Oct. 13, 2012; Pullman, WA, USA; California Golden Bears defensive back Steve Williams (1) makes the tackle on Washington State Cougars wide receiver Gabe Marks (84) during the first half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Athlon Sports, a respected resource for major sports content, published an interesting story today on who they believe will be the Top Ten Most-Improved FBS college football programs in 2013. It comes as a bit of a surprise the Pac-12 is home to three of the Top Ten.
Two of the three Pac-12 teams selected to make some noise this coming fall are no-brainers. Athlon ranked their Top Ten list alphabetically placing Colorado second and Washington State last.
By suggesting Buff fans will have something to cheer about this season, Athlon stated the obvious.
Colorado was awful last season, with the lone exception of their comeback performance against the Cougs. It would seem that once you are at the bottom there’s nowhere to go but up.
Not so fast.
Colorado brought in Mike MacIntyre, a venerable new head man, to right their sinking ship.
MacIntyre worked wonders at San Jose State earning him consideration for many of the top jobs open at the end of 2012. Not to diminish the stature of SJSU, but they don’t compete in the Pac-12. Let’s reserve enthusiasm for MacIntyre until he proves to be the caliber of head coach who can produce results in the Conference of Champions.
The selection of Washington State as one of the likely Top Ten Most-Improved ball clubs in 2013 lacked a ringing endorsement.
Anyone who has followed college football closely over the past 10-20 years knows Coach Mike Leach is one of the best offensive minds to pace the sidelines.
As good as Coach Leach is, he doesn’t complete passes, unload pancake blocks, sack quarterbacks or snag interceptions. Leach is primarily measured by the performance of his team. Coaching guys up is one thing. Producing results falls squarely on the shoulders of players.
Last year the Cougs went 3-9 which was not just disappointing, it was a painful experience for fans, players and coaches. So how much improvement is projected by Athlon? One additional conference victory is predicted rocketing the WSU record to an astronomical height of 4-8 in 2013.
Time will tell just how accurate a crystal ball the folks at Athlon are looking into.
Hard to wrap my head around recognizing a team for tremendous improvement when they not only will fail to become bowl eligible by the end of November, they will add just one more victory to their “won” column when compared with 2012.
As a matter of coincidence, Washington State will open the season against SEC opponent Auburn who also made Athlon’s list of Top Ten Most-Improved. They have placed the season opener with WSU in the “win” column for the Tigers.
Athlon suggests significant strides will be made by the Auburn offense and that a new defensive coordinator will immediately turn things around for an ineffective unit last year.
OK. Here’s the lone surprise on Athlon’s Top Ten list.
The Trojans were a modest 7-6 in 2012.
When was the last time a USC season record warranted an adjective like “modest”? You would have to go back to the days when Paul Hackett was disappointing USC fans for three seasons from 1998-2000.
Regardless of whether Pete Carroll was the head man or current Coach Lane Kiffin hold the reins of Trojan football, the flow of talent to USC has been amazing. Trojan football recruiting has enjoyed a Top 25 recruiting ranking every year for the past decade…and beyond.
It boggles the mind to consider USC worthy of national attention in terms of improvement with the caliber of athletic talent filling out their well-stocked football roster. Auburn, Colorado and Washington State make perfect sense if the focus is on won-loss records.
Frankly, given the level of athletic talent signing up to play football for the Tigers, they should join USC on the list of teams who manage to do-less-with-more category.
Bottom line, the folks at Athlon Sports are just like the rest of us at this time of year. We desperately want the season to begin so the dialog shifts from what might happen to what is happening.