New OC Kennedy Polamalu and new Quarterbacks Coach Marques Tuiasosopo will be trying to utilize a more pro-style offense for Rosen. Coming off a season where he threw for 3,670 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in a more spread, no huddle type of offense, Rosen will be looking to utilize his arm and accuracy more in this change of scheme.

Rosen is big, strong and accurate and a change to a more pro-style would probably fit him a little better. To Rosen, it’s not that big of a change. In fact, he doesn’t really think it is a change.

“It’s the same. We’re just under center, maybe adding a few more guys in the box.” Rosen stated during spring practice.

Rosen is that player who comes along and you do whatever you have to do to make him and the offense successful. A good coach will adapt to his personnel and that appears to be what Jim Mora is trying to do at UCLA.

Being a young quarterback and going to a new style of offense, the one thing that Rosen is certainly going to have to work on is his footwork. Both he and his coach, Jim Mora, know it.

It’s different because your footwork has to change. You have to work on it.” Mora said

This is something that new Quarterbacks Coach Marques Tuiasosopo will be working with Josh Rosen on constantly during summer/fall camps. He certainly has been working on it during spring practice and is happy with the work that he has put in with his quarterback coach.

“He’s awesome. I love him. We have really good chemistry in meetings. He respects me and I respect him.” Rosen said recently.

When the quarterback coach and his star quarterback are working in a tandem so well, the benefit for the offense will only get better as they get more time to practice and work together.

At some point in the future, Josh Rosen will leave for the NFL, but in the meantime he is a UCLA Bruin and has a chance to become that guy that a program only gets once every ten years or so. Is he perfect? No. Show me a perfect quarterback and I’ll show you a picture of me and Bigfoot. Josh Rosen is arguably one of the two top quarterbacks in the Pac-12 right now and with so many teams having questions at the quarterback position he has a chance to separate himself from the rest of the league with a quality season.

There is reason for optimism at UCLA this season and Josh Rosen is the reason for that optimism. Period. End of story.

 

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Pac-12 Links: What’s Happening in the Pac-12

Being a fan and writer of Pac-12 football there are so many things that are happening on a daily basis that it is beneficial to keep you, the fans, informed on what is happening around the Conference of Champions. Here you go Pac-12 fans….

Down in Tucson… Samajie Grant is looking to take a great leadership role.

At Arizona State, they are looking for a bounce back year in 2016. Can they figure out the quarterback situation and how will the new OC do in his first season at a Power 5 school?

California has to replace Jared Goff. What does this mean for the offense?

Can out Colorado finally break out of the basement of the Pac-12 South in 2016? The talent is better than it has been, but…

Is Dakota Prukop the real deal for Ducks? Will he have a more productive year than Vernon Adams? The Duck fans are just happy he is already on campus.

In Corvallis, hope springs eternal for the Beavers as they look to improve upon Gary Andersen’s initial season with Oregon State.

Christian McCaffrey has Stanford poised for another run at the conference title and Rose Bowl. Can they make a deeper run into the CFB Playoff?

At UCLA, sophomore quarterback, Josh Rosen returns to lead the Bruin attack. Does he have anybody to help him out? Can the offensive line protect him?

Coaching changes, new quarterback, and same old USC football expectations. Do the Trojans live up to them or is it a rebuild year at USC?

Kyle Whittingham doesn’t want to look at this season as a rebuild. He did lose some good offensive firepower at running back, but there is optimism at Utah.

Washington is one of the Pac-12 teams with a returning starting quarterback. Good for Huskies right? Does Chris Peterson finally have the Dawgs going in the right direction?

Mike Leach is coming off his best season as the Cougars head coach. What does he have as an encore for Cougar fans in 2016? Hopefully something similar for them as well as himself.

All Pac-12 teams are in the middle of their spring football practices, so any injuries that happen could obviously change the fortunes of any of these teams. The Pac-12 has many questions going into 2016, quarterback is one of the big ones. Can they get a team back into the college football playoff? It’s only spring time, so time will only tell the story for the Pac-12.

