Pac-12: 2011 season grades

Season grade: Pac-12

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
2:30
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

And our last grade: Pac-12

Offense: The Pac-12 is known for offense and QBs, and 2011 was no different. Stanford's Andrew Luck and USC's Matt Barkley were among the best in the nation, but Oregon again was the conference's top offense in total offense, scoring and rushing. Eight Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 45 in the nation in total offense, including five in the top 25. Seven ranked in the top 45 in scoring, including four in the top 25. Seven ranked in the top 38 in passing efficiency, including four in the top 12. While the conference is known for passing, offenses also typically run well. The results there were mixed in 2011. Oregon and Stanford were both elite running teams, but six teams ranked 80th or worse in rushing. Protecting the QB was a good projector of success in the conference. USC, Stanford and Oregon did it very well. Washington State, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Oregon State and California did not. When you look at the conference's offensive numbers, Oregon, Stanford and USC were good in just about every meaningful category. That should come as no surprise. And the only team that had any success with consistently bad offensive numbers was Utah, which obviously relied on its defense. As far as star quality, the Pac-12 produced All-Americans at every position -- QB, RB, TE, WR and O-line.

Grade: B+

Defense: It was not a great year on defense in the conference. No team produced an elite defense. Utah ranked 19th in the nation in scoring defense (without playing Oregon or Stanford), and California ranked 25th in total defense. It's fair to say that five teams were good to solid on defense: Utah, Cal, Stanford, Oregon and USC. And the other seven were middling-to-poor. Perhaps the most telling number: Colorado, Oregon State, UCLA and Washington ranked from 102nd to 110th in third-down conversion defense. Not getting off the field is bad. Seven teams ranked 74th or below in the nation in scoring defense. Seven teams ranked 82nd or below in total defense. Eight teams ranked 75th or below in pass efficiency defense. The numbers against the run were better -- eight teams ranked from No. 4 to No. 67 in run defense -- but that could be attributed to a conference full of pass-first offenses. The A-list offensive talent always needs to be held into account when assessing Pac-12 defenses. Just as good defenses play great in the SEC because of bad offenses, good-to-middling defenses look middling-to-bad in the Pac-12 because of great offenses. In terms of star power, the conference didn't produce many All-Americans, though some recognition was landed by USC safety T.J. McDonald and Stanford OLB Chase Thomas. The two biggest names entering the season -- Arizona State LB Vontaze Burfict and Oregon CB Cliff Harris -- flopped, with Harris getting kicked off the team.

Grade: C-

Overall: The inaugural year of the Pac-12 produced three elite teams: Oregon, USC and Stanford. All three finished ranked in the top 7. The conference went 1-1 in BCS bowl games, with Oregon winning the Rose Bowl and Stanford falling a late field goal short of beating No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl. No season that produces two BCS bowl teams is a failure because that puts extra cash in every team's pocket. And the conference produced a glittering array of offensive talent that should light up NFL draft boards this spring. That's the good news. The bad news is a wide chasm between the three elite teams and everyone else: Eight teams won seven or fewer games. Further, the conference went 2-5 in bowl games and was a middling 7-7 against AQ nonconference foes in the regular season. The Pac-12's only victory over a nonconference foe that ended up ranked was Oregon's win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, though Utah did whip BYU, which finished 25th in the coaches poll. A few years ago, the main gripe centered on the conference producing depth but a lack of multiple elite teams -- a legit alternative to USC under Pete Carroll. Now the conference is producing multiple elite teams without the depth. The ideal scenario is at least two teams in the national picture along with multiple teams with eight or nine wins and seven or eight bowl-eligible teams. Ultimately, the Pac-12 probably rated as the nation's No. 3 conference in 2011, behind the SEC and Big 12. That's not bad. But it could be better.

Grade: C

Season grade: Washington State

January, 26, 2012
1/26/12
4:30
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Last up: Washington State

Offense: The Cougars started three different quarterbacks in 2011, but nonetheless ranked ninth in the nation and second in the Pac-12 in passing offense with 322.3 yards per game, with 30 TD passes and 12 interceptions. That was the best news. The Cougars ranked sixth in the conference in total offense (422.4 ypg) and seventh in scoring (29.8 ppg). The didn't run the ball well, finishing 10th in the conference in rushing offense. As for the passing offense, it only ranked sixth in efficiency. The worst news was yielding 3.33 sacks per game, which ranked 116th in the nation. That was a product of offering little running threat, as well as shuffling quarterbacks who do things differently in the pocket and aren't in rhythm with the offense. Still, the Cougs' offensive numbers were dramatically better in 2011 than in 2010 (19.6 ppg, 330.2 ypg), despite the quarterback issues. Sophomore Marquess Wilson became one of the elite young receivers in country, earning second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Grade: C+

Defense: The Cougars ranked sixth in the Pac-12 in total defense (409.6 ypg) and ninth in scoring defense (31.8 ppg). They were 11th in the conference -- and 111th in the nation -- in pass efficiency defense, as foes completed 64 percent of their passes with 24 TDs. They only forced 17 turnovers, which tied for 10th in the conference. Still, just like the offense, the numbers were significantly better than 2010 (35.8 ppg, 467 ypg), when the Cougs ranked last in the conference in scoring and total defense. The biggest sign of a step forward? Rushing defense. In 2010, the Cougs yielded a conference-worst 220.2 ypg. In 2011, that number was down to 157.2 ypg, which ranked eighth in the conference. That shows increased toughest and physical maturity.

Grade: C-

Overall: A 4-8 finish that gets coach Paul Wulff fired isn't going to get a high grade. But the Cougs took a significant step forward in 2011, and that bodes well for another step forward under first-year coach Mike Leach. A team that three years ago looked -- and played -- like a mid-level