2013 College Football Preview – The Pac 12 Conference

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Click each school’s log to see its 2013 schedule.

The Pac 12 may have the biggest gap in quality of all the major conferences. Two teams won BCS bowls last season (no other conference can say that), and the bottom four teams (Cal, Colorado, Utah, and Washington State) finished a combined 12-36. That being said, I think the Pac 12 is in the middle of a major renaissance. Oregon is here to stay, and so is Stanford. Jim Mora is doing an awesome job with UCLA, and USC will always get great recruiting classes, regardless of whether or not Lane Kiffin really knows anything about football. Two bottom-dwellers, Washington State and Arizona, recently hired former top coaches who should have them competitive again soon. Colorado is the only team with no hope, but those fans are too busy skiing and smoking grass to care. Without further ado, lets head west to talk about the “it” conference in college football.

Oregon

If the Pac 12 is the freshest conference in college football, Oregon deserves some of the credit for making it so. Obviously, Nike czar Phil Knight (and his billions) have a lot to do with making Oregon a top-notch football program. The uniforms, the facilities, the branding, all of it has combined to make the Ducks a destination team for not just West Coast athletes, but speedsters from across this land. Several Ducks have made preseason watch lists, including WR Josh Huff, TE Colt Lyerla, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, LB Boseko Lokombo, DE Mkembe Dutumbo, and, of course, OL Hroniss Grasu. I swear I only made up one of those names. The two most talked about Webfoots will be junior athlete De’Anthony Thomas and sophomore QB Marcus Mariota. Everyone knows about the speed of De’Anthony Thomas, so let’s rap for a minute about last season’s seventh most efficient passer. Mariota surprised everyone when he was announced as the starter in 2012, and all he did was set a Pac 12 freshman record for TDs, and team records for completion percentage and total TDs. He will grow under new head coach Mark Helfrich (last season’s OC), which is why he’s my pick to win the 2013 Heisman Trophy.

Stanford

The Cardinal are so undeserving of a good football program that I could just PUKE. I went to the Oregon State game in Palo Alto last season, and both teams were ranked in the top 15. The bleachers were nearly empty at kickoff, and there were no student tailgates that I could see outside the stadium. Most people couldn’t even be bothered to wear school colors. It’s freaking RED, how hard is that?! Can these fucking nerds at Stanford stop studying for just a few hours each Saturday to appreciate what a good thing David Shaw has going out on the field? The Cardinal are going to be good long term. Kevin Hogan, who took over as starting QB at mid-season, has three more years of eligibility. Once named the starter, he beat three straight ranked teams (Oregon State, Oregon, UCLA), then won the Pac 12 Championship Game, and the freaking Rose Bowl. He’s 5-0 as a starter for Stanford. David Shaw has proven he wasn’t just sniffing Jim Harbaugh’s jock while spending four seasons as his offensive coordinator. Shit, and he played at Stanford? He’s not going anywhere. Congratulations, Stanford “fans”, you’ve somehow yanked a great football team out of your asses.

UCLA

Jim Mora Jr. took the Bruins to the Pac 12 Championship in just his first season as the UCLA head coach. This division is wide open, so it’s entirely possible he will do so again this year too. Brett Hundley returns as the starting QB, but gone is stud running back Johnathan Franklin, who ran for more than 1,700 yards last season. The RB position for the Bruins will likely be a committee of three average players. Hundley has shown he can be a quality dual-threat QB, so expect him to pick up a lot of yards on the ground, as well as become a better passer in his sophomore season. The guy I am most excited to watch is senior outside linebacker Anthony Barr. Recruited out of high school as an athlete, he played two seasons at WR before being switched to OLB for 2012. Barr had 13.5 sacks in 14 games, including this one that nearly ended Matt Barkley’s life. UCLA believes they are the big dog in Los Angeles, and they have the players and, more importantly, the coach to stay that way for several years.

USC

A lot of people thought Lane Kiffin could be fired last year after taking a preseason number one team all the way to a 7-6 record and a Sun Bowl beat-down at the hands of Georgia Tech. Apparently, being the first team since 1964 Ole Miss to start as the AP #1 and finish unranked isn’t enough for the whiz kid to lose his job. Must have something to do with his smokeshow of a bride. This will be the first year in the last four that Matt Barkley isn’t the starter for the Trojans, and Kiffin’s ability to pick the right replacement will likely save him or cost him his job. Last season, Max Wittek stepped in for a couple games when Barkley was injured, but he’s feeling pressure from redshirt sophomore Cody Kessler and mega-recruit Max Browne. Either way, the starting QB will be throwing bombs to a player many people believe to be the best NFL prospect not named Jadeveon Clowney. Marqise Lee isn’t big (6’0”, 195), but in two seasons at USC he’s set 22 school records, five conference records, and one national record. Lee won the Biletnikoff award last season, and is a shoe-in to do so again, and maybe even compete for the Heisman if the Trojans can find a reliable quarterback to sling their balls at him.

Oregon State

The Beavers surprised pretty much everyone last year by going 9-4. They started the year off by beating the eventual Big Ten Champion, Wisconsin, then cruised through the rest of the season only losing to teams who were clearly better (Oregon, Stanford). Oregon State head coach Mike Riley has been good, but not great. They’re occasionally feisty, having upset USC twice when the Trojans were ranked #3 and #1 in the country, but they’ve also lost five straight Civil War games to the Oregon Ducks. The Beavs return two QBs, Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, who split starts last season. Sean Mannion has been injury prone, and Cody’s last name sounds too much like “Vag” for me to take him seriously. Coach Riley hasn’t announced a starter yet, but my guess is it’s whichever is able to pull out his tampon and actually stay healthy for more than a quarter at a time.

