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Team Previews

Pac-12 North Preview

by Mark Lindquist
Updated On: August 7, 2019, 12:57 am ET

Leading up to the start of the season, Rotoworld will be pumping out previews for every Group of 5 and Power 5 conference (plus Independents), complete with fantasy projections courtesy of RW analytics guru Hayden Winks, draft prospects to watch and a full examination of each conference's team's best and worst case scenarios. Up in this installation: The Pac-12 North, with the Pac-12 South coming on Wednesday.

*Note: While this preview will only specifically cover the Pac-12 North, Hayden's fantasy projections are for the whole of the conference.

 

Fantasy Projections

Quarterbacks PaYD PaTD RuYD FPPG
Khalil Tate (Arizona, SR) 3047 29 423 26
Gage Gubrud (Washington State, SR) 4001 32 134 26
Justin Herbert (Oregon, SR) 3296 29 145 21
K.J. Costello (Stanford, SR) 3367 28 39 19
JT Daniels (USC, SO) 3669 26 32 19
Steven Montez (Colorado, SR) 3046 20 247 19
Tyler Huntley (Utah, SR) 2731 18 284 18
Jayden Daniels (Arizona State, FR) 1721 11 527 20
Jacob Eason (Washington, JR) 2939 19 -47 15
Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA, SO) 2627 18 193 16
Chase Garbers (California, SO) 1973 18 246 17
Jake Luton (Oregon State, SR) 2323 14 107 17

 

Running Backs RuYD RuTD ReYD FPPG
Eno Benjamin (Arizona State, JR) 1172 12 280 24
Joshua Kelley (UCLA, SR) 1073 11 216 23
Zack Moss (Utah, SR) 1033 10 153 22
Salvon Ahmed (Washington, JR) 972 11 254 20
Max Borghi (Washington State, SO) 522 9 381 20
CJ Verdell (Oregon, SO) 939 9 278 19
Jermar Jefferson (Oregon State, SO) 1047 9 116 17
J.J. Taylor (Arizona, JR) 1011 6 124 15
Vavae Malepeai (USC, JR) 561 6 230 14
Christopher Brown Jr. (California, SO) 726 6 141 13
Stephen Carr (USC, JR) 558 7 156 12
Alex Fontenot (Colorado, SO) 674 6 119 12
Artavis Pierce (Oregon State, SR) 656 5 160 12
Cameron Scarlett (Stanford, SR) 476 8 138 12
Travis Dye (Oregon, SO) 649 4 62 10
Jamir Thomas (Washington State, FR) 288 3 171 8
Marcel Dancy (California, JR) 491 4 13 7
Devonta'e Henry-Cole (Utah, JR) 419 4 20 6
Deion Smith (Colorado, rFR) 385 3 24 6
Gary Brightwell (Arizona, JR) 379 2 42 6
Sean McGrew (Washington, JR) 288 3 72 5
Jaren Mangham (Colorado, FR) 289 3 24 5

 

Receivers Rec ReYD ReTD FPPG
Laviska Shenault Jr. (Colorado, JR) 95 1096 6 24
Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC, SO) 80 1002 4 17
Michael Pittman Jr. (USC, SR) 55 942 5 15
Juwan Johnson (Oregon, SR) 57 798 6 15
Theo Howard (UCLA, SR) 68 726 4 14
Tyler Vaughns (USC, JR) 59 793 5 14
Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State, SR) 62 753 4 13
Dezmon Patmon (Washington State, SR) 63 686 4 13
Davontavean Martin (Washington State, JR) 64 615 5 13
Easop Winston Jr. (Washington State, SR) 57 686 5 13
Britain Covey (Utah, JR) 58 618 4 13
Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State, JR) 62 677 4 13
Aaron Fuller (Washington, SR) 50 743 4 12
Trevon Bradford (Oregon State, SR) 51 588 4 12
Jordan Duncan (California, SR) 58 606 4 12
Cedric Peterson (Arizona, SR) 43 635 6 12
K.D. Nixon (Colorado, JR) 49 604 3 11
Trevon Clark (California, JR) 48 502 5 11
Andre Baccellia (Washington, SR) 50 549 2 10
Osiris St. Brown (Stanford, JR) 37 597 4 10
Jaylon Redd (Oregon, SO) 41 469 5 10
Kyle Williams (Arizona State, SR) 49 460 3 9
Simi Fehoko (Stanford, rFR) 35 516 4 9
Bryan Thompson (Utah, SO) 33 530 3 9
Stanley Berryhill III (Arizona, SO) 31 487 4 9

