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TGS 2013 COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEW...A LOOK AT THE PACIFIC 12-PART II
After decades of following the Big Ten around like a dog on a leash (due largely to the Rose Bowl), the Pac-12 has busted out on its own the past few years, specifically its aggressive pursuit of expansion and establishment of its own network (the latter a major portion of this presentation and also a central element of an early-season TGS editorial we are preparing right now that deals with potential long-term consequences of the new mega-buck TV deals). All transpiring since the league made the bold move and hired Larry Scott as its commissioner in 2009.

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Scott, lured away from his Chairman and CEO role of the Women's Tennis Association Tour, was enlisted mostly because of his vision to move the Pac from an its era as a comparably underperforming financial asset in the college sports world. Under Scott's leadership, the Pac almost succeeded in expanding into Texas and effectively annexing the Lone State State for college sports with two stealth raids on the league that might have put the Big 12 out of business. In the end the Pac would merely settle with one Big 12 scalp (Colorado) plus Utah from the Mountain West in expanding to a 12-team loop.

It's the creation of the Pac-12 Network that gained the most attention, however, as the loop has also gone about the process differently from the Big Ten and some of he others that have also launched their own media platforms.

We're just not sure Scott and the conference are on the right track after the first year of that network venture, even though other leagues have also endured growing pains when they began with similar projects.

There is a major difference, however, between the Pac-12 venture and Big Ten and new SEC Networks. Whereas the latter pair have partnered their new networks with some heavyweight media powerhouses, Scott and the Pac are going it alone on their venture. Which, in theory, sounds good, although in practice it has appeared to be something different altogether.

Specifically, the Pac is having trouble getting the sort of clearance it wants for its network, still shut out by Direct TV, Charter, and some other cable operators in its region. There are some good-sized swaths of Pac-12 territory that cannot yet watch the new network on home TV.

It is worth mentioning the problems the Big Ten initially had in getting clearance for its network, too, but with Fox as its partner it has overcome those early issues and has created the template for other leagues to emulate. The SEC is also soon to launch its venture, in conjunction with ESPN.

Not that Scott and the league presidents were caught off guard; they suspected a bumpy ride in the first year of the operation of the Pac-12 Network, and the schools were strongly advised not to include any projected revenues into their budgets because there might not be any revenues to disperse the first couple of years from this venture. This was not any altruistic gesture by the schools, just a financial reality of the situation. The other TV contracts have kept the cash flowing for the time being.

Meanwhile, the Pac-12 recently reported that it had at least not lost money in the first year of its new network venture, although the days of it being the sort of cash cow the Big Ten Network has become remain well down the road...if ever.

Still, from where the Pac was a few years ago, the developments under Scott's leadership must be viewed as a positive. Further expansion has apparently been put on the back-burner until further notice, too...likely related to the progress of the Pac 12-Network. Stay tuned for further developments.

We will give the Pac-12 Network this much; its football studio show made quite a splash, especially since former UCLA HC Rick Neuheisel quickly became an in-studio star. By us, he is already the best in-studio college football analyst in the country, certainly above the tired Holtz and Mark May combo on ESPN. Like another former Bruins coach in another sport who seemed to find a proper niche in broadcasting, Steve Lavin, "Slick Rick" appears a natural for his new role. Whether he decides sometime down the road to get back into coaching as did Lavin remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, how does the Pac stack up against the rest of the country in the realignment shuffle? A quick update of the 2013 "conference scoreboard" is in order.

Who left: Nobody. In its growth from the AAWU in 1959 to the Pac-8 in 1968 to the Pac-10 in 1978 to the Pac-12 in 2011, there have been zero defectors. Old PCC members Idaho and Montana were smartly uninvited after the breakup of that league in the late '50s, while Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah have been added. (The Oregon schools and Washington State were also added to the AAWU ranks in the early '60s).

Who arrived: Nobody this year; Colorado and Utah came on board in 2011. The league enters Year Three as a 12-team entity, with Buffs and Utes a combined 10-26 in conference play during the first two football seasons.

What’s still to come: Expansion looks on hold for the moment as the league attempts to establish the Pac-12 Network, as we mentioned above.

