Nov 26, 2011; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars defensive end Travis Long (89) sacks Washington Huskies quarterback Keith Price (17) during the 2nd half at CenturyLink Field. Washington defeated Washington State 38-21. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Pac-12 Preseason Questionaire Day 6

Editors Note: This series is a collection of college football preseason questions and answers from our writers. The goal is to get one Cougar question and one Pac-12 question answered per day by multiple members of our team, and each day we plan to build onto the list until we hit the season on Sept. 29! Let’s get it!

Saturday 8/4:

Q: What are the 3 most important games for the Pac-12 in non-conference play in 2012?

Q: What are you Looking forward to seeing from the Cougs this season

Evan:

1. UW at LSU: The SEC is considered the best conference and a great chance to show the PAC-12 is on the rise. I don’t expect UW to win this game, but if they can make it competitive than it’s a win for the PAC-12.

California at Ohio State: Another chance to put the PAC-12 back on the map against one of the best teams in country. The Bears have the talent to win in Columbus, but they must play to their potential in order win.

Notre Dame at USC: Everybody thinks Notre Dame is on the verge of being a contender and I’m not buying it. A chance for the Trojans to roll over the Irish and also increase the PAC-12’s reputation on national television.

2. I’m looking forward to seeing the offense have success and perfecting the air-raid offense. Leach is an offensive genius and will have some tricks up his sleeve this season. Plus Senior QB Jeff Tuel fits this system perfectly and will throw some exciting touchdown passes to All-American Wide Receiver, Marquess Wilson!

Josh:

1. UW at LSU: There is no doubt this game would mean everything for the Pac. LSU is considered a national championship contender and the Huskies could really boost the conference rep by even keeping the game within 10 points. An upset would give the Huskies more credit than they would deserve and they will still most likely stumble the rest of the way in my opinion, but it would boost the Pac’s ratings for a while.

Cal @ OSU: This game is as big for Tedford as it is for the conference. He could use a signature win, and beating Urban Meyer in Columbus would be it. Like Evan said, the Bears have the talent to get it done. The deciding factor will be whether or not Maynard can keep away from silly turnovers that would give Ohio State the game.

Stanford @ Notre Dame: I expect USC to handle ND, but I’m not sure anyone expects Stanford to be back at their level. If they can take a supposedly really good Notre Dame on the road, I think the Pac-12 gets some serious respect back.

2. I’m actually looking forward to seeing how the defense has progressed. We all know the offense can hold their own, but when the Cougs have been contenders in the past, their defense was the catalyst. With a full returning group in the secondary (including a faster Demante Horton) and a new, more aggressive scheme with Travis Long lining up all over, I look for the Cougs to drastically improve on defense. I think they will still be no better than middle of the Pac or possibly towards the bottom again, but it will not be the same old story.

Friday 8/3:

Q: Who is the most likely dark-horse to win the Pac-12?

Q: What home/away games are you most looking forward to?

Evan:

1. California- The Golden Bears have a reasonable schedule with the only tough game on the road at USC. California hosts Oregon and Stanford which are the favorites to win the North and if they can manage to win those two games, they have a shot playing for the Pac-12 title. The Golden bears have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and if it can click together watch out for California this season.

2. Home game: vs. Washington (Apple Cup): I would had gone with Oregon but the game’s in Seattle, so I’m going with the Apple Cup! A chance to prove on National Television that the Coug’s own the state of Washington. This will be the first time in a while where BOTH  teams are competitive again. Remember the classic Apple Cup games in the early 2000’s? We could see another classic this year. Sarkisian’s offense vs Leach’s offense, expect a high scoring game!

Away game: at BYU: This will be Mike Leach’s first game coaching for the Cougs and against his alma-mater, BYU on ESPN! BYU’s a good team and great test for this Coug’s football team. We’ll find out what Coach Leach is made of and if this team is the real deal this year!

Josh:

1. I have to concur with Evan here. Cal is slept on right now. Returning the #1 defense (ypg) in the conference and I think they will be top 3 in that category again. Plus their offense is better with a more mature Maynard. HOWEVER… Utah is the team that knows how to win titles under Coach Kyle Whittingham. The Utes are back, stronger, return seemingly everybody and they are adjusted to a grinding schedule. They were in it all the way to the end last year, when a desperate Colorado jumped up and bit them, but I don’t expect they’ll stumble on the rock this season. The Utes are my dark-horse champion.

