USA Today Sports

Pac-12 Conference Preview: Can Ducks Fly Without Kelly?

Chip Kelly’s four year run at Oregon was an amazing one. The Ducks finished in the top four in each of his last three years at the school. Oregon went 46-7 in Kelly’s time at Eugene. Kelly is now the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Mark Helfrich is now in charge at Oregon. David Shaw has done an amazing job at Stanford, and they can’t be discounted after winning the Pac-12 title last season.

Can any of the other Pac-12 teams make a serious run for the title in 2013?

Oregon Ducks (2012: 12-1 SU, 8-5 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +165
Season win total: 11

Why bet the Ducks: While Kelly may be gone, most of the talent he assembled is still here. The combination of Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas in the backfield may be the most dangerous in all of college football. Mariota was great in his freshman season, and I expect a special sophomore season. Thomas is arguably the best play maker in college football. This defense is much better than most realize, and they have a couple stars at cornerback.

Why not bet the Ducks: Michael Clay and Dion Jordan are now in the NFL, and that will hurt this defense. Getting a consistent pass rush might be a problem for the Ducks this season. Thomas isn’t a true running back, and the Ducks aren’t quite as deep at the tailback spot as they have been in recent years.

Season win total pick:
Under 11


Stanford Cardinal (2012: 12-2 SU, 9-5 ATS)

Odds to win conference: +425
Season win total: 9.5

Why bet the Cardinal: David Shaw is 23-4 in his first two years at the school. At this point, it is clear that Shaw is an elite coach. Stanford has the personnel to dominate in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and that is tough for most teams to matchup with. It is next to impossible to run the ball against this defense. The Stanford front seven is arguably the best in college football.

Why not bet the Cardinal: Stanford lost its three best skill position players on offense. Stepfan Taylor was a tough runner who will be hard to replace. Without tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo, Kevin Hogan won’t have as much of a security blanket on third downs. The front seven on defense is great, but the secondary is still a question mark.

Season win total pick:
Over 9.5


USC Trojans (2012: 7-6 SU, 3-10 ATS)


Odds to win conference: +600
Season win total: 9.5

Why bet the Trojans: Clancy Pendergast should do a good job with this Trojans defense. He is installing a 5-2 system which should benefit this unit since they have a lot of talent on the defensive line. The Trojans defense should be quite a bit better in 2013. USC probably has the nation’s best wide receiver in Marqise Lee.

Why not bet the Trojans: How did the team get better by losing a terrific quarterback in Matt Barkley? USC only managed to go 7-6 last year, and expectations are much higher without any real positive catalyst on the horizon. Sure, there is talent at USC, but this team has been loaded with talent the last few seasons without much to show for it.

Season win total pick:
Under 9.5


UCLA Bruins 12: 9-5 SU, 8-6 ATS)

Odds to win conference:
+675
Season win total: 6.5

Why bet the Bruins:
Jim Mora Jr. did a great job with this team in his first-year on the job, and he has a lot of talent back for his second season in Westwood. Brett Hundley is going to be special at the quarterback spot. Hundley has the tools to do it all. UCLA’s linebackers are as good as any in the conference.

Why not bet the Bruins:
Johnathan Franklin was an amazing talent at running back, and this team is going to have some real trouble replacing him. While the UCLA linebackers are amazing, the rest of the defense is a real weakness. The secondary may be the worst in the Pac-12, and the defensive line isn’t any good at stopping the run.

Season win total pick:
Over 6.5


Arizona Wildcats (2012: 8-5 SU, 6-7 ATS)

Odds to win conference:
+800
Season win total: 7.5

Why bet the Wildcats:
Rich Rodriguez’s system seemed to work well at Arizona last year. The Wildcats have one of the most favorable schedules in the Pac-12. The Wildcats defense returns all 11 starters from a year ago. Ka’Deem Carey is one of the best runners in the conference, and he’ll get his chance to shine this season.

Why not bet the Wildcats:
Matt Scott is gone, and he was tremendous for Rodriguez’s spread offense last year. B.J. Denker is the probable new starter, but he has some big shoes to fill. The defense returns all 11 starters, but is that really a good thing?! Arizona allowed more yards than any other team in the conference last season.

Season win total pick: Over 7.5


Oregon State Beavers (2012: 9-4 SU, 8-5 ATS)


Odds to win conference:
+900
Season win total: 8.5

Why bet the Beavers: Oregon State has one of the best receivers in the country in Brandin Cooks. Storm Woods was awesome as a freshman last year, and his sophomore season should be a great one. The Beavers defense was the reason the team improved so much last year, and much of the core of that unit returns again this season.

Why not bet the Beavers: The starting quarterback situation isn’t a good one. Cody Vaz and Sean Mannion shared time last year, and neither of them was very good. Going into the season without knowing who your starter is generally isn’t a recipe for success. The team is missing two great defensive tackles from a year ago, and that could hurt their run defense.

