Pac-12 Football: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Pac-12 has a lot of expectations for this year starting with the addition of Utah and Colorado to the ranks, but there is more for each team to consider than just a new rival or two.
This is a list of the good, the bad and the ugly that each Pac-12 team will have to confront in the 2011 season.
Some teams are in pretty good shape, some will have more to work on than others and others may be beyond any help but will fight on nonetheless.
University of Arizona
Good – Nick Foles and Juron Criner
Returning quarterback Nick Foles gives Arizona fans reason to celebrate, and a perfectly fine wide receiver Juron Criner is reason to go crazy. With this dynamic duo back in action, the Wildcats are looking at a powerful offensive attack for the 2011 season.
Bad – Tough start to schedule
Even with their offense getting back two key players, the Wildcats are in for an uphill battle at the start of the season. The first four games—against Northern Arizona, Oklahoma State, Stanford and the dreaded Oregon Ducks—are all going to be a challenge.
Ugly – Loss of key starters
Arizona’s defense has lost two stars—Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore—to the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers, respectively, and their absences are not easily replaced. The potential for opposing teams to negate their pass rush is all too real if seniors C.J. Parish and Mohammed Usman can’t fill the defensive end void.
Arizona State University
Good – Returning talent
Losing key players hurts any team no matter what people may say, but getting 20 returning players? That's a good day at the office. The offensive line in particular is looking to be a solid leg for ASU to stand on, with five returning linemen and four reserves who have also seen playing time.
Bad – T.J. Simpson
Wide receiver T.J. Simpson has been a big-play threat with 29 receptions for 481 yards in 2010, but last March he suffered a torn ACL in practice. This injury leaves ASU with one less wide receiver to make an impact in the 2011 season.
Ugly – Omar Bolden
As if losing Simpson wasn't enough, two days later cornerback Omar Bolden suffered the same fate of a torn ACL during practice. A defensive leader, this injury is a huge problem for ASU, leaving the secondary with a lot of work to do.
University of California, Berkeley
Good – New venue
The change of scenery from the decrepit California Memorial Stadium to the pristine AT&T Park might do Cal some good as its ancient stadium finally gets retrofitted. The tree sitters are no where to be seen and the Hayward Fault won’t have Cal shaking in its cleats.
Bad – Key losses to graduation
Running back Shane Vereen, quarterback Kevin Riley and defensive lineman Cameron Jordan have moved on to the NFL; their production and leadership will be hard to replace.
Ugly – No reliable running back
Cal has been known as Running Back U in the past but this year there is no proven No. 1 running back. As of now Isi Sofele is the projected starter for the 2011 season, but this year could lend itself to a running back-by-committee situation.
University of Colorado at Boulder
Good – Rodney Stewart
He may be a little undersized at 5'6'' but Rodney Stewart is a huge offensive force to be reckoned with. Rushing for 1,300 yards last season, he will help Colorado get its footing in the Pac-12.
Bad – New to the Pac-12
Colorado is the new kid on the block along with Utah in the new Pac-12. While this means a great TV contract and new exposure, it also means a much harder schedule for Colorado to grapple with.
Ugly – No back-up quarterback
Colorado's Tyler Hansen is a competent quarterback but there is very little depth behind him. If anything were to happen to him in the 2011 season, the Buffaloes offense could very well slow to a halt.
University of Oregon
Good – Darron Thomas and LaMichael James
This powerful combo is the trademark of the Oregon offense and both had very impressive 2010 seasons. The duo will make Oregon a contender for a BCS game if they perform like they did last year.
Bad – Familiarity breeds contempt
The quick attack of the Oregon offense is no longer a surprise to the defensive coordinators in the Pac-12, and opposing teams will be ready to counter in the 2011 season. Oregon will need continued efficiency plus a few new tricks if it wants to have another blowout offense like that of 2010.
Ugly – NCAA sanctions
Oregon has been placed squarely in the NCAA crosshairs along with Ohio State and Auburn. If the NCAA has shown anything like it did with USC, Oregon better watch its step in the 2011 season.
Oregon State University
Good – Ryan Katz is back
Quarterback Ryan Katz is coming back after injuring his wrist last season in the Civil War against Oregon. His return is a relief to OSU as he is key to a strong 2011 season.