 

Tight Ends Rec ReYD ReTD FPPG
Colby Parkinson (Stanford, JR) 43 642 9 13
Hunter Bryant (Washington, JR) 40 459 5 10
Noah Togiai (Oregon State, SR) 28 304 2 6
Jacob Breeland (Oregon, SR) 20 276 2 5
Devin Asiasi (UCLA, JR) 24 222 2 5
Cam McCormick (Oregon, JR) 20 218 2 5
Brant Kuithe (Utah, SO) 19 205 1 4
Josh Falo (USC, JR) 16 164 2 4
Cole Fotheringham (Utah, SO) 15 172 1 3

 

Projected Standings

Pac-12 North

Oregon 10-2 (8-1 in conference)

Washington 10-2 (7-2 in conference)

Washington State 9-3 (6-3 in conference)

Stanford 6-6 (5-4 in conference)

Cal 6-6 (4-5 in conference)

Oregon State 2-10 (0-9 in conference)

 


Oregon Ducks 

2018 record: 9-4 (5-4 in conference)

Best NFL Draft prospect: QB Justin Herbert. Herbert has a mouthwatering physical ceiling and the potential to land as the No. 1 overall pick with a strong evaluating process. Our biggest concerns with Herbert come in his accuracy (59.4% completions last season) and decision-making. 

 

The case for: We feel weary of Oregon in some ways, but the case for them is one that would put them in contention for a conference title berth, a Playoff berth, or...maybe more? That case, in principle, revolves around Justin Herbert turning from tantalizing physical talent to true No. 1 pick material. 

Herbert underwhelmed in 2018 - not horribly, but underwhelmed nonetheless, throwing for 3,151 yards (59.4% completions) with a 29/8 TD/INT ratio - but returns with a whole lot of skill-position friends and one of the best offensive lines in the country. If you don’t already know Penei Sewell and Calvin Throckmorton and Shane Lemieux, you are going to know them by the end of the year. Running behind them will be CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, in what’s an offense with plenty of weapons for Herbert to utilize. 

Maybe the Ducks even get something out of former hype-recruit WR Juwan Johnson, who transferred to Eugene after starting his collegiate career in ho-hum style at Penn State. It all comes back to Herbert, though. Transformative quarterbacks like Kyler Murray, Tua Tagovailoa and Trevor Lawrence are paving the way. The NFL believes that Lawrence could play  in the league, today. And Herbert’s the guy who returned to school and completed under 60% of his passes.

Herbert has to prove that narrative wrong. He has to prove that he belongs in the conversation of championship tug-of-war mates Tua and Trevor. If Herbert has that kind of season, we will be talking about the Ducks late, something which did not come to pass last fall.

 

The case against: The borderline top-10 preseason love for Oregon and the general optimism around the program requires Herbert to sharpen up considerably. He cannot show the mental lapses that led to multiple-interception games against Bowling Green (?), San Jose State (?) and Arizona State (shrug).  

Oregon must avoid silly losses like last fall’s road blowout at Arizona or their utter face-planting in a huge opportunity in Pullman, vs. Washington State, when they could have won over the ESPN spotlight with Gameday in town. 

Yes, it's a loaded defense, one which returns 71% of their defensive production from last season (per Bill Connelly), and yes, the Ducks are bringing in one of the most underrated DCs in the country in Boise State's Andy Avalos, whose M.O. is pressure pressure pressure. But it won't be easy.

Herbert, HC Mario Cristobal and company will be thrust into the fire immediately, opening against Auburn on Aug. 31 one year after Pac-12 North friend Washington likewise started out against the Tigers. The Huskies lost their chance, essentially erasing their margin of error for any kind of Playoff run. They had to run the table from that point on. They didn’t. Oregon faces the same conundrum. 

Should they survive the Tigers, their schedule will lighten -- all respect to Stanford, Cal and Colorado -- before they hit the crucial middle of the season beginning on Oct 19, when they travel to square off with Washington in Seattle. That game will be followed by Washington State and USC. The three-step figures to give us a clear idea of whether Oregon has the goods for a serious run into the winter.

 

Vegas over/under win total: 9

Prediction: OVER


Washington Huskies

2018 record: 10-4 (7-2 in conference)

Best NFL Draft prospect: T Trey Adams. Jacob Eason or Hunter Bryant would be the sexier pick, here, but Adams has a good chance to go before both. His athleticism is plus-plus and he moves around very well when healthy. The “when healthy” note is the important one to watch with Adams this fall, as he managed to appear in just four games last season due to a back injury.

