The more things change, the more some stay the same. The Pac 12 welcomed a number of new head coaches this season but despite new energy at some programs waiting to be revived, the Oregon Ducks once again look to be the force to be reckoned with in the Pac 12 and may be on track for a return to the BCS Championship Game.
Here is a look at the Pac 12 teams to have reached the halfway point of their respective seasons.
Record: 3-3, 0-3 Pac 12
Thing looked great after three games under new head coach Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, but three straight conference losses have painted an entirely different, yet familiar picture for the Wildcats and Rich Rod.
After opening the season with wins against Toledo, Oklahoma State and FCS South Carolina State the expectations started to rise for what Arizona could do under their new head coach, but once Pac 12 play opened up it was more of the same from Rodriguez’s team. Just like at Michigan, Rodriguez has struggled to get his team to play defense, allowing 49, 38 and 54 points in three straight Pac-12 losses. The Wildcats rank 97th in scoring defense as a result.
Arizona’s offense looks formidable most of the time, with the exception of the Oregon game, as they have scored an average of 37.0 points per game including being shutout by the Ducks. Sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey leads the team with ten rushing touchdowns and 670 rushing yards and senior quarterback Matt Scott has thrown for 300 yards or more four times already this season.
Until Arizona can straighten out the defense though, the Wildcats will be in some trouble in conference play.
Record: 5-1, 3-0 Pac 12
Todd Graham’s start at Arizona State has gone better than Rodriguez’s start in Tucson. The Sun Devils are buying in to Graham’s high-octane offensive style and putting together some impressive results. Following a Thursday night victory against Colorado the Sun Devils are sitting at 5-1 with a 3-0 record in Pac 12 play, putting them on top of the Pac 12 South standings by the way.
Arizona State is scoring 40.5 ppg and giving up just 14.2 ppg so far, and their only loss came at Missouri, 24-20. The second half of the year will be difficult with three road games at Oregon State, USC and Arizona still on the table, as well as home games against Oregon and UCLA.
Record: 2-4, 1-2 Pac 12
California always seems to be an interesting team that is difficult to figure out, and this season has been no different. The Bears have dropped close games to Nevada and Ohio State but last week looked impressive against UCLA. As it stands now Cal is sitting with a 2-4 record. They still do not figure to be much of a factor in the Pac 12 picture but they could make things interesting and difficult for other teams such as Stanford and Oregon State.
The Bears are average across the board on offense and defense and it really is a matter of catching a few breaks in a game and seeing which way the momentum goes.
Record: 1-5, 1-2 Pac 12
A brutal season is about to get even more gruesome. The 1-5 Buffs still have Oregon, Stanford, and USC to play and if the first half of the season was any indication it could be really ugly. Colorado ranks 120th in scoring defense and just 104th in scoring offense. Colorado has long had an established running game, ranked just 111th this season and the passing game is ranked 77th in the nation.
Record: 6-0, 3-0 Pac 12
USC may have been the preseason media darling, but the Oregon Ducks remain the clear team to beat in Pac 12 play this season. Oregon has breezed out to a 6-0 start and is 3-0 in Pac 12 play, seemingly in firm control of the Pac 12 North until the end of the regular season, when Stanford and Oregon State pop up to wrap things up.
Oregon’s defense has given up just 20 points per game, less than half of what the offense has been putting up on a weekly basis. The Ducks use that high up-tempo running style to wear down their opponents and few teams can stand in their way when they are clicking. Freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota has handled the job quite well so far with 15 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. He may be overdue for a costly freshman mistake and that should concern Oregon fans, but how much of an impact it will have remains to really be seen.
Record: 4-2, 1-2 Pac 12
Like Arizona, a new coaching regime got off to a fast start at UCLA before hitting a bit of a wall in conference play. Jim Mora has UCLA thinking positively on the football field again this season but after a 3-0 start highlighted by a wild win against Nebraska the Bruins have lost two of their last three games in Pac 12 play, including a solid beating by Cal last weekend on he road.
Senior running back Jonathan Franklin had some thinking Heisman after rushing for 800 yards but he has not scored a touchdown since a week one three-touchdown performance. The play of freshman quarterback Brett Hundley has had some great moments already but he will be prone to freshman mistakes. Hundley has passed for 1,733 yards and 13 touchdowns but has been intercepted seven times and sacked 18 times.
Record: 2-4, 0-3 Pac 12
Mike Leach has a lot of work to do at Washington State, so the future looks bright for the program despite what we have seen thus far this season. The Cougars rank next to last in the nation running the football with just 41.3 rushing yards per game, and are 100th in the nation in scoring, which makes it even more difficult to win when the defense allows an average of 30.3 points per game. Washington State started the year with a 2-1 record but has since lost three straight games, although two have been relatively close decisions.
The expectations were not very high for the first year under Leach, but watching the program grow moving forward should still be interesting.
Next week we will take a look at Stanford, Washington, USC and Utah. Each will play their sixth game of the season this weekend.
Kevin is a national college football writer for quadrust.com and the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Submit your mailbag questions via Tumblr. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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