Pac-12 Q & A with Kyle Kensing


Football season is still a good 75 days away, but it’s not too early get ready for the new-look Pac-12 Conference. We sat down with blogger and sportswriter Kyle Kensing of and to discuss the hot topics throughout the conference.

Q: With this being the first year of the Pac-12, what should we expect to be different?

Kensing: Most significant of course is the addition of divisions. Since going to a 12-game schedule in 2006, the Pac’s champion has always had to go through everyone. Keeping the conference schedule at 9 games was the right move, but there’s going to be inequities. For example, Arizona draws both Stanford and Oregon but Utah avoids both. Unfortunately in a divisional system you get the benefit of a conference championship game, which brings more money and more exposure to a national audience, but has the drawback of each team not having the same body of work.

Q: The PAC-12 South should be interesting with the inclusion of Utah and Colorado. How will those two fare in the division and conference in general?

Kensing: Utah’s a BCS conference caliber program and has been for almost a decade. The Utes should compete immediately. Jordan Wynn’s a great quarterback and Kyle Whittingham’s one of the best coaches in all college football. UU had a pretty lackluster finish last season and have major replacements to make on the O-line and at running back, but I suspect Utah will be in the thick of the South race.

Colorado is going to take some lumps. I love its running back, Rodney Stewart, but the QB situation is shaky at best and the coaching staff is brand new. There’s almost always a steep learning curve with a new staff, and in Jon Embree’s case might be compounded by his having been an NFL guy. If CU finishes higher than sixth in the division, it will be a surprise.

Q: Andrew Luck returns for Stanford, but does Matt Barkley have any chance at playing himself into the Heisman Race?

Kensing: No question Luck’s the frontrunner, but Barkley’s on the radar. For one thing, playing at USC gives a quarterback an immediate advantage. Two years of experience will really bolster his play, but he needs to cut down on his turnovers. The probation puts Barkley at a disadvantage, too. But he’ll get the chance to prove himself playing against other top notch quarterbacks like Utah’s Wynn, Arizona’s Nick Foles, and Luck.

Q: Considering he’s on the hot-seat, is this the year Rick Neuheisal puts it all together for UCLA?

Kensing: I think it depends on the definition of putting it all together. A bowl game is certainly possible, but Neuheisel’s predecessors, Karl Dorrell and Bob Toledo, were let go with more success than Neuheisel’s had. UCLA returns a ton of pieces, but frankly the way it ended last season was ugly, getting completely shut down by what a Washington defense that came in allowing nearly five touchdowns a game, and giving up 55 to Arizona State. The quarterback situation is as murky as it’s ever been. There really hasn’t been a clear answer at QB since Drew Olson in 2005.

There’s certainly talent. Neuheisel’s done an excellent job recruiting, but the changing of staff and bringing in the Pistol offense last season means the Bruins have kept sorta rebooting during his tenure. Coaches By The Numbers did a great analysis on coaches who have recruited well but haven’t seen results, and unfortunately for UCLA, Neuheisel topped it. Now, in Franklin UCLA has one of the conference’s best RBs and the defense has potential, so if the QB situation improves, meaning Prince steps up and stays healthy or Brehaut improves, the Bruins will bowl. I’m just curious if seven wins is sufficient given Dorrell’s precedent.

Q: When it’s all said and done, who has a better record: The Bruins or Trojans?

Kensing: Trojans. I don’t necessarily see either having a really standout year, eight wins is probably UCLA’s ceiling and nine USC’s and I doubt either gets to those numbers. Despite the proclamation Neuheisel made coming in about the gap between the two programs being narrowed, USC still has the advantage.

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