 

The case for: Fare thee well, Jake Browning. You were given too much flak during your time in Seattle, and not enough credit for the consistent, tough game you played in helping to lead Washington to national prominence. All that said, Browning also played with a pop gun arm and threw some of the more laughable interceptions you will ever see. The Huskies might miss Browning more than they think, but the bottom line is that what they have working at quarterback, now, is exciting.

At least if you are a Jacob Eason believer. It has been close to two years since we have seen the former Bulldog on the field, but he brings one of the biggest arms in college football to the table (Jake Browning is currently blushing) as well as a sterling recruiting profile which saw Rivals rank him as the No. 7 overall prospect in the 2016 class. Recruiting cards carry less and less weight as a given college career drags on, though, and the reality is that we don’t know who Eason has become. Because he has been out of the spotlight for so, so long.

Eason won’t have to do it alone, though. We expect a fireworks show from RB Salvon Ahmed this fall after Ahmed posted 778 yards from scrimmage (6.2 yards per touch) while playing second fiddle to the departed Myles Gaskin last season and the offense should greatly be aided by the presumed healthy returns of TE Hunter Bryant -- probably the team’s best big-play weapon -- and T Trey Adams, who possesses first-round NFL upside if he can stay healthy.

We know what the Huskies look like with average quarterback play. We are excited to see what a jazzed passing game might look like in Seattle. Jazz us up, Jacob.

 

The case against: Several reasons to believe that this Washington team might be in for a slight downturn this fall. That begins on the defensive side, where the Huskies lost a whole boatload of talent in the offseason. High-quality talent, at that, from CB Byron Murphy to LB Ben Burr-Kirven to DL Greg Gaines to safeties Taylor Rapp and Jojo McIntosh

As figures with a program of Washington’s caliber, there are players ready to step into these roles (LB Ryan Bowman, CB Elijah Molden and CB Myles Bryant are just a few names). But it’s still a lot, and in a North division where Oregon is knocking on the door, the defensive transition could be more than enough to knock the Huskies back a step.

And what if Eason just isn’t that good? We don’t love projecting him out based just on one freshman season, but remember, while Eason’s opening knee injury in 2017 pushed Jake Fromm into action, Eason was recovered from that injury by mid-season, but never sniffed the starting job again. 

Part of that was almost certainly a “changing horses in midstream” approach by HC Kirby Smart, who was not going to rock the boat with UGA on its way to a special season, but at least part of it has to -- by definition -- be viewed as Eason being shuttled to the backseat for a true freshman quarterback. As colleague Thor Nystrom pointed out in his draft breakdown of Eason, he played eerily similar to Christian Hackenberg as a freshman. Should he follow Hack's developmental path as well, Washington's ceiling will be handicapped.

Potential offensive issues go deeper than just whether or not Eason is ready to handle the spotlight. Perhaps the biggest concern with the offense, in our eyes, is that it simply lacks any kind of a true deep receiving threat. We’ll see Hunter Bryant used to take the top off the defense, but the receiving corps itself, the Aaron Fullers of the world, just does not offer much spice.

Schedule-wise, the two games to circle come in a three-week span in the middle of the fall. Washington will play host to Oregon on Oct. 19. Then, following a bye, they will play host to Utah.

 

Vegas over/under win total: 9.5

Prediction: OVER


Washington State Cougars

2018 record: 11-2 (7-2 in conference)

Best NFL Draft prospect: T Abe Lucas. A first-team All-Pac-12 performer in 2018, Lucas will be WSU’s top offensive line prospect for the coming season. He graded out fantastically on PFF in terms of his pass-blocking last season (plenty of that with ol’ Mike Leach) but his run-blocking technicals are not nearly as polished. Lucas is draft-eligible this winter, though the play here might be to return to school, just to receive more reps and development before trying for the pros.

 

The case for: The transfer quarterback is a fickle mistress, with stink bombs like Max Browne rubbing elbows with company like Will Grier. Washington State struck oil with Gardner Minshew coming over from East Carolina last fall, an addition which paid off like gangbusters. For a brief time, in an infinitesimal way, the Cougs even flirted with the Playoff committee. Or at least made the Playoff committee locate Pullman on the map.

Minshew has left the Palouse, to be replaced with Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud. Gubrud has not yet won the starting job -- how could Mike Leach live with the world knowing his starting quarterback in early August -- but the presumption is that he will take the gig before camp is out. 

