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Is West Coast football back to normal? (2021 PAC-12 preview thread)

Dolgevillefootballfan

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Stanford

Preview segment: The Stanford Cardinal

Last season: By winning close game after close game, Stanford was able to get a 4-2 record out of the 2020 season. Now David Shaw is hoping that his team can continue to claw back into PAC-12 contention... even with some holes to fill.

Bad news: I didn't know that QB David Mills was good enough to be a 3rd-round NFL Draft choice! Well, he's gone, and Stanford could take a while to nail down his replacement at QB. The defense will be missing it's leading tackler, it's top pass rusher, and top defensive back from last year's squad.

Good news: Thankfully, the defense still has it's fair share of experience. The offense should be able to help out it's new starting QB with a strong run game and talent at WR.

Key games:
9/4 vs. Kansas State [in Arlington, TX] (I honestly don't know what'll happen in this big neutral-site game, but it's a contest where Stanford needs the win.)
9/11 @ USC (See my USC preview.)
9/25 vs. UCLA (Oh! I just realized that Stanford only played one home game all of last season! It should be a joyous [and tense] atmosphere when Cardinal Stadium opens up for this big home opener.)
10/30 vs. Washington (If the Stanford defense does it's job, they can trip up the Huskies before they host Oregon.)
11/20 vs. California (And then, Stanford will finish up the season in a familiar place: Playing the hated Golden Bears...)
11/27 vs. Notre Dame (...and the hated Fighting Irish in consecutive weeks.)

Bottom line: With the QB position a total mystery and the defense replacing a lot of production from last year, Stanford is a year away from returning to their status as a PAC-12 contender. But most of their big games this year are at home, so don't count them out either.
 

Dolgevillefootballfan

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UCLA

The last preview segment for the PAC-12: The UCLA Bruins

Last season: Wait a minute. There was actually some encouraging signs of progress for Chip Kelly and crew at UCLA last year, even though they went 3-4. The offense looked to be running well, so maybe all Chip has to do this season is get the defense going.

Good news: Dorian-Thompson Robinson finally showed signs of being a great QB last year, and UCLA will have one more year to savor his play. His WR's are looking good, and there is experience all over the place.

Bad news: It's all about consistency, or lack thereof, especially on defense. UCLA has an aggressive pass-rush, but it needs to do better at defending the pass and forcing turnovers.

Key games:
9/4 vs. LSU (Another big game for the PAC-12 in terms of national prestige. If the defense does enough to stop LSU's offense, UCLA will be golden.)
9/25 @ Stanford (Last year, UCLA lost a brutal 48-47 double-OT decision to the Cardinal.)
10/2 vs. Arizona State (UCLA has now beaten Arizona State 3 out of the last 4 years.)
10/23 vs. Oregon (Don't get down, Bruins! You almost got the Ducks last year in Eugene, so keep trying!)
11/20 @ USC (As I mentioned earlier, the UCLA/USC game last year was brilliant. Sadly for the Bruins, they lost it at home. Now they've lost 5 out of the last 6 against the hated Trojans.)

Bottom line: The good news for UCLA is, it looks like they're finally ready to be a PAC-12 contender. The bad news is, everyone else in the South division [excluding Arizona] want the conference title as well. Plus, the schedule looks tough (UCLA also has road dates with Washington and Utah).
So I guess this will be a crucial year for Chip Kelly's tenure in Pasadena. If he can get the Bruins to compete for the division with that slate staring them in the face, then Chip should be fine.
 

Dolgevillefootballfan

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PAC-12 predictions

And now I leave you guys to continue talking about the Mountain West (and maybe some more PAC-12 news). But before that, here's what I think will happen in 2021 to these guys:

North division:
1. Oregon (Maybe "New Year's Six)
2. Washington
3. Stanford
4. Oregon State
5. California
6. Washington State

South division:
1. Arizona State (Conference champs, "New Year's Six" bowl)
2. USC
3. Utah
4. UCLA
5. Colorado
6. Arizona

And starting on Monday, I'll start looking at the ACC...
 

wazzu31

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Washington State

Preview segment: The Washington State Cougars

Last season: :noidea: ,they only played 4 games.

Good news: The running backs look sensational, and RT Abraham Lucas looks NFL-bound. The linebackers look good as well.

Bad news: Washington State had a great kicker and punter last year, but now they're both gone. The pass rush needs to be WAY better, some more WR's have to emerge, and as for the QB? Well, 3 guys are fighting for the starting job right now.

