Power Ranking the Most Dangerous Offenses in Pac-12 Football
Offense is very much on the rise in college football and out in Pac-12 country, points are put up faster than a Marcus Mariota draw or Myles Jack's rise to stardom.
You'll find unique and exciting offenses all over the place, but in no conference will you find the variety boasted by the Pac-12. From Cal's Bear Raid to Stanford's pro-style attack and USC's West Coast methods, the conference contains some of the most dynamic offenses in the nation.
The top-ranked team on this list should come as no surprise, as it's the one that has been wearing out scoreboards for nearly a decade. But we'll choose not to spoil it for you just yet.
But where would the other top offensive units rank? Think more in terms of the word "dangerous" as opposed to the word "best." For example, Stanford boasts an incredibly efficient and overpowering offensive attack, but even in the Cardinal's best wins, such as last year's 26-20 victory over Oregon, it used a methodical approach to wear down the defense.
On the other hand, Cal liked to add style by scoring in quick-strike fashion, but there wasn't much substance behind the occasional highlight. Oh, and the Bears won only a single game.
So which teams made the cut? Click ahead to find out our power rankings of the five best offenses in the Pac-12.
All stats via cfbstats.com
5) Washington State Cougars
The No. 5 spot on this list features a surprise team, the Washington State Cougars.
Of course, anyone familiar with the football stylings of head coach Mike Leach knows his reputation for scoring plenty of points. But the Cougars have been far from an offensive juggernaut in recent years. That is, until Leach took over.
In 2013, the team scored 31 points per game, a modest and perhaps even underwhelming mark. But it's still more than 10 points greater than what the team averaged in 2012, and nearly 20 points greater than what the Cougs were scoring in 2009.
Part of that is due to the maturation of quarterback Connor Halliday. The junior signal-caller threw 34 touchdown passes and for nearly 4,600 yards in 2013, although he did toss 22 interceptions as well. But that's more than double the number of scoring passes he had in 2012 when he was splitting time with Jeff Tuel.
But there are plenty of great quarterbacks in the Pac-12. What bumps Leach's squad into the top five is the number of talented receivers he has at his disposal. If sophomore Gabe Marks is ready to go in the fall after some recent legal troubles, it will mean the Cougars have their top 13 pass-catchers returning.
You read that right. Any player who made even the most insignificant contribution in the passing game is coming back, and that includes four guys who had over 500 yards receiving.
Although the running game isn't featured very often, Washington State also returns both Marcus Mason and Teondray Caldwell, each of whom flashed some intriguing potential in 2013. Needless to say, while the pride of Pullman may not be ready to seriously challenge in the Pac-12 North, the Cougars still boast one of the most dangerous offenses in the conference.
4) USC Trojans
Up next on the list is a familiar team, the USC Trojans. We have yet to find out how good the offense can be under new head coach Steve Sarkisian, but the talent alone is enough to allow the Trojans to crack the power rankings.
Let's start in the backfield, and more specifically, the quarterback position. There you'll find two candidates vying for the starting spot in experienced sophomore Cody Kessler and talented redshirt freshman Max Browne.
Heading into spring practice, it looked like Kessler would have the upper hand simply because of his experience. He started all 14 games in 2013 and ended up passing for nearly 3,000 yards with 20 touchdowns. He threw only seven picks, and was one of the more efficient signal-callers in the conference by season's end.
As for Browne, he's an unknown to the outside world but he was a highly touted recruit and has a cannon for an arm. Expect him to seriously challenge for the lead role. If he earns it, it should be an indicator of how good he can become because it'll mean that he's beaten out Kessler.
The rest of the backfield features a loaded stable of runners led by Javorius Allen, who had 774 yards and 14 scores this past season while splitting carries with the rest of the group.
Perhaps the most raw unit of all is wide receiver, although junior Nelson Agholor brings both talent and experience to the position. Look for Darreus Rogers and Victor Blackwell to also contribute in the passing game.