Gubrud’s showcase season at EWU came during a splendid 2016 campaign in which he threw for 5,160 yards (67.7% completions) with a 48/14 TD/INT ratio, with 606 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns to boot. That immaculate season has stood as the pinnacle of his college career to date, with injuries limiting him to more human numbers in each of the past two seasons. If he can make it through the FCS-to-FBS transition without too much uncertainty, Gubrud has the mental tools to put together a statistically cromulent campaign shades of our mustachioed better Gardner Minshew

How well Leach can replace Minshew and T Andre Dillard will largely determine the course of Washington State’s season. Gubrud will try his darnedest to keep the passing game aflame taking over for Minshew. As for Dillard’s replacement, meet Liam Ryan, a screen-block assassin who started all 13 games at left guard last season while additionally backing up Dillard. 

WSU’s line returns four starters otherwise and should be able to keep Gubrud clean for plenty long enough for him to connect with Tay Martin, Dezmon Patmon and Jamire Calvin. And shifty sophomore RB Max Borghi has the talent to be one of the shining stars in the Pac-12 this season after posting 740 yards from scrimmage behind the departed James Williams while playing as a true freshman last year.

Factor in an experienced defense which excels at disrupting opposing passing games -- per ESPN’s Bill Connelly, WSU ranked first in the entire country in passing down sack rate last fall -- and there is a healthy argument that the Cougs should more seriously be discussed as a contender to win the Pac-12 North.

 

The case against: If you roll your dice on an FCS quarterback, you are, well, rolling the dice on an FCS quarterback. Leach need only to ask Mark Helfrich about the extremes in play, here. Helfrich hit on (also of EWU) Vernon Adams (still low-key one of our favorite players this decade) in 2015 and tried to repeat the trick with Montana’s Dakota Prukop the following season. It didn’t work, to the point where the Ducks pushed a little true freshman named Justin Herbert into action midway through the campaign.

If Gubrud turns out to be a Prukop or if his injurious past, most notably wrist injuries, rears its unwelcome head once more, WSU does have options in the likes of Trey Tinsley and Cammon Cooper, but Tinsley has no starting experience and Cooper has no collegiate experience, period. 

Our concern would be that Leach’s options at signal-caller simply won’t be ready or capable of keeping the passing game on track. This was actually our concern with Washington State’s quarterbacks last summer, as well. Minshew was coming off a 16/7 TD/INT showing with ECU the previous year, remember.

Maybe Leach just knows how to spin straw into gold, but if that alchemy runs out, if WSU can’t recapture the cult magic of Minshew, the offense would hit serious wobbles. On the other side, for all of WSU’s moxie as a pass-rushing time, DC Tracy Claeys oversaw a unit which was laughably ineffective at stopping the run -- they ranked No. 102 in S&P+ last season. 

A final note of concern with WSU has to do with big brother to the west in Washington. Leach is 0-5 against Chris Petersen in the Apple Cup and the Huskies have openly talked about the fact that defending Leach’s darling Air Raid is actually easy enough, because Leach does not change anything from year-to-year, even in a matchup where he routinely has gotten his ass handed to him. 

To even reach the Apple Cup with conference relevance this fall, WSU will need to navigate a crevasse-filled schedule which includes a non-conference tilt against Houston and in-conference bouts with heavy-hitters Utah, Oregon and Washington (Stanford and Cal are far from gimmes, too). 

We’ll close with a somewhat more ephemeral thought -- Minshew had an intangible something something a year ago. He played to the lights, he played to the stage, he simply had a presence to him, a Mayfield-esque locker room quality which allowed Washington State to come oh so close to finally capturing the Pac-12 North from Washington’s Mount Rainier-frosted grip. We wonder if they miss Minshew beyond the stat sheet.

 

Vegas over/under win total: 8.5

Prediction: OVER


Stanford Cardinal

2018 record: 9-4 (6-3 in conference)

Best NFL Draft prospect: T Walker Little. Trying to get through Walker is like being forced to grapple with a doorknob covered in barbed wire. You can do it, but it’s not going to be easy, and you’re probably going to regret it in the end. The 6-foot-7, 313-pounder plays with the requisite mean streak that you like to see out of a high first-round tackle. He must, however, improve his run blocking.

 

The case for: A rock-solid offense and a rock-solid defense combine for a rock-solid conference run. That would be the basic case for Stanford. The Cardinal’s identity never truly changes, but it will see some tweaks this coming season. It has to, given the offensive skill talent out the door in the persons of WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside and RB Bryce Love. Stanford has no immediate star replacement for either, but if they can just find some steadiness at those positions -- WRs Osiris St. Brown, Connor Wedington and Simi Fehoko, as well as RB Cameron Scarlett will need to step up, among others -- they at least have the quarterback to make it happen.

