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Pac-12 prognostication pratfalls of 2013

6/2/2014

Life is full of great joys. A child's smile. A roasting whole pig. A sunset at the beach. A sunset at the beach with a child's smile and a roasting whole pig. And a drink with an umbrella in it. Hitting a point at a Vegas craps table covered in chips.

Yet for some of you, there is no greater joy than the Pac-12 blog face planting. We imperiously prognosticate -- some might call it "doing our job" but let's not get bogged down in nuance -- and we often end up going rear-end-over-tea-kettle. Pointing that out in colorful ways is not unlike a second Christmas morning for some of you.

In 2012, the Pac-12 blog was practically the Walmart of bad predictions. You might recall our doe-eyed affection for Matt Barkley-led USC. We were exposed early and often.

So, as we start to formulate many of our preseason predictions for 2014, it seems worthwhile to look back the 2013 preseason in an effort to establish how often we were stupid and how often your favorite blind squirrels actually found nuts.

We'll start with our preseason list of the Pac-12's top-25 players. And here's our postseason list.

The postseason top 10:

No. 1: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

No. 2: Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona

No. 3: Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

No. 4: Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State

No. 5:Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington

No. 6: Trent Murphy, LB, Stanford

No. 7: Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

No. 8: Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

No. 9: David Yankey, OL, Stanford

No. 10: Leonard Williams, DE, USC

The preseason top 10:

No. 1: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

No. 2. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

No. 3. Marqise Lee, WR, USC

No. 4. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

No. 5. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

No. 6. Ka'Deem Carey, RB, Arizona

No. 7. Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford

No. 8. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

No. 9. David Yankey, OG, Stanford

No. 10. Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State

As noted here, there were plenty of changes between the two.

Who made the preseason list and missed the postseason list?

3. Marqise Lee, WR, USC

11. Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford

14. De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon

17. Kevin Hogan, QB, Stanford

19. Morgan Breslin, OLB, USC

20. Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon

21. Carl Bradford, LB, Arizona State

25. Ben Gardner, DE, Stanford

Notes: Injuries or getting the boot (Lyerla) was the biggest reason these guys fell off the postseason list. Reynolds' numbers fell off, and the Cardinal's pass defense slipped to the middle of the conference, but I'm sure David Shaw would tell us we blew it. Hogan had a good season but maybe didn't take as big a step forward as some of us thought he would. Bradford, as previously noted, had a good, but not great, season and was eclipsed by other players.

Still, there wasn't much to be embarrassed about with either list.

Here's how Kevin and I voted in the Pac-12 preseason media poll:

Kevin Gemmell's ballot

North

  1. Stanford

  2. Oregon

  3. Washington

  4. Oregon State

  5. Washington State

  6. California

South

  1. Arizona State

  2. UCLA

  3. USC

  4. Arizona

  5. Utah

  6. Colorado

Pac-12 title game champion: Stanford

Ted Miller's ballot

North

  1. Stanford

  2. Oregon

  3. Washington

  4. Oregon State

  5. California

  6. Washington State

South

  1. Arizona State

  2. USC

  3. UCLA

  4. Arizona

  5. Utah

  6. Colorado

Pac-12 title game champion: Stanford

Hmm. It appears that we both picked the divisional winners and Pac-12 champion correctly. We, clearly, rock.

Did you notice anything about Kevin's ballot. It looks exactly like the final Pac-12 standings. He, by the way, never, ever mentions that.

How about the preseason power rankings versus the final version?

The top-six in both matches up precisely. Betting that's the first time that has happened since the Pac-12 blog began in 2008.

The bottom six is far less precise, though no team is more than two spots different in the final ranking than in the preseason version.

Then there were our self-proclaimed "Bold Predictions."

As more than a few of you have pointed out, these often are not so bold, but that doesn't stop them from being wrong. Further, because they were made in January of 2013, some of them actually ran counter to our late-summer predictions, such as picking Stanford as the Pac-12 leader. The switch from Oregon came after Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles.

We made 19 predictions. Seven were correct or mostly so:

  • The Pac-12 will finish 2013 with six teams in the Top 25: That will be six of this seven: Oregon, Stanford, Washington, Arizona State, UCLA, USC and Oregon State.

  • The Washington renaissance will arrive: The Huskies will finish 9-3 in 2013, opening the new Husky Stadium in style.

  • Colorado will win four games in Year 1 under Mike MacIntyre: And Buffs fans will be reasonably encouraged.

  • The sledding will be rough in Sonny Dykes' first season at California: The Bears don't have great talent coming back, but the schedule is the biggest problem. By my guess, Dykes will play eight ranked teams in his first season, including a strong Big Ten duo at home the first and third weekends of the season (Northwestern and Ohio State).

  • Arizona's offensive numbers will make everyone realize how good Matt Scott was: Arizona averaged 37 points and 522 yards per game last year because of QB Matt Scott, who ranked seventh in the nation in total offense with 338.5 per game. He was a perfect fit for Rich Rodriguez's K offense. We expect the Wildcats' offense to take a step back in 2013, whether B.J. Denker or JC transfer Jesse Scroggins wins the QB job. As good as national rushing champion Ka'Deem Carey is, he will find the holes a bit smaller without Scott, even with a solid offensive line coming back.

  • Defenses will continue to rise: Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton and UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr will be first-team preseason All-Americans, and Stanford will again have one of the nation's top 10 defenses. But we also expect across-the-board improvement on defense.

  • But it will still be the Conference of QBs: Mariota will win the Heisman and again earn the first-team All-Pac-12 nod, but the battle for second-team will be hot between Arizona State's Taylor Kelly, Stanford's Kevin Hogan, UCLA's Brett Hundleyand Washington's Keith Price, who will be the conference's Comeback Player of the Year.

  • Breakout player: Junior Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks will earn first-team All-Pac-12 honors with Marqise Lee.

The last one was mostly about Cooks breaking out, as he did as the Biletnikof Award winner. The Huskies went 9-4, but it's certainly fair to term the season a "renaissance." Arizona's offensive numbers went down, but B.J. Denker, while limited, turned in a better season than most expected.

Some were way off. Such as:

Lane Kiffin and USC will post a bounce-back season: We expect the Trojans to win 10 games -- that's with a highly favorable 13-game schedule, by the way -- and return to the national rankings. Although the Trojans won't return to dominance, they will play better all-around football in 2013, and it will be enough to quiet Kiffin's critics -- at least enough for him to return in 2014. We don't, however, expect USC to win the South Division.

He was fired before midseason, though the Trojans did win 10 games, including their bowl victory.

And, of course, our Oregon enthusiasm -- national champs! Marcus Mariota wins Heisman! -- didn't come to pass.

Then there were our week one bowl projections:

VIZIO BCS National Championship: Stanford vs. BCS

Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO: Oregon vs. Big Ten

Valero Alamo: Washington vs. Big 12

Holiday: Arizona State vs. Big 12

Hyundai Sun: UCLA vs. ACC

Las Vegas: USC vs. MWC

Fight Hunger: Arizona vs. BYU

Gildan New Mexico: Washington State vs. MWC

Four of those were correct -- the Holiday, Sun, Las Vegas and New Mexico.

Finally, there were our "Best case-worst case" flights of fancy. There is a strong possibility this series will be retired. It feels as if it might have jumped the proverbial shark.

(We typed the exact same thing last year, but this year we, unfortunately, mean it).