Bad – Unsure running game
Unfortunately for Katz he will have his injured hands full with carrying the Beavers offense until the coaching staff figures out their plan of attack for a running game. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers will be sorely missed.
Ugly – James Rodgers and Jordan Bishop
With wide receiver James Rodgers potentially out while rehabbing his knee from surgery and wide receiver Jordan Bishop nursing an injured foot, Oregon State's passing game could be in trouble. The Beavers need everyone healthy if they want to compete in the new Pac-12.
Good – Andrew Luck
Probably the easiest choice in this entire list, Andrew Luck is Stanford's ace in the hole. Arguably the best quarterback in the nation, Luck could help lead Stanford to a conference championship and beyond.
Bad – New coaching staff
With all the new blood in the coaching staff there is a lot of play that needs to be adjusted accordingly. Each coach needs to establish an individual style, and that takes time. Ex-head coach Jim Harbaugh's fire and determination will be missed.
Ugly – Attendance
It is a shame that a top 10 team in a beautiful new stadium has the worst attendance in the Pac-12. You'd think people would come show support for their team—or at least watch the crazy antics from the Stanford Tree and band.
University of California, Los Angeles
Good – Strong running game
UCLA has enjoyed a strong running game this past 2010 season after adopting the "pistol" formation. With new running game coordinator Jim Mastro the Bruins are looking to improve an already impressive running offense.
Bad – No solid quarterback in five years
The one problem with developing a balanced offense is you need a good quarterback. Unfortunately for UCLA, it has yet to find an adequate starter in the last five years.
Ugly – Rick Neuheisel
Coach Rick Neuheisel needs to watch his back this season. If UCLA backpedals any further, he just may need to fire up his resume.
University of Southern California
Good – Matt Barkley
USC could use some good news right about now and it can come in the form of Matt Barkley. If Barkley continues to develop into a first-round talent, it will be the first shred of good luck to hit USC since…
Man, it's been awhile, hasn't it?
Bad – Marc Tyler
Of course the hits just keep on coming for USC. Seemingly intoxicated tailback Marc Tyler is suspended due to comments he made in an interview with TMZ; it isn't clear for how long this suspension will be for, but it provides yet another distraction for USC this season.
Ugly – NCAA sanctions take hold
Forget the postseason bowl ban. The crippling loss of scholarships will decimate the Trojans' recruiting for years to come.
University of Utah
Good – Jordan Wynn
Utah coaches and fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Standout quarterback Jordan Wynn claims to have recovered from his shoulder injury that prevented him from playing in spring practices. His return to the field will be a welcome sight in the Utes' inaugural Pac-12 season.
Bad – First year in the Pac-12
Just like Colorado, Utah has its work cut out for it after joining the Pac-12. With harder teams to play and not too many breaks in the schedule, Utah's depth will be sorely tested.
Ugly – Toto, we're not in Mountain West Conference anymore...
There will be no breathers for the Utes once they hit the Pac-12 schedule; duplicating their 2010 10-3 record will not be easy.
University of Washington
Good – Chris Polk
Having the amazing running back Chris Polk around gives the Huskies a real chance to make some noise in the 2011 season. Rushing for 1,415 yards last season, Polk is capable of carrying not only his portion of the offense but the rest of the offense as well.
Bad – Loss of quarterback Jake Locker
Losing quarterback Jake Locker to the NFL is a hard blow for the Huskies to take. Finding a strong replacement in Keith Price is essential if the Dawgs want to contend in the Pac-12 this season.
Ugly – Defensive line
Except for defensive tackle Alameda Ta'amu, Washington is looking at an inexperienced defensive front going into the 2011 season. This could spell trouble, especially against offensive powerhouses like Oregon who could run the ball down the Huskies' throat.
Washington State University
Good – Nowhere to go but up
At this point in Washington State football there's nowhere to go but up. After finishing dead last in the Pac-10 last year, WSU, with an improving offense, could surprise.
Bad – Recent history of ineptitude
There isn't much worse than being at the bottom of your conference, which is where WSU has been the last few years. The Cougars will struggle to make themselves relevant in the revamped Pac-12 conference.
Ugly – Another year at the bottom?
Unfortunately for Washington State, there isn't a whole lot more to expect in the 2011 season. WSU needs the chance to grow and improve and that is going to take time – hopefully coach Paul Wulff can turn this program around.