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Preseason Magazines

Note And you can expect CU, with a relative unknown as its new head coach (expect plenty of “well, he was UCLA’s head coach over a decade ago, and wasn’t all that great then” types of comments). Even though Arizona finished behind Colorado in the 2019 standings, and even though Kevin Sumlin will be on most preseason hot seat lists, I fully expect to see CU predicted to finish last in the Pac-12 South … 

May 26th

Odds of CU winning the Pac-12? Longest (by a wide margin) in the conference

From the Pac-12 Hotline … Summer is unofficially underway after what was, officially, a catastrophic spring. For the moment, let’s dispense with the heavy stuff, assume there will be a season, and have some fun.

Recently, the renown bookmaker William Hill released its odds to win each Power Five conference.

The Pac-12 breakdown is as follows:

Oregon: 11/5
USC: 5/2
Washington: 7/2
Utah: 5/1
ASU: 10/1
WSU: 15/1
UCLA: 18/1
Cal: 18/1
Arizona: 25/1
Stanford: 30/1
Oregon State: 75/1
Colorado: 150/1

Our reaction: The folks at William Hill apparently don’t place much emphasis on continuity — in particular, offensive continuity.

If they gave as much weight to the triad of returning quarterback-coordinator-head coach as we do, the Washington schools would have longer odds.

Best value I: Cal.

The Bears have a new play caller in Bill Musgrave, but they’re loaded with experience where it counts (quarterback, offensive line and defense) and were on track to contend last season until Chase Garbers was injured.

Also, they play Oregon, Washington and Stanford at home, providing a manageable path to the division.

From there, it’s one game to the title. At 18/1, they’re a bargain.

Best value II: Arizona State.

We wouldn’t think twice about a few bucks on the Sun Devils at 10-to-1. They’re one of three teams in the South with a returning quarterback and should be fairly stout on defense.

If USC stumbles, ASU is best positioned to snatch the division and play for the payday.

Worst value I: Washington State.

Sure, 15/1 is a decent payout, but only if there’s reason to believe the Cougars, with a new coach, coordinator and quarterback — and with no spring practice — can win the North for the first time.

We’re skeptical of Oregon and Washington at their numbers (2-to-1 and 3.5-to-1, respectively), but the returning talent on defense provides both with a path to the championship.

We don’t see enough on either side of the ball to justify a dollar on the Cougars.

Worst value II: Utah

The Utes were gutted on defense, have a new quarterback and, in our opinion, could experience a hangover from the 2019 collapse.

The likelihood of winning the division, much less the conference, is vastly more remote than 5-to-1 odds indicate.

That’s chucking good money after bad, even for fans with blind faith.

The Utes should be 10-to-1, at best.

No value: USC.

The Trojans have 17 returning starters and perhaps the best quarterback in the conference (Kedon Slovis).

We project them as the solid but not overwhelming favorite in the South and would be tempted at 4-to-1, but not a dime less. Too many things can go wrong with the Good Ship Helton.– Jon Wilner


May 23rd

Athlon has only two Pac-12 teams in its Preseason Top 25 (plus Texas A&M)

From Athlon Sports … The 2020 college football season is scheduled to officially begin on Saturday, Aug. 29, but it’s never too early to start thinking about top 25 rankings and what might transpire this fall. Each FBS season brings plenty of surprises, disappointments and unexpected teams emerging in the national title picture. However, the list of favorites for this year starts with familiar contenders: Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State.

Clemson is Athlon Sports’ projected national champion, with Alabama at No. 2, followed by Ohio State at No. 3. Oklahoma is the last projected playoff team at No. 4. Penn State, Florida and Georgia headline the next trio of teams, with LSU, Notre Dame and Oregon rounding out the projected top 10. The 2020 season concludes with the national championship on Jan. 7 in Miami Gardens, Fla. in Hard Rock Stadium.

The Athlon Sports 2020 preview magazines are on newsstands nationwide on June 2 and feature in-depth predictions, previews, rankings and insightful stories to prepare for the upcoming year. The SEC and National preview editions can be ordered from Athlon Sports’ online store.

An important note on Athlon’s top 25 for 2020: This is not a preseason ranking of teams going into the season. Instead, this ranking takes into account where we project teams to finish after the national championship in January. Here are Athlon’s projected top 25 teams in college football for 2020.

From the Pac-12 … 

No. 19 – USC 

The Trojans rebounded from a disappointing 5-7 2018 season to finish 8-5 and second in the Pac-12 South last fall. Coach Clay Helton is hoping for another step forward thanks to the return of a high-powered offense and a retooled defensive staff. Quarterback Kedon Slovis was a breakout star in his first year on campus, throwing for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns to just nine picks. The Trojans are loaded with talent at receiver, with freshmen Gary Bryant, Bru McCoy and Kyle Ford joining a group that already features Tyler Vaughns, Drake London and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Jumpstarting a ground game that managed only 3.9 yards per carry and replacing both starting offensive tackles are the top concerns for play-caller Graham Harrell.

