2012 Pac 12 North Division
All Odds Courtesy of Bovada
Last season, the Oregon Ducks won the Pac 12 North Division and then beat UCLA handily in the inaugural Pac 12 Championship game. The Ducks went on to win the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin.
This year Oregon is still favored to win the division, but USC is favored to win the South division and the Conference Championship. Both are expected to ranked in the pre-season top 10. The two meet in Los Angeles November 3, and both could potentially be undefeated when they play.
I will cover the Pac 12 South Division in another article, but now let’s take a look at the North, with odds courtesy of Bovada. I will list odds to win the division, the conference, and the BCS titles.
Oregon (2/5 division, 2/1 conference, 12/1 BCS)
Oregon loses quarterback Darren Thomas and running back LaMichael James, but coach Chip Kelly still has plenty of talent with 12 starters returning. The Ducks have won 3 straight Pac 12 titles and lost in the BCS Championship game to Auburn two years ago on a field goal on the last play of the game.
The Ducks offense will still be one of the best in the country. It was expected that sophomore Bryan Bennett would take over at quarterback for Thomas but redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota dazzled in the Oregon spring game and entered himself into the fray for the starting job. The battle is expected to last until the fall, but many expect Bennett to get the job. Bennett played well in two games in the middle of last season when Thomas was injured, both Duck wins. He threw for 369 total yards with a 54.3 percent completion percentage last year with 6 touchdown passes and no picks. He also rushed for 200 yards on 23 carries.
Senior Kenjon Barner will take over as the starting running back from LaMichael James. Barner rushed for 939 yards last year with 11 touchdowns, and also caught 17 passes with 3 touchdowns. Sophomore De’Anthony Thomas is electrifying and can line up all over the field. Thomas will most likely return kicks and punts. Thomas returned 2 kicks for touchdowns last year. He rushed for 595 yards on just 55 carries with 7 touchdowns. He also led the Ducks in receiving yards with 605 on 46 catches with 9 TD catches. His 18 total touchdowns tied for 12th in the nation.
The line is decent led by center Hroniss Grasu and Jake Fisher. Tight end Colt Lylerla caught only 7 passes last season, but 5 were for touchdowns. He will be the starter this season. Josh Huff and Daryle Hawkins are best wide receivers.
The Oregon defense is often overlooked in the shadow of the explosive offense, but this year the defense could be an elite unit. Dion Jordan was all Pac 12 last year and can play either defensive end or linebacker. Senior John Boyett is an elite free safety.
Oregon’s schedule isn’t too tough, as they don’t play a projected top 50 team until USC in November. The Ducks have non-conference home games against Arkansas St, Fresno St, and Tennessee Tech. In conference, Oregon has home games against Arizona, Washington, Colorado, and Stanford. The Ducks play road games at Washington St, Arizona St, USC, Cal, and Oregon St. The Ducks should be favored in every game except USC, but needs to watch out for tricky road games at Arizona St and California. Oregon plays 5 of their first 6 games at home, but 4 of the last 6 are on the road. The Ducks should win the division rather easily.
Washington (5/1 division, 12/1 c0nference, 250/1 BCS)
It was only a few seasons ago that Washington had a humiliating 0-12 season. USC assistant Steve Sarkisian took over the program in 2009 after that season, and the Huskies have been better each year. Last, year, the Huskies went 7-6 and lost to Baylor 67-56 in the Alamo Bowl. The Huskies started off the season 5-1 but went 2-5 down the stretch. The Huskies might be the third best team in the conference behind Oregon and USC.
The offense is led by junior quarterback Keith Price. He threw for over 3,000 yards with a 66.9% completion percentage, 33 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. he also rushed for 3 touchdowns. He was injured late in the season against USC and missed the next game against Oregon St. He returned for the Apple Cup against Washington St and also played in the bowl game against Baylor. He shredded both defenses but both were among the worst pass defenses in the country.
Washington loses three of their best skill position players in running back Chris Polk, and receivers Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar. Sophomores Bishop Sankey and Jesse Callier will replace Polk in the backfield. They combined for 447 yards and 2 touchdowns, but Polk got the vast majority of the carries. Each caught a few passes, but will get more targets this year. They will run behind a line that returns 3 starters. The line wasn’t awful last year, but could regress slightly this year.
Pierce’s top targets will be tight end Austin Sefarian-Jenkins who caught 41 passes for 538 yards and 6 touchdowns. His top returning receiver is Kasen Williams who caught 36 passes for 427 yards with 6 touchdowns. Senior James Johnson and Junior Kevin Smith will also get plenty of targets. Smith tore his ACL in December, but should be ready by the start of the season.
The defense was awful last year, and Sarkisian brought in Tennessee defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and Cal defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi to fix it. The Huskies were especially terrible against the run as they ranked 107th out of 120 teams. Washington gave up way too many big plays on the groun. Wilcox moved from a 4-3 to a 3-4, so that might help against the run. The front seven needs to improve drastically to help out a decent secondary that was able to avoid big passing plays. The top seven secondary members return and should be even better.