Is the league better or worse? In regard to last year, no significant upgrade or downgrade. But over the past few years, the league has modernized significantly under the leadership of commissioner Scott.

Winner or loser? The Pac-12 appears to be one of the winners of realignment...unless, of course, the Pac-12 Network goes the way of The Mtn.

We complete the Pac-12 portion of our 2012 college previews with analysis of the South half of the loop as provided by Senior Editor Chuck Sippl, who earlier offered his thoughts on the Pac-12 North. Teams are ranked in order of predicted finish, with last year's straight-up, spread, and "over/under" records included...Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor


PAC-12 SOUTH PREVIEW


by Chuck Sippl, Senior Editor


ARIZONA STATE (2012 SUR 8-5; PSR 8-4-1 O/U 6-6)...Coach Todd Graham drew lots of criticism prior to last season for his late move from Pittsburgh to Arizona State after just one season with the Panthers. But Graham proved to be right when he claimed the Sun Devil job was a much more comfortable fit for the Texas native who had previously had success at Rice and Tulsa. Graham went about re-establishing discipline at ASU upon his arrival after the Sun Devils led the nation in penalties in 2011 under Dennis Erickson, who was known to have a preference for loose, brash, athletic players. Among other things, Graham last year returned the team to Camp Tontazona (a favorite of ASU coaching great Frank Kush), cutting off players from their cell phones and the social media, then forbidding trash talking on the field.

After Erickson’s style, the players eagerly responded to Graham’s tighter leadership, starting 5-1 straight up in 2012. The Sun Devils then lost their next four games, with the downturn coinciding with a knee injury suffered by key penetrating DT Will Sutton (13 sacks LY, 23 ½ TFL) early in ASU’s eventual 43-21 loss in Tempe to offensive dynamo Oregon. But, with Sutton mostly recovered, the Sun Devils finished strong, with three straight wins, including a 41-34 victory at arch-rival Arizona and a 62-28 blasting of Navy in the Fight Hunger Bowl.

There are plenty of indications that the improvement can continue this season in Tempe, where both expectations and ticket sales are up. ASU is deep in the backfield, with jr. QB Taylor Kelly (67%, 29 TDs, 9 ints. LY) surprising as a soph, backed up by 6-6, 246 then-frosh QB Michael Eubank adding a power dimension with 4 TDs each running and throwing. Plus, Graham was lavish in his praise of slick 6-1 soph QB Mike Bercovici, who had an excellent spring. ASU is also set at RB, with sr. Marion Grice (679 YR; excellent receiver on the Devils’ frequent screen passes) and soph D.J. Foster (493 YR). Graham says the team achieved a spring goal by improving its power running plays. Graham admits that the greatest need for incoming help is at WR, where sr. Kevin Ozier (21 recs.) is the leading returning receiver. However, it should be noted that RBs Grice & Foster, plus TE/H-B Chris Coyle, combined for 136 receptions in 2012. That should give the young wideouts a chance to grow in Graham’s clever and deceptive misdirection offense.

The defense (24.3 ppg LY) is still neither as fast nor as deep as Graham would like. But it returns eight starters, including several impact performers, including DT Sutton, DE Junior Onyeali (6 sacks LY), OLB Carl Bradford (11 ½ sacks), sr. S Alden Darby (3 ints. LY), and sr. CB Robert Nelson (3 ints. LY as a top backup).

Graham has a slew of talented WRs reporting in August as well as more than a dozen promising defenders. If just a few of those newcomers come through—and if ASU keeps its key players mostly healthy—it will be no surprise to see the Sun Devils continue their pointspread progress and perhaps make a run in the Pac-12 South as they continue to respond to Graham’s proven leadership manner. Despite a very testing start (Wisconsin, Stanford, USC, Notre Dame in the first five weeks), look to “go with” with the Devils, now bigger, deeper, and faster overall than LY, although much of their needed depth will be young.


UCLA (SUR 9-5; PSR 8-6; O/U 9-5)...The Bruins are the only team to play in each of the first two Pac-12 championship games, losing first at Oregon in 2011 under Rick Neuheisel, and then at Stanford last season under Jim Mora, Jr. And Neuheisel, despite his many critics, deserves at least some of the credit for setting up Mora to guide UCLA to that title game and also for snapping the Bruins’ five-game losing streak vs. hated crosstown rival USC.