Key games:
9/18 vs. USC (A big conference opener for the Cougars, who has a chance to trip up the hopeful Trojans.)
10/9 vs. Oregon State (These days, Oregon State has great offenses, so I'm dying to see how Wazzu's defense handles this. Because if they do a great job stopping the Beavers...)
10/16 vs. Stanford (...it'll bode well for when the Cougars host Stanford the following week.)
11/26 @ Washington (You probably know this by now; Washington is the mental hurdle that Washington State must clear to move forward.)

Bottom line: Coach Nick Rolovich never got a chance to feel things out in Pullman last year. But now that he can, fans of the Cougars are hoping for the team to stay afloat in the PAC-12 in 2021. They'll have to fix a LOT of problems, though, if Wazzu wants to compete for the postseason.
Wow, I don’t have to worry about the season at all. We got a kicker and punter in the wings, bring back two all conference receivers and have what would’ve been offensive and defensive freshman of the year winners. I mean fixing COVID without COVID doesn’t seem like a real task.
 

michaeljordan_fan

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Arizona State

Preview segment: The Arizona State Sun Devils

Last season: :noidea: The Sun Devils was another team that got f--ked hard by the pandemic, but in-between we had a couple of blown leads before a strong closing act.

Good news: The defense that ASU has now could be one of it's best in school history; nearly every starter is back including LB Merlin Robinson and CB Chase Lucas. QB Jayden Daniels and RB Rachaad White are also back.

Bad news: With Frank Darby now in the NFL, some new WR's have to emerge so that opposing defenses don't sit on the run game.

Key games:
10/2 @ UCLA (This California-based team could surprise the Sun Devils if they're not ready.)
10/8 vs. Stanford (See above game.)
10/16 @ Utah (This could be a low-scoring, smash-mouth contest that the PAC-12 South pivots on.)
11/6 vs. USC (It'll be showtime in the desert on this day, as Arizona State hosts the always-tough Trojans. USC has now beaten ASU 3 straight times.)
11/13 @ Washington (The trouble for ASU is, they'll have to travel to Seattle right after playing USC.)

Bottom line: The roster is still loaded, and they're ready to kick the 2020 season to the curb, so the pressure's on for Herm Edwards and his staff to get it done. If the Sun Devils can get past teams like Utah and USC, the South division title may FINALLY come their way in 2021.

Big questions marks surrounding the NCAA investigation. Might be a cloud that hangs over 2021.
 

Duckboy33

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Big questions marks surrounding the NCAA investigation. Might be a cloud that hangs over 2021.

I think it's too late for it to impact them in 2021 but I really doubt Herm is back in 2022
 

WABLTY

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I don't see the narrative around the PAC 12 changing this year, even though I don't think the league will be that bad. The problem is the league has five top 25 caliber teams IMO but nobody who is in the top 10. Without someone emerging as a serious playoff contender, the narrative won't change.
I think the conference will probably be as strong as its been for several years. It wasn't so long ago that it was considered the 2nd toughest conference and these things are pretty cyclicle. There are probably 5 teams that seem like they may be top 25 teams (Oregon, UW, USC, Utah, ASU) and you could make an argument UCLA might be about to finally arrive. Cal could be scrappy.

The problem is that, as per usual, most of the good teams will be seen as belonging in the 6th to 25th range. Not title contenders. That being said, if someone runs the table they're in, and it's probably strong enough that a 1 loss conference champ probably is in too.
 

WABLTY

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Arizona State

Preview segment: The Arizona State Sun Devils

Last season: :noidea: The Sun Devils was another team that got f--ked hard by the pandemic, but in-between we had a couple of blown leads before a strong closing act.

Good news: The defense that ASU has now could be one of it's best in school history; nearly every starter is back including LB Merlin Robinson and CB Chase Lucas. QB Jayden Daniels and RB Rachaad White are also back.

Bad news: With Frank Darby now in the NFL, some new WR's have to emerge so that opposing defenses don't sit on the run game.

Key games:
10/2 @ UCLA (This California-based team could surprise the Sun Devils if they're not ready.)
10/8 vs. Stanford (See above game.)
10/16 @ Utah (This could be a low-scoring, smash-mouth contest that the PAC-12 South pivots on.)
11/6 vs. USC (It'll be showtime in the desert on this day, as Arizona State hosts the always-tough Trojans. USC has now beaten ASU 3 straight times.)
11/13 @ Washington (The trouble for ASU is, they'll have to travel to Seattle right after playing USC.)

