NCAA Football 2017 Season
Pac-12 North Preview
Washington claimed the Pac-12 title and a CFB Playoff berth last season, and despite some key personnel departures, coach Chris Petersen’s team isn’t fading from the top of the league in 2017. Oregon, Stanford and Washington State will most likely battle for second in the Pac-12 North division. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks.
In 2016, Oregon’s offense slipped from elite to merely very good. The Ducks were 27th nationally in scoring at 35.4 points per game, and 18th with 6.6 yards per play. Being very good on offense didn’t get it done given that Oregon was absolutely dreadful on defense, finishing 126th in the nation both scoring and total defense.
With QB Justin Herbert, RB Royce Freeman, WR Darren Carrington and all that experience back on the offensive line, the Ducks figure to be even more explosive in new coach Willie Taggart’s “Gulf Coast Offense,” which was fourth nationally last season — at South Florida — in scoring (43.8 ppg) and sixth in yards per play (7.2). But will the Ducks be demonstrably better on defense?
The good news is that Oregon also returns a host of players on that side of the ball, too; the bad news is that those players were woefully ineffective last season. Defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt might be one of the best in the country — the Ducks are paying him to be, at more than $1 million per season — but he may need another year to coach up the veterans and recruit more talent before Oregon is back competing for championships.
The Cardinal have reached a point where going 10–3, as they did in 2016, actually feels like a down year. But two of those losses were to the North Division champ (Washington) and the South Division champ (Colorado). The Huskies show no sign of slowing down in the North, and USC looks to be rising again in the South. The Cardinal will have to find a way to beat Washington if they hope to return to the Pac-12 title game.
After a College Football Playoff appearance, coach Chris Petersen returns 13 starters, including the reigning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and starting QB quarterback Jake Browning. Petersen can also count on middle linebacker Azeem Victor, who might be the league’s best defensive player.
The now highest paid coach in Pac-12 continues to recruit well. He has another soft non-conference slate and doesn’t have USC on the league schedule. If UW can restock the secondary and keep the momentum going, the Huskies will be a serious contender — both in the Pac-12 and nationally — again.
Washington St. Cougars
With 17 wins over the last two seasons, the turnaround of the WSU football program is basically complete. Now, head coach Mike Leach just has to keep his pirate ship headed in the right direction. Last year the Cougars stayed in the hunt for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game all the way up until the last game of the regular season. With quarterback Luke Falk and a number of playmakers returning, fans have plenty of reasons to expect to contend again in 2017.
Oregon St. Beavers
Following a disastrous 2–10 debut season for head coach Gary Andersen, Oregon State showed noticeable progress in 2016 by doubling its win total, notching three Pac-12 victories and closing the season with a blowout of Arizona and a come-from-behind win over Oregon. The Beavers identified some clear strengths, with running back Ryan Nall pacing a tough-minded rushing attack and a secondary spearheading a defense that ranked in the top 50 nationally in pass defense.
Though this program is still in the thick of its rebuild, there’s reason for optimism in 2017. Returning to a bowl game for the first time since 2013 is not an outlandish expectation.
California Golden Bears
Cal fans will see plenty of changes this season. Achieving success may be ambitious for new head coach Justin Wilcox. The schedule is tough, quarterback is unsettled and there are big questions along both fronts. For now, the Bears may find themselves thinly spreading whatever secret sauce they devise.