K.J. Costello is PFF’s top-graded returning Pac-12 quarterback from a year ago. Yes, not Justin Herbert. K.J. Costello. Costello is among the smartest signal-callers in the country, and those smarts will be put to the test this coming season after Costello threw for 3,540 yards with a 29/11 TD/INT ratio last year. 

As you might gather from the inflated interception count, Costello (smart as he might be) still has room to improve. If he can cut back on his silly, unnecessary mistakes, we understand some of the darkhorse Heisman appeal, here. A very dark horse, to be sure, but we understand it.

Costello will have one of the best offensive line performers in the country in Walker Little helping to keep him upright and one of the best cornerbacks on the other side to help turn the ball back over to him in Paulson Abedo. The loss of Love concerns, sure, but Stanford figured out how to win even with Love and the offensive line struggling last season. Costello’s leveling up would cover for holes, here.

 

The case against: Digging into Stanford, it’s near-impossible not to like some of their pieces. Costello was a jump-ball perfectionist working with JJ-AW last season and he’ll have a big friend helping out in the fall with JJ-AW off to the NFL, big friend being TE Colby Parkinson, arguably the top tight end in this class. The Cardinal have Walker Little. They have Paulson Abedo. They have all those fun pieces.

The more you think on Stanford, though, the more you begin to get the feeling that this team is a scattering of a few awesome parts rather than a cohesive, put-together outfit. The running game sans Love is uninspiring in the persons of Cameron Scarlett and Trevor Speights, the receiving corps lacks true pop without Arcega-Whiteside, and Little, as awesome as he might be, is just one man on a relatively inexperienced line (one which underperformed last season).

And on the defensive side, linebacker and safety are going to be soft spots in terms of both depth and experience. We respect Stanford to the utmost and we love Costello. We just wonder if maybe this crew is a little hollow on the whole. That hollowness could show early, as they will be fighting right out of the gate, with contests against Northwestern, USC, UCF and Oregon all falling in the month of September. The Cardinal will face Washington on Oct. 5, to continue that tough early string of games.

 

Vegas over/under win total: 6.5 

Prediction: UNDER


CAl Golden Bears

2018 record: 7-6 (4-5 in conference)

Best NFL Draft prospect: LB Evan Weaver. PFF’s highest-graded returning linebacker in the Pac-12 from 2018, Weaver is a Terminator who plays with a targeting computer in the head which allows him to take smart, efficient routes. And once he gets to you, you’re on the ground. The leader of one of the low-key best defenses in the country.

 

The case for: Indulge your author in a story for a moment. Last winter, driving down to Boise from Pullman with my father, we were socked by a big snowstorm which forced us to alter course for the long route in an attempt to avoid the weather. My cell phone picked up a signal shortly after we detoured out of the mountains. 

And then it began to fire Cheez-It Bowl updates at me, as TCU and Cal combined for an unhealthy nine interceptions. That offense-allergic contest simultaneously became both a referendum on bowl play and a reminder of the way that Twitter will coalesce around weird things, as it did on that interception-filled night in late December. 

We don’t expect seismic offensive shifts, here, regardless of which of Chase Garbers (who started 10 games last season while too often making poor decisions on his way to throwing 10 interceptions) and Devon Modster (transferred over from UCLA in the offseason) wins the job. It’s a crickets skill-position group. Maybe Cal can get a little crackle from speedy UM transfer WR Kekoa Crawford, or some downhill hammer yards from RB Chris Brown, but that’s a maybe.

The equation changes slightly, though, if Garbers finds himself. He was only a redshirt freshman last season. If he can just play a little smarter, Cal’s defense can take it the rest of the way. The Golden Bears ranked No. 22 in the FBS in scoring defense last season, allowing just a touch over 20 points per contest on average. Led by LB Evan Weaver, DL Luc Bequette and a deep, cohesive secondary, HC Justin Wilcox’s grizzlies held the opposition to under 20 points in seven of 13 contests last fall. 

Wilcox doesn’t need his offense to be Oklahoma. He just needs it to be able to score, like three touchdowns a game. 

 

The case against: Staring at Cal’s offensive depth chart is like staring at the edge of the abyss. Your author liked Modster’s transfer over, but even that has done little to buoy the offense’s outlook, as he would need a fire push over the coming weeks to top Garbers. To the point of Garbers improving, he probably will. We won’t even argue against that. 

