2019 Pac-12 Football season kicks off Saturday

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PAC-12 SOUTH: Arizona is 83-27-5 all-time in the first game of the season, winning nine of the last 11. In those 11 contests, the Wildcats have outscored opponents by a cumulative 431-150, or an average of 39.2 to 13.6 points per game ...ARIZONA STATE has tabbed FR Jayden Daniels to start at QB, becoming the first true freshmen signal to start a season-opener for the Sun Devils ... Who is going to be the back to give COLORADO a 1,000-yard rusher for the fourth consecuitve seasons? Of the five scholarship players on the depth chart, only one has carred the ball in a Division I game - SO Alex Fontenot (11 carries, 43 yards in 2018) ... UCLA opens the season in the Eastern Time Zone at Cincinniti. After dropping seven in a row in the Eastern Time Zone, the Bruins have won their last three (2014 - at Virginia, 2009 - vs. Temple (Washington, D.C.), 2009 - at Tennesse). Aside from Notre Dame, Pac-12 teams are 27-21 in the Eastern Time Zone since 2000 ... USC coach Clay Helton has named JT Daniels as his starting QB this season.. Daniels threw for 2,672 yards and 14 TDs during the 2018 season ... UTAH’s punting game will be in the hands, er, foot, of another Australian as Ben Lennon follows fellow Aussie All-American punters Tom Hackett (2012-15) and Mitch Wishnowsky (2016-18).

PAC-12 NORTH: The CALIFORNIA secondary has been tabbed by Sports Illustrated as arguably one of the top units this season. All four starters return that contributed to the team’s 21 interceptions (2nd in the FBS in 2018) and allowed a Pac-12 best 175.1 passing yards per game ... Already thin on experience at wide receiver, OREGON took a hit with a couple of injuries this summer to WRs Brenden Schooler (foot) and Mycah Pittman (shoulder). The Ducks are down to seven healthy scholarship WRs ... OREGON STATE coach Jonathan Smith has yet to tab his starting QB, deciding between RSR Jake Luton and RSO Tristan Gebbia. Luton, who gained a sixth year by the NCAA, has thrown for 2,513 yards and 14 TDs in 12 career games ... STANFORD OT Walker Little and CB Paulson Adebo were tabbed first team AP preseason All-America. Only Clemson and Alabama had more players earn first team honors with three each ... Both WASHINGTON and WASHINGTON STATE have been in the midst of a QB battle and neither have tabbed a starter for their season-opener. The competition for the starting QB spot for the Huskies appears to come down to RSO Jake Haener and RJR Jacob Eason, while the Cougars appear to be leaning towards RSR Anthony Gordon over GRAD Gage Gubrud.

THE RANKINGS: Five Pac-12 teams are ranked in both the AP and Coaches preseason polls. It’s the first time since 2016 that five Pac-12 teams were listed in the AP preseason Top 25 ... OREGON (11/13) has appeared in 11 of the last 12 AP preseason polls ... WASHINGTON (13/12) makes its fourth consecutive preseason appearance in the AP poll and 33rd overall ... UTAH (14/15) is making its first AP preseason poll since 2009 and third overall ... STANFORD (25/23) has appeared in the AP preseason Top 25 for the ninth consecutive year. The Cardinal are one of six teams to have appeared in the preseason AP poll in each of the last nine seasons, joining Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, LSU and Georgia ... WASHINGTON STATE (23/21) makes its fourth appearance in the AP preseason poll and its second in the last three years.

THE RETURNEES: A total of 174 starters, who started at least half of his team’s games or a majority of games at a specific position, return to Pac-12 football squads in 2019. That’s out of a possible 288 (including placekickers and punters) for an average of 14.5 starters returning per team. OREGON returns the most with 19, folowed by UCLA (18), ARIZONA (17) and ARIZONA STATE (17). STANFORD returns the fewest starters with nine. Among those returning starters are 11 first-team and 13 second-team All-Pac-12 performers. Eight of the 12 squads return at least seven starters on offense, and seven squads return at least seven starters on defense.

RUNNING BACKS LEAD THE WAY: The Pac-12 has six returning running backs that rushed for 1,000 or more yards last season. ARIZONA STATE’s Eno Benjamin set a school single-season record with 1,642 yards. OREGON STATE’s Jermar Jefferson posted the most rushing yards by a freshman during the 2018 season with 1,380 yards.
Eno Benjamin, ASU (1,642 yards/126.3 yards per game)
J.J. Taylor, ARIZ (1,434 yards/119.5 yards per game)
Zack Moss, UTAH (1,096 yards/121.3 yards per game)
Jermar Jefferson, OSU (1,380 yards/115.0 yards per game)
Joshua Kelley, UCLA (1,243 yards/113.0 yards per game)
CJ Verdell, ORE (1,018 yards/78.3 yards per game)

RUN WILDCATS, RUN!: Arizona has led the Pac-12 in rushing in each of the last three seasons, and is one of juste eight FBS programs nationally and one of three Power 5 teams to average at least 200 yards rushing per game over the past four seasons. Georgia Tech, Army, Air Force, Navy, Georgia Southern, Oklahoma and Appalachian State also accomplished the feat. Here are the Pac-12’s top three rushing teams over the past three seasons:
1. Arizona 9,270 yards
2. Oregon 8,312 yards
3. Washington 7,642 yards

WHAT’S HIS TACKLING FUEL?: CALIFORNIA LB Evan Weaver posted 159 tackles last season, tops among all FBS returnees. He’s played in 36 of a possible 37 games, including 17 starts, and has compiled 230 tackes in his career. He needs 29 tackles to crack Cal’s all-time top 10 list.

OUR FEARLESS LEADER: COLORADO head coach Mel Tucker begins his first season with the Buffaloes. Tucker was the Defensive Coordinator at Georgia from 2016-18. While Tucker is the only first-year head coach in the Pac-12, eight coaches have been at the helm of their current programs in the Pac-12 for four or fewer seasons.

HALL OF FAMERS: Two former Pac-12 student-athletes and one coach will be among the 15 inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame Class - Quarterback Jake Plummer (Arizona State), Safety Troy Polamalu (USC) and coach Dennis Erickson (Washington State, Oregon State and Arizona State).

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