- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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With recruiting behind us and most schools in the swing of spring drills (the last of the bunch kick off next week), the Pac-12 blog thought it would be fun to examine each team's chances of winning its respective division.
This is not whether the team of the day can win the Pac-12. And we're not predicting any winners. Rather, this is our take on the team's chances of winning the North or South.
Buy or sell Oregon State winning the North?
Sell: This is my third attempt at writing my Oregon State take. And after much mental flip-flopping, I'm 51/49 on selling Oregon State right now. Ask me again in a couple of months, weeks, days or minutes, I might say buy.
But in my mind, there are too many unknowns to justify a buy rating. Too many gaps in the data. To start, who starts? We don't know who the quarterback is going to be. Kind of an important variable when deciding to buy into a team. And we won't know until well into fall camp. That's a long time for receivers and running backs to wait to find out who will be their leader -- though I think both Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz are capable players. But the longer it's drawn out, the harder it will be for the loser to accept their role as backup.
There's a lot to like about Oregon State. I think the offensive line is going to take a huge step forward and I like Storm Woods at running back and the depth behind him. I've been a rather huge Brandin Cooks fan for a while and a Mike Riley fan pre-dating Y2K.
But the passing game is another great unknown. How will Cooks perform without Markus Wheaton on the other side drawing the double coverage, and who is the established No. 2?
Did I mention they haven't picked a starting quarterback yet? Not to mention there are defensive questions on the line and in the secondary.
The schedule sets up nicely for a potential 7-0 start, assuming there are no stumbles along the way. But the final five will test them -- with Stanford, USC, ASU, Washington and Oregon to close out the year. There's a good chance all five of those teams will be ranked in the top 25.
Folks will buy Oregon State early. But the back stretch is as tough as any in the conference. They get Stanford, USC and Washington at home. But running the table -- or even going 4-1 over that stretch is going to be extremely difficult. That's the time when divisions are won and lost and with the data available right now, I can't buy.
Just too many unknowns at this point.
Sell: I'm not as conflicted on this as Kevin.
I think Oregon State has a chance to be a top-25 team, and its backloaded schedule figures to allow it to climb in the rankings into late-October. But I think Oregon or Stanford -- or is it Stanford or Oregon? -- is going to win the North Division, so I have to sell on the Beavers.
Kevin hits on many of the biggest questions. I, however, am not as worried about quarterback. I think Mannion and Vaz are both capable, and the Beavers managed to win nine games in 2012 with a loopy QB carousel last fall.
My chief concern is the up-the-middle-defense.
Oregon State's front seven is as good as just about anybody on the flanks of coordinator Mark Banker's 4-3 scheme. But it must replace both starting defensive tackles -- the underrated Andrew Seumalo and Castro Masaniai -- and middle linebacker Feti Taumorpeau (Feti Unga), as well as his top backup, Rueben Robinson.
The favorite to start at MLB is sophomore Joel Skotte, who had seven tackles last year. The favorites at defensive tackle? They weren't on the team last year. The general feeling among the Beavers is their best options at DT are junior college transfers Edwin Delva and Siale Hautau.
Pop goes the red flag of worry.
I already hear the Beavers fans: "These new guys are going to be awesome. You're a Duck-loving idiot, Ted Miller."
I have touched on this a bit before. You can call it "Simi Kuli Syndrome" or the more technical term "Incoming Dude Is Obviously Transcendent." Or IDIOT.
The point is no one -- not us, nor the Beavers coaches who recruited Delva and Hautau -- has any idea if these incoming JC guys will be up to snuff. They may be fantastic. They may be better than Seumalo and Masaniai from the get-go. But I'm skeptical until I see them defeat Pac-12 offensive linemen.
I think Banker will find a way to work around this issue, though if you look back to 2011, the Beavers' problems on defense started at tackle. It, however, is a big enough issue for me to doubt Oregon State will win the North.
1dChantel Jennings and David Lombardi