Pac-12 spring preview: North Division
With a handful of schools already starting their spring practice session on Monday – and the latest being April 3 – we can get a small glance of how teams will be shaping for this fall.
Spring games usually take place in the latter end of April, but there will be some played in March.
That said, I will be releasing pre-spring power rankings for every major conference, while giving a short explanation for my decision.
Here is a spring preview of the Pac-12 Conference: North Division.
1. Stanford Cardinal (12-2, 8-1 Pac-12 in 2012)
Other than a few shakeups among the Cardinal’s offensive skill positions, there isn’t too much change in personnel heading into the regular season. QB Kevin Hogan returns after making a name for himself toward the latter end of the season, and they bring back nine returning starters – including the entire secondary – to one of the top defensive units in the country. Stanford will have to replace RB Stefan Taylor this spring, but even there the Cards are especially deep.
2. Oregon Ducks (12-1, 8-1)
How will Oregon respond to Chip Kelly’s departure and how much will change in terms of scheme and production now that Mark Helfrich is in charge? These are questions that won’t be answered for awhile, but we do know this: The Ducks should still be very explosive on offense with QB Marcus Mariota and RB DeAnthony Thomas back on the field. However, Helfrich needs to find replacements for some big names on the defensive front seven.
3. Oregon State Beavers (9-4, 6-3)
Oregon State should have all the pieces together on the offensive side of the ball, pending a Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz quarterback battle. One of the two need to emerge as the starting candidate by spring’s end – and keep it that way. An area of concern will be the Beavers’ ability to stop the run after the departures of both defensive tackles Castro Masaniai and Andrew Seumalo.
4. California Golden Bears (3-9, 2-7)
Believe it or not, but Sonny Dykes has a lot of talent to work with on offense in his first year with Cal. Don’t be surprised if the Golden Bears light up the scoreboard on some quality opponents every now and then – Jeff Tedford mis-used his playmakers and was pretty much burnt out when it came to calling plays. What could determine whether Cal makes a surprise bowl berth this season is quarterback play, which has doomed the program the last several years. Long-time backup Allan Bridgford seems to be the ideal candidate, but don’t sleep on redshirt freshman Zach Kline.
5. Washington Huskies (7-6, 5-4)
QB Keith Price is back, but is coming off a roller coaster season. He never had a healthy offensive line, but those that are returning on the front never proved to stay consistent, anyway. Washington had some real issues moving the ball, scoring just 24.0 points per game (90th in the nation). While experience could help the Huskies improve in this area, it could also be their downfall.
6. Washington State Cougars (3-9, 1-8)
It wasn’t the typical Mike Leach team we were used to – Washington State scored seven points or less in four different outings last season en route to what was a very frustrating year for the first-year coach. There are many points of focus for the Cougars this offseason – from quarterback to the defensive line – but number one has to be getting better on the offensive line. In 2012, Wazzou allowed 57 sacks and averaged just 29 yards rushing per game (off 1.4 yards per carry).
Click here to check out the Pac-12 South Division spring preview.