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Pac-12 Football Early Preview: UCLA Bruins

The UCLA Bruins have had a ton of expectations placed upon them every year since the beginning of time in the Pac-12. They are one of the premier programs in the Pac-12 and one of the premier destinations for many athletes. If the Bruins come knocking on your door you listen to them. Playing in Pasadena would be an amazing thing for any athlete, but in the recent past the Bruins haven’t won anything of consequence and are looking to change that outlook with their 2016 squad.

Coaching/Personnel:

Expectations are always high at UCLA and with a returning quarterback that is pretty good in Josh Rosen, the replacement at offensive coordinator will scrutinized in a big way. Noel Mazzone is gone and nobody that is a fan of the Bruins is sorry to see him go. He had good offenses, but not great and only had one year out of the four ranked in the top 20 of college football in offense. Mazzone went to coach the offense with his long time friend Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M. Who takes his place?

Running backs coach, Kennedy Polamalu, who many consider the best coach on staff, takes over the offense. He had one year as OC while he was at USC but many people thought he was having Lane Kiffin make the calls. Polamalu is known as a “tough” coach and wants to put his stamp of toughness on the Bruins. How quickly can he do that will be something that people will be looking at as the Bruins get to spring and summer practices.

The other big change for the Bruins on the offensive side of the ball is that they think they finally have a quality quarterback’s coach. Marques Tuiasosopo gets to mold his star pupil in Josh Rosen.  Rosen will be looking to stay away from the dreaded “sophomore slump” in 2016 and Tuiasosopo will be a big part of whether or not that happens. The other big part of Marques is that he does very well as a big time recruiter, not that it’s tough to sell a big time recruit on the benefits of coming to play in Pasadena. His talent in recruiting will be a welcomed addition to the program.

One of the big changes that the Bruins will have to contend with is player personnel on the offensive line. They have lost three starters off the O-line from 2015 and that means replacing all that experience. They lost four-year starter Jake Brendel, three-year starter Caleb Benenoch, and another three-year starter Alex Redmond. With the departures on the O-line, do the Bruins have an idea of what the line will look like? They do have an idea.

The biggest returning offensive line player is Conor McDermott. McDermott had a good 2015 season and did stay pretty healthy for UCLA, so they are expecting the same in 2016. If Conor has a similar season to his 2015 season then he may be one of the top O-line prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Bruins are getting University of Texas graduate transfer Jake Raulerson after he graduates from Texas in May. He won’t be there for spring practice but most Bruin sources think that he will take the center position from current Bruin center, Scott Quessenberry once summer/fall camp starts. If that happens, Jim Mora will probably move Quessenberry over to guard where he has experience playing in the past.

The other position that is interesting is running back. All-American Paul Perkins is gone, so the Bruins have to figure out who will take the pressure off the passing game with Josh Rosen. UCLA has three players to choose from to replace Paul Perkins. They will pick from Soso Jamabo, who had four touchdowns and 6.1 yards per carry in 2015, and has a very smooth running style which makes people think he may be as fast as he actually his. The second guy is Nate Starks who has slightly better stats than Jamabo. He had five touchdowns, a 6.4 yards per carry average, and showed great potential in the offense for the Bruins in 2015. The next guy who will get a chance is Bolu Olorunfunmi who didn’t have as many carries or as much playing time as Starks and Jamabo, but still showed some solid stats when he did get his chance. He racked up 200 yards with a 5.9 yards per carry average.

With all these changes on the offensive side of the ball, from the coaches to the players, UCLA has some challenges in front of it that it has to start getting squared away when spring practice gets underway this week.

Schedule:

The schedule for the Bruins does not include two pretty good teams in Oregon and Washington, which is certainly a benefit for them. Still, the rest of the tough Pac-12 schedule is right in front of them for 2016.

The three non-conference games that they have are Texas A&M (away), UNLV(home), and BYU(away) which are not all that bad. They should beat UNLV, but the other two games will be fun, challenging games to watch the Bruins in. Coming out of the non-conference part of the schedule 2-1 or even 3-0 would obviously be optimum for UCLA because the next five games will be tough for them. They open Pac-12 play with a home game with Stanford on September 24, then they get the Arizona Wildcats at home, followed by a road trip to Arizona State, then a roadie to Washington State, then they come back home to play Utah to end this five game stretch.

