Well hello there!
Today’s countdown topic takes the form of a roundtable conversation between Andrew, Coach B, and me, trying to answer the question: What’s something that’ll happen this season in the Pac-12 that you think others are overlooking?
What the conversation turned into, however, was mostly a discussion on everyone’s favorite agent: C H A O S.
Without further ado:
Coach, Andrew, and Gabey’s thoughts on chaotic Pac-12 possibilities
Coach B: I think the Pac-12 South will have a chaos team emerge and surprise everyone. The easy answer would be ASU based on their last couple years under Herm Edwards. They have a young core that’s maturing and enough talent to have a puncher’s chance against anyone. Their schedule is tough early opening vs. USC followed up by their cross division game against Cal.
However, I think USC will be hampered by a few of the departures/opt-outs on their OL, so ASU should have a decent shot. Utah will also be rebuilding this year, so a couple early wins will put ASU in the drivers seat.
Another chaos team could be OSU. They were surprisingly competitive last year, and while I don’t expect them to win the division, they could play spoiler to depleted Oregon and Utah teams who would otherwise be considered favorites/contenders in their divisions.
Other than a couple chaos teams, this season is already so upside-down, I’m fully expecting #Pac12AfterDark vibes in every single game.
Andrew Berg: I don’t know if this submission qualifies as overlooked, but I think USC is, as usual, overrated going into the season.
Slovis started the season well, but I think that gave him some halo effect. He had the ups and downs you would expect from a young QB. So much of his reputation is based on moxie, leadership, and other intangibles, and I’m inherently skeptical of those things.
Most importantly, Clay Helton is still the coach. I can’t explain why he turned around his recruiting this year after two down years, but I don’t see any reason to think that success would translate onto the field. Plus, two subpar recruiting classes will start to show up in their depth.
Gabey Lucas: Totally agree about Oregon State, Coach. I’ve been thinking about them a lot as a spoiler. They kind of remind me of where Cal was a few seasons ago — not gonna win big probably or anything, but certainly in a position to outperform many people’s expectations and spoil some teams that overlook them in the process.
Obviously losing Jake Luton hurts them, but I feel like based on his assessed talent level as a recruit and our small sample size of him in college, Tristan Gebbia shouldn’t be a huge dropoff (and likely offers some options on the ground too).
One thing that’s interesting about them too is I feel like very few teams have capitalized on transfers and The Portal as well as Oregon State, which is so beneficial for them as a program that otherwise has immense trouble getting high end talent out of high school. Gebbia’s an obvious instance of that, but also Tyjon Lindsey (.97 in the 247Sports Composite), Tre’shaun Harrison (.93), Avery Roberts (.92), Addison Gumbs (.94), and former Husky Trey Lowe. I feel like that infusion of talent plus improving philosophies, fundamentals, and execution gives them the means to do a lot that two or three seasons ago would’ve been a pipe dream.
Also samesies about USC, although that’s been true for the last decade or so save 2016.
AB: Yes, but USC were initially ranked before they took B1G and Pac teams out. Helton is 40-22 in 5 years, so basically 8-4 on average. According to my very complicated database, they will not be able to finish 8-4 in a 7 game season, but if they have a season of comparable success, I don’t think that would get them in the top 25 after the year.
Coach: I completely forgot about all of those OSU guys. Definitely putting more confidence in my pick of OSU being an agent of chaos.
GL: I want to add that I think Stanford could genuinely finish last in the North. I think there’s just a bunch of question marks for Oregon, Washington, WSU, and to an extent OSU but with relatively high potential for all of them (probably WSU with the least, but there’s still some there), while Cal is a well-established floor but lower ceiling than Oregon and Washington.
Stanford though seems like they’re just treading water. I don’t want to present this like it’s a given at all, but the situation looks like if UO, UW, WSU, and OSU all are closer to their ceiling than their floor, I think it’s likely to be at Stanford’s expense.
Saying that, I still want to include that even if those four teams end up on the high end of their potential, I’d bet both my arms that Stanford comes on and roasts one of ‘em randomly just to appease the #AfterDark gods. And for that reason, I include them as a chaos team candidate for like, the exact opposite reasons that OSU makes a good chaos candidate.
Coach: I’m with you there 100% that Stanford has a little bit of the “It” factor to be an agent of chaos. Just like what we saw last year when we somehow got blown up by their MASH unit at OL. Some teams just have each other’s number. Just look at the triangle of UW-WSU-Oregon being able to beat each other despite vastly different talent. Stanford had the blueprint to take down Oregon during the Chipster’s tenure, so there’s a lengthy record of them punching above their weight. Again, I’m banking on some #Pac12AfterDark chaos vibes this season.
*Also shout out to my guy Jet Toner who I believe will be returning for his last season as Stanford’s kicker. He’s a Hawaii kid that comes out of the same HS kicking lineage as the Texans’ Kaimi Fairbairn and our Tim Horn. That is all :)
AB: It’s funny that you mention that about Jet Toner since Stanford just got a commitment from a kicker from my hometown of Fargo, ND. Overall, I’m a little more skeptical of Stanford. They have been on a negative trajectory for several years and they lost probably their best lineman in Walker Little to an opt out. Maybe Shaw can reverse the trend, but I would have OSU ahead of them on my list of chaos agents in the North (and probably Wazzu, too).
GL: I totally agree about OSU having a better trajectory than them — but that’s why I feel like Stanford is a big chaos agent; like I feel like they’re gonna be super mediocre but because they have a certain talent level and the other North teams other than Cal all have a lot of moving parts this season, Stanford will still take someone out who otherwise does better than them this year. Does that make sense?
AB: That’s the sort of pretzel logic I can endorse. If we expect a team to be underrated, are they really underrated? So the only sure way to identify an underrated team is to just name teams we’re confident will suck and trust that we’re very wrong. I’m for it!
GL: Psh suck it that’s not pretzel logic! Chaos takes all sorts of forms, including mostly sucking but sometimes not! Exclamation marks!
What will be the Pac-12’s biggest agent of chaos this season?
This poll is closed
ASU chaotically sweeping through The South (does this count as chaos)?
Oregon State chaotically causing chaos for other North teams
Stanford being the recipient of chaotic sucking-ish but then causing chaos by chaotically disrupting other North teams
USC’s relatively high expectations having a chaotic wrench thrown into them by *literally anyone* (let’s be real, is this really chaos if it happens every year?)
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.