Season win total pick: Over 8.5


Arizona State Sun Devils (2012: 8-5 SU, 8-5 ATS)


Odds to win conference: +1000
Season win total: 7.5

Why bet the Sun Devils: Taylor Kelly is poised to become a star in Todd Graham’s system at Arizona State. Kelly was number nine nationally in pass efficiency last year, and his versatility helps this team immensely. Marion Grice and D.J. Foster give the team a very good tailback tandem. Star Defensive Tackle Will Sutton passed up the NFL, which was a huge boost to the defense.

Why not bet the Sun Devils: Arizona State is lacking play makers at the wide receiver spot. Kelly can air it out with the best of them, but he has to have someone to throw the ball to. The secondary doesn’t have much depth, and any injuries in this area could be disastrous. The Sun Devils beat only two bowl-eligible teams in 2012.

Season win total pick: Over 7.5


Washington Huskies (2012: 7-6 SU, 8-5 ATS)

Odds to win conference:
+1400
Season win total: 7.5

Why bet the Huskies: Keith Price and Bishop Sankey give the team tons of talent in the backfield at all times. Sankey ran for 1,439 yards in his first year on the job last year. Price had a down season last year, but he has all the talent to bounce back with a big year if he gets some better blocking. 

Why not bet the Huskies:
This offensive line is one of the worst in the conference. Price was constantly scrambling around and looking to throw the ball away last year. The defense lost its top player in Desmond Trufant. Without Trufant, the secondary won’t be even close to as good as they were a year ago.

Season win total pick:
Under 7.5


Utah Utes (2012: 5-7 SU, 5-7 ATS)


Odds to win conference:
+2000
Season win total:
5.5

Why bet the Utes: Travis Wilson should be much better in his second year under center. He has a couple good receivers on the outside in Kenneth Scott and Dres Anderson. The Utes defense is going to be a feisty bunch again this year, and they seem to always outperform expectations. Utah has one of the best home field advantages in the Pac-12.

Why not bet the Utes: The Utes are sure to miss defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. He was one of the best defensive players in the country last year. Wilson doesn’t have much help in the running game, and that is going to put a lot of pressure on him. Utah just doesn’t have the offensive talent that most teams in this conference have.

Season win total pick: Under 5.5


California Golden Bears (2012: 3-9 SU, 3-9 ATS)


Odds to win conference: +5000
Season win total: 4

Why bet the Golden Bears: Sonny Dykes brings a fast-paced offense to Berkeley, and he should be a good hire for the team. With low expectations, it won’t take too much for Cal to beat the number quite a few times this season. The defensive line is solid.

Why not bet the Golden Bears: Dykes inherits a team that simply doesn’t have that much talent. They lost their starting quarterback, top two running backs, and star receiver from last year’s team. In addition, they lost five of their top six defenders from last season. The schedule is brutal for Cal, and they’ll probably only be favored a couple times all year.

Season win total pick: Under 4


Washington State Cougars (2012: 3-9 SU, 5-6-1 ATS)


Odds to win conference: +5000
Season win total:
4.5

Why bet the Cougars:
Mike Leach proved how good of a coach he was in his time at Texas Tech, and you have to assume this team will be much better in his second season at the helm. Connor Halliday has the tools to be a good quarterback, and I expect a much better performance from him now that he has a year in this system under his belt.

Why not bet the Cougars:
Even if the team is better than it was a year ago, the Cougars might not have a chance to prove it. Washington State’s schedule is much tougher than it was last season. Their first two games of the season are at Auburn and at USC. The Cougars are lacking play makers on the offensive side of the ball.

Season win total pick:
Under 4.5


Colorado Buffaloes (2012: 1-11 SU, 3-9 ATS)


Odds to win conference: +17000
Season win total:
3.5

Why bet the Buffaloes: Mike MacIntyre proved the type of coach he is with an amazing transformation of the San Jose State football program. True freshmen started 57 games for Colorado in 2012, which means this group should certainly get better in the next couple seasons.

Why not bet the Buffaloes: This team wasn’t even competitive a year ago. The Buffaloes lost 69-14 at Fresno State. They also lost 51-17 at home against Arizona State. It’s hard to imagine this team going from awful to competitive in one season. Team depth is an issue almost everywhere you look on this roster.  

Season win total pick: Under 3.5

If you have any feedback or suggestions for our Editorial Team, please contact us at Editorial

            share   SHARE   rss   RSS FEED   email   EMAIL   print   PRINT

There haven't been any comments posted on this article. Be the first to respond!

You are currently not logged in.
Login | Signup | Help
You must be logged in to post a comment.

Top Response

There have been no comments on this article. Be the first to respond!