The positive aspect for the Bruins with this stretch of games is that three out of the five games are at home. This stretch of games will determine what kind of season the Bruins end up having. The Stanford and Washington State game will be the toughest out of the bunch because of the talent that they will have coming back, but that doesn’t mean the other games are cupcakes for them. Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah just have more questions about them than the other two teams. Obviously, coming out of that stretch undefeated would be amazing, but reality says, it may be more of a 3-2 type of record for them.

Final Thought:

UCLA is like many other Pac-12 teams in that they are going to be battling changes in player and coaching personnel in 2016. When you have a lot of turnover in personnel it may take a while for everybody to come together and that’s not something that fans like to hear because they tend to think it should all come together after only a few practices. Reality dictates that it takes a while for a team to gel, but here’s the thing that UCLA has going for them, Jim Mora and Josh Rosen. Mora provides the stability for the program and gives them their identity and Rosen gives them the ability to be in most games with his talent. Rosen will be better than he was in 2015 and that will be nothing, but a positive for the Bruins. He’s learning what he is comfortable with and Mora is learning that same thing from his star player. Is UCLA going to the College Football Playoff? No, but I don’t think there is a playoff team in the Pac-12 this upcoming year. Will they have a winning season? Yes, I think they end up 8-4. It’s always for tough for fans and coaches to view anything but a National Championship at UCLA as a success though. Welcome to UCLA.

 

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Pac-12 Review and Thoughts on the Future

The Pac-12 season is in the books for 2015, so what was the good, the bad, and the ugly about this season. From the drama at USC, the play of Josh Rosen, Gary Andersen’s first year at Oregon State, Vernon Adams at Oregon, the surprise of Washington State, Jared Goff’s career at California, the success at Utah, the splendid season at Stanford, and the phenomenal individual season of Christian McCaffrey. There is a lot to digest this year for The Conference of Champions, so here we go.

Pac-12 South

USC

The soap opera that is the USC Trojans made expectations just about impossible to meet. We all know what happened with former Head Coach Steve Sarkisian and his drinking issues. That was certainly the headline for a couple of months surrounding the program. It was ugly, real ugly. In comes newly minted Head Coach Clay Helton and proceeds to put his stamp on the storied program of Troy. He goes 5-2 as the head coach, gets the interim “tag” taken off, and then loses in the Holiday Bowl against a sub .500 Nebraska team. Not a great way to start the Clay Helton era, but with the amount of talent that is already on the roster, USC will look to build off of the bit of success that they had in 2015. I will be looking for the Trojans young talent to mature in the offseason and pay dividends in 2016. Fight On!

UCLA

Is there a team that plays in a better venue than the Bruins? Doubtful. When your home field is the Rose Bowl stadium that is a huge recruiting tool for the school. When did that advantage do for the Bruins? Hard to tell at this point. They are fortunate to have Josh Rosen, the top rated high school quarterback on their squad. Being a little lucky to see Rosen play in person, I could see the flash of brilliance that this young QB has. Having Rosen back for his sophomore year will help the Bruins, but it also puts a big target on his back for next season. One area that will be in question will be running back because multi-talented running back Paul Perkins is taking his talent to the NFL. Who is going to replace the 1,500 yard seasons that Perkins put up for the Bruins? Plus, who will the Bruins bring in to replace offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone? I believe the Bruins can recruit players to replace these players, but it will be interesting to see how fast this young talent can assimilate themselves in Westwood. Expectations are high with a young, stud quarterback, and the fan base won’t put up with many losses.

Utah

A season of great success ended with a rather big dud by the Utes going to the Las Vegas Bowl to play their hated rival in BYU. Kyle Whittingham has built something quietly in Salt Lake City and with this past season’s success it will fun to see if Whittingham can keep this going because he will be losing some pretty good talent on both sides of the ball. Travis Wilson and Devontae Booker are just some of the talent that will be leaving. Losing Booker late in the year affected how the offense ran and gave us a decent precursor to how this offense may look in 2016. Internally, the Ute’s have shuffled things around a bit by naming Morgan Scalley their new defensive coordinator. They also have added Justin Ena and Sharrieff Shah as co-special teams coordinators. The key for the Utes will be to keep the stream of talent coming into Salt Lake City to keep the Utes competitive in the ultra-competitive Pac-12 South. They need to get a quarterback that can throw the ball down field. Travis Wilson was an average quarterback, so they need a guy that strikes fear into opposing defenses. Building upon this season will be critical for the Utes. Let’s watch and see what happens in recruiting for them this offseason. That can tell us a great deal about the viability of the program moving forward.

