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Pac 12 Season Win Projections
by ASA - 09/02/2015
Arizona – UNDER 7 Wins
The Wildcats surprisingly won 10 games in the regular season last year. Obviously the oddsmakers are looking for a big drop in setting this year’s number at 7 for Arizona. We look for a drop as well and will lean UNDER here. Last year’s performance was a bit of a mirage as this team made it all the way to the Pac 12 Championship game despite being outgained 469 to 425 in conference play. For the season, the Cats allowed 5.7 yards per play while gaining 5.7 yards per play. They basically played their opponents dead even yardage wise last year which is not the sign of a 10-2 type team. They came back to earth a bit at the end of the season getting crushed by Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship and then losing to Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. Last year was their first winning season in conference play since 2009 and we think they regress this year. Their non-conference slate looks fairly manageable however their game @ Nevada is definitely losable (Zona beat Nevada by just 7 at home last season). They do have an experienced QB returning in Solomon however he will be working behind a fairly inexperienced O-Line. The defense has been shaky at best under head coach Rich Rodriguez as they have allowed at least a 400 YPG average for 4 consecutive seasons. The Pac 12 road slate is tough with games @ Stanford, @ USC, @ Arizona State, and @ Washington. We wouldn’t be surprised if they were tripped up @ Nevada early in the year and then go on to a sub .500 mark in conference play. We’ll look at the UNDER here.
Arizona State – UNDER 8.5 Wins
The Devils squeaked over this number last year winning 9 regular season games. While we expect them to be very good again in 2015, we think there is a better chance of them dropping to 8 wins this year rather than getting back to 9. First of all, they were very fortunate last year at +14 turnovers on the season. That put them at more than +1 per game which is tough to overcome if you are the opponent. Don’t expect them to be as fortunate this year. ASU was actually outgained in Pac 12 play by 15 yards per game. Their offense will always be potent under head coach Todd Graham but they lose QB Kelly, however his replacement Bercovici is experienced. Their running game should be solid with DJ Foster returning. The Devil defense will have to play much better this year to reach this number. Last year the stop unit allowed 417 YPG and half of their opponents last year topped 30 points. After this analysis you might wonder why we are taking the UNDER here. This team will be good however they have a number of losable games on the slate (Texas A&M, Oregon, USC, @ UCLA, @ Utah, @ Cal). This number affords them only 3 losses and we think an 8-4 record is most realistic.
California – OVER 5 Wins
Head man Sonny Dykes has Cal moving in the right direction in his 3rd year with the program. Cal made a huge jump from 1 win in 2013 to 5 wins in 2014. Their offense jumped from 23 PPG in 2013 to 38 PPG last year. Their defense, while still very porous, cut their numbers from 46 PPG allowed in 2013 to 39 PPG allowed last season. After winning 5 games last season, we expect them to get to at least 6 this year. The Bears return 17 starters and 58 lettermen. That includes QB Goff who put up huge numbers in Dykes’ pass happy system with nearly 4,000 yards through the air and 36 TD’s. The Bears also bring back their top 5 rushers and 9 of their top 10 receivers. The defense returns 12 of their top 13 tacklers. We think the Bears open the season with two home wins vs Grambling State and San Diego State. Their 3rd non-conference tilt will be tough @ Texas, however we wouldn’t rule out an upset there. Pac 12 home wins vs Oregon State and Washington State are likely which already puts them near this number. If they can pull off an upset or two, this team could get to 7 wins. Their offense is absolutely capable of doing just that. We like Cal to be one of the more improved teams in the Pac 12 and like them OVER.
Colorado – OVER 4.5 Wins
This number opened too low in our opinion. It might be tough to find 4.5 now, but if you (or 5) can we recommend the OVER. First of all, the Buffs have an extra regular season game this year as they play @ Hawaii. That gives them 13 games instead of 12. CU was 0-9 in league play last year but truth be told, they deserved better. They had tight losses to Utah, UCLA, Oregon State, and Cal, all of which they could have won. Their overall yardage numbers in Pac 12 play (-50 YPG) were actually better than 3 other teams in the league. They bring back a lot of experience this year with 16 starters back including QB Liufau who threw for 3,200 yards and 28 TD’s. WE look for Liufau to shine in his 3rd years as Colorado’s starting QB. This year we have Colorado favored in all 4 non-conference games including two “almost” layups at home vs UMass and Nicholls State. They also face a down Hawaii team and have a revenger vs Colorado State in Denver. Win those four, or even three of four, and they get very close to this number before Pac 12 play even begins. They play Stanford & Oregon in the Pac 12 crossover, however they also get a shot at Washington State and Oregon State who we consider the two worst teams in the North. We look for CU to pick up a few conference wins this year and get to at least 5.