Who is he throwing to? Who is he handing off to? Does Cal even have a tight end (they lost six over the offseason)? For as nasty as the defense might be, Wilcox and crew are going to run into a ceiling of, say, seven or eight wins simply because of their offensive handicap. 

There is no love in this schedule, either, with contests against Washington, Arizona State, Oregon, Utah, Washington State and USC, essentially every team that could either win the conference or at least make the conference nervous for a stretch, save for Stanford. 

 

Vegas over/under win total: 6

Prediction: PUSH


Oregon State Beavers

2018 record: 2-10 (1-8 in conference)

Best NFL Draft prospect: WR Isaiah Hodgins. Hodgins is a lanky receiver at 6-foot-3 and plays the long-catch-radius game with his spider arms. He has found ways to excel playing in a flawed passing offense, a credit to his overall football intelligence and eye for spacing. Hodgins remains imperfect as a route-runner, but more than that, the biggest question facing him for the spring will be that of his overall athletic profile. The OSU standout is lacking in terms of pure wheels. 

 

The case for: Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. That’s from Hebrews, folks. Let’s apply it to Oregon State, coming off a 2-10 season. For the Beavers to come into their own in their second year under HC Jonathan Smith, you must have faith that they improve from 129th (!) in scoring defense -- really nowhere to go but up unless they finish dead last in the fall -- and that they can somehow begin to build a defense which actually returns a fair amount of depth, with ESPN’s Billy Connelly tabulating them with 86% returning production back in January. 

For OSU to take a baby step forward, you must have faith that this offensive line -- which is out four experienced linemen from last year’s team -- can open up just enough holes for RB Jermar Jefferson to squeeze through with the help of Arizona transfer guard Nathan Eldridge (the depth will drop off fast beyond the starters).

You need to have faith that Jefferson and Artavis Pierce are a two-headed kaiju on the ground and that WR Isaiah Hodgins and Trevon Bradford will be up to the task of leading what is perhaps being the most underrated receiving corps in the country. It’s easy to have faith, sometimes.

Most of all, though, you must have faith, you must believe in QB Jake Luton. Your author understands that at a certain point, faith becomes indistinguishable from madness, and maybe that is the case with Luton. Maybe you simply have to draw the line. He is what he is. We understand. But we’ll push against it, at least a little.  

Luton’s career has been absolutely raved by injuries, including a broken neck in 2017 and head and hamstring injuries last season. All told, he has played in 12 games for his time in Corvallis. You can’t build an identity when you can’t stay on the field. That doesn’t make him a better quarterback, but it does mean his body has never afforded him a full season of health. 

The sixth-year signal-caller will need to beat out former Nebraska QB Tristan Gebbia in August camp and if he does that, he needs to show that last year’s 310-yard, three-touchdown performance in a comeback from down 31-3 to Colorado and the following weekend’s 301-yard, 31 completion performance against USC (congrats on keeping the job, Coach Helton) last fall were the light of a distant star rather than a meteorite here and then gone. You gotta have faith, but it’s not impossible.

 

The case against: Your author might be all “keep the faith!’ with his optimism, but your author’s little dancing cynic on the shoulder just laughed as he wrote the above words. The problem with Oregon State is that every argument you make for them is ultimately an argument built on extreme hope. Especially with Luton. That Colorado game was fantastic.

That contest against USC was at least close. But we have never seen Luton hold up for a full season. Ever. The idea that those performances were anything other than outliers in what will be his sixth year of football is akin to walking a ledge on Marys Peak and expecting an eagle to catch you. And he can’t move. And when he moves, he gets hurt. Make that, he gets hurt, period.

There is no reason to believe the defense will be anything more than the same kind of awful, just one year out. The most frustrating thing is that if it weren’t for the bad defense, the perpetually-injured quarterback and the paper-thin offensive line, this is one of the most exciting skill-position group in the country, 

If Jermar Jefferson and Isaiah Hodgins played on, say, Oklahoma, they would be transcendent brand players with spotlights, rather than just castaways who will emerge from the darkness in Corvallis to the light of the NFL sun in time.

 

Vegas over/under win total: 2.5

Prediction: UNDER

Mark Lindquist
Mark Lindquist holds a master's degree from the University of Iowa and writes baseball and college football for Rotoworld.com. He's currently working on a memoir about life, death, rock 'n' roll and his year teaching at a Chinese university. You can reach him on Twitter @markrlindquist.