THUMBNAIL SKETCHES OF (130) 2021 CFB TEAMS
By Joe Gavazzi JoeGavazziSports.com
Oregon is the 2 time defending PAC 12 Title holder after they defeated USC in the PAC 12 Playoff game. Unfortunately, they were a bit exposed in the Bowl game against Iowa State when they were outrushed 228-86. This however, appears to be a team capable of defending their Crown. At the signal caller spot will be BC transfer Anthony Brown, a senior, who, in 28 starts for BC, had a 40/20 ratio. He will need to be at his best considering that, although they have 9 offensive starters returning, they have returning production of only 55% on offense and an OL with just 36 starts. Line play however, has traditionally been the strength under 4th year HC Cristobal. Of more concern is the loss of DC Avalos to Boise State. Yet, should that be a concern? Under his guidance, the Ducks allowed 28/406, easily their highest yardage number in the 3 year tenure of Cristobal. Looking to improve that unit is new DC DeRuyter who served the same position for Cal the previous 4 years. With outstanding recruiting seasons in his pocket since his arrival, including Top 10 ranking each of the previous 3 years, there is ample talent on this squad just waiting to be developed. With no revenge game against USC in the Regular Season, I look for the Ducks to retain their PAC 12 Title.
Other bureaus are a bit higher on the Huskies than am I. Yes they return 89% of their yards and 81% of their tackles. But the love for 2nd year HC Jimmy Lake, the former 4 year DC, is questionable. Perhaps he reached his Peter Principle. The first lack of love was the fact that the recruiting ratings dropped 20 positions. That was followed by 10 players transferring out in the off season. The third factor is, in the previous 3 seasons, Lake’s defenses have allowed a combined average of just 17/318. Last year, the defense allowed 25 PPG and 161/4.5 WITH 8 RETURNING STARTERS. On offense, QB Morris, a Top 10 recruit, was less than spectacular with a 61% C and 4/3 ratio. To be honest, I don’t see the love. With a relatively weak early season slate, they may not be exposed until November.
Washington State Cougars
2020 was a huge transition year for Washington State as they changed from the Air Raid/Run and Shoot offenses of former QB Leach to 1st year HC Rolovich (Hawaii). The numbers declined drastically on both sides of the ball. A closer look tells us it was all about the SOS.. the 1-3 SU, ATS mark resulted from defeats against Oregon, USC and Utah, all as double digit dog after opening the season with a double digit win against Oregon State. Now in the 2nd year of the Rolovich tenure, with 89% of the offense and 92% of the tackles returning, plus the addition of 4 year Tennessee transfer QB Guarantano (30 starts, 61% C, 38/17 ratio), it is time for a major jump in production on both sides of the ball. Major concern is the underachievement of Rolovich in his coaching career with a 22-37 ATS mark. Caveat Emptor!
It has suddenly gone downhill for 11th year HC Shaw and the Cardinals. In the 8 years ending 2018, the Cardinal was 82-27 SU. The scales tipped precipitously in 2019 with a 4-8 SU, ATS mark. Look no further than a decline in the defense which, in the last two seasons, has allowed an average of 31/435. Meanwhile, the ground game, which was a Stanford staple, consistently rushing for 200/5.0+, has suddenly dipped to a 3 year average of just 166/3.8. Maybe the tide has turned with 4 consecutive wins to close last season. But with recruiting numbers that have dropped 30 positions from the last two seasons, and with just 45% of their offense returning, including only 44 career OL starts, Stanford is more of a question mark than an exclamation point this season.
California Golden Bears
The first thing you need to know about the Cal Bears is the personality profile of 5th year HC Wilcox, he is 18-7 ATS as dog, but just 2-11 ATS as chalk. It would take a lot of fundamentals to make me fade those roles. Wilcox is best known as a defensive guru. Unfortunately, those numbers have declined consistently from 20/317 to 27/367 the last 3 years. The Wilcox personality is confirmed by the fact that over the last 3 seasons, his Bears have averaged just 31/330 on the offensive side. Good news for the offense is that 90% of its production returns including QB Garbers, a Top 40 recruit who has a 28/13 ratio in 19 starts. With 82% of the tackles returning, and 18 returning starters, progress would appear to be imminent. I just wouldn’t fade that dog/favorite personality profile.
Oregon State Beavers
This may be HC Smith’s best team in 4 years with 19 returning starters. But does that say much about the 9 defenders who, although notably improved from 2018 numbers, have allowed 33/445 on average the L2Y combined. That includes a “200 Club” defense allowing 443 YPG in 2020. With a record under Smith of 9-22 SU, recruiting has slipped precipitously this season. If your planning on playing a game involving the Beavers, most probably in their perennial underdog role, it is best to note that they are 11-3 ATS as road dog which is completely dichotomous to their 3-10 ATS home dog numbers. Plenty of opportunities for both in the 2020 campaign.
