We are only a short few weeks away from kicking off the 2015-16 College football season. And as the weather begins to cool off and the leaves start their transition of change there is a renewed anticipation in the air across the nation as the best times of the year, FOOTBALL SEASON, is drawing near. The 2014-15 College football playoff brought a new twist of excitement to college football and here at Sports Q&A it is time to start talking about who will have the best shot at being one of the last four teams standing at the end of the season.
Over the next couple of post we will be breaking down each of the Power 5 conferences — The PAC-12, ACC, Big 12, SEC and the Big 10 and letting you know which team has the best shot at winning its respective conference and attempt to make it the 2016 championship game that will be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, AZ on Monday January 11th.
For so long this conference was thought of as USC and its band of little brothers, but recently teams like the Oregon Ducks, UCLA Bruins and the Stanford Cardinal have performed well on the national stage and actually kept the conference afloat while the mighty Trojans attempted to rebound from NCAA Sanctions.
Well it seems like the worst is finally behind USC, but does that mean that the other teams will just move out of their way as it tries to regain the top spot in the conference?
NORTH DIVISION BREAKDOWN:
It looks as if everyone will be chasing after the Oregon Ducks in 2015. Despite losing Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariotta, Oregon returns enough on both sides of the ball (6/6) including All-PAC 12 defensive end Deforest Buckner to make reservations for the PAC-12 championship. A tough non-conference game in East Lansing against Michigan State could set the tone in determining if they return to the CFB Playoffs. The offense suffered a major set-back with the season ending shoulder injury to running back Thomas Tyner — lucky for the ducks they have recruited well at that position so starter Royce Freeman should still have help.
The return of senior QB Kevin Hogan keeps Stanford Cardinal within striking distance of Oregon and he wont have to do it alone as the Cardinal return nine starters from a disappointing 8-5 2014 team. Unfortunately with only four starters return on defense, head coach David Shaw will prove how good of a coach he is if he can get that unit to gel quickly.
The Cal Bears have been trying to get back to relevancy for years — the program is 9-27 over the past three years — and this may be the year for Sonnie Dykes and company. Senior QB Jared Goff is one of the best in the nation and they have a 1,000+ yard rusher in Daniel Lasco and big play receiver in senior Bryce Treggs; if they don’t play better this year, they may never under Dykes.
Chris Peterson finished his first season in Seattle with a winning record, but many Washington Huskies fans cant be happy with the team losing the five games it played against good teams. Offensively there will be some questions as it still is unknown who will be the team’s starting quarterback — junior Jeff Lindquist and freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels are battling for the job. And while the team has an experienced defensive backfield — the team was dealt a blow when starting sophomore corner Naijiel Hale decided to transfer.
Washington State returns 14 starters — but are any of them good enough for the team to win. Sophomore quarterback Luke Falk showed glimpses of promise — including a five touchdown performance against Oregon State. The defense is led by senior defensive end Destiny Vaeao and Mike Leach has help on the way as seven of its top recruits play defense including defensive tackle Thomas Toki — the fourth rated player in the state of Washington.
After convincing new head coach Gary Andersen to ditch Wisconsin, Oregon St. Beavers fans come into the 2015 season with a lot of hope. The team returns nine starters including senior running back Storm Wood and the massive 6’4 receiver Jordan Villamin — the question is will early enrollee Seth Collins be ready to lead the team. He may have no choice as only two starters return for the Oregon St. defense; Kyle Peko can be the star in defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake’s new 3-4 defense, that’s if he can become eligible.
SOUTH DIVISION BREAKDOWN:
The Return of the Southern Cal Trojans could be solidified this season as USC roster is starting to resemble the championship program from years past. The Trojans are set at quarterback with the return of Heisman hopeful Cody Kessler, but the team must find stability at the running back position. The starting job will come down to Justin Davis or Tre Madden, if either are ineffective they may find help in true freshman Ronald Johnson. There is plenty star power defensively as it is led by trio of talented defensive backs: corner Adoree’ Jackson, Kevon Seymour and safety Leon McQuay III — and the rich gets richer with the addition of freshman corner Iman Marshall.
Coming off a 10 win season the Arizona St. Sun Devils and head coach Todd Graham are looking to take the next step as being one of the top teams in the conference on a regular basis. The team will be led by a blitz-happy defense that utilizes five linebackers in its rotation. The star of the defense is “bandit” safety Jordan Simone who led the team with 100 tackles in 2014. They must replace their starting quarterback but new starter Mike Bercovici held his own last season while filling in for the injured Taylor Kelly
It may not be the desert swarm of the 90’s the Arizona Wildcats have plenty of talent on that side of the ball — including All-Conference linebacker Scooby Wright who led the conference with 163 tackles. Offensively the Wildcats are led by a talented trio in Quarterback Anu Solomon, running back Nick Wolson and receiver Cayleb Jones. It looks like head coach Rich Rodriguez has found a home after the Michigan debacle, but now its time to get the Wildcats to the next level.
The sum is greater than the parts describes what the UCLA Bruins will be facing heading into 2015 as the teams return 19 starters from a 10 win team in 2014. Running back Paul Perkins and receiver Jordan Payton lead the offense while linebacker Myles Jack and defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes leads the defense. Those four should keep the Bruins in every game this season that’s if true freshman Josh Rosen doesn’t play like a freshman.
Small ball isn’t a term used in college football but the Utah Utes may be the first team ever to employ that baseball mentality on the gridiron. Being able to control the clock and win the playing field advantage will be easier with senior back Devontae Booker and his 1,512 yards leading the way. Defensively the Utes hope that its pass defense that only allowed 246.6 ypg last season is still as effective despite replacing entire secondary — including Dominique Hatfield who was dismissed from the team during the summer.
To say the transition to the PAC-12 has been rough for the Colorado Buffaloes would be a great understatement. In the four years being a member the team has only won four of 36 conference games and while there have been some improvements offensively — a top 20 ranked passing offense — defensively it has been a nightmare in Boulder — ranked in the bottom 100 in all defensive categories. With eight returners defensively, hopefully the experience brought by linebacker Addison Gillam and corner backs Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon translates into a more competitive team.
Oregon vs. USC
This former teaser of a the top most renown teams in the conference will do nothing but boost the brand of the conference and at least give fans some great football. Depending on how the match up turns out in late November it could be a legendary game for a potential spot in the playoffs or cancel out the previous win. Oregon exacts revenge on the Trojans when it matters most 39-30.
Oregon vs. USC
This is what many have been looking forward to for years: the new kid on the block vs the former big bad bully. Cody Kessler proves that the Trojans are back in effect and ready to contend for a title — even earlier than some expected 38-35.