Despite its talent edge, USC has not finished higher than fifth in the Pac-12 in scoring defense in each of the last four years. Helton hopes former Texas play-caller Todd Orlando can change the Trojans’ defensive fortunes, and there’s no shortage of talent to work with thanks to the return of 11 starters. Lineman Jay Tufele and edge rusher Drake Jackson are two of the Pac-12’s top defenders for 2020, and there’s plenty of young talent poised to develop in the secondary. The opener against Alabama in Arlington, Texas is a huge barometer for Helton’s squad. Arizona State, Washington and Notre Dame visit the Coliseum in 2020, but road trips to Utah, Oregon and Stanford await this fall.

No. 10 – Oregon 

The Ducks have to replace quarterback Justin Herbert, but coach Mario Cristobal’s team is Athlon’s pick to win the Pac-12 once again in 2020. Boston College transfer Anthony Brown and sophomore Tyler Shough are expected to battle to replace Herbert in fall practice. The winner of this job inherits a strong supporting cast, including 1,000-yard rusher CJ Verdell and a handful of playmakers in the receiving corps – Johnny Johnson III, Jaylon Redd and Mycah Pittman. Dominant left tackle Penei Sewell will have four new starters around him, but there’s enough talent and experience to prevent a major drop in performance up front. The offense is also under the direction of a new play-caller, as Joe Moorhead arrives after spending the last two seasons as the head coach at Mississippi State.

Oregon is known for its high-powered offenses, but the defense is the strength of this program for 2020. The Ducks return eight starters from a unit that held teams to just 4.7 yards a play and 16.5 points a game last season. Rising star Kayvon Thibodeaux (nine sacks in 2019) anchors the trenches, and the secondary features three All-America candidates in Thomas Graham, Jevon Holland and Deommodore Lenoir. Troy Dye will be missed at linebacker, but the arrival of top recruits Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell bolsters a group still featuring Isaac Slade-Matautia, Mase Funa and Sampson Niu. Oregon opens with arguably the toughest two-game stretch of any team in the nation with home matchups against North Dakota State and Ohio State. The Ducks also pay a visit to Berkeley against California, but home dates are on tap against Washington, USC and Arizona State.

… And … 

No. 11 – Texas A&M

Jimbo Fisher is off to a good start in College Station, but the third-year coach hopes his team is ready to contend for the SEC West title. Both Alabama and LSU have personnel losses to address, and with an experienced roster and a more favorable schedule, the Aggies could push for 10 victories in 2020. Quarterback Kellen Mond returns after throwing for 2,897 yards and adding another 500 on the ground. The senior is among the SEC’s top quarterbacks, but Fisher needs him to take a step forward in his final year in College Station.

Isaiah Spiller and all-purpose threat Ainias Smith anchor the ground game, with Jhamon Ausbon and tight ends Jalen Wydermyer and Baylor Cupp – a talented freshman who missed all of 2019 due to injury – headlining the receiving options. Additionally, four starters returning provide optimism for improvement along the offensive line. The Aggies return the bulk of talent from a defense that held teams to 5.3 yards a snap last fall. However, replacing standout tackle Justin Madubuike won’t be easy, and there’s room to improve in the pass rush and in the secondary. If Mond takes a step forward and the defense continues to progress under coordinator Mike Elko, back-to-back games against Alabama and LSU in late November could loom large in the SEC West.

Athlon’s “Teams on the Rise” includes Arizona State and Cal

From Athlon SportsCollege football’s 2020 season won’t get underway until late August, but it’s never too early to look ahead and predict which teams are on the rise and are poised for a significant leap in the rankings or win column next year. The 2020 version of college football’s teams on the rise features North Carolina, Arizona State, Tennessee, Oklahoma State, and Louisville from the Power 5 ranks, along with Charlotte, Wyoming, East Carolina and Kent State from the Group of 5 conferences. With a few months to dissect rosters, opinions can change on teams – perhaps a couple of times in the offseason. Additionally, unexpected roster attrition, late coordinator changes or injuries can all change the outlook on how teams are viewed prior to 2020. However, this list reflects teams we think are poised to take a step forward next fall in the rankings or by an increase in wins.

There’s a long way to go until the 2020 season officially begins, but here are 20 teams (in alphabetical order) we think are on the rise for next season.

Arizona State … 

The Herm Edwards hire was met with plenty of skepticism, but the former NFL coach is off to a solid start in Tempe. The Sun Devils are 15-11 overall, finished 9-9 in Pac-12 play and have earned appearances in bowl games over the last two seasons. Additionally, only one of the team’s four defeats from 2019 came by more than 10 points. With Utah returning only 10 starters and the overall uncertainty surrounding USC, the door is open for Arizona State to make a run at the Pac-12 South title in 2020. Quarterback Jayden Daniels is a rising star under center after throwing for 2,943 yards and 17 touchdowns and rushing for 355 yards and three scores as a true freshman last fall.