Credit Neuheisel (6-8 in his final season in 2011) for helping prime the pump for UCLA’s turnaround in 2012. Neuheisel had slowly elevated recruiting in Westwood, had developed a credible ground game, and had resisted the temptation to burn the redshirt seasons of many of his promising young players, including QB Brett Hundley. The budding 6-3 star developed rapidly in 2012 with 3740 YP, 66.5% completions, and 29 TDP vs. 11 ints., not to mention 355 YR and 9 TDs on the ground. How often in 2011 did you see the redshirting Hundley learning at the hip from Neuheisel on the sidelines while the UCLA offense struggled under the inconsistencies, injuries, and key mistakes of overwhelmed veteran QBs Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut?

When Mora and incoming offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone installed their version of the spread in 2012, the mobile Hundley quickly warmed to the task, helping to produce 34.4 ppg. Moreover, one-time undersized and fumble-prone RB Johnathan Franklin was bigger and more reliable, spurting for 1734 YR last season to become UCLA’s all-time leading rusher. 6-7 TE Joseph Fauria became a premier red-zone target with 12 TDC. Neuheisel OL recruit Xavier Su’a-Filo returned from his two-year mission to become one of the top blockers in the Pac-12. And DE/DT Datone Jones (6½ sacks, 19 tackles for loss) became one of the fiercest DLmen in the nation and the No. 1 pick of the Green Bay Packers.

Now, however, it’s 2013, and only two (QB Hundley and OLman Su’a-Filo) of the major contributors mentioned in the above paragraph are back. Thus, going into August, the Bruins are unproven at RB, shorter at TE, much less potent in the DL, and totally rebuilding in their secondary.

There are some bright spots, including a young, but experienced OL, where the powerful Su’a-Filo is expected to move from T to G. WR Shaq Evans caught 60 balls LY, while soph WR Devin Lucien showed flashes before his season was disrupted by injury. Sr. DE Cassius Marsh (8½ sacks LY)--inconsistent in the past--seems more committed in order to boost his NFL stock. The LB corps is deep and experienced, led by deluxe rusher Anthony Barr, a one-time blocking back who piled up 13½ sacks in 2012 in his first year on defense.

But is it telling for 2013 that o.c. Mazzone says he might use a five-back rotation to replace Franklin? Or that HC Mora says he is counting on some newcomers in the fall to contribute in his totally-rebuilt secondary? That much inexperience on the back end of a defense is not good in these days of non-stop, quick-hitting, spread-em-out, option offenses, when one DB mistake can mean 60 yards and six points. In 2012, when they had a veteran DB unit and the menacing Jones up front, the Bruins still gave up 28 ppg and 165 ypg on the ground, but finished +7 in turnovers. Let’s not forget that only one team—Washington State with 57—gave up more sacks than the Bruins’ 52 last season. If UCLA can’t rush the ball well this year, will Hundley be running for his life?

While the Bruin program overall appears on the mend from the disappointing last days of the Karl Dorrell regime and the QB-jinxed Neuheisel era, any improvement this season compared with 2012 seems unlikely. The Pac-12 South is getting rougher. And the 2013 Bruin road schedule appears pretty murderous—visits to Nebraska, Utah, Stanford, Oregon, Arizona and USC. Four of those are payback games for the host team. If UCLA makes it back to the Pac-12 title game this season, Mora will have done a lot to earn his considerable salary.

Note that Mora was 4-1 as an underdog in his debut as a college coach.


SOUTHERN CAL (SUR 7-6; PSR 3-10; O/U 5-8)...The once-promising 2012 season for proud USC ended with an uninspired flop. Selected as the consensus preseason No. 1 team, the Trojans went through an erratic campaign that featured lots of offensive fireworks (36 TD passes by cover boy and one-time Heisman candidate Matt Barkley), but faltered due to woefully inconsistent defense, and then crashed and burned after a Barkley shoulder injury and back-to-back defeats to rivals UCLA and Notre Dame, followed by a windy embarrassment (a 21-7 defeat) to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. By the end, the Trojans had lost six games overall, the most for the school since the final two years of the infamous Paul Hackett and the first season (6-6) of Pete Carroll.

