Pac-12 Football: 10 Bold Predictions for the Rest of the Season
The second set of BCS rankings were released last Sunday, which means the home stretch of college football is upon us.
Out west, everything is falling into place for a November 12 showdown in Palo Alto between the Oregon Ducks and the Stanford Cardinal to determine the winner of the Pac-12 North and the eventual host of the inaugural Pac-12 championship game.
But what else is in store for the rest of the 2011 season besides the Stanford-Oregon clash and the first-ever conference championship game on December 2?
Here are some predictions for the rest of the 2011 Pac-12 season on and off the field.
Utah Will Play in a Bowl Game
The Utah Utes had been successful versus Pac-10 opponents in the years leading up to their invitation to join the conference.
They posted a 7-3 record over their final 10 games versus Pac-10 foes before joining the newly formed 12-team conference.
However, life as a member of the Pac-12 hasn't been such a smooth transition for the Utes. They currently are 0-4 and tied for last place in the Pac-12 South with Colorado, the conference's other new member.
Besides inter-conference play, it hasn't all been doom and gloom for the Utes 2012 football campaign. They beat their arch-rival Brigham Young 54-10 in one of the most lopsided scores in the history of The Holy War.
Then they travelled back east and got a big win over the Big East's Pittsburgh. That win improved the Utes record to 9-0 all time versus the Big East. Maybe they should have waited for an invite from them.
More good news for the Utes is that they conveniently avoided Stanford and Oregon when the schedule was released for their debut season in the conference, which means their remaining five conference games are against teams in the bottom half of the Pac-12 standings.
If the Utes can get three conference wins, they will still be bowl eligible and possibly build some momentum entering their sophomore season in the conference.
Colorado Will Lose 10 Games to Pac-12 Opponents by Season's End
I don't know if a team has ever lost to 10 teams from the same conference in a season before, or if it will ever be mathematically possible to happen again. However, the 2011 Colorado Buffaloes have that 'feat' in sight.
The reason that the Buffaloes may lose to 10 other Pac-12 teams is that one of Colorado's non-conference games this season was versus Cal, who the Buffs had scheduled before they received an invitation to join the Pac-12.
Although the Pac-12 hasn't been very hospitable to their newest members, I believe the conference as a whole should look at Colorado as a long-term investment. The Buffaloes have a rich college football history that includes numerous Big 8 championships, a Big 12 championship and a national championship in 1990.
The Buffs have always recruited heavily out of California, and playing in the Pac-12 South should help recruiting and improve Colorado football moving forward.
The Pac-12 Will Have 5 Teams in the Final Associated Press Top 25 Poll
This may not seem like an overly impressive number of ranked teams at first glance, but it is much more respectable than the total of two ranked teams the conference ended with in 2010 and started with in 2011.
Last year the conference may have been deeper and more balanced. However, the top-heavy nature of the 2011 Pac-12 should finish with Stanford, Oregon, USC, Arizona State and Washington all in the final poll of the AP Top 25.
5 Quarterbacks Will Throw for 30 or More Touchdown Passes
The Pac-12 has long been known as the conference of quarterbacks, and this year the conference is absolutely loaded with talented signal callers.
Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Nick Foles were all on the top five of Mel Kiper's Big Board before the season started and they have all been as good as advertised. However, several other quarterbacks in the conference are putting up monster numbers as well.
As of today, five Pac-12 quarterbacks are on pace to throw for over 30 touchdown passes. That list includes: Matt Barkley of USC, Andrew Luck of Stanford, Nick Foles of Arizona, Keith Price of Washington and Darron Thomas of Oregon.
Brock Osweiler of Arizona State and Marshall Lobestael of Washington State are just off pace to throw 30 touchdown passes.
Considering Darron Thomas' health is unknown outside of Eugene, I'm predicting five Pac-12 gunslingers to throw for over 30 touchdown passes. However, don't be surprised if the conference ends up with six or even seven breaking that mark.
The Pac-12 Will Have Two BCS Bowl Teams
Last year the Stanford Cardinal received an at-large bid to the Orange Bowl while the Oregon Ducks played for the BCS National Championship. Expect those same two teams to receive BCS Bowl bids once again.
Although college football arguably has a two-team playoff and every other bowl is just a glorified exhibition game, some of the exhibition games are much more lucrative than others. The payout of a BCS bowl is over $17 million more than that of any other bowl that the Pac-12 is currently affiliated with.
Even though the Pac-10 only had four teams play in bowl games last year, the conference profited much more off its post-season games than the 2009 season when the conference received seven bowl bids.
The bowl money is split between the entire conference, so all 12 conference athletic directors will be hoping for two BCS bowl bids once again.
