This Week in Pac-12 Football
FREQUENT FLIERS: WIth five Pac-12 teams opening the season on the road or at neutral sites, it’s worth noting that eight of the top 10 Power 5 schools that will travel the most miles this season hail from the Pac-12. 1. ARIZONA (11,784 miles), 2. West Virginia (11,131), 3. OREGON STATE (10,436), 4. USC (9,739), 5. STANFORD (9,729), 6. Minnesota (8,914), 7. WASHINGTON STATE (8,724), 8. ARIZONA STATE (8,237), 9. UCLA (8,193), 10. (OREGON (7,993).
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.
PAC-12 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)
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.
AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE, OI OI OI: The Pac-12 will feel the impact of the Aussie invasion as six punters from Down Under will take the field - Colorado’s James Stefanou (32 years old), UCLA’s Wade Lees (31), USC’s Ben Griffiths (27), Washington’s Joel Whitford (26), Utah’s Ben Lennon (24), Oregon’s Tom Snee (20).
FWAA FRESHMAN ALL-AMERICA WATCH LIST: QB Jayden Daniels (Arizona State), WR Jalen Curry (Arizona), DE Drake Jackson (USC), OL Sean Rhyan (UCLA), WR Dimitri Stanley (Colorado), DB Mark Perry (Colorado), WR Mycah Pittman (Oregon), DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), DB Verone McKinley III (Oregon), DB Cameron Williams (Washington), P Ryan Sanborn (Stanford) and P Ben Lennon (Utah) were named by the Football Writer’s Association of America to its Freshman All-America Watch List.
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).