2. Home Game: Oh man I think the California game is the one I’m looking forward to the most. I’m hoping the Cougs are a whopping 5-1 with their lone loss being (realistically) to Oregon and  after taking down Oregon State the week before. Cal will be tough but like most teams, they historically play down in Pullman. With Martin Stadium ROCKING, the Cal game will give everyone a chance to see how close the Cougs are to being back to contending in the North.

Away game: This is tough, because I am really looking forward to getting Utah back on the road late in the year. I still think we won that game and we match up very well with that team outside of John White. But ultimately the most important game is at BYU. I’m always jacked about game #1, as it’s a chance to see where our boys are stacked up. But I haven’t been this excited (I don’t think Cougar Nation has been this excited) about a game one in a long, long time. Expect a full allotment of Wazzu faithful in Provo to cheer our Cougs to victory.

Thursday 8/2:

Q: What are the 6 most likely wins to make the Cougs bowl eligible?

Q: Who is your Preseason Pac-12 Player of the Year?

Caleb: 

1. BYU, Eastern Washington, UNLV, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA

2. I’m going with the obvious, quarterback Matt Barkley from USC. Barkley is the best quarterback in the nation with a great arm and pinpoint accuracy. The Trojans’ QB threw for 3528 yards and 39 touchdowns last season with only 7 interceptions. Expect Barkley to improve his numbers and have a memorable 2012 season.

Josh:

1. Eastern, UNLV, Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona State

2. Matt Barkley is the clear cut favorite and that means his big play wideout Robert Woods is second, but watch out for DeAnthony Thomas and Marquess Wilson.

Wednesday 8/1:

Q: What team is most likely to be upset by Washington State?

Q: What will be the most monumental upset in the Pac-12 this season?

Caleb:

1. This is tough because it’s hard to tell where each of these teams will be at the point they play but I feel like UW is the most likely team to be upset by the Cougs this year. Each team will be playing for post season position here and I have a feeling the huskies may be  ranked at this point and Pullman for the apple cup is the perfect time for them to lose that ranking!

2. When the Oregon ducks roll into the bay and play cal, I have a feeling the nation will be shocked! Cal has potential for a few upsets this year but with Oregon being down (slightly) this year, cal has a chance to pull one out at home and really mess up rankings! Late in the season this would change everything!

Josh:

1. I know this will come as a shock to everybody, but I truly feel that if we get out to a 4-0 start, Oregon is the most likely team to be chopped down from up high by the Cougs. Seattle has not been a place of refuge for the Cougs in the “home game” scenario, but Qwest would be rocking for this one. A few mistakes by either team would make the difference and I think WSU’s offense actually holds an edge. Plus I think they are the higher team that WSU matches up with best physically.

2. I think Stanford comes out and biffs it against Colorado or UCLA. Both games are on the road and surrounded by other high profile games. Difficult to say which team will be more amped to play them though.

Evan:

Week 13: vs. Washington (Apple Cup) – Home field advantage will definitely help the Cougs against UW, plus playing in the freezing Pullman weather could affect UW’s offensive rhythm. Since a lot will be at stake for this game will only get Wazzu fired up even more to play their hearts out against the Huskies. Offense won’t be a problem for WSU in this game. If the Cougs defense comes to play that game; can manage to stop Keith Price and the explosive Husky offense and limit them to at least 21 points then the Cougs have a shot to pull off the upset.

2. UW over USC – Could we witness UW pull off another upset victory over USC this year in Seattle? With the hostile atmosphere that UW fans provide always makes it tough on the opponent. Even though the game is at Century Link Field, and not Husky Stadium, still shouldn’t be any different with noise. UW definitely has the offense to stay with USC, but the defense must find a way to stop Matt Barkley, Robert Woods and now Silas Redd. This will be a close game for sure and I like UW edging out a thrilling victory over the Trojans.

Tuesday 7/31:

Q: What are the 3 Most Winnable Pac-12 Games for Washington State?

Q: Which Pac-12 Teams will end of the regular season in the top 25?

