Forecasting Pac-10 Football's Future
Forecasting the future of sports is an extremely foggy business, there being so many variables. But it's indeed big business, as proven by the $8 preseason magazines many college football addicts find themselves buying every year.
In this slideshow, I decided to take a crack at forecasting the future of Pac-10 football with a team-by-team breakdown using a few variables that I feel are essential in success.
The Washington Huskies
Abysmal. Terrible. Awful. Horrible.
These are words that describe the kind of season the 2008 Washington Huskies had. Last year, the Huskies became the first FBS team to finish 0-12, an amazing feat for a once proud football program in Seattle.
During the 2008 season, Washington coach Tyrone Willingham resigned, and AD Scott Woodward brought in Southern California offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to inherit the winless program. Sarkisian didn't fail to excite Huskies fans early on.
"It's the year 2008," Sarkisian said. "It's time to get back to the Rose Bowl, to Pac-10 championships, competing for a national championship. That's our goal, no question. I can't wait to get this thing going."
However, is bringing Washington back from the grave too daunting a task for first-time head coach Sarkisian? Lets look at some variables.
For a bad, bad football team, Washington doesn't recruit too badly. Here are the numbers.
2009: 66th overall class (Last in Pac-10)
2008: 14th overall class (Third in Pac-10)
2007: 29th overall class (Fourth in Pac-10)
2006: 35th overall class (Sixth in Pac-10)
Not too bad considering they have been very, very irrelevant.
While fan support may not be the best, it certainly is strong for an atrocious program, and the Huskies have always boasted a proud and loud fanbase. Sarkisian has already fired up the fanbase. If you could transfer that to wins, it will be one of the best in the Pac-10.
Steve Sarkisian was a conservative offensive play-caller that didn't make too many friends at USC; that should tell you enough.
Why Washington will succeed in the future
All the tools are there to be good: decent recruiting classes, a large, rabid fanbase, and a stadium that is second only to Autzen in terms of noise.
If things go right, look out for Washington!
Why Washington will not succeed in the future
An abysmal recruiting class in 2008 may carry over and spark a new trend of bad recruiting. Washington has an unproven coach in Sarkisian, who was famous at USC for being conservative on offense.
It all hinges on whether the man can get it together, and it seems like this program is trying anything they can to break out of their slump with this hire.
Washington went from a proud Rose Bowl program at the beginning of the decade to the laughingstock of college football, as they went 0-12 in 2008.
If Sarkisian proves himself, look out for the Huskies as the fans will be there, the recruits will be there, and the wins will be there. However, that is a big if for Washington.
It may be safe to say that the Huskies will finish in the bottom half of the Pac-10 the next few years, but if things go right, this football program may be back to where it used to be.
- Okay Recruiting
- Good Fanbase
- Questionable coaching
- Potentially bottom of Pac-10, but a chance to make noise in the Pac-10.
The Washington State Cougars
The Cougars managed the second worst season in college football last year, finishing the year 2-11 (wins were over Portland State and winless rival Washington in a dogfight), and things honestly don't look a lot brighter. With second-year coach Paul Wulff leading the charge again in 2009, it doesn't look to improve.
Let's take a look at some variables.
Let's look at how the Cougars have done on the recruiting trail.
2009: 43rd overall class (Seventh in Pac-10)
2008: 74th overall class (Last in Pac-10)
2007: 54th overall class (Last in Pac-10)
2006: 45th overall class (Ninth in Pac-10)
Any way you slice it, that is just downright awful recruiting. The talent just isn't there to succeed in the Pac-10.
Washington State is home to the smallest stadium in the Pac-10, at about 35,000, and it never gets really loud. A lot of WSU fans tend to be pretty alienated from the football program since the success earlier in the decade faded away. WSU has maybe the weakest following in the Pac-10, give or take with Stanford.
Paul Wulff was hired in 2007 out of Eastern Washington University, where he was less-than-stellar most of the time.
