There’s a reason the good prognosticators make a lot of money both on television and in publication work, the likes of Phil Steele now crossing over into both mediums. We here at the ASU Devils Den have never claimed to be great at the art of predictions, but we’ve always tried to go with our mind rather than our hearts. Statistics being a big help in this regard. But that didn’t help in 2015 when most of our staff picked Oregon and Arizona State to be Pac-12 powers. We all know how that went with the Devils more so than the Ducks.
This was a conference in 2015 that inflicted more pain on itself than other schools in other conferences, and our staff, for the most part, once again found it hard to pick a dominant champion. With so much competition between teams 1-10 in conference it’s tough to see how for a second year in a row, this team can send a representative into the College Football Playoffs.
Last year’s Pac-12 winner in Stanford took the majority of the votes to pull off back-to-back Pac-12 Championships, it what would be the coaches fourth title since 2012. On the other end of the spectrum is Oregon State once again inhabiting the Pac-12 basement as second year head coach Gary Anderson brings in more recruits to fit the face of his program.
USC, Utah, and UCLA lost a combined 10 conference games in 2015. That goes to show you how tight things were in the South last year. And according to our predictions the waters won’t be getting any less murky. Only Colorado looks to be a definitive underdog throughout the season, and ASU looking to simply hold its head above water as it looks to break in a new offensive coordinator, quarterback, and four new offensive line starters. But one this was for certain, UCLA would somehow pull it together and win the South, be it by winning eight conference games, or by winning five.
While Washington State was not picked by many to make a major impact in the North, that didn’t stop a few from selecting its junior quarterback Luke Falk to once again put up video game numbers. Falk was eclipsed in votes by UCLA sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen to take home Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year. Picking the best defensive player in the conference was a mixed bag with only UCLA’s defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes receiving multiple votes. Whether or not Vanderdoes can stay healthy will once again impact the sustained success of the UCLA defense.
In terms of predicting individual success for ASU it came down to junior running back Demario Richard on offense, followed by senior wide receiver Tim White. Richard looks to lead an offense that will lean more on the running game as it breaks in an underclassman at the quarterback position. ASU would then be looking to stop the trend of its pass attempts raising each and every year since Graham took over in 2012.
Defensively, it looks like our staff believes ASU’s best pass rusher in sophomore JoJo Wicker has the best chance to be its most dominant player in 2016. Wicker looks to be deployed at multiple positions as defensive coordinator Keith Patterson looks to be more flexible in his usages of fronts be it with three down lineman or four.
And finally, it was hard to stray from Rivals.com five-star wide receiver N’Keal Harry as the predicted top newcomer of 2016. The big-bodied local product out of Chandler has already found a place on the two-deep and could even fancy a start or two at the X position for the Devils as he competes with junior Ellis Jefferson.