Which Pac-12 Football Teams Have The Strongest Returning Rosters?

Over the years, it has been interesting to watch the vast expansion of college football prognosticators, and I wonder if fans think that we now have too many or if they think we don’t have enough.

It reminds me of deadpan comedian Steven Wright who wondered how much deeper the ocean would be if it didn’t have so many sponges.

It’s fascinating to see the many different processes they all use, ranging from those who data-detail us to death to the flamboyant huckster who tells us all we need to know is the four-year recruiting history for each program.

Through it all, our system (Savvy Game Line) has operated with its original concepts and it provides us with consistently reliable data and trends from which we can project the effectiveness of each college football team in the coming season.

Today we are looking at just one part of the system’s preseason evaluation – the effective production of returning players, or a rating of rosters.  Later, we’ll add this module in with other preseason assessments and produce a composite ranking prediction for each team.

Also please notice that this preview does not include quarterbacks.  Those are evaluated in their own standalone module. (A partial quarterback preview can be seen here).

Our Index uses over 100 columns of data in its preseason analyses as it processes the “Returning Effective Production” (REP) for each team. REP isn’t based on a tabulation of returning starters but rather, in simple terms, it combines an analysis of player-performance data, an accession for difference-makers, interpretations for trend angles, and a few other activities.

To keep things simple, I’ve merged the data down to three columns and converted it into grades that are 1-10 with 10 being the best.

The complete chart of grades for all 130 teams can be found here.

For the PAC-12, here is how the teams are currently ranked:

#1  USC   [national rank #6]

USC shows impressive talent returning to the offense except at running back. Receivers rate among the best and the offensive line should be strong.  Defense returns better-than-average production, although the Index is not convinced the Trojans can stop the run well enough to win the PAC-12 South, which needs to happen this year because awful recruiting in the past two cycles is going to negatively affect USC in 2021.

#2  Oregon   [national rank #11]

Despite Oregon graduating nearly its entire offensive line, our system still rates this offensive front as better than average and enough to win the North. Returning production among running backs couldn’t be better.  Receiving production has been disappointing for a top-10 team but a system change and new OC should push those numbers upward in 2020. Returning effective production on defense is enviable and this team might be the best in the country when it comes to bringing defensive pressure.

#3  Washington State    [national rank #44]

Three leading WRs graduated but four more are waiting in the wings to take over.  Offensive line should be strong but the running back group appears thin. Defense was a mess in 2019 and it doesn’t appear that a new coaching staff has experience in quickly turning bad defenses into good ones. The Cougars will probably bring a little more pressure than last season but those gains might be offset by an inability to stifle offenses with strong running attacks.  

#4  Washington   [national rank #55]

Starting quarterback and both top running backs declared for the NFL. Offensive line has average returning production so new starters will need to prove themselves.  Rush defense gave up 4.17ypp in 2019 but should be better in 2020. Pass defense should be among the best in the Conference. Husky defenses are always strong. Offense is where UW will come up short.   

#5  Oregon State   [national rank #58]

The Beavers finished just 106th for team defense last season but most of the best production is back and should be one of the best defensive pressure production in the Conference. Just as the OSU defense jumped 13 points in the right direction in 2019, it is likely to finish under 30 points per game in 2020.  Oregon State has plenty of running back production and our Index says the receiving corps will be better than most analysts think. Over all, the Beavers return a better-than-average roster.  

#6  Arizona    [national rank #77]

Unless Arizona gets super-star play from its new quarterback, Arizona will struggle to score.  The erosion of offensive points is a three-year problem and won’t likely improve in 2020. Returning production for the running backs and receivers is far below average.  The offensive line might be the strongest unit [apart from quarterback]but at best, it will be only slightly better than average. Overall, the defense looks competitive, although it still rates at more than 30 points per game.  

#7  Colorado     [national rank #81]

For three straight seasons, Colorado has been getting better at running the football.  That will be important this season because four-year quarterback Steven Montez has graduated and effective production among returning receivers is less than half the standard our system uses to determine adequacy. Defense looks solid at all levels but not impressive at any level.  The Buffs have won five games in each of the previous three seasons. With this roster, that appears to be the 2020 high bar in Boulder.

#8  California    [national rank #85]

Offense will still be a problem but not as much as the prior two seasons. Evan Weaver is gone from the defense after 103 solo tackles in 2019. Five of the top six tacklers are gone but those who return will benefit from Cal’s diverse pressure schemes. The three best safeties are gone and replacements are unproven.  Teams with decent passing attacks should do well against the Bears.

#9  UCLA     [national rank #88]

Three of the top four pressure defenders are gone from a defense that was already giving up 35 points per game.  Once again, the UCLA defense won’t stuff the run and won’t get to quarterbacks. Running back metrics look awful and the returning effective production among receivers is less than half of what it takes to be competitive.  However, the offensive line has really good potential. The problem is that there is almost no support behind the predicted starters. If OL newcomers prove themselves, this line could solve a lot of the Bruins’ offensive woes.  

#10   Arizona State    [national rank #98]

Except for quarterback, the returning effective production among skill players at ASU is frightfully anemic. The offensive line yielded more than 30 sacks last season.  But, it was young and should be better now. Returning defensive producers in the front two levels appear average while the back end will be tough to beat. ASU’s ability to disrupt offenses rates less than average.     

#11  Utah   [national rank #101]

Don’t think for a moment that Utah is about to take a nosedive. Yes, the Utes lost a lot of effective production but the recent history of this program is that it competes at a high level even if it has to replace much of its talent.  Except for the offensive line, all rateable units are average at best but later, when we assemble all of the modules for this team, it will be ranked in the top 25. 

#12  Stanford   [national rank #105]

Did you know that 15 players who entered the transfer portal were from Stransferred?  The once powerful Cardinal rush attack is in shambles and we noted some of the reasons why in this recent feature titled “Ceded Power: The Decline of Stanford Football”.  No Power Five team rates lower in returning running back production and the offensive line that rates less than average.  The Cardinal defense has been giving up more points each season for the past four years and our Index projects that slide will continue. Stanford is not able to bring pressure and the returning effective tacklers rate much less than average.  The best part of this defense is in its third level which is much better than average but not dominant. The Cardinal won four games last season. Other than program tradition and decent recruiting, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to think Stanford will do much better in 2020.

About Bobby Albrant 108 Articles
Bobby Albrant is a former journalism major at the University of Oregon, creator of Savvygameline.com for college football predictions and rankings, former analyst for Southern Mississippi football games, and twenty years coaching girls basketball for all ages through CIF high school. He has three grown children with his youngest daughter playing on the Ventura (Ca) High School basketball team that defeated Dom Lugo High School and was the last high school game ever played by Diana Taurasi. He can be reached at bobbywildcat@gmail.com.