He is a Cougar alum, and that probably had something to do with his hiring. His ineptness at coaching showed last year in a season where they got trounced in just about every game.
The losing can't all be on the talent gap, can it?
Why the Cougars will succeed in the future
Honestly, the only reason I can think of is because Martin Stadium is a pretty tough place to play at, which it really is, but outside of that, I don't see WSU doing much damage anywhere.
Why the Cougars won't succeed in the future
They don't have the talent to compete in the Pac-10, and they have a coach lacking any FBS experience. They don't have a real large or vocal fanbase.
WSU can be safely put at the bottom of any Pac-10 predictions for the next four or five years. The talent and coaching gaps are just too large in the premier conference in which they play.
If anything good comes out of Pullman, it will be a miracle of unbelievable proportions.
- Shameful Recruiting
- Small fanbase
- Bad coaching
- Near bottom of Pac-10 next few years
The Oregon Ducks
In 2008, Oregon finished the year 10-3 and ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, capped with a Holiday Bowl win over Oklahoma State.
Oregon looks to continue having that kind of success in the future. After the 2008 season, longtime Oregon coach Mike Bellotti stepped down from his duties to become the Oregon Athletic Director, and coach-in-waiting Chip Kelley (the mastermind behind the Duck offense) stepped in.
Oregon hopes to continue success with more than 10 wins and become a program that can be in the BCS hunt every year. Let's look at some variables to see if this will happen.
Oregon's last four classes have rated as follows (according to scout.com):
2006: 52nd overall class (Last in Pac-10)
2007: Ninth overall class (Second in Pac-10)
2008: 23rd overall class (Fifth in Pac-10)
2009: 26th overall class (Fourth in Pac-10)
Not bad for the Ducks; the talent seems to be there to win.
Oregon has, in my opinion, the most vocal fanbase in the Pac-10. Its fans are always there, wherever they go, to cheer on their team and antagonize everyone else. Not to mention Autzen Stadium is one of the loudest venues in football.
Kelley was the right hire and may lead Oregon farther than Bellotti could. He is obviously head coach material, handpicked by Bellotti.
Things have the potential to go very right for this man, and if they do, the Ducks will be in the title chase every year.
Why the Ducks will succeed in the future
The talent, the fanbase, and coaching: It's all there for the Ducks. It's not a question of whether they will succeed, but how far they will go.
Why the Ducks will not succeed
With a new head coach, things do always have the chance of going south, but I will give Kelley the benefit of the doubt. That's the only real reason I can think of for the Ducks.
The Ducks have it all: the fanbase, the money, the coach, the players, and the stadium. The Ducks will succeed for the foreseeable future, but how far can Kelly lead them? Will he sustain recent success?
I will say that the Ducks can be penciled in to finish in the top three of the Pac-10 more often than not the next four or five years.
- Good recruiting
- GREAT fanbase
- Good, but inexperienced, head coach
- Top three in Pac-10 next few years
The Oregon State Beavers
Oregon State is always a force to be reckoned with.
In 2008, the Beavers finished 9-4 and nationally ranked after a season that included beating USC and was capped off by a Sun Bowl victory over Pittsburgh.
The Beavers look to build on that success in the coming years, and with one of the best offensive tandems in football in the Rodgers brothers, that could become a reality.
Here are the variables.
The Oregon State program tends to generate much more out of their players than recruiting would suggest they should. Here are the last four recruiting classes and their relevance to the Pac-10.
2009: 48th overall class (Ninth in Pac-10)
2008: 61st overall class (Ninth in Pac-10)
2007: 40th overall class (Seventh in Pac-10)
2006: 41st overall class (Eighth in Pac-10)
It's amazing Oregon State has the success they do with the recruits they have.
While Oregon State may not have the most rabid fanbase, it certainly has a large one, and it's certain that when they start winning, a trip to Reser Stadium in Corvallis, OR will be tough on anyone.