It might be a risk putting the Trojans on this list considering the coaching change, but if Sarkisian can have his men ready to go when the season begins, USC will be scoring a ton of points each week.
3) UCLA Bruins
If not for quarterback Brett Hundley, UCLA might not be anywhere near this list. But Hundley is real, and he does in fact play football for the Bruins.
In 2013, the dual-threat dynamo passed for 3,071 yards and 24 touchdowns while also leading his team in rushing with 748 yards and another 11 scores. The offense as a whole averaged almost 37 points per contest.
Aside from Hundley, the buffet is full but you can't tell just how filling it is. In other words, the pieces are there but the talent is extremely unproven, especially at wideout. The trio of Devin Fuller, Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien combined for 1,250 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013, although each will be looking to improve upon those marks.
In the backfield, Jordon James and Paul Perkins form an interesting duo, although it says a lot that Hundley surpassed both in total yardage on the ground. Still, Perkins in just his freshman year managed well over 500 yards and six scores, so the future looks bright.
What it all comes back to, though, is the play of Hundley. We've seen him take over games with his strong arm and Roethlisberger-like ability to shed tacklers in either the backfield or the open field, rushing for a first down. Unlike Big Ben, however, Hundley has some serious wheels.
When you have a preseason Heisman candidate leading the charge, it's going to make a significant impact on your team's ability to score, which makes UCLA one of the more dangerous offenses in the nation.
2) Arizona State Sun Devils
With both experience and talent returning at every position on offense, Arizona State has the second most dangerous scoring attack in the Pac-12.
The Sun Devils averaged nearly 40 points per game in 2013 and were able to pick up chunks of yards both on the ground and through the air.
The leader is quarterback Taylor Kelly, an experienced gunslinger who threw for 3,635 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2013. He also threw 12 picks, but those were partially offset by over 600 yards rushing and another nine scores on the ground.
He'll return as a dark-horse Heisman candidate, though with a serious effort from the rest of the playmakers around him, he could become a full-blown front-runner by mid-October.
Among those aiding in Kelly's trophy-nabbing efforts will be wide receiver Jaelen Strong who burst on the scene as a junior college transfer this past fall and tallied 1,122 yards and seven scores through the air. Another prominent pass-catcher is D.J. Foster, an undersized speedster who had more than 600 yards of his own.
We say "undersized" as a wideout, but that's because the 5'11 junior stars as a running back as well. With Marion Grice off to bigger and better things, Foster should get a few more carries in 2014, making him the Pac-12's ultimate all-purpose threat.
The Sun Devils' offense is experienced, battle-tested and eager to put the sour taste of two straight losses out of its mouth. It might only be a half-step ahead of UCLA in these power rankings, but it's one that coach Todd Graham's team has certainly earned.
1) Oregon Ducks
The number one team on this list—and you may want to sit down if you're shocked easily—is the Oregon Ducks, who've held this mythical power-rankings title for at least five years now.
Coach Mark Helfrich's squad has speed, talent, experience and now, a dangerous hunger to get back to the top of the Pac-12. Remember that as good as Oregon has been the past couple seasons, it hasn't won a conference title since 2011.
You could probably write a book about everything quarterback Marcus Mariota does well—and someday we might—but for now, just know this: Mariota will be a Heisman favorite because of his blinding open-field speed, accuracy through the air and decision making ability. If you haven't seen him play much, don't miss out when football resumes.
Joining Mariota in the backfield are running backs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner who combined for over 1,750 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2013. The scary part? Marshall will be a junior next season and Tyner is entering just his second year.
At receiver, the loss of Josh Huff and Daryle Hawkins will sting. Fortunately, the unit returns Bralon Addison who was second on the team with more than 800 yards receiving. Young talents, like Darren Carrington and Chance Allen, are waiting in the wings.
But if none of that convinces you, just know that Oregon averaged 45.5 points per game in 2013, which tied Ohio State for the third most in the nation. The Ducks undoubtedly boast the Pac-12's most dangerous offense.