The Gekko File: A Retrospective (part 2)

Looking back at a summer's full of predictions with a fall ale in hand.

In part 1, we looked at my forecasts for the PAC 12 South and how they look with half the season now expired. With the exception of an overreach on Utah, the Gekko Files have held serve in the South Division. Turning our attention to the North and it looks a little different. The North has been full of twists and turns that I don't believe anyone expected. From the pure dominance of Oregon to the surprise upstart of the Beavers to the collapse of the Golden Bears to the schizophrenia of the Huskies. Nothing has gone quite to plan. Let's take a closer look at the Gekko Files 2012 - PAC 12 North

1. Oregon

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via cdn2.sbnation.com

Recap:

Sure - it is easy to say that I predicted Oregon to finish first and that I should get credit for the same brilliance that everyone else in the nation showed. However, I went one better than the mass media which followed Ted Miller's cue and got all up in Lane Kiffin's jock - I flat out called Oregon to run the table in the PAC 12 regular season and identified them as the true national title contender out of the conference.

What I Said:

In truth, I don't see Oregon losing a regular season game. I like them going into LA and beating the Trojans on their way to a PAC 12 North title. I certainly see them as a BCS championship contender...

What Has Transpired:

Exactly what I said would transpire has (I know, it was a dramatic prediction) - Oregon is killing people with offense and defense. Sure, we can bag them a little bit for not having played anyone with a staunch backbone, but that changes this weekend with USC. In the end, Oregon doesn't require a highly experienced and skilled QB to run their elite offense - they just need someone with physical skills and good decision making. Marcus Mariota gives them that and more. The Defense is clearly now top end. This team is a complete package. It is the "finished business" that Chip Kelly was referring to when he turned down the Tampa Bay Bucs job last season. How do you think he'll look in the green and white of the New York Jets next season (you heard it here first).

What Has Surprised:

No surprises outside of the fact that Oregon is currently sitting fourth in the BCS when the eyeball test tells you that they are either first or second best team in the country right now.

2. California

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via cdn0.sbnation.com

Recap:

With a borderline elite D, a brand spanking new stadium and a lot of young talent to compliment Keenan Allen and Isi Soefele on offense, I predicted the Cal Bears to emerge in a close race with Stanford and UW as the #2 team the North this season. I actually meant to say Oregon State.

What I Said:

I've elected to take the "optimist" point of view on Cal this season. The key for me is the talent that they will be rolling out on the DL and amongst their OLB. Coupled with those experienced corners, I can see the Bears being very stout against passing offenses and effective in generating pass rushes. I also can't help but to like the running back stable. Despite the questions market on the offensive line, there is enough talent there to boost Maynard and what I think will be a very down passing attack in 2012.

What Has Transpired:

The offensive line has been worse than anyone could have guessed and the defense simply hasn't played to it's talent level. There have definitely been injuries that have factored in, but we can't pin the collapse of this season all on that. The bottom line in Berkeley is that it appears that the players have begun to tune out Jeff Tedford and that is a shame. Many of the younger fans on these blogs don't remember what it was like for Cal pre-Tedford. If you do, then you know what he has meant to this program. It would appear that his page is about to turn.

What Has Surprised:

The play of the LB corps, affected by injuries, has been very disappointing. This was a unit that, I think, many people had high hopes for. They've missed tackles, blown assignments and exposed a less-experienced secondary to punishment from other offenses around the PAC. While I still think they have the talent to rise up and smack a few people in the mouth (hello, UW), their poor play to date has been a surprise.

4. Stanford

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via cdn1.sbnation.com

Recap:

Much to the delight of KirkD and SunDodger, I've taken a few shots ... and a few pieces of humble pie in return ... at the Cardinal and their high-ego head coach, David Shaw. While I have been accused of having a blind-hate for Stanford, it is really not true. Outside of UW, the only other PAC 12 teams that I could say that I "like" are Stanford and ASU. Still, I came into this season with very dubious feelings for the Cardinal. While I thought that the D was still just plain sick, I couldn't help but to observe that the offense was going to be average to borderline-bad. I did accurately predict that Josh Nunes would beat out the now third-string Brett Nottingham just as I predicted that the reworked O-Line would struggle meeting the needs of a team that relies on effective line play above all other priorities. I also noted that expecting any QB to live up to Andrew Luck's standards in the red zone and on third down - where he was simply amazing - was too much for anyone. Ultimately, I projected Stanford to finish fourth in the North based on a tie-breaker loss to Washington.

What I Said:

I'm predicting a return-to-earth finish for the Cardinal in 2012. While I expect the front seven to be effective - particularly in rush defense - I don't see them quite as good as they were in 2011...While I think they finish with about the same number of wins as Washington, they will finish fourth as a result of the tiebreaker. I do not think that this is as much a conviction of their lack of talent, but as a result of the transition that they invariably have to endure...

What Has Transpired:

To date, I've basically been spot on in this forecast. The Stanford D has been stellar (with the exception of that crazy Arizona game), but the offense has struggled with consistency. The Cardinal did surprise me by beating the Trojans, so I guess there is that. Still, the Cardinal go into this weekend with a QB controversy beginning to brew as the new backup, Kevin Hogan, has all of a sudden become the most popular guy in Palo Alto.

