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Pac-12 Football: That One Thing Every Team Needs to Improve Upon in 2015

March 10, 2015

                                                                                  Photo courtesy of ESPN



The word "tot" in German means "dead." It is also an acronym for That One Thing. Like a lingering cough or a bad habit, T.O.T. infuriates fans and coaches because of its repetitive nature. If only T.O.T. was fixed--even Alabama head coach Nick Saban would smile more. 


With spring practice is in the air, it's out with the old and in with the new.


Or is it?





The Wildcats did not get many opportunities to return kicks--65 percent of their opponents' kickoffs were touchbacks. While one can't control a kicker's leg, one can ask his kick returner to get the ball out of the endzone. Remember, UCLA plays in the same division yet it its opponents' touchbacks were limited to 27 percent.


Arizona State


Last year Arizona State lost to Oregon State after beating Notre Dame. In 2013, the favored Sun Devils lost to Notre Dame after shellacking USC the previous week. The Sun Devils need to stop being victimized by trap games. 




The Golden Bears' offense was excellent last year but the defense allowed an average of 511 yards per game--the pass defense was ranked dead last in FBS. On a bright note, it can't get much worse.




Last season the Buffs intercepted only three passes which explains their -.83 turnover margin average. Only one FBS team had less than three interceptions last season: the Buffalo Bulls.




Oregon needs to spend more time in the weight room. Against Ohio State in the 2014 national championship game, Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott was a bowling ball against the Ducks' defense, which resembled scattered bowling pins after too many strikes.   


Oregon State


It is hard to sustain a drive if you cannot convert on third down. The Beavers finished last in the league in third down conversions with a paltry 31.74 percent. Only seven FBS teams fared worse than the Beavers. 




Quarterback Kevin Hogan needs a backup. Evan Crower is not on the spring roster and is expected to transfer to a school with a grad program. That leaves 5-star redshirt freshman Keller Chryst or redshirt sophomore Ryan Burns as the backup. Head coach David Shaw said "neither has really shown they have it all,” according to the Mercury News' Jon Wilner. 




The Bruins averaged 104 penalty yards per game last year. Against Colorado and Kansas State, UCLA racked up more than 120 penalty yards in each game. Head coach Jim Mora is a disciplinarian so this trend is surprising. 




USC lost to Arizona State on a Hail Mary pass caught by an untouched Jaelen Strong. The following week USC held a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter against Arizona but escaped with a two-point win. Fourth quarter offense needs more creative playcalling. The defense needs to recognize that Cover 2 and Cover 3 defenses against an accurate Pac-12 quarterback won't work.



The Utes' quarterbacks had a rough year. Travis Wilson has a history of concussions and Kendal Thompson suffered a season-ending injury (knee) against the Oregon Ducks. Utah also lost receivers Dres Anderson and Tim Patrick. Keeping the quarterbacks and receivers healthy should be a top priority.




The Huskies have to step up against ranked opponents. Last year Washington averaged only 21.5 points per game vs ranked opponents. Oregon, on the other hand, averaged almost 42 points. Bottom line: champions do not cave against ranked teams. 


Washington State


Washington State's running game, anemic as it is, is going in the wrong direction. The Cougars averaged 39.83 rushing yards per game last season, down from the previous season's 53.38 yards per game. Everyone knows you are going to throw the ball. Trying to keep opposing defenses honest should be a top priority.




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