The strange 2012 campaign for head coach Lane Kiffin included the following--jersey-number switching in an effort to mislead opponents, under-inflated footballs, sparring with the local media, poor clock management, dubious playcalling (“low-lighted” by USC’s red-zone debacle vs. Notre Dame), and defensive confusion/implosion that cost highly-respected defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin (Lane’s father) his job. Most deleterious of those defensive breakdowns was Southern Cal’s allowance of 730 yards (426 on the ground!) in a 62-51 home whuppin’ administered by Oregon (the Trojans scored with :01 left to narrow the margin).

Preseason-mighty USC was able to fall back on factors such as a penalty-shortened roster, Barkley’s injury, limited tackling in practice, and much-improved Pac-12 competition as reasons contributing to last year’s disappointment. But, as one can infer from the Kiffin issues listed above, there was more than just a little bit going on at Troy in 2012. Enough that HC Kiffin (25-13 in three seasons at USC) likely needs to impress in 2013 in order to keep such a high-profile job in the college landscape.

Except for a lack of experience at the vital QB position, Kiffin appears to have the talent on hand to generate a significant Southern Cal recovery this season. First of all, 4 of 5 starters return in the OL, the engine that powers every offense. Second, the starting receiving corps is excellent, led by jr. sensation Marqise Lee, who had 118 recs. and 14 TDC last season. Talented George Farmer was slated to replace departed Robert Woods (76 & 11 LY), but tore his ACL & MCL in the offseason. So the No. 2 WR spot goes to darting soph Nelson Agholor (19 recs. LY), who dazzled in spring. And don’t forget veteran active TEs Xavier Grimble & Randall Telfer, who combined for 41 recs. & 9 TDs last season vs. defenses geared to contain wideouts Lee & Woods. Former Penn State star Silas Redd (905 YR in 2012) leads a RB field that has been bolstered by early-enrollee blue chipper Justin Davis (82 TDs in HS), who is destined to get plenty of carries early this season.

The QB issue won’t be resolved until August, and maybe after. Strong-armed Max Wittek (same high school at Matt Leinart & Matt Barkley) got a trial under fire with two starts late last season, but the 6-4, 235 soph lacks much mobility and was prone to errors (3 TDs, 5 ints.). 6-1 soph Cody Kessler (2 for 2 LY) is more mobile and showed development in spring. He is a high-energy type and strong leader with some mobility, but is not the pocket passer Trojan fans have become familiar with in the recent past. Blue-chipper Max Browne (one of seven true frosh to enroll at Troy prior to spring) does fit the USC prototype, but he is likely to redshirt this season while he learns Kiffin’s version of the West Coast offense and adds more muscle to his 6-5, 215 frame.

Daddy Monte Kiffin made several adjustments to his time-tested Tampa-Two base last season in an attempt to cope with the increasing number of uptempo spread attacks in the Pac-12. But the Trojans still gave up 39 points to Arizona, those 62 to Oregon, and 38 to UCLA, losses all. Taking over the defense at Troy this season is Clancy Pendergast, coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals’ defense that made it to the Super Bowl and most recently orchestrator of the defense at Cal the last three years. In an attempt to combat spread attacks, Pendergast has installed a 5-2-4 hybrid scheme--one nose man, two DT/DEs, two stand-up DE/OLBs, a pair of sideline-to-sideline inside LBs, a pair of cover CBs, and an aggressive pair of safeties with tackling ability. With such a scheme, USC will have more speed, more versatility, and more disguise on the field to deal with the quick option reads of spread attacks.

Fortunately for Pendergast, he is stepping into a rich talent situation at Southern Cal that will allow the new d.c. a full shot at making his concept work. 315-pound soph NT Antwaun Woods (3 sacks LY) is a force in the middle, while DE/DTs Leonard Williams (8) & George Uko (5) combined for 16 sacks LY. The DE/OLBs will be last year’s sack leader Morgan Breslin (13 sacks at DE), 6-3, 260 sr. Devon Kennard (a former starter who missed LY with a torn pec muscle), and emerging soph Jabari Ruffin. Productive sr. Hayes Pullard (107 tackles) & jr. Lamar Dawson (77) appear set at the ILB spots. Sr. Dion Bailey (80 Ts, 4 ints. at OLB LY) moves back to his natural position at S, where coveted, heavy-hitting recruit Su’a Cravens arrived in spring to join the returnees. The biggest concern on defense going into the fall is at CB, where sr. Torin Harris (5 starts in 2012) will likely take over one spot, while jr. former S Josh Shaw (2 ints. LY) has the desired height (6-1) and speed to get a full shot at the other. Pendergast has a lots of raw material at his disposal; whether the players can digest his versatile scheme quickly is another matter.