What Has Surprised:

The biggest surprise of the year so far has been the lack of instances where David Shaw has identified some aspect of his team as "underrated" or "under the radar". These seemed to be his favorite terms over the summer. I miss them. David isn't David when he can't point to the lack of respect his team is getting.

5. Washington State

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via cdn2.sbnation.com

Recap:

Like most of you, I was impressed with the rapid and bold hiring of Mike Leach to replace Paul Wulff at the end of last season. I thought that Leach would, if nothing, sustain the accomplished passing game that Wulff was leaving behind and that the young talent on D would begin to show the ability to hang with the rest of the PAC. I tempered these hopes by noting that the Cougs were still pretty small by PAC standards and that there were significant causes for concern along the offensive line. Taken together, I predicted a four or five win campaign.

What I Said:

There are legitimate reasons to pick this team ahead of Cal and, possibly, at par with UW. However, what we don't know about WSU is what makes picking them any higher than fifth difficult. Question 1 - can that porous O-Line improve year over year? ... Question 2 - do they have the size and depth on the Defensive front seven to hang for 12 games? This is a small defense by PAC 12 standards. Question 3 - can they actually establish a run game?

What Has Transpired:

While I never expected to see a QB controversy take hold in Pullman, things are going as I expected. The Cougs, perhaps, have struggled more on offense that most of us would have imagined, but much of this can be traced to the state of flux that the offensive line seems to be in (is this a theme across the PAC 12?). Both QBs in Jeff Tuel and Connor Halladay have struggled in their own ways with Leach's Air Raid - Tuel too cautious and Halladay too Brett Favre-ish. The receivers - in particular the young guys like Gabe Marks and Isiah Myers - have been stellar. On the defensive side, it is has been a whole lot of blah with a little meh mixed in. The Cougs go into this weekend with two wins and none in the PAC 12 making their projection seem a little lower than what I originally predicted.

What Has Surprised:

The QB controversy has to be surprise A#1 for the Cougs this year. While everyone thought that Halladay was a great fit - in - waiting for Leach, it seemed a no-brainer that the Cougs would go with Jeff Tuel as the primary guy. Ted Miller and others went as far as to peg Tuel as a early to mid-round QB prospect on NFL draft boards. Then Thursday night season kickoff came and Leach, who panned his QB's performance on live TV in a classic Mike Leach moment, witnessed Tuel fail to get the Cougs in the end zone against BYU. It has been a roller coaster since.

6. Oregon State

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via cdn1.sbnation.com

Recap:

After educating the reading audience on the tragic story of the Umpqua tribe, I went and totally whiffed on OSU. Coming off a very low season with uncertainty on defense, a shambles for a running game, a mistake prone young QB and an offensive line that was featuring a true frosh starting at C and a UCLA castoff at G, I had very, very low expectations for the Beavers coming in to the season going so far as to predict that they'd win just three Pac 12 games (Cal, WSU, and Ariz). I also didn't see them winning more than one OOC game nor earning bowl eligibility despite what I thought to be high upside at QB, strength at WR and potential on the D-Line.

What I Said:

Of bigger concern to the Beavers is the state of their offensive line. Already considered one of the lower performing such units in the Pac, the Beavers face the 2012 season with considerable upheaval in those ranks. They entered spring with just eight healthy O-Linemen and will undoubtedly be counting on serious unknowns such as true freshman Isaac Semaulo and incoming UCLA transfer (and known bone-head) Stanley Hasiak. The flip side of the trenches is just as unknown. While it is a good bet that the "gym rat" DE Scott Crichton (two sacks and that forced Montana fumble against the Dawgs) will be productive in the pass rush, there are questions/potential around him..

(incidentally, Stan Hasiak is no longer with the team).

What Has Transpired:

Everything that could go right has gone right for the Beavers (at least up until the Washington game). The Beavers have absolutely gotten production at QB from both Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz, big plays from their WRs and a rejuvenated rushing attack that has been anchored by Storm Woods. The O-Line, which is loaded with upper classmen, has been better than anyone could imagine and the defense has played lights out led by both Scott Crichton and Jordan Poyer. The Beavs may not be a legit BCS bowl contender, but they've established themselves as a "tough out" which is far more than anyone could have expected to enter the season.

What Has Surprised:

Clearly, the play of the offensive line has been the story of the season. But, to me, the big surprise is the emergence of Storm Woods at RB. This team was an epically bad rushing team last year. This year, it has been a completely fresh story with Woods grinding and pounding away to create effective play-action opportunities for the Beaver playmakers. Much credit has to go to Mike Riley, who assumed play calling duties to start the season.

CONCLUSIONS

That's it for our mid-season sanity check on how the Gekko File projections look to date. All in all, I'm feeling pretty decent about my pre-season picks. Obviously, I whiffed pretty hard on Cal and Oregon State but I've stayed in the ballpark on the Arizona schools, UCLA and WSU while nailing it out of the park on Oregon, USC, Stanford and Colorado. I'd love to hear from you after you are done drooling over the Stanford co-ed. Is this season meeting your expectations to date?

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