Overrated/Underrated: Pac-12 edition
Per a suggestion/request from atomsareenough, and because we have actual rankings of sorts by which to judge, let’s talk about who’s overrated and who’s underrated!
Pac-12 media poll:
- Washington State
- Oregon State
- Arizona State
Pac-12 in the AP pre-season poll:
Receiving votes: Utah (28) Wazzu (30) Arizona (46th, probably because one dumb dude ranked Arizona 24th)
Properly Rated: UCLA, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado
Cal, Arizona, ASU, Colorado, and OSU all have something in common - they’re in the lower half of the predicted standings for good reasons. Whether it’s lack of talent (OSU, Colorado, Arizona) or major losses of talent (ASU, Cal), these teams all have something to prove, and if they finish in the top half of their divisions it would be an upset.
Oregon is properly rated as a flawed contender because the defense and quarterback situation cast serious doubt on what will probably again be a spectacular offensive line and collection of skill talent.
UCLA is properly rated as the favorite in the south, but a step behind the best teams in the North
Underrated: Washington State, Utah
I just don’t think Washington State is going to finish 4th in the Pac-12 North. I’m not sure which team they’re going to finish ahead of, but it’ll be somebody. (Now that I’ve jinxed it, watch Wazzu finally suffer the regression that stat types have been predicting since midway through last season.)
If you go by media poll votes, Utah is seen as way behind UCLA and USC, but solidly ahead of the Arizona schools and Colorado. But after years of watching the L.A. schools fail to meet media expectations, and considering the strength Utah brings back on both lines, I think they’ll be much closer to the L.A. schools than many might expect.
Overrated: Stanford, Washington, USC
Sometimes it’s just matters of degree, right?
Stanford is probably the right pick as the best team in the Pac-12. But are they so far superior to the rest of the conference that they should get nearly 2/3rds of the votes to win the conference title game? Should they be 10 spots higher than anybody else in the conference in the AP poll? I think the margin is much smaller, to the point where a tough Pac-12 road schedule could cost them the division title.
USC probably should be pretty good, and under different circumstances I’d be inclined to say they’re underrated. Simply put, I’m skeptical that USC made the right hire. Clay Helton strikes me as a solid offensive coordinator that Peter Principled his way into head coach. He’s 5-4 so far, with four losses that either shouldn’t have been losses, or should have been closer, and five wins that included three wins over teams that USC should have handled with more ease. This is a risky pick because Helton could, with an off-season to whip USC into shape, make me look very silly. But on what little evidence we have so far, I think the Trojans settled.
And then we have Washington, off-season darling for many reasons I can fully get on board with. The defense could legit be the best in the conference. Myles Gaskin is legit and the offense has most of a young core returning. What’s not to like?
I think I’m just skeptical that the offense will play up enough to support the defense. It gets lost in a hot end of the season (against verrrrry questionable defenses) but Washington struggled to put up points all season long. 20 against Oregon’s defense? 24 against Cal (with a defensive touchdown included)? 17 against ASU? There were games where Jake Browning looked legit, and games where Jake Browning looked like he couldn’t complete a pass more than 10 yards downfield. Beating up on Oregon State, Southern Miss, and a quarter-back-less Wazzu busy shooting themselves in the foot doesn’t convince me.
Vic Enwere: Breakout Candidate?
If you’re not familiar with Pro Football Focus, you should be. It’s a scouting website that evaluates and ranks players with an exacting and exhaustive analysis of every single play. They were on the Jared Goff bandwagon early, because they did their homework and saw his obvious talent.
I always visit their site hoping to see Cal players mentioned. Unfortunately, they tend to focus on the cream of the NCAA crop - the type of players who have NFL futures . . . and, well, Cal doesn’t have many players on the roster that are expected to be picked in the draft in the near future.
If PFF is right, then Enwere is the best of Cal’s 3 headed rotation at running back. I think whichever back gets the bulk of the touches is in line for a big season running behind a veteran line - it will be interesting to see if Cal’s coaches have the same opinion as the PFF scouts.
WBB Non-conference schedule released
The good news is that, per usual, Lindsay Gottlieb and company have put together a solid, balanced schedule that will help Cal’s computer profile without overwhelming a young team looking to bounce back. The bad news is that most of the interesting names on the schedule won’t be coming to Haas Pavilion.
Cal will face 2015 NCAA tournament teams Oklahoma and Nebraska and perennially challenging local rivals St. Mary’s . . . but each of those games will be either on the road or at neutral venues. At least with St. Mary’s the game will be in Moraga, just a quick trip from Berkeley. Here’s the schedule, with 2015 RPI rankings in parenthesis:
at St. Mary’s (53)
Santa Clara (64)
UC Riverside (66)
CSU Bakersfield (216)
San Francisco (72) and/or Duquesne (18) and/or Western Carolina (300)
at Nebraska (95)
Sacramento State (172)
Southern Miss (188) in Puerto Rico
Oklahoma (32) in Puerto Rico
Arkansas St. (43) in Puerto Rico
Obviously things can change quickly, but that’s 8 RPI top 100 teams and very few 200+ teams. No surprise though, Coach G has had smart schedules for 6 years running.
Around the Pac-12
Hey, remember that one Utah wide receiver who came out of nowhere to catch a 55 yard touchdown against Cal last year? He’s been suspended indefinitely.
ESPN ranked the top 25 players in the Pac-12 and didn’t have a single Bear on the list. I’m not sure which WR will crash the party, but here’s to betting one of ‘em does so.
Player who transfers thinks he deserved more playing time, news at eleven.
For those of you actually going to Australia, this might be some vital analysis from the mothership.
House of Sparky thinks that (if trading were allowed) Cal would be wise to trade offensive line talent for a good cover cornerback. Personally, I’d trade away some solid talent now for some 4/5 star defensive recruits to be named later, but the doubters are always saying that Moneyfootball doesn’t work.