Washington faces a brutal start to the season, and could be in a hole before the schedule loosens up. They open up at home against San Diego St, who is coming off back to back bowl appearances for the first time in school history. The Huskies then travel to LSU, before facing Portland St at home. In conference, the Huskies have home against Stanford and USC sandwiched around a trip to Oregon. The Huskies could easily be 2-4 after those six games. The rest of the schedule includes road games at Arizona, Cal, Colorado, and Washington St, and home games against Oregon St and Utah. With that schedule, I don’t see Washington competing for the division title, but they might be able to eke out a bowl bid.
California (17/2 Division, 18/1 Conference, 200/1 BCS)
Last season, California finished the regular season 7-5 under long time coach Jeff Tedford and the Golden Bears lost to Texas 21-10 in the Holiday Bowl. The Bears look to improve this season and will battle with Washington and Stanford for second place in the division. One thing will change for sure though. Last season, Cal had to play all of it’s “home” games in San Francisco instead of Berkeley because of renovations to the stadium. Cal is much stronger in Berkeley so that should help win at least a couple more games.
Cal is led by by senior quarterback Zach Maynard. His numbers were solid but not spectacular last year. He passed for 2,990 yards with a 57% percent completion percentage. He threw 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and ran for 4 touchdowns.
The Bears lose three of their top 4 receivers from a year ago, but top receiver Keenan Allen does return He caught 98 passes for 1,343 yards and 6 touchdowns. California also recruited a deep group of freshmen at the wideouts, and they will be pressed into action right away. The Bears do return their top 2 running backs in seniors Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson. Sofele rushed for over 1,300 yards with 10 touchdowns, and Anderson had 8 rushing touchdowns, and also caught a touchdown pass.
Cal’s defense ranked 35th last year nationally. They return both corners, but have losses at the safeties and in the front 7. The front seven should be deep but they don’t have a lot of experience. They should be a top 40 defense again, which is a plus in conference that features a lot of high-powered offenses.
The schedule isn’t that difficult. They open up with home games against Nevada and Southern Utah, before a brutal two game road trip to Ohio St and USC. The rest of the conference schedule includes home games against Arizona St, UCLA, Stanford, Washington, and Oregon, and road games at Washington St, Utah, and Oregon St. I think Cal gets another bowl berth.
Stanford (10/1 Division, 25/1 Conference, 250/1 BCS)
You could say luck ran out for the Stanford Cardinal. Quarterback Andrew Luck graduated and was the number pick in the NFL draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He led the Cardinal to two straight BCS bowls. Stanford lost a heartbreaker in overtime 41-38 to Oklahoma St in the Fiesta Bowl last season. Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson missed two crucial field goals, one at the end of regulation that would have won the game, and one in overtime that would have forced double overtime.
Coach David Shaw has to rebuild the Cardinal but he had a great recruiting class. The 2012 Stanford class was ranked 5th by most experts, including 3 five star recruits, 10 four star, and one of the best offensive line classes in history. It is made even more impressive by Stanford’s elite academic standards.
Sophomore Brett Nottingham and junior Josh Nunes are locked in a tight battle to replace Luck. Neither is as talented as Luck, but few quarterbacks are. They will look to rely on running back Stepfan Taylor, who returns for his senior season. Taylor rushed for over 1,300 yards last year on 242 carries with 10 touchdowns. He also caught 25 passes with 2 touchdowns. Taylor averaged around 20 carries a game last year, but is expected to get around 30 carries a game this season, because most of the other top rushers are either graduated or injured, including Luck.
Ty Montgomery will be the top receiving target, in his sophomore season. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo are among the best in the country, but were behind an even better tight end in Coby Fleener last year. Fleener was also drafted by the Colts.
Stanford’s defense will be a strength especially against the run. The front seven might be among the best in the country. The secondary gave up some big plays and numbers last year, but Stanford was up big in most of their games meaning teams had to throw to try and get back in the game. The Cardinal also played some tough games against prolific offensive teams like Oregon, USC, and Oklahoma St.
Stanford has non conference games at home against San Jose St and Duke, and travels to Notre Dame. In conference, the Cardinal have home games against USC, Arizona, Washington St and Oregon St, and travels to Washington, Cal, Colorado, Oregon, and UCLA. The Cardinal won’t win 11 or 12 games again this season, but they could grab a bowl bid.
Washington St (15/1 division, 50/1 conference, BCS No line) and Oregon St (22/1 D, 60/1 C, 500/1 BCS) are in rebuilding mode and shouldn’t compete for the division title. Washington St hired former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach to run the program and his offensive system will be fun to watch.
Our college football handicappers have season picks packages available for the upcoming season. Don’t miss out on any winners!