Arizona

Things went south on 2014’s Pac-12 South champion in 2015 and injuries were a major player in the decline. Scooby Wright, the national defensive player of the year in 2014 was brought down early in the season and never returned, their quarterback Anu Solomon suffered through injuries, and their running back Nick Wilson could never shake the injury bug. Now, leaning on injuries as the crutch for the season is never something you want to do, but in the fourth season of Rich Rodriguez in Tucson this was something that clearly wasn’t expected. What can they expect moving forward? Well, they can expect Rich Rodriguez to possibly entertain other jobs like he did with the South Carolina opening this past December. With that lurking in the background in Tucson, can the fans truly trust Rich Rod? It makes fans and writers question his commitment to the program and this can adversely affect off season recruiting because if possible recruits don’t think Rodriguez will be there long term who is to say that the Pac-12 South crown they won will be the best it gets for the program. The Wildcats need a healthy Anu Solomon and Nick Wilson to compete, so this offseason will be critical to them and to the health of the program. Losing Scooby Wright to the NFL will hurt the defense as well. Who will replace the mayhem and sacks that Wright provided? There are more questions than certainty with this program right now and those questions need answers that will only come in time. It’ll be a nervous offseason for the fans of the Wildcats.

Arizona State

Pre-season people, myself included, thought that this Sun Devil team could do something incredible this past season. Well, that thought went down the toilet in the first few games of the year. The offense went into slow motion and could never get started in time to completely dominate anybody. They struggled with teams like New Mexico and Cal-Poly which made the fan base boo the team practically anytime struggles were noticed on the field. Personally watching them get destroyed by USC was mind blowing. The Sun Devils looked like a freshman high school team against them and then they go on the road on beat UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Talk about a hot and cold team. The 2015 Sun Devils were the classic definition of that term. The upcoming season will be one of questions. They will have a new offensive coordinator who will be looking for a new quarterback to run Todd Graham’s zone-read type of offense. They had the wrong guy to do that with Mike Bercovici and that was some of the issue this year. Bercovici was guy who liked to go downfield, he was more of gun slinger than a mobile quarterback. They need to have the right personnel to do what they want to do. That’s the key for any football team. Let’s see what Graham and his merry band of Sun Devils can provide for their fans in 2016. Forks Up.

Colorado

What can the Buffaloes do to get out of the basement of the Pac-12 South? Beyond the simple answer of just win more games it’s hard to say. Winning does help, but you have to have the talent to win those games. The question will be about getting that talent to help the Buffs climb out of the Pac-12 South cellar. The Buffaloes are nearly 25 years from their early 1990’s dominance and without any semblance of winning in that time it is no wonder why kids of any talent level are not going to Boulder to play football. Winning gets talent. Period. If you don’t have wins or a recent history of winning, players want nothing to do with you and that is currently being proven out by Colorado being ranked last in the Pac-12 in recruiting by Rivals.com. In the end, Colorado has to recruit better or their spot at the bottom of the Pac-12 Conference will be cemented every year.

Pac-12 North

Oregon

If you are down by 31 to the Ducks you are still in the game. Giving up that 31 point lead to TCU in the Alamo Bowl had to be the low point in the Duck 2015 season, but it did show a glaring question for the Ducks. Can the Duck offensive staff develop a quarterback of their own? I’m not sure they can. The Ducks have another 5th graduate transfer coming to play for them in 2016. Montana State transfer Dakota Prukop is already on campus and enrolled in class unlike the dilemma the Vernon Adams caused the team last summer. Who is behind Prukop that could come in and provide the same thing as him? A bunch of unknown players is what the Ducks have. They will have many of their skill players back, but if there is any instability at quarterback the Ducks are in trouble. That’ll be the question for newly hired Dave Yost, who comes from Washington State to coach the quarterbacks. He has his work cut out for him. It’ll be the major thing to watch in Eugene next season.