Bottom line: The roster is still loaded, and they're ready to kick the 2020 season to the curb, so the pressure's on for Herm Edwards and his staff to get it done. If the Sun Devils can get past teams like Utah and USC, the South division title may FINALLY come their way in 2021.
OL play and receivers will be the big question for ASU. OL because, even though they return 4 of 5 from last year and the 5th wouldn't start if he'd taken the option to return, ASU always has to worry about it. The WR's are inexperienced, but Darby really only played heavy minutes in one game. They got some snaps, and it's one of the more talent rich parts of the roster. They've got 5 4-stars in the WR room along with a few others that flashed a bit. Talent level is pretty good there.

I think the defensive line starters need a bit more publicity. They've got a secondary that, if it's not the most experienced in the nation, has to be close, but if the defensive front is healthy, that's where ASU's defense is going to really shine. Thibodeaux from Oregon is clearly the best defensive lineman in the conference and probably in the nation, but ASU looks to have 3 NFL guys on the defensive line. Lole is arguably the 2nd best DL in the conference at 3 tech (and 1st team AA per PFF as silly as their rankings are). Davidson is a true nose tackle that also has good lateral range (he had 50+ tackles from NT in 2019 and was making plays at a higher clip last year). Tyler Johnson is at his true position after being played at OLB and is now a 6'4", 280 pound DE that has been the best edge rusher on the team since his Rs Fr year and is coming off a broken season where he had more sacks than games played.
 
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Duckboy33

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I think the conference will probably be as strong as its been for several years. It wasn't so long ago that it was considered the 2nd toughest conference and these things are pretty cyclicle. There are probably 5 teams that seem like they may be top 25 teams (Oregon, UW, USC, Utah, ASU) and you could make an argument UCLA might be about to finally arrive. Cal could be scrappy.

The problem is that, as per usual, most of the good teams will be seen as belonging in the 6th to 25th range. Not title contenders. That being said, if someone runs the table they're in, and it's probably strong enough that a 1 loss conference champ probably is in too.

I agree. These narratives can change very quickly. There's still plenty of talent in the PAC 12. Just as much talent as any conference besides the SEC.
 

wazzu31

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Big questions marks surrounding the NCAA investigation. Might be a cloud that hangs over 2021.
With all the shit the NCAA has going on, do you think they are going to hammer ASU on something most southern teams probably did?
 

michaeljordan_fan

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With all the shit the NCAA has going on, do you think they are going to hammer ASU on something most southern teams probably did?

Do they have evidence of the southern teams doing it, or just your supposition?
 

wazzu31

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Do they have evidence of the southern teams doing it, or just your supposition?
No, it was just a legitimate question to you if you think the NCAA will actually do something to ASU hence the ?
 

Kaplony

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I think it's too late for it to impact them in 2021 but I really doubt Herm is back in 2022
Depends.

In 1989 the NCAA was investigating Clemson for supposed major violations that turned out to be minor. They did on campus investigations two different weeks. The week that we played Duke and Georgia Tech. We lost both games, and they were the only games all season we were held to less than 27 points.
 

wazzu31

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Depends.

In 1989 the NCAA was investigating Clemson for supposed major violations that turned out to be minor. They did on campus investigations two different weeks. The week that we played Duke and Georgia Tech. We lost both games, and they were the only games all season we were held to less than 27 points.
I just think with all of the adminstrative and legal issues the NCAA is going to be dealing with they will just give ASU a mulligan.
 

Kaplony

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I just think with all of the adminstrative and legal issues the NCAA is going to be dealing with they will just give ASU a mulligan.
Perhaps.

I think the NCAA is going to go full bore after ASU because they feel threatened, and ASU is screwed because A: They aren't a blue blood and B. The NCAA gets almost zero revenue from football, so crippling a football program doesn't affect their bottom line like basketball.
 

wazzu31

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Perhaps.

I think the NCAA is going to go full bore after ASU because they feel threatened, and ASU is screwed because A: They aren't a blue blood and B. The NCAA gets almost zero revenue from football, so crippling a football program doesn't affect their bottom line like basketball.
I guess we can agree to disagree. I don’t see how them throwing the hammer at the moment does anything, especially in football when the NCAA is a step away from losing all the power teams. Perhaps I am wrong I just don’t see them doing anything. Might encourage ASU to self impose some sanctions and maybe remove coaches.
 
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