Washington

The Huskies have finished the last three years at 7-6, a tradition that has earned head coach Steve Sarkisian the nickname Seven Win Steve. The good news on the field is that last year’s core of players was almost entirely freshman and sophomores, so they will improve with another year of practice and strength training. Screw the football team though, take a look at the new Husky Stadium which opens in just about a month. 70,000+ fans shoved under those awnings makes it one of, perhaps THE, loudest stadium in the country. From different seats in the bowl fans can view the Cascade Mountains, Mt. Rainier, or the Seattle Skyline. And, fans can tailgate on MOTHAFUCKIN’ BOATS just outside the stadium walls on nearby Lake Washington. I would literally wipe my ass with my alma mater’s flag if someone offered me Washington season tickets and a spot on his boat before the games. These grunge, coffee-quaffers in Seattle really know how to live, you guys.

Arizona State

I went to an ASU game last season, and I know the kick-off was at like 1:00, but there were basically ZERO people drinking and carrying on before the game. I went to Lot 59, or whatever the hell it was, and saw NO students doing beer bongs, playing cornhole, sucking tequila from deep navels. Really, I saw no students period. Where were the smoking hot Cali bleach blondes I was promised in the Tempe 12 calendar!?! Why does ASU have this incredible party school reputation? Arizona State gets credit for having one of the largest enrollments of any college, but most of those kids commute from Apache Junction or some other shitty suburb. Sun Devil fans, I’m calling you out. Get your Dickie’s off that greasy couch, unwrap your lips from your roommate’s bong, and go support your football team. Senior DE Will Sutton will come whoop your skinny-jeaned asses if you don’t.

Arizona

How did this team beat Oklahoma State last season (cut to a sad Cowboys fan shaking his head)? Arizona finished the year at 8-5, a solid first outing for new head coach Rich Rodriguez. I really like that hire for the Wildcats; I had basically forgotten about RichRod after he was ousted from Michigan. In addition to being a master of the spread offense, RichRod is an accomplished actor, as seen in this 2013 Arizona Football preview video. I really do like the effort in this video, in which the coaching staff acts like cowboys in the Old West.

Utah

Here’s a list of Oprah book club books I would read over watching Utah play football: Anna Karenina, Cry, The Beloved Country, The Bluest Eye, and The Poisonwood Bible, which I actually had to read in high school, but would read again before watching the Utes stumble to another 5-7 season. To be fair to Utah, they are the best of the bad Pac 12 teams, and they’ve proven in the past they can compete with anyone (beating Alabama in the 2008 Sugar Bowl). Fortunately, QB Travis Wilson has three years to continue to grow up, and head coach Kyle Whittingham made the bold move to bring in long time head coach Dennis Erickson as a co-coordinator of the offense. The addition of the old Miami and Arizona State head coach will only help Wilson progress as a passer.

Washington State

For some reason, Mike Leach, who could have basically had any open coaching job (including Kansas!), chose to take his talents to Southeastern Washington. Can any of you name a Washington State player? Seriously, I’ll wait. It’s okay, I couldn’t either. Mike Leach, who had never had a losing season while guiding Texas Tech to national prominence, inherited a team with so little talent that I could have put on a size small jockstrap and conceivably passed for a backup safety. The Cougars, who finished 2012 at 3-9, are willing to be patient with Leach, knowing a complete shift to his famous Air Raid offense will take time. Informed Wazzu fans know there’s a rainbow hiding behind the clouds. In addition to the genius of Mike Leach, the Cougars now employ Jim Mastro. If you don’t know the name, you certainly know his achievements; he taught Colin Kaepernick the pistol offense at Nevada.

Cal

If I wasn’t so racist towards Asians (edamame blows, you assholes!), I could have totally gone to Cal. Ya’ know, except it’s a good school and I’m not very smart. The Golden Bears and Stanford should just switch football teams, because these Bay area fans and students actually give a fuck. The fraternities line one street that leads up to California Memorial Stadium, and they were rocking when I went to a game last season. Unfortunately, Cal sucks. They SUUUUUCK. Old coach Jeff Tedford, who recruited DeSean Jackson, Marshawn Lynch and Aaron Rodgers, is out after several less than average seasons in a row. In comes Sonny Dykes, who just finished doing three years’ time at Louisiana Tech.

Colorado

Is Jordan Webb still the starter there? Christ, that guy blows. He started at Kansas for a season, then was booted when Charlie Weis came in. Colorado, take it from me, when the Jayhawks throw away a QB you shouldn’t pick his ass up out the trash and then start him immediately. Anyways, looks like he tore his ACL and might not play this season. Instead, some kid named Connor Wood, a transfer from Texas, is the #1 QB. This asshole couldn’t even beat out Garrett Gilbert while he was a Longhorn. The Buffs have a new coach, someone named Mike MacIntyre, who coached San Jose State the last couple years. MacIntyre actually did a great job with the Spartans, taking them from a 1 win season in 2012 to their first ever BCS top-25 ranking last year. So, with the legalization of marijuana and a new football coach in Boulder, things aren’t all bad in Colorado.

Read more college football from CollegeVisits at his web site CollegeVisits.org or via his twitter account @corymsims.

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