USC’s early schedule (at Hawaii, vs. Washington State, Boston College & Utah State) is well set for a fast start, for young-QB development, for re-establishing Trojan power, and for early poll-climbing. Then comes a key visit to improving South Division rival Arizona State. But speed-burning Oregon is not on the USC schedule this season, and Troy’s payback vs. UCLA takes place at the Coliseum. Kiffin has never over-impressed as a head coach at any of his stops (5-15 in Oakland, 7-6 at Tennessee, 25-13 at USC). And his Trojan teams have turned out to be rather like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates in the sense that you never know what you’re going to get. For Southern Cal in 2013, we think it will not be as bad as last year, but not as good as many Trojan fans would hope. 2012's new Pac-12 coaches Todd Graham at ASU, Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, and Jim Mora Jr. all enjoyed some measure of success. George MacIntyre takes over at Colorado this year. Things are getting tougher in the wild, wild South.


ARIZONA (SUR 8-5; PSR 6-7; Over/Under 9-3)...Second year for West Virginia born and raised Rich Rodriguez in the land of the majestic saguaro. He used his uptempo spread offense to win 8 games last year, putting up 38.2 ppg using the “triplets” of QB Matt Scott (the surprise leader of the Pac-12 in total offense), quick RB Ka’Deem Carey (1929 YR to lead the nation), and 6-3 big-play WR Austin Hill (81 recs. for 1364 yards). With that trio showing the way, coach RichRod’s offense racked up a righteous 526 ypg and was good enough to rally from a 21-0 deficit to edge Nevada 49-48 in the New Mexico Bowl.

But, as we all know, things can change rapidly from season to season in college football. And they certainly have in Tuscon, as star QB Scott is now trying to make it in the NFL, WR Austin is likely to miss the season after suffering a torn ACL in spring, jr. WR Tyler Slavin has left the team, and RB Carey needed several months to escape from some domestic violence charges. All this occurring while the Wildcat defensive coaches were trying to find ways to shore up a U of A defense that allowed 499 ypg & 35.3 ppg, including 40 or more five times.

But for Wildcat fans, there is room for hope on defense. First of all, it can hardly get worse, as the Wildcats’ 499 ypg allowed last year ranked 118th. Only two teams (Baylor and La Tech) of the 120 qualifying teams were more lenient. Second, all 11 Wildcat defensive starters (and 20 who started at least one game) return for 2013. Third, U of A will be operating for the second season in defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel’s somewhat unorthodox 3-3-5 defense. Casteel admits that missed assignments in the new scheme were a big part of the problem last season. But youth, inexperience, injuries, and a lack of depth also were factors. So was a lack of conditioning in the players he inherited, according to HC Rodriguez. Greater experience and depth should make a positive difference in 2013, although the defensive platoon overall remains undersized for prime time and in need of playmakers to help the likes of LB Jake Fischer (119 tackles) & Marquis Flowers (a former DB who had 100 Ts, 5½ sacks, and 3 interceptions), CB Jonathan McKnight (3 ints.) and safeties Jared Tevis (82 Ts, 2 ints.) & Tra’Mayne Bondurant (74 Ts, 2 ints.). The Wildcats, once known for their penetrating “Desert Swarm” defense years ago, registered a passive 16 sacks in 2012.

Despite the loss of QB Scott & WR Hill, U of A’s zone-read offense should again be more than merely potent in 2013. Star RB Carey and experienced backup Daniel Jenkins should be good for 2000+ YR in the quick-hitting offense of spread guru Rodriguez. And don’t cry for RichRod’s pass attack. The hard-driving coach has always been able to produce balanced, quick-striking platoons going back to his days as offensive coordinator for Tommy Bowden at Tulane in 1997-98.

