Player of the Year: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
This is as easy a choice as there is in the country. Through seven games, Luck has thrown for 1888 yards and 20 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions. His team is 7-0, and to top it all off, Luck may be the most hyped draft prospect in history, as displayed by the national “Suck 4 Luck” campaigning going on in NFL cities around the country. Rarely do I consider any prospect as a “sure-fire” star, but Luck is as close as anyone can come to earning that praise. A certain shoo-in to be invited to the Heisman Trophy ceremony, Luck will run away with this Pac-12 award, barring injury.
Honorable mentions: Matt Barkley, QB, USC; LaMichael James, RB, Oregon; Keith Price, QB, Washington; Robert Woods, WR, USC.
Coach of the Year: David Shaw, Stanford
Really, this honor comes to Shaw by default. Yes, his team is having an amazing year. But let’s be honest, he inherited the best QB and offensive line in the country, which isn’t a bad start for a first-year head coach. The other main contender at this point is Oregon’s Chip Kelly, but with potential major recruiting violations looming, it’s hard to give him an award for leadership. If you were to look deeper than just simply the coach of the best team, Arizona State’s Dennis Erickson, and Washington’s Steve Sarkisian have probably done more with lesser talent than has Shaw. But it’s hard to argue for a coach who has his team in line to go undefeated and play in a major bowl game, if not the national championship.
Honorable mentions: Dennis Erickson, Arizona State; Steve Sarkisian, Washington.
Freshman of the Year: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas has been electric this year for a top-10 team, but for me, Seferian-Jenkins is the pick. OK, I’m admittedly biased because I live in Seattle, but when I watch the 6’7”, 250 lb. TE play, I see NFL potential written all over him. Already amassing 20 catches and 4 touchdowns on the season, Seferian-Jenkins has been a huge security blanket for Washington QB Keith Price. He has rare size, athleticism and body control, and combined with an NFL-caliber body, Seferian-Jenkins has future 1st round potential. Watch for him to be even more of a factor in UW’s offense as the season progresses.
Honorable mentions: De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon; Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State; Sean Mannion, QB, Oregon State.
North Division Champion: Oregon Ducks
After hyping Stanford so much above, I’m going to go ahead and pick Oregon as the Pac-12 North champion. Why? I have no idea, other than a gut feeling. Well, I have some idea. Oregon’s offense is simply unstoppable, and if the injuries to RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas don’t linger, I’m not sure anyone in the conference can compete with the amount of points Oregon can put on the board in any given game, including Stanford. The big game here happens November 12th, when Oregon travels to Palo Alto in a HUGE showdown with Stanford that will likely crown not just the North champion, but the Pac-12 champion as well.
Team to watch: Stanford.
South Division Champion: Arizona State Sun Devils
The inferior South division of the Pac-12 boasts such wonderful teams as Colorado (0-4 league), Utah (0-4), Arizona (1-4) and UCLA (2-2). So really this comes down to a two-horse race between the ultra-talented USC Trojans, and the well-coached Arizona State Sun Devils. And with USC not able to compete in the Pac-12 title game due to NCAA sanctions, Arizona State earns the title and the chance to get hammered by Oregon or Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game. The Sun Devils do boast two of my favorite players in the Pac-12 in QB Brock Osweiler and LB Vontaze Burfict.
Team to watch: Just turn the TV off.
Pac-12 Champion: Oregon Ducks
It won’t be as easy as last season, but Oregon for me still looks like the best team in this conference. If they make it past Stanford, Oregon will cruise to victory in the title game. With possible major violations looming, this may be the last time we see Oregon here for a few years.
Coach on the hot seat: Rick Neuheisel, UCLA
After posting two 4-8 seasons in the last three years, it’s safe to say that Neuheisel is on the hot seat. A once proud UCLA program is now being out-recruited by teams such as Washington and California, which can’t make boosters of the Bruins very happy. Even worse, teams are coming into Southern California and taking recruits away more than ever before. It’s hard to imagine that Neuheisel could make it through another losing season, which is what it looks like UCLA will have. The Bruins still have issues at QB and on offense in general, which doesn’t bode well for a coach known for being an offensive-minded guy. The Bruins have managed 3 “wins” so far (against Washington State, Oregon State, and San Jose State), but after a 48-12 throttling by Arizona last week, Slick Rick is likely seeing his last days as lead man of UCLA.
Dishonorable mentions: Paul Wulff, Washington State; Jeff Tedford, California; Mike Riley, Oregon State.
First Team Offense
QB: Andrew Luck, Jr., Stanford
RB: LaMichael James, Jr., Oregon
RB: Chris Polk, Jr., Washington
WR: Keenan Allen, So., Cal
WR: Robert Woods, So., USC
TE: Coby Fleener, Sr., Stanford
OL: Matt Kalil, Jr., USC
OL: Jonathan Martin, Jr., Stanford
OL: David DeCastro, Jr., Stanford
OL: Ryan Miller, Sr., Colorado
C: Garth Gerhart, Sr., Arizona St.
All Purpose: Jamal Miles, Jr., Arizona St.
K: Erik Folk, Sr., Washington
Not a whole lot of surprises here, but a whole lot of talent. Andrew Luck, Jonathan Martin, David DeCastro, and Matt Kalil all will be 1st round picks if they declare in 2012, while LaMichael James and Chris Polk could see their names called in round 2. Equally impressive is the sophomore WR combo of Kennan Allen and Robert Woods who are as good as there is in the country.
Honorable mentions: Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State; Matt Barkley, QB, USC; Marvin Jones, WR, California; Senio Kelemete, OL, Washington; Keith Price, QB, Washington; Rodney Stewart, RB, Colorado; Tony Bergstrom, OL, Utah.
First Team Defense
DL: Dion Jordan, Jr., Oregon
DL: Scott Crichton, Fr., Oregon State
DL: Travis Long, Jr., Washington State
DL: Nick Perry, Jr., USC
LB: Vontaze Burfict, Jr., Arizona State
LB: Cort Dennison, Sr., Washington
LB: Mychal Kendricks, Sr., California
LB: Chase Thomas, Jr., Stanford
DB: Trevin Wade, Sr., Arizona
DB: Jordan Poyer, Jr., Oregon State
DB: John Boyett, Jr., Oregon
DB: T.J. McDonald, Jr., USC
P: Bryan Anger, Sr., California
The defense is harder to determine than the offense in the Pac-12, and is definitely not as highly talented. The headliner here is Vontaze Burfict who will be a 1st round pick if he declares in 2012, and if he prevents himself from committing a crime on the field. Scott Crichton is having a great year for a redshirt freshman, with 42 tackles, 4 sacks, and 10 tackles for loss. Chase Thomas leads the Pac-12 with 5.5 sacks and also has compiled 10 TFL.
Honorable mentions: Trevor Reilly, LB, Utah; Chaz Walker, LB, Utah; Alex Hoffman-Ellis, LB Washington State; Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State; Shaq Richardson, CB, Arizona; Jamaar Jarrett, DL, Arizona State; Josh Kaddu, LB, Oregon.