The Pac 12 season is quickly approaching and it is time for us to do what every self-respecting fan blog does this time of year: get together in a committee and make predictions. For all of you who feel ripped off because the Gekko Files, heretofore, contained the opinion of only one blogger, you may rejoice. Six is better than one.
Joining me for today's roundtable are my esteemed colleagues: Brad "Bad JuJu" Johnson, Kirk "de Greatest" DeGrasse, Ryan "Not That Kind Of" Priest, Randall "Fly For a White Guy" Floyd, and Darin "The Other" Johnson. For your reading pleasure, I asked each of my colleagues to provide their predictions for each of the significant achievements that can be had in the Pac 12 over the course of 2014:
- Pac 12 North Champion
- Pac 12 South Champion
- Pac 12 Champion
- Coach of the Year
- Offensive Player of the Year
- Defensive Player of the Year
We omitted Freshman offensive and defensive players of the year because an initial straw poll indicated that most of the committee felt that UW's Budda Baker would end up winning both honors in a landslide. As interesting and potentially accurate as that conclusion might be, it isn't nearly controversial enough. Here at the UWDP, if a blogger can't state an opinion that, at minimum, causes a minority cadre of fans to want to whitewash said blogger's front stoop in toothpaste, then it is probably is not worth stating.
Here is the summary of the blogger picks:
|Blogger||P12 N||P12 S||Coach of Year||OP of Year||DP of Year||P12 Champ|
Pac 12 North Champions
The entire blogging crew likes Oregon to win the North. The combination of Oregon's ferocious rushing attack, Heisman QB candidate and a more-than-reasonable in-conference schedule make them an easy pick for all of my colleagues. As I culled through the various points of feedback provided by the committee, I couldn't help but to notice that there was very little talk about the Huskies potentially being a dark horse to win the North. This might be more evidence that, while the optimism is high, our damaged fan base isn't quite yet ready to fully invest themselves in the hope that surrouds what Coach Petersen and Crew and pulling together out of Montlake - at least not in year one.
Here are some of the more interesting verbatims for this category:
Darin: Still the scariest team in the conference. Sad to say.
Randall: (Editor's note: don't forget, Randall is a lawyer) I started off by eliminating Cal from the list. I was tempted to immediately eliminate Oregon State ....BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH.... but my gut simply wouldn't let me do it. So, I chose to remove Stanford instead..... BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH .... That leaves Oregon and Washington, and I have to pick Oregon over Washington solely because Oregon has Mariota as its starting QB.
Brad: Too much talent for everybody else. I've heard they have a good quarterback, but for the life of me, I can't remember his name.
Pac 12 South Champion
I was surprised at how the polling went with the Pac 12 South amongst the blog members. In case you hadn't heard, UCLA was selected by the media to win the South Division. Yet, in this polling of distinguished and informed panelists, not a single vote for UCLA was recorded. Wizened fans understand that USC not only holds an advantage over UCLA in the skill player talent category but that the introduction of Sark's form of hurry-up offense appears to be an ideal fit for the weapons that USC possesses. Layer in a schedule that has USC missing both Oregon and Washington (two teams UCLA must face) and it seems almost silly to not call UCLA the underdog. There was one vote for ASU, but it was from the lawyer.
Here are some of our blogger comments:
Brad: USC has the best talent in the league, but the slimmest margin for error. Most importantly, they have the most advantageous schedule in the conference, missing both Oregon and Washington.
Kirk: USC has the most talent. I see some holes with UCLA. Too many pieces to replace for ASU. The rest are just too far away in terms of talent.
Randall: I started off by simply eliminating the teams that I thought had no chance ... unfortunately, I was only able to eliminate Colorado.
Pac 12 Champion
Given that five of six pollsters have USC and Oregon duking it out for the Pac 12 Championship, it doesn't take a huge leap in logic to understand that the deeper Oregon team looks like a lock to win the Championship game under those circumstances. The more interesting question, at least in my mind, is what happens if Oregon somehow loses to Michigan State in Week 2 but does go on to win the Pac 12 Championship. Would this essentially eliminate the Pac 12 from the first College Playoff tournament?
Offensive Player of the Year
If you didn't know that this was a UW fan blog, you might think that our little committee soiree was some sort of Oregon love-fest - complete with green tea, green beer, Cliff Harris's favorite party favors and a whizzinator (in fact there was a whizzinator - we all shared it but Darin refused to partake). Marcus Mariota was a near unanimous choice for the OPOY. The logic is rational: there isn't a quarterback in the Pac 12 that blends the experience and skill set he has with the elite O-Line and rushing attack that Mariota enjoys. He's a QBR machine waiting to get flipped on. I dissented by voting for Taylor Kelly not because I think Kelly is better, but because I think Kelly has a chance to accumulate more stats than Mariota given that Mariota may not be playing in a lot of fourth quarters.
Some writer comments:
Chris: I like Taylor Kelly to edge out Mariota as I think that he's going to get more opportunities and he has the Pac 12's next great receiver in Jaelen Strong.
Randall: I'd like to go to Westwood with this, but I can't because of UCLA's offensive line. They won't allow for Brett Hundley to win the OPOY this year.
Brad: Mariota is legit. He could easily account for 4,000 yards and 40 TDs this season.
Defensive Player of the Year
The first sniff of a Husky gracing our awards discussion came up when we gathered comments on the Defensive Player of the Year award. Two Huskies made the final list with a vote apiece going to Shaq Thompson and Marcus Peters. I actually considered going with Hau'oli Kikaha before putting my vote behind Stanford linebacker James Vaughters. Two more votes went to USC DE Leonard Williams while Ryan cast his vote for UCLA SLB Myles Jack. To win an award like this, a defender needs to really stuff a stat sheet - usually in the form of either sacks or interceptions. Our picks mostly reflect a focus on sacks. The big exception was the vote for Jack which, as Ryan explains, is really a reflection of media bias towards a guy who really doesn't rush the passer.
Here are some of our verbatims:
Darin: Shaq Thompson will fully realize his insane talent this year. To his great coverage and outside contain skills, he will add pass rushing.
Chris: Trent Murphy had 25 sacks in his last two years at Stanford simply by feasting off of the leftovers of that enormous D-Line. James Vaughters is the next mouth at the table.
Ryan: Jack has the talent and media outlets like the Pac-12 Networks and ESPN have already demonstrated a desire to elevate their coverage of him.
Pac 12 Coach of the Year
The Coach of the Year award is normally an acknowledgment of the man behind the conference champion or an honoring of a tremendous turnaround. Occasionally, it is handed out as a sort of lifetime achievement award. On this subject, the panel had a few different takes. Some wanted to give it to the coach of our unanimous Pac 12 champion in Mark Helfrich. A few noted that if Steve Sarkisian is able to get USC to the Pac 12 Championship game, he'll get the award based on the turnaround job alone. One vote went to Petersen, of course.
Ryan: If Sark can bring the Trojans to the conference title game in his first year, it'll be difficult to justify handing the hardware to anyone else.
Kirk: Homer pick, but I could see Petersen posting a 10-11 win season which, combined with his rep, should be enough to win COY.
Darin: Does anybody care about Coach of the Year? I don't.