Going into August, the Wildcat starting QB situation is unsettled. 6-3 sr. B.J. Denker (25 of 37 as LY’s backup) made six appearances in 2012. 6-3, 210 jr. transfer Jesse Scroggins was a four-star recruit at Southern Cal three years ago and has a good arm, but Scoggins’ strong running talents were not a good fit for the classic drop-back attack long-favored by the Trojans. Moreover, Scroggins’ spring development was slowed by injuries. Arriving in fall will be true frosh Anu Solomon, an extra-dimension runner and good-enough spread-formation passer (think Shaun King, Patrick White, Denard Robinson in terms of style). With a pliable first three games for 2013, followed by trips to Washington and Southern Cal in Games Four & Five, RichRod says it would be no surprise to see three different starting QBs in the first half of the season. Oh, as for the loss of top WR Hill, Rodriguez says the position is among the deepest on the team, with 6-4 soph David Richards (29 recs. LY) and 6-4, 234 sr. Terrence Miller (awarded medical RS season after injuries LY) leading a multi-talented cast.

If Heisman candidate RB Carey stays out of further trouble, coach RichRod will have his speedy, hurry-up offense, whoever the QB. And, though not yet a strength, the Wildcat defense will be improved. Look for U of A to pull more than a few surprises this season.

NOTEWORTHY: Thanks to the arrival of Coach RichRod’s uptempo spread and a youth-laden defense, the Wildcats went “over” 9 of 12 chances last season (no total in the South Carolina State game).


UTAH (SUR 5-7; PSR 5-7; O/U 5-6)...Utah’s 2012 season was severely disrupted early when another shoulder injury forced once-promising starting QB Jordan Wynn to retire just two games into the campaign. After using sr. and former walk-on Jon Hays for three games, highly-respected coach Kyle Whittingham decided to invest in the future by turning to 6-6 true frosh Travis Wilson. The big youngster endured the expected growing pains, but ended 3-4 SU in the last seven games. The Utes finished 5-7, missing the postseason for the first time in Whittingham’s eight seasons at the helm.

The big question for 2013 is how well the strong-throwing Wilson can now cash in on that experience without the availability of never-say-die RB John White (1085 YR last season). In order to better exploit Wilson’s “big arm.” Whittingham has lured long-time HC Dennis Erickson out of a one-year retirement following Erickson’s five-year term at Arizona State. Erickson will be co-offensive coordinator with 25-year-old Brian Johnson, who didn’t have much dynamism at his disposal last season. Now, the dual coordinators will try to enervate a Utah offense that 97th in the nation passing LY, 105th in total yards, 106th on third downs, ran for only 3.6 ypc, and scored only 26.7 ppg (a low figure in these days of offensive pyrotechnics).

To help fast-forward the progress of Wilson (62.7%, 7 TDs, 6 ints.), Whittingham says the team will return to more frequent use of spread elements this year after the attack had to be simplified LY due to the QB’s inexperience. The HC is confident his big, tough, and deep OL will be good enough to help a decent cast of Utah RBs (220-pound sr. Kelvin York is a good downhill runner) and under-used group of receivers. Juniors Dres Anderson & Kenneth Scott combined for 68 recs. LY and will be joined in August by rangy 6-3 juco Andre White. Jr. TE Jake Murphy (33 recs. LY) will also be a factor.

Despite the loss of three starting DLmen and virtually all of its CB experience, Utah appears to have another strong defense on tap. The Utes were 22nd vs. the run last season, and 36th in total defense. Whittingham’s pet unit is morphing more often these days from a 4-3 into a 4-2-5 to counter the many spread offenses. But the Utes are well-stocked in 300-pounders for its DL. To add speed this year, Whittingham is moving 6-5, 245 sr. Trevor Reilly (69 tackles, 4½ sacks LY) from LB to DE, and he’s switched 6-2, 225 sr. Brian Blechen (58 Ts) from safety to LB. Juco Tevin Carter is expected to see early action at LB. Whittingham figures he has two games (home vs. Utah State & Weber State) to get his CB issues settled. After that, its eight straight tough games without relief.