Oregon State is led by Mike Riley, who is 56-42 with the Beavers (48-28 in second term, 2003-present) and is a master at squeezing all he can out of his players.
He may not get the best recruits, but he always finishes respectably in the Pac-10 and makes bowl games very consistently. Oregon State is very set in terms of coaching.
Why Oregon State will succeed in the future
A coach who knows how to get the most out of his players has to be good for something. That string of bowl games and eight-win seasons has really made me a believer in Riley, but I think he has hit his ceiling at OSU. At least the Beavers will always be a force to be reckoned with under Riley.
Why Oregon State will not succeed in the future
Eventually, Riley is going to run into a talent gap problem, and that time will happen sooner or later.
Oregon State is blessed to have Mike Riley as a coach, a man who takes those near-last in the conference recruiting classes and squeezes them for all they are worth. Oregon State is a very respectable program that can put up eight wins a season and beat anyone on any day.
Pencil Oregon State in the middle of the conference the next few years, and as long as Riley is there.
- Poor Recruiting
- All right fanbase
- Good coaching
- Mid-range of Pac-10
The Stanford Cardinal
Stanford was once a proud program that fell on hard times but now is picking itself up, led by young coach Jim Harbaugh. While the Cardinal may not be the obvious choice in terms of rising programs, the variables do show otherwise.
Here's a look at Stanford's last four classes' rankings and relevance to the rest of the conference.
2009: 15th overall class (Third in Pac-10)
2008: 43rd overall class (Eighth in Pac-10)
2007: 43rd overall class (Eighth in Pac-10)
2006: 38th overall class (Seventh in Pac-10)
While these numbers aren't eye-popping, it shows that there is reason to believe in the Cardinal at some time in the future.
Stanford possesses a quiet, small fanbase, at least for now. If wins roll in, so will the fans, but for now they are win-dependent.
Stanford is led by coach Jim Harbaugh, former coach of the University of San Diego. In his first season in 2007, he lifted Stanford out of the gutter and handed USC a shocking home loss.
His team was obviously improved in 2008 but failed to make a bowl game. It's this trend of improvement, and the actual things he has already accomplished, that make me a believer that Coach Harbaugh can put Stanford on the map in the future.
Why the Cardinal will succeed in the future
Eventually, Harbaugh will have his system in place and his recruits as well. Once that happens, it's goodbye Stanford of old.
Why the Cardinal will not succeed in the future
The academics at Stanford may be too tough to support a real powerhouse program, and that will catch up to recruiting sooner or later, and in the Pac-10 you can't afford to be a bad recruiter (unless you're Mike Riley). Also, the lack of a real rabid fanbase will pose a problem in getting to that next level.
Stanford may not have the best players on the field right now, but Coach Harbaugh is changing that with eye-popping recruiting in 2009 and so far this year. There is no reason to believe that with Harbaugh at the helm Stanford can't become respectable in the Pac-10.
Let's call Stanford middle-of-the-pack over the course of the next five years.
- Improving recruiting
- Good coach
- Bad fanbase
- Mid-range next five or so years; could spring up further though.
The California Golden Bears
Jeff Tedford has done a great job turning Cal into a force in the Pac-10, but he just can't seem to get it done in terms of actually winning the conference.
I can't actually remember the last time Cal was bad, and it's been a while.
Last year Cal had a decent campaign, going 9-4 and winning the Emerald Bowl, but is it possible Cal could claim conference supremacy sometime soon?
Let's take a look,
The last four classes, according to Scout.com:
2009: 34th Overall Class (Fifth in Pac-10)
2008: 32nd Overall Class (Sixth in Pac-10)
2007: 12th Overall Class (Third in Pac-10)
2006: 23rd Overall Class (Fourth in Pac-10)
Well, the athletes are certainly there.
Cal has a very vocal, rabid base of true fans that travel very well. The fans definitely fit that of a big-time program. Now if only they could do something about that awful stadium to give those fans some more noise.