With a plethora of returning starters, 17th year HC Wittingham looks to keep the Utes in PAC 12 contention by adding a pair of quality transfers from the BIG 12. To make this work, OC Ludwig has been entrusted with choosing between Baylor QB Brewer, with 39 career starts where he had 64% Cs and a 65/28 ratio, who will be pushed by Texas transfer J. Jackson, a Top 5 recruit. With all the returning talent around them, look for the Utes to challenge again for PAC 12 superiority. Either will fit comfortably behind an OL with 98 career starts. With the defense returning 85% of their tackles, this looks like one of 17th year HC Wittingham’s more complete teams. As always, we pay attention when the Utes are cast in the role of road dog where they are 12-2 ATS since 2014.
The Trojans will feature one of the more prolific offenses in the country. With OC Harrell calling the plays for QB Slovis, in two years at the helm of USC, Slovis has 17 starts in which he has averaged 70% C with a 47/16 ratio. There is plenty of talent waiting in the wings despite the loss of some valuable receivers from last year. With 8 returning on the defensive side of the ball, the Trojans will again be decent, perhaps duplicating their 26/371 season of last. Under 6th year HC Helton however, USC will go into 2021 with the Achilles heel of a 2-9 ATS mark as road dog under Helton (think Notre Dame and Arizona State), and a record of just 5-13 ATS in non-con play, think opener against San Jose.
Arizona State Sun Devils
It is the Sun Devils 4th year under HC Edwards who many felt would be a bust when he transferred from the NFL studios of ESPN to Tempe. 20 returning starters off a 2-2 SU season do not tell an accurate story. The Sun Devils closed the season by whipping outmanned Arizona 70-7 and Oregon State 46-33. In the season finale vs. Oregon State, they ran 42 times for 375 yards at 8.9 YPR. Dual threat QB Daniels returns to lead the balanced onslaught with a 22/3 ratio and rushing numbers of 223/6.8 LY. With 98% of their offensive production returning, and their entire defense returning intact, this team is more than capable of challenging for PAC 12 supremacy. Always must be wary of the emerging coaching profile of HC Edwards who, in 3 years, is 5-10 ATS as favorite, and 9-4 ATS as dog.
The Bruins enter year 4 of the HC Kelly experiment with a mark of 10-21 SU. The 3-4 SU record of last season was not the fault of an offense that averaged a balanced 35/457 with “200 Club” numbers. This unit could be every bit as potent with DTR (Dorian Thompson-Robinson) returning. Issue as always for Kelly coached teams will be a defense which, in his 3 year tenure, has allowed 33/438 YPG. The fact that 89% of the tackles return, may not necessarily be a good thing.
The 4-2 SU, ATS beginning for 2nd year HC Dorrell may be a bit misleading. They were 4-0 SU, ATS to start against UCLA, Stanford, San Diego State and Arizona. When asked to step up against quality teams in the last two games of the season, they lost definitively to Utah by 17 and Texas by 32 allowing 93 points. I wouldn’t drink this koolaid. Remember the 10-4 SU season of 2016 for Colorado? That was a mirage. They have not topped 5 wins in any other year in the past decade. Even winning the first 4 games of last year was a mirage. In the first year under HC Dorrell, they followed that up with a 17 point loss to Utah and 32 point loss to Texas when they allowed a combined 93 points. Do not see Tennessee transfer Shrout, who was unimpressive in a pair of starts last year (54% C, 5/3 ratio), to be the answer as he works with 1st year OC Chiaverini.
This bureau does not believe that 1st year HC Fisch and a new set of coordinators are prepared to lead the Wildcats from their “Death in the Desert” seasons of the last two years when they went 4-13 SU, ATS. That includes taking the collar in last year’s 0-5 SU season, under now departed HC Sumlin when they were outscored 40-14 and had a “200 Club” defense allowing 473 YPG and 5.9 YPR. Looking to improve that offense (after losing projected starting QB Gunnell) will be USF transfer McCloud who, in 15 career starts, has just a 57% C and 17/10 ratio. He could well be overtaken by yet another transfer, Cruz (Wash State), who was impressive in the spring. Nonetheless, it seems to be “Death in the Desert” once again for the Wildcats. Fisch will have a hard time significantly improving a defense of the “200 Club” caliber that, the last 3 years, has allowed a combined average of 36/458.