New offensive coordinator Zak Hill is tasked with helping Daniels take the next step in his development, but the supporting cast will be under construction early in the 2020 season. Two freshmen – Daniyel Ngata and DeaMonte Trayanum – are likely to emerge as the go-to running backs after the departure of Eno Benjamin, and the receiving corps has to replace its top two targets (Brandon Aiyuk and Kyle Williams). Additionally, the offensive line is counting on two graduate transfers to bolster the trenches in 2020. Arizona State’s defense has showed marked improvement over the last two seasons but will be breaking in a new play-caller after Danny Gonzales and Tony White left Tempe. Former NFL linebacker Antonio Pierce and long-time Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis will assume the play-calling duties in 2020. With eight starters back and few glaring holes in the two-deep, the Sun Devils could have the best defense in the Pac-12 South.

California … 

Oregon is the Pac-12’s clear frontrunner for 2020, but the rest of the usual contenders – Washington, Utah, Stanford and USC – are filled with question marks. California has made steady progress under coach Justin Wilcox, increasing their win total to seven after a 5-7 mark in 2017 and finishing 8-5 last year. With both Washington and Washington State breaking in new coaches, the Golden Bears could be the biggest challenger to Oregon in the Pac-12 North. New coordinator Bill Musgrave is tasked with jumpstarting an offense that averaged 21.2 points a game last season. Quarterback Chase Garbers threw for 1,772 yards and 14 touchdowns and went 7-0 in games he started and played a full complement of snaps. If Garbers can stay healthy, the junior is poised for a breakout year.

In addition to Garbers’ return, the Golden Bears bring back more than 1,000 rushing yards between Christopher Brown Jr. and Marcel Dancy, five of the team’s top six receivers and every starter along the offensive line. Wilcox and coordinator Tim DeRuyter have brought drastic improvement to California’s defense since arriving in 2017. In 2016, the Golden Bears gave up 42.6 points a contest. However, that total decreased to 28.4 in ’17 and fell to 20.4 in ’18. Behind All-America linebacker Evan Weaver, the defense held teams to 21.9 points a game last fall. Weaver and standout safety Ashtyn Davis have to be replaced, but eight starters coming back should ensure this group ranks near the top of the Pac-12. With both Oregon and Washington coming to Berkeley this fall, an improved offense could give California a shot to win the Pac-12 North and finish in the top 25.



8 Replies to “Preseason Magazines”

  1. Like Diogenes, who was looking for an honest man, I have been looking for a Buff offense for how many years now? I’m afraid to count. Except for a mighty few Sefo, Phil and Viska fueled bursts its been a long road of fan frustration and depression. So much so I see metaphysical conspiracies in coincidences like the name Jay. Thank God they and their mentors are both gone.
    Unlike Diogenes, however, I am finally harboring a certain amount of optimism for the offense. Call me Charlie Brown the place kicker but I am hoping Karl finally brings a diverse, efficient and open offense to Boulder and does for Chev what Jonathan Smith did for Lingering. KD is not an ex QB like Smith but it appears we finally have a QB coach with a lot more credibility…..which will be needed. Apologies to the rest of the position, but the best possible scenario would be Lewis coming in with unfreshman like confidence, moxie and D reading ability.

    1. Well, it’s “hope springs eternal”, and not “hope late summer/early falls eternal” … sorry.
      I like your optimism – and Charlie Brown reference. I’m just deflated right now after the defection of Mel Tucker, and I need to see my new coaches with my new players to get me excited again. Hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later.

    2. Gosh almighty ep, I guess you’re quarantined down there in the remote 4 Corner’s area of this country………time on your hands, meditating, possibly doing mystic yoga, and writing poetic, philosophical, hifalutin wordsmith type prose, regarding our beloved Buffs?

      Reminiscent of Grantland Rice and the “4 Horseman of the Apocalypse” article. Yes Buff’s Football has experienced Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death lo these many past years. But I think you have hit upon the end of all the “Stuff” (the word stuff really does not belong here with all this high- brow prose), that has plagued this program and found the key…….DIOGENES!!!!!! So glad it is peaceful and quiet and illuminating down there where the 4 states all come together. I’m all in now, ……Buff Football Forward and Upward, with a little help of a Greek Philosopher. No Hemlock for me.

      1. I am going to check with my ranching neighbor that you spelled it correctly but that one word…..hifalutin……proves you would fit right in my part of the country

  2. So, since all these so called pre-season “experts”???????? most likely would have predicted a winning season had MT not betrayed the school that gave him his first chance as a Head Coach……..we now are doomed as an also ran with a coach that has had more experience and success as a HC in college then MT, and an also long time respected coach in the NFL.

    Yes, having no Spring Practice will set us back, but the Defense will be coached by the held over DC and some other excellent coaches hired by KD. Therefore half the team (the D) should be able to continue as they finished last year. That IMHO gives us a fighting chance to be 6 & 6. All the overpaid and imbecilic prognosticators can go pound sand.

    GO BUFFS, prove’m all wrong.

    1. According to the article, “The Athlon Sports 2020 preview magazines are on newsstands nationwide on June 2” … From what they have released this spring, it should be pretty down on CU (think prediction of a 3-9 or 4-8 record) …

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