Oregon – UNDER 9.5 Wins
The Ducks will obviously be formidable this year as they are every season, however we have a feeling they won’t be as dominant as they have been. First of all they are replacing all everything QB Mariota who led this team on the field and in the locker room. His successor will be Vernon Adams who came over from Eastern Washington where he put up huge numbers. We’ll see how that translates to the big time, however we’ll go out on a limb and say he won’t duplicate what Mariota has done. The offensive and defensive lines both have some unknowns as well. The offense will put will obviously put points on the board but we’re not sold on this defense. They were very fortunate to allow only 23 PPG a year ago as teams were able to scorch them for 423 total YPG. In other words, they weren’t as good as their PPG numbers suggested. The schedule also suggest to us this team might “only” get to 9 wins this year. Three of their four toughest games are on the road (@ Mich St, @ Ariz St, and @ Stanford). We think they’ll lose @ Sparty in the 2nd game of the season. MSU has been waiting for this one and they catch the Ducks early in the season transitioning to some new players at key spots. If they lose that, it gives Oregon just one game leeway if they want to get to 10 wins. We think they’ll lose 2 Pac 12 games and finish with 9 W’s. Leaning UNDER here.
Oregon State – UNDER 4 Wins
The Beavers won 5 games a year ago and we don’t see them getting to that number again this season. It looks like 4 wins might be the best case scenario for OSU so we’ll grab the UNDER here. This team loses too much for us to consider them improved. With only 43 returning lettermen and 26 lost, they rank 115th nationally (out of 128) in percentage of players returning. On offense they lose multiple year starting QB Mannion. On defense they lose nearly everyone. Just 2 starters are back on that side of the ball and their top 6 tacklers are gone. Everyone will be learning a new system on both sides of the ball as well with new head coach Gary Andersen coming over from Wisconsin. OSU went just 2-7 in Pac 12 play last year with their wins coming by 5 & 8 points. Their conference losses, on the other hand, were by 28, 25, 24, 24, 14, 7, and 6 points. This year they have a chance to pick up 2 non-conference wins at home vs Weber State & San Jose State. After that we’re not sure they can get 2 more during their conference slate in which they play 5 roadies and just 4 home games. The Beavs were outgained by 80 YPG in Pac 12 play last year and look worse on both sides of the ball. We’ll take the UNDER here and feel a push would be the worst case.
Stanford – OVER 8.5 Wins
Last year Stanford won their fewest games since 2009 going just 8-5. The defense was great in 2014 and the offense struggled scoring 20 or fewer points in nearly half of their games (6). The offensive line was the problem last season as they were one of the most inexperienced units in the nation. Not anymore. Stanford brings back nearly their entire O-Line this season along with QB Hogan who will be starting for the 3rd straight season. Don’t be at all surprised if Stanford’s offensive numbers go up dramatically this year. The defense was stellar in 2014 allowing only 16 PPG. The Cardinal lost a number of key players on that side of the ball and the DL will be a concern. However, Stanford has always been solid on defense allowing fewer than 20 PPG in 4 of their last 5 seasons so we don’t look for a big drop off this year. Schedule wise, this season sets up pretty well for this team. Their only tough road game in Pac 12 play is @ USC. They will be favored @ Oregon St, @ Washington St, and @ Colorado. Everyone else they get at home where they are 36-4 their last 40 games. The Cardinal were very close to having a much better record last year with 3 of their 5 losses coming by a field goal. We expect a nice improvement pushing them OVER 8.5 wins.
UCLA – UNDER 9.5 Wins
We realize the Bruins finished 9-3 last regular season and they return a lot of talent in 2015. However, we can’t get past the fact they lose one of the best QB’s in the nation with Hundley moving onto the NFL. They lose almost 4,000 total yards (passing & rushing) with his loss. We just can’t believe this team will be even BETTER with him gone in 2015. True frosh Josh Rosen is set to start at QB and he has obviously never taken a snap at the collegiate level. The other option is Jerry Neuheisel who throw for 190 yards in relief of Hundley last season. Minus Hundley, the Bruins still have 18 starters returning and will be good. Just not 10 wins good in our opinion. The schedule does not set up well for them. They will be double digit favorites in each of their non-conference games, however they are not all cakewalks as some teams are. They play Virginia and BYU and while they will most likely win those games, it’s not like playing Grambling State & Eastern Michigan. The Pac 12 slate is tough. Only 4 home games and 5 road tilts. Their road games are very difficult @ Arizona, @ Stanford, @ Utah, and @ USC. The only conference road game where they will be a definite favorite is @ Oregon State. Now add in home games against Arizona State and an improving Cal team and we just don’t see the team topping 9 wins. We have them at 9-3 and will lean UNDER here.