Andrew Luck Will Shock Us with Another Unconventional Jaw Dropper
NFL scouts have been drooling over Andrew Luck since the end of the 2009 season. The cliché about Luck is that he is a surefire, can't-miss NFL quarterback prospect. He is smart, can make all the throws, doesn't make mistakes, has a rocket arm, is a good leader, has a booming voice and every other possible description of the ideal, video game-esque quarterback.
Even though the aforementioned qualities are enough to assure his position of the #1 pick in next year's NFL draft, some of Andrew Luck's most amazing highlights have nothing to do with the skills that an NFL quarterback needs to possess.
Last year when Shareece Wright of USC recovered a fumble in a 14-14 tie versus Stanford, Wright thought for a second that he was off to the races. About 1.5 seconds later, Andrew Luck flattened Shareece Wright in a play that had the announcers in shock and awe.
Later that season in "The Big Game" vs arch-rival Cal, Luck decided to tuck and run when none of his receivers were available. He eventually forearmed a Cal cornerback who thought he was going to tackle him at midfield. Instead, the Cal defender was knocked on his back and Luck paused for a split second and gave him a stare.
At the end of last season, it appeared that Luck could play linebacker or fullback in case of an emergency. This season versus UCLA, we learned that he could play wide receiver, too. During a play in the first half, Stanford worked an end around to a receiver, who then threw the ball back to Luck for a 15 yard pass. It was overthrown and appeared to be headed out of bounds for an incomplete pass, until Luck stretched with one arm to make the grab.
Who knows, maybe Luck will throw a pass to himself one day.
Andrew Luck Will Also Win the Heisman
Considering Andrew Luck has been leading every Heisman poll since this past spring, this isn't the boldest of predictions.
Cliff Harris Will Have No More Driving Citations
This may be the boldest prediction of all, but I believe that Cliff Harris is done getting in trouble behind the wheel.
This past summer, he was pulled over driving 118 mph with no driver's license in a rental car. He was suspended for the LSU game and has had limited playing time this season since being reinstated.
The missed games and lack of playing time didn't seem to deter Harris from continuing to drive on his suspended driver's license. He was pulled over again on Monday, October 24 for failure to wear his seatbelt. He was cited for the seatbelt, driving without insurance and driving on a suspended license.
While it is uncertain as to whether Harris will get pulled over again for another traffic violation, it is certain that the pre-season first team All-American has been, as in the words of his coach Chip Kelly, "disappointing" this season.
There Will Be No More Talk of Pac-12 Expansion in 2011
Ever since Larry Scott invited half of the Big 12 to join the Pac, rumors have been swirling about who the newest members of the conference will be. Last year Larry Scott cast out his net in an attempt to add six teams to the conference, but instead added just two.
The two added teams proved to be sufficient to complete the master plan that nearly demised the Big 12, which was to land a monster TV deal. Commissioner Larry Scott ended up signing the largest TV deal in college sport's history. This year, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Texas Tech hoped the offer to join the Pac-12 was still on the table.
The Pac-12 voted to keep things how they are for now. However, once another conference tops the Pac-12's television deal, expect the commissioner to be on the hunt to add teams once again.
The National Championship Will Be Stanford vs the LSU-Alabama Winner
The latter part of my prediction seems to be quite obvious at this point in the season. LSU and Alabama are the top two ranked teams in the country and between them they have received just about all of the first-place votes in every major poll.
Stanford, however, does not seem to be in control their own destiny as of yet. Although they are tied with Oklahoma State for an average ranking of 3.5 in the human polls, the computers have Stanford at an average ranking of nine. The Jeff Sagarin computer needs to invest in some anti-virus software, because it must have a virus if it believes Stanford is currently the 21st best team in college football.
The Cardinal should move up in both the human and computer average rankings if they are to win out. That would include wins over USC, Oregon, Notre Dame and the Pac-12 South champion (probably Arizona State) to end the season. Even if Oklahoma St wins out, I predict that this will be enough to cement the Cardinal into the No. 2 spot in the BCS rankings.
Whether my prediction comes true or not, one thing that isn't debatable is the dominant run that the Cardinal have been on. After the 65-21 win over Washington last Saturday, the Cardinal became the first team in the poll era to win 10 straight games by 25 or more points. One of those games was the 40-12 thrashing of the Virginia Tech in last year's Orange Bowl.
Also, if my prediction is to come true, then the national championship will feature the SEC champ versus the Pac-12 champ. This will only be the the second ever national championship between the two conferences, which is shocking when you consider Pete Carroll won six BCS bowls during a time period in which the SEC won four national championships.
But then again, nothing that the BCS ever does is really that shocking.