Overall, Whittingham has another big, rugged edition in Salt Lake City this season. However, after those first two contests vs. the Aggies and Wildcats, Utah’s slate of games is rather relentless until the last two against Washington State and Colorado. Thus, the bruising Utes will have to score 2-3 upsets if they are to reach the 2013 bowl season (giving Whittingham a chance to improve upon his 7-1 postseason mark). Those upsets might come if QB Wilson starts to realize some of his substantial upside. And woe be tide any foe that underestimates the physicality and aggressiveness of the Utes, especially in Salt Lake City, where all home games have been sold out the last three years.



COLORADO (SUR 1-11; PSR 3-9; O/U 6-5)...Help is on the way in Boulder. Mike MacIntyre, the author of the miracle-like rebound at San Jose State, has imported his program virtually intact to Colorado, where the only direction is UP after last year’s 2012 campaign. As much as alumnus and previous HC Jon Embree wanted to revive his beloved Buffaloes, and as much as it pained Embree when he could not, and as much as his dismissal after just two seasons might have been unfair, the move to MacIntyre (a Bill Parcells disciple) initially appears to be a good one.

Embree, despite two decades of college and NFL experience, had never been a head coach, and he was faced with a huge task in Boulder. MacIntyre, the son of long-time former Vanderbilt (and other schools) coach George MacIntyre, learned at his father’s hip for years about tough situations. Embree lost some key support when CU blew a fourth-quarter lead in its 22-17 loss to Colorado State in its opener, and then most of any remaining backing when Colorado lost 30-28 to Sacramento State in its next game at home in Boulder. With just one victory the rest of the way, Embree was forced into a tearful departure (and an eventual job with the Cleveland Browns).

Here are some of the lowlights of the 2012 campaign. 17.8 ppg (117th in the country). 34 giveaways (only three teams had more) by the Buff offense. Minus 19 in turnover margin (last in the nation). 46 ppg allowed on defense (worst in the country).

However, there is hope MacIntyre can somehow raise a phoenix from those ashes. After all, the 48-year-old head coach went from 1-12 in his first year at San Jose in 2010 to 10-2 in 2012 (the team later won the Military Bowl after MacIntyre took the job at CU). Due to last year’s youth movement and multiple injuries in Boulder, MacIntyre inherits lots of young players with experience. The negative is that the new HC is has installed a whole new no-huddle attack on offense and a new 4-3 front on defense (Embree used a 3-4). Thus, spring was spent mostly on evaluating personnel and getting players familiar with the new concepts. Seventeen starters return, although starting G Daniel Munyer suffered a broken ankle and QB Jordan Webb (54% LY) sustained a torn ACL in spring.

Webb has a chance to return sometime in October, with the QB battle until then between experienced jr. Connor Wood, 6-5 RS frosh Shane Dillon, and true frosh Sefo Liufau. (Sr. Nick Hirschman has transferred). So MacIntyre isn’t sure what he’ll be getting at QB come September. But he does have a veteran one-two punch at RB (240-pound soph Christian Powell and 5-7, 190 sr. Tony Jones), a big-play WR in Paul Richardson (out all of LY with a torn ACL), decent experience in the OL, good young speed in the secondary, an established pass-rusher in sr. DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe (7 sacks LY), an emerging DT in 6-3, 310 soph Josh Tupou, and an aggressive (though mostly undersized) LB corps. Early enrollee ILB Addison Gilliam strengthened that unit by winning a starting job in spring.

All agree that for Colorado to rebound to its former heights, MacIntyre must change the negative culture that is the residue of the Dan Hawkins-Jon Embree regimes. The new coach thinks he can do it. Says MacIntyre, “When I went to San Jose State, there was only one person that I hired who I ever knew. And then I was able to keep most all those guys here with us, and they understand what we want to do.” Repetition of the same message will help the thorough, detail-oriented MacIntyre, who was 15-9 SU and 18-6 vs. the spread his last two years at San Jose. MacIntyre might be able to squeeze out 2-3 wins this year with the underrated emerging talent on hand at Colorado, aided by some promising incoming frosh. But the Buffs will still be very young, and the new coach needs to acquire more high-quality players before low-scoring CU can compete evenly in offense-heavy Pac-12.


NEXT...AAC PREVIEW!


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