USC – 8.5 Wins
As of right now, we have this USC team favored in every game this season but one. They will most likely be an underdog @ Oregon and that’s it. Possibly @ Notre Dame (we have this game as a pick-em) or @ Arizona State (we have USC favored by a point) but those are the only other two games where that could be a possibility. Obviously things change as the season progresses, however if we are projecting this team to be favored in at least 10 games, we have to side with the OVER 8.5. USC is very similar to UCLA in regards to returning players. Both have a LOT of experience back. The difference is USC returns QB Kessler who will be among the best in the nation while UCLA will have a new signal caller. Yet UCLA’s win total is a full game higher than USC’s. The offense should be very good again and we project them approaching 40 PPG. The defense took a step back last year and allowed over 400 YPG of total offense. They should improve greatly on that with 9 of their 11 defensive starters projected to be upper classmen. The Trojans also have 5 home games in league play and just 4 road games. Two of their three non-league games are gimmes vs Arkansas State and Idaho. The other is @ Notre Dame which will obviously be tough. They will be at least a TD chalk in 3 of their 5 conference home games (Arizona, Washington, and Utah). They have a number of winnable road games @ Colorado, @ Cal, @ Arizona St, and @ Notre Dame. This team should end up with 9 or 10 wins.
Utah – UNDER 7.5 Wins
This team won 8 games a year ago during the regular season but they were somewhat lucky to do so. They were both outgained and outscored in Pac 12 play despite their 5-4 record. Their Pac 12 wins last year came by margins of 2, 3, 3, 4, and 6 points. They were actually OUTGAINED in 4 of those 5 conference wins. Of their 12 regular season games (8 wins) they were outgained 10 times. This team was very fortunate last season. This year we think it will be tough for them to repeat 2014 so we look for 7 or fewer wins. They will have a very tough time winning most of their Pac 12 road games. They travel to Oregon, USC, Washington, and Arizona. Most likely they are looking at 3 losses or more in those games. You would think they’d have a big advantage at home in the altitude against Arizona State, Cal, Oregon State, UCLA, and Colorado. However, this team hasn’t shown they have a huge home field advantage as of late with a record of just 14-12 here the last 4 seasons. They do have a decent situation at QB with vets Wilson and Thompson back, however we just don’t think this team will get the breaks they did last season. A 7-5 record would be solid for this team and still put them UNDER this number.
Washington – UNDER 4 Wins
No team in the Pac 12 has fewer returning starters than Washington (just 9). This team was loaded with talent last year, they ended the year +12 in turnover margin yet still only won 8 regular season games. The Huskies had 3 players drafted in the NFL first round in May. Chris Petersen is a very good coach but we don’t think he has the horses to get to 5 wins this year. The Huskies are very inexperienced on BOTH the offensive and defensive lines which is not a recipe for success. They also received a big blow in the spring when returning starting QB Miles took a leave of absence from football for personal reasons. As of now, he will not play in 2015. That leaves Jeff Lindquist as the only QB with any experience completing just 30% of his 30 attempts last season. The defense doesn’t look much better. After allowing 411 YPG last year, they lose 5 of their top 6 tacklers, including their entire D-Line. They have already been tabbed double digit underdogs at Boise State to open the season. They have a brutal stretch in October to open the Pac 12 and we feel there is a chance when they hit their final 2 games @ Oregon St and at home vs Washington St, this team could be 0-7 in league play.
Washington State – OVER 5 Wins
We think the Cougars come into this season a bit undervalued. Sure they had just a 3-9 record last year, but the numbers tell us they were much better than their record would indicate. This team was actually +46 YPG in Pac 12 play but had only a 2-7 record. That +46 yardage differential was better than EVERY team in the Pac 12 not named Oregon, UCLA, and Stanford. Offensively, head coach Mike Leach knows how to put up big numbers. The only team that put up more YPG last year was Oregon. Leach loses QB Halliday, however this year’s starter Luke Falk threw for nearly 2,000 yards a year ago when Halliday was injured. That includes 600+ yards through the air vs Arizona State. The offensive line is among the most experienced in the nation with everybody returning. The defense has been poor but Leach hopes to change that with a new defensive coordinator in place. The Cougs will be double digit favorites in 2 of their 3 non-conference games and could beat a down Rutgers team on the road. They get Oregon State and Colorado in Pullman getting them to at least 2 wins. We think they’ll pull an upset or two in conference play and push for a bowl berth.