The number of returning number of starters for a football team is usually a pretty good gauge of where a team is headed in the coming year. I think it is the first thing that magazines like Athlon take a look at when evaluating the potential strength of a team headed into the next season. It can also be a bit deceiving because how do you predict improvement for an 0-12 team that returns all its starters?
Arizona State 20
Challenge: Not much of a challenge when you return 20 starters from a squad that is trending upward. This is a big reason that ASU is favored to win the Pac 12 South in 2011. Lawrence Guy left early for the draft or their could have been a whopping 21.
Scheduling Misses: Stanford and Washington
Challenge: The good news is a lot of returning experience. The bad news is these guys have experienced a lot of losses (see above) since they have been at Colorado. Whenever you bring in a new coaching staff a purge likely follows as they start to bring in their type of kids.
Scheduling Misses: California and Oregon State
Challenge: This program is on a definite uptrend but the Huskies lose their two best players in Locker and Foster. If Washington can get consistent play at QB they will be bowling once again.
Scheduling Misses: UCLA and Arizona State
Washington State 15
Challenge: The Cougars started playing competitive football in 2010 and this is a team on an up trend. This team played harder and smarter last season. They have a schedule set up where they could go 5-0 to start the season. Idaho State, UNLV, SDSU, Colorado, and UCLA look like winnable games to start the season.
Scheduling Misses: USC and Arizona
Challenge: The Bruins need to replace four offensive linemen. That isn't good news for a struggling offense. No surprise that after four years Neuheisel hasn't been able to build an offensive line. Losing LB Akeem Myers and CB Rahim Moore early to the draft won't help that tepid defense.
Scheduling Misses: Oregon and Washington
Challenge: The Trojans had their usual losses to the draft. Looks like they could be once again short handed on the offensive and defensive lines. Overall I expect the Trojans performance to be similar to 2010.
Scheduling Misses: Oregon State and WSU
Challenge: The Ducks keep most of their skill positions intact. They need to prove they can reload their front seven on defense. The Ducks weren't hurt by early entry this season which is rare after such a climb.
Scheduling Misses: Utah and UCLA
Oregon State 13
Challenge: Finding someone as productive as Quizz at RB will be difficult. Defensively they have some major losses in their front seven that needs to be replaced including DT Steven Paea. Officially I think the Beavers are in rebuilding mode.
Scheduling Misses: USC and Colorado
Challenge: They need to fill losses up front on both lines and in the secondary. Will be interesting to see how this team does with a relentless schedule. Losing CB Brandon Burton and DT Sealver Siliga to the NFL draft was a bit of a surprise. That takes a bite out of their defense.
Scheduling Misses: The Ute's miss Oregon and Stanford who are rated as the top two teams in 2011.
Challenge: Most skill positions return on offense but they have to replace the entire offensive line. They lose both DE's and a tackle which are significant losses.
Scheduling Misses: California and WSU
Challenge: Finding a consistent QB and someone to replace Shane Vereen at RB are huge concerns for an offense that has sputtered.
Scheduling Misses: Arizona and Colorado
Challenge: Offensively the Cards need to reload on the line at receiver. Defensively they need to find some answers up front. The consensus is despite the losses they have the pieces.
Scheduling Misses: Arizona State and Utah