Stanford

The season started off ugly with that loss at Northwestern and many questioned if the Cardinal season was over after week one. I doubt Head Coach David Shaw did. He just went to work and figured out what he needed to do to get this team rolling. It turned out that all he needed to do was to get Christian McCaffrey involved in about every part of the offense. Once that happened, things started happening in Palo Alto. McCaffrey had the best single season in total yards ever. I had my eye on this player going into the season and he exceeded every expectation I had for him. The downside was the crushing home loss to Oregon that pretty much kept them out of the college football playoff, but they rebounded and beat Notre Dame and made Iowa look pedestrian in the Rose Bowl. The question I have for the Cardinal is at quarterback and their defense. Kevin Hogan is done and like Oregon have many unknown players behind him. The defense, especially the secondary needs to improve. People could throw on the Cardinal all day and to survive in the pass happy Pac-12, that needs to tighten up.

Washington State

The surprise of the conference by far. I thought they would battle Oregon State for last place in the Pac-12 North. I was way off with that. The Cougars finally got things going with their “Air Raid” offense under Mike Leach. Luke Falk who looked bad against Portland State in the opener as the Cougars lost to a regional foe at home, but came back to lead Washington State to an 8-4 record and raised hopes in Pullman about a comeback for this program. Mike Leach and his team have to come into 2016 and have the attitude of improving on their 2015 record. They will have Falk back as well as plenty of fast, quick skill players. If this doesn’t happen though, Leach goes back on the hot seat with his job.

California

Is Sonny Dykes going to stay long term? Dykes had his name mentioned in other jobs like Missouri and South Carolina and that caused some anxious moments for people in the Bay Area. Will this type of job looking affect the talent that they are trying to recruit? If players think the coach won’t be there, they tend not to show up on campus. The other question will be about who will take over at quarterback. Jared Goff is leaving early for the NFL and certainly Sonny Dykes has benefitted from having a great player under center. This will show me how good of a coach he really is. Can he develop the next quarterback? Does he have a quarterback ready for 2016? California needs to continue this play of getting to a bowl game and getting some much needed winning at Berkley. If they can’t, their hated rival at Stanford will continue to grab all the headlines and the Golden Bears will be an afterthought on the football field.

Washington

What do we have at Washington? We have a program with a storied past, but with a mediocre present. The future is looking up with their quarterback Jake Browning, who will be a true sophomore and Myles Gaskin, who will also be a true sophomore, and reminds me of Reggie Bush with his speed. Head Coach Chris Peterson, who came to Seattle with his reputation at Boise State has seemed to turn the corner with this program. That reputation was called into question with the season opening loss to Peterson’s former school Boise State, but ship was corrected. Here is the question though. Can he continue to recruit the guys that fit his style? If the Huskies can continue to win, the talent will come. Browning and Gaskin have to continue to develop and get better and there is no reason to believe they won’t, the sky is the limit for the 2016 version of the Washington Huskies.

Oregon State

Where do I begin with the Beavers? It’s hard to say because there are so many glaring issues for them going into this off season. The low point for Oregon State was getting blown out on a weekly basis and not seeing any improvement. When Mike Riley left for Nebraska, he left the cupboards pretty bare. The Beavers had a decent offensive line, but a true freshman quarterback, an oft injured running back in Storm Woods and a totally new defense. They had to replace nine players on defense, put in a new defensive scheme, a new offensive scheme, get used to a different way of coaching with Head Coach Gary Andersen. It was a struggle in Corvallis this year. Recruiting is a big key for Andersen and his staff this year, so the losing that happened this year doesn’t become a habit for the Beavers. Questions for the Beavers will be at quarterback again because they started putting Seth Collins at receiver because he’s athletic and tall (6’3). Who will come in to play quarterback if they move Collins to receiver full time? They will also have a new defensive coordinator in Kevin Clune, so more new schemes for those young defensive players to learn. Gary Andersen needs to continue to build the program he wants and the fans need to show patience with this huge rebuilding project. Rome wasn’t built in a day.