Cal has a proven winner in Jeff Tedford. First taking over in 2002, Tedford is a good 59-30 (36-23) at California. It really isn't a question of coaching at Cal; it's a question of how far can that coaching lead them.
Why Cal will succeed in the future
Cal has a proven head coach in Tedford, a good fanbase, and good athletes. Cal will always be able to be good, no matter what, and could spring up and surprise people on any given year.
Why Cal will not succeed in the future
Cal may run into problems with Stanford, UCLA, USC, and everyone else in the Pac-10, which may make it hard for them to sustain the kind of long-term success that they want, but if recruiting keeps up, it shouldn't be much of a problem.
Cal will always be good in the Pac-10, as long as recruiting is there. They have all the tools to rise up and take the Pac-10 one day; it's just a question of whether Tedford can lead them there, or whether he tops out at 10 wins.
The Golden Bears should be in the upper part of the Pac-10 every year in the future.
The UCLA Bruins
UCLA is a program that is probably college football's worst, or close to it, underachiever. There really is no reason they should be so bad.
In 2008 UCLA posted a 4-8 record in a season that saw them plagued with injuries. There was one bright spot however, beating Tennessee, and that seems to give new coach Rick Neuheisel some hope that things will get better.
"Slick Rick" can get them to prominence and competing for the Pac-10 title every year.
Let's visit the variables.
Here's a look at the last four classes and the relevance to the Pac-10 (all rankings according to Scout.com):
2009: Fifth overall class (First in Pac-10)
2008: 10th overall class (Second in Pac-10)
2007: 36th overall class (Fifth in Pac-10)
2006: 20th overall class (Third in Pac-10)
The athletes are there, so where are the wins?
The UCLA fanbase is a shaky bunch, there when the team is winning and gone when it isn't. Loyalty needs to be established to have a top-flight program.
Neuheisel's not a bad coach, and I'm certain he knows what he's doing at UCLA. When he gets what he wants going over there, then UCLA will be a force to be reckoned with, but it will be equally as important for Rick to stay out of trouble.
Why UCLA will succeed in the future
Proven coach can win games, and the athletes are there to win. If UCLA can get some wins and fill up the Rose Bowl, then no one will look forward to playing the Bruins.
Why UCLA will not succeed in the future
UCLA could conceivably be on probation at some point in the future; after all, "Slick Rick" is their coach. Also, there are a lot of distractions for players around the Westwood area that prevent a lot of them from focusing on football like they should.
UCLA has a proven coach at the helm and good athletes on the field. That should lead to success. If Neuheisel doesn't land these guys in hot water, then they could potentially be a top tier program in the Pac-10 and nation.
- Great recruiting
- Proven head coach
- Okay fanbase
- Upper part of Pac-10 if they stay out of trouble
The USC Trojans
No other team has been as dominant of its conference this decade, and possibly ever, as USC has been. Posting seven straight years of at least a share of the Pac-10 title, it gets a little ridiculous, and anyone is looking to see who can topple the Trojans from this dominance.
Well, USC may have a down year this year and may not win the conference, but everything is in place for them to continue this long reign of supremacy.
It has been all USC in the Pac-10. Let's look at their last four classes according to Scout.com.
2009: Ninth overall class (Second in Pac-10)
2008: Ninth overall class (First in Pac-10)
2007: Second overall class (First in Pac-10)
2006: First overall class (First in Pac-10)
USC has a huge fanbase that stretches across every sports store in America. It's hard to find a "True" USC fan in today's climate, but they are out there.
Now, if they only had the stadium to match their huge T-shirt fanbase....
There is no doubt USC has the best coach in the Pac-10, and that has probably played the biggest role in the utter dominance the Trojans have displayed this decade. Pete Carroll is head and shoulders above anyone in college football, make no mistake about it.
Don't believe me? Take a look at the record: 88-15 (57-10).
That, my friends, is coaching of the highest degree.
