Recently, our sister/brother Wazzu site (we can’t tell, since we haven’t asked; that’s rude!) All Coug’d Up ranked the most overrated and underrated football players by position in the Pac-12.
This post is inspired by that post. Some Pac-12 teams are vastly overrated, others are vastly underrated. Because we don’t care if your feathers are ruffled, we decided to be candid and do that here.
We’ll have our post on the most underrated teams in the conference. Here are the most overrated, ranked from one (most overrated) to three.
1. The USC (South Cal) Trojans
For objectivity’s sake, let’s just all admit that South Cal is definitely a national championship contender, even if we have to stifle our vomit to do so. They have the most explosive offense in the country with some of the best skill positions in the nation starting, namely Robert Woods, Matt Barkley, Silas Redd and Curtis McNeal. Their defense is one of the better ones in the Pac-12 and Lane Kiffin appears to be a brilliant coach.
But that explosive offense only had a few elite games late in the 2011 season, and that defense is “pretty good” by Pac-12 standards, which is “meh” by national standards. In case you didn’t know, the two teams playing for a national championship were LSU and Alabama, both of which had historically significant defenses which stifled opponents — including one another — game in and out. Defense wins championships, offenses sell tickets (and, apparently, buys hype). National champs in today’s college football landscape seem to have great defense, and outside of Salt Lake City, no one in the Pac-12 has “great defense.”
Even further, the SEC bias — a deserved one, since, let’s admit, they field incredibly beastly teams — means that South Cal cannot be national title contenders if they lose just once, and they’ll have to play Oregon twice to get to where they think they’ll get to.
Plus, let’s consider Lane Kiffin’s best season as a coach (as an offensive coordinator and head honcho) was last year, with ten wins to his name, half of them coming late in the season. While he seemed brilliant last year, it wasn’t as if his team was consistent for the entire year, which is what you’d expect if you’re going to name this team the best squad in the country. Basically, they’re receiving hype based on speculation from what people saw in flashes last year.
Now, I’m not an economist or anything, but I’m pretty sure this is how stock market crashes happen.
Record a pundit would predict: 12-0
What we predict: 10-2
2. The Stanford Cardinal
Remember Andrew Luck? How about offensive linemen David DeCastro or Jonathan Martin? And wide-outs Chris Owusu and Griff Whalen? Do you at least remember defensive backs Delano Howell and Michael Thomas?
Well, they’re gone now. The most prolific quarterback in Stanford history this side of John Elway is now about to turn around the fate of another organization in Indianapolis, while his offensive linemen will do their best to do the same. Overall, this roster has a butt-load of turnover and what made them great last season — as opposed to just “not bad” — was an incredible offense that was in a hell of a shoot-out with the OK State Cowboys at the Fiesta Bowl.
That’s gone now, and while the defense figures to be solid and one of the best in the conference, they’ll boast just the second-best defense in the Pac-12 — we happen to think Utah will have a dominant defense, counter to the Pac-12 philosophy of trying to scare your opponents with the “illusion” of a defense.
Stanford has a lot of question marks, yet they’re somehow pegged as a top-20 team nationally in the recent FanSided poll.
Yes, we know, they’ll be “physical” and “tough” and all these things, but roster turnovers and transitions the way they’ve had recently should make anyone weary.
Be weary of a Luck-less Stanford team, but be even more weary of head coach David Shaw, who may or may not be a good coach, but relied mainly on the developed talent he inherited in 2011.
Stuff happens, Tree fans. (Is that what they call you guys?)
Record a pundit would predict: 9-3
Record we predict: 7-5
3. The California Golden Bears
OK, so Cal isn’t exactly pegged to win title of “runner-up” in the Pac-12 North, let alone be included in any national poll besides one that asks, “Which team is as weird as the perception of their student body?”
Their defense should be in the top-half of the conference and, hell, is probably third in the Pac-12 after Utah and Stanford take their rightful claims to numbers one and two respectively. They aren’t dominant, but they are good and have the personnel to stay the course in that department.
Everything else? Besides Isi Sofele being a top-five running back in this conference? It’s all a toss-up, much like this program has been since Jeff Tedford led his team to a nine-win season in 2008.
No one knows if Zach Maynard will ever get it together completely to string together consecutive good games. No one knows if the highly-touted freshmen behind Cal’s stud wide-out Keenan Allen will step up to the plate to provide the Golden Bears with depth (since they lost almost all of that after last season). No one knows if the offense as a whole will find even a damn semblance of consistency.
And, sure, the team isn’t pegged to finish well above .500, but considering the difficulty of their schedule and their level of consistency — and their inability to play anywhere outside of Northern California — we’d be damned if this team even got to .500. This might be super drastic and considered really stupid by Cal fans, but given that they have five clearly-superior opponents on their schedule to go along with three toss-ups (vs. UCLA, at Wazzu and vs. Washington), we’re predicting the wheels will come off and Jeff Tedford makes like a tree and has its leaves ripped off by a massive hurricane.
(That hurricane is their schedule. You can laugh now.)
Record a pundit would predict: 7-5
Record we predict: 4-8