Welcome to the Pac 12 season! Last night, I had the displeasure of enduring two of the most crummy games one could hope for, and I enjoyed every single second of it. Like you, my expectations for the season range from "rosy" to "downright upbeat" to "uncontainable". However, my expectations are as worthless as a Crazi Heisman prediction. In truth, I need more information. After the jump, I'll share with you the datapoints I'll be looking for (including two observed from last night) as I try to make sense of the inaugural Pac 12 season.
San Jose State at Stanford: Many of you have picked up on the trash talking that has been going on between Sundodger, KirkD and myself. In fact, it has reached such epic heights that I've already placed a down payment on a small island off the coast of the Dominican Republic with the winnings that I expect to collect from my Internet bet with SD. What we agree on, however, is that there is nothing flashy with Stanford. They have succeeded with physicality and attitude. We won't learn much about these attributes against an inferior San Jose St, but we might get an idea of what the new coaching staff brings to the table. I'll be watching the sidelines and looking at how the staff interacts with the players. Will the intensity be there despite the inferior opponent? What will the players' body language be like?be channeling his inner Woody Hayes or his inner Tony Dungy?
Idaho St at WSU: Idaho State is among the worst of all FCS teams. My sightline for WSU will focus on what kind of offense they plan to run. Will they spread it out and highlight Tuel's abilities as a passer or have they shifted to a more physical style that emphasizes what they hope is an emerging competency on the O-Line and try to gain momentum in their running attack? I'm particularly interested to see what RB Ricky Galvin brings to the table.
Northern Ariz at Arizona: The sightline I'll have for most of this season is this absurd notion of trying to redshirt QB Matt Scott. For this game, however, it has to be Arizona offensive line. Five new starters standing in front of Nick Foles, a QB with an injury history. If they resort to bubble screens all day, then we know that their O-Line has yet to come together.
Fresno State at Cal: John calls this a trap game. I call this an intriguing debut of a QB with star potential. We already know about Cal's D. We already know about Keenan Allen. I'm watching QB Zach Maynard.
Minnesota at USC: Like I am with Stanford, I'm not as high on USC as some others. My skepticism about Lane as a coach is high. Their ranks are thin. They are young on the O-Line and, let's face it, QB Matt Barkley can be an enigma at times. Add to the mix the unpredictability of a Minnesota team that has a whole new coaching regime and I think we'll see Minnesota cover the spread. What I'll be watching is who emerges in RB mix and I'm especially interested in seeing how the Barkley to Woods connection has developed in the off-season.
Colorado at Hawaii: This game is a little different than the others given that Hawaii is our next opponent. I'm going to be focused not on Colorado, but on what Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz may have added to his arsenal over the offseason. I'll also be sharpening my lip reading skills so that I can discern any racial, religious or sexual orientation slurs that may emanate from the mouth of Coach Greg McMackin.
UCLA at Houston: If UCLA makes any noise this year, it is going to be driven from their defense. With so much attention paid to the QB controversy, the progress of this defense has gone unaddressed. They return eight starters on D not counting DE Datone Jones, a potential star who missed all of last season. This is an experienced unit with a number of highly touted recruits emerging as upperclassmen leaders. I'll be focusing on their front seven, in particular.
Oregon at LSU: Ted Miller says that there is a "trend" emerging that Chip Kelly can't win games where good opponents have extra time to prepare. I disagree. I think that Chip Kelly has trouble winning games where his opponents have interior size advantages (as do we all!). LSU has significant interior size advantages on both sides of the ball. I'll be watching the trenches in this one.
EWU at Washington: I could go all day on this. Picking one sightline, I choose to focus on the TE play. We went without this position all of last season. I'm interested to see how it gets integrated into the playmaking aspect of Sark's offense and how comfortable Keith is in utilizing his assets at that position.
UC Davis at Arizona St: I watched most of this game. ASU looked fast, even against a slow UC Davis squad. However, I was unimpressed with ASU's injury depleted secondary and I was amazed at how many wobbly throws Brock Osweiler pitched. Either way, they look competitive and I'm happy we'll be missing them this year.
Montana St at Utah: This was an unimpressive debut for Utah in the Pac 12. Even Kyle Whittingham called the performance of his offense "abysmal". My sightline for that game was the offensive gameplan put together by Norm Chow and, well, let's just say he didn't answer any questions, especially with all of 3 points scored in the second half.
What will you be watching this weekend?