Evan:

1. Eastern Washington, UNLV, Colorado

2. USC-  Probably the favorites to win the 2012 National Championship, this team is stacked with talent. With the return of Heisman Candidate Matt Barkley gives the Trojans a chance in almost every game. Trojans might even get Penn State’s star running back Silas Redd which would increase their championship chances even more. A couple of tough road games at Stanford and Washington, but USC should be able to mange a strong year.

Oregon- The Ducks are coming off of a Rose Bowl victory last season and lost some key players that include Darron Thomas, and LaMichael James, but Oregon has depth. The Ducks have Kenjon Barner who will replace James and should have success, while the QB position is a question mark. Bryan Bennett might be the go to guy as last season he had success when filling in for Thomas. Chip Kelly is one of the best coaches in the country and will have his guys ready for another BCS run.
Stanford- The loss of Andrew Luck hurts this Cardinal offense, but might not have a big of an affect as some people think. This offense is based off of the run, which will take pressure of whoever replaces Luck. Still Stanford’s backup quarterbacks have talent and learning from a guy like Andrew Luck for a couple years will give them confidence going into this season. Toughest games for Stanford are at Washington, at Notre Dame, and at home against USC. If Stanford can win at least one or two of these games they could crack the top 15 for sure.

Mark:

1. I’d have to say UCLA, Colorado, Oregon State.

2. Oregon, USC, and if there’s a wildcard team I’d have to go with either UW or Cal. I really think Cal will surprise some teams this year.

Josh:

1. I’m going with Colorado, Oregon State and Arizona State.

2. USC – The Trojans are loaded everywhere. They are not just leading the conference race, but possibly the national race too.

Oregon – The Ducks will be back and high flying again, but I’m not sure Bennett will be able to lead them to the promise land. DeAnthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner could though.

Cal – Tough to sleep on the Cardinal, but the Big Game is in newly revitalized memorial and I think Cal barely has the edge at qb for the season. Tedford better make it to 8 wins this year.

Monday 7/30:

Q: What do you Most like about Coach Mike Leach so far?
Q: Pac-12 Coach most likely to be fired after the season?

Evan:

1. What I like about Coach Leach so far is his style of recruiting. Leach is expanding the recruiting scenario from just Washington and California to Arizona and Texas. 3 players from Texas have already given a verbal commitment to Wazzu and expect more to join. The biggest surprise has to be the pick up of 4 star quarterback Tyler Bruggman. Given Leach’s past success has made Washington State a school that’s determined for success and many recruits are starting to buy into it.

2. PAC-12 coach that will most likely be fired after this season would be Jeff Tedford from California. Tedford has been with Cal for 10 years and has turned the program around, but the past three seasons have been a struggle for Cal. From 2009-2011 Tedford’s won 52% of his games and 44% in conference play. It might be time for Cal to start fresh and go with somebody new. Coach Tedford is for sure on the hot seat this season and will need at least a bowl appearance or bowl win to secure his spot in Berkeley.

Josh:

1. Mike Leach brings an attitude and a swagger to Coug-Country that hasn’t been seen since the Mike Price days. But honestly, it’s more than about the family atmosphere for me, it’s about the pride in being great that he has and will continue to instill in his team. It’s about the details and the work ethic. He comes in here talking about Marquess Wilson like he hasn’t done anything yet, and then goes and demands more out of him by basically benching him (by lowering him for a few days on the depth chart) for not performing in practice. We’re talking about arguably the Pac-12’s best receiver last season and Leach is saying “show me more and show it to me every day”! Coach doesn’t accept less than great and he is a proven master at bringing that out of people. Case and point: Spring game, Wilson goes off with an eye catching performance.

2. Mike Riley is my top candidate for a firing this season, only because I feel Cal has the defense and enough offense to get back to a bowl with ease for Tedford. The Beavs, in my opinion, are not a winning team in this conference for at least a couple years. Riley’s saving grace is his ridiculously long contract and presumably big buyout, but let’s face it, you still have to perform on the field. OSU is looking into even more stadium upgrades in the near future which means now, more than ever, they need the support of their boosters and fans. That’s not going to get any better if the Beavs continue to throw out mediocre talent and woeful seasons. The loss to WSU 2 season’s ago was the first time I think Beaver fans took a step off of the Riley bus and said “uh-oh, I don’t like where this is headed”. They do have a few top tier athletes, but they are the last team to get a verbal commit in the Pac this year and I really think it’s a sign that recruits aren’t buying the program. Trouble in Beav-Nation.

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