Why USC will succeed
The Trojans have the best everything (except for the stadium). They have the best coach in Pete Carroll, the best recruits year in and year out, a massive T-shirt fanbase, and an intimidation factor like no other. Why shouldn't they win the Pac-10 year after year?
Why USC will not succeed
Barring some catastrophe, USC will succeed.
Get ready for another decade of this, Pac-10 fans. If you don't want USC to continue its dominance, pray that Carroll takes a NFL job.
-Utter dominance of the Pac-10
The Arizona State Sun Devils
Being an ASU fan, I will try to be objective.
ASU knows how to take a high preseason ranking and do nothing with it, and they also know how to take no ranking at all and shock people. Last year was a classic example of the first.
However, things will get brighter for ASU, as all the tools are there.
A look at the last four classes, courtesy of Scout.com:
2009: 36th overall class (Sixth in Pac-10)
2008: 17th overall class (Fourth in Pac-10)
2007: 38th overall class (Sixth in Pac-10)
2006: 32nd overall class (Fifth in Pac-10)
There is talent at ASU, and its success, in terms of just going by recruiting numbers, is ahead of where ASU should be.
ASU has a shaky fanbase—being a member, I will admit that. Devil fans are there when we're winning and nowhere to be found when we're losing, but we can make a lot of noise when we are there. We have good, loyal fans, but not enough.
ASU has a proven winner in head coach Dennis Erickson. Erickson is bringing in kids that fit his system, and it's my belief that things will get rolling once everything is in place, as is Erickson's nature.
Why ASU will succeed in the future
ASU will succeed because they have a proven head coach and recruits coming in to fit the man's system. There isn't a reason that ASU shouldn't succeed to a good level in the future.
Why ASU will not succeed in the future
It seems to me that whenever we're supposed to succeed, we fail miserably, so we'll see. Also, we don't have the fanbase that a great program requires.
ASU will succeed to a high degree in the future. Erickson's recruiting is slowly putting together his master plan for the program, and it's only a matter of time before ASU is in the top three of the Pac-10 every year.
Go Sun Devils! (Is that too biased?)
- Proven head coach
- Decent recruiting
- Disloyal fanbase
- Should be in top three of Pac-10 every year once Erickson's plan comes together
The Arizona Wildcats
Arizona did something they rarely do last year: make it to a bowl game. They not only made a bowl game, but they also beat up on a disappointed BYU team in the game, so now everyone wants to say that they will have success with Mike Stoops.
Well, sorry—it's not going to happen.
Courtesy of Scout.com, the last four classes:
2009: 47th overall class (Eighth in Pac-10)
2008: 39th overall class (Seventh in Pac-10)
2007: 49th overall class (Ninth in Pac-10)
2006: 19th overall class (Second in Pac-10)
That is some inept (outside of 2006) recruiting.
Arizona has one of the most loyal fanbases in the Pac-10, deluded into thinking they are actually relevant on a national scale by the local media. Still, they are very loyal and very rabid, and one of the best in the Pac-10. Now if only they were a little more knowledgeable...
I'm sorry, but Stoops is not a good head coach. This man teems with inexperience, shown by his sideline tirades, running out to midfield to challenge delay of game and the like. Just because he went to a bowl doesn't make him elite. Remember, it took him a long time to get there.
Why Arizona will succeed in the future
Arizona will take advantage of a down Pac-10 when they can, but they lack the coach, recruits, and proper lighting in their stadium to be elite, or good, or even decent.
Why Arizona will not succeed
Arizona doesn't have a good coach, or good players; it's not hard to figure out where that might lead them to.
Make no mistake about it, U of A prevailed in a bad Pac-10 last year, but in the future it will be more failure and shame for the Wildcats just like it was before 2009. They will be at the bottom of a Pac-10 that will become more and more superior to them as time goes by.
- Bad coach
- Bad recruits
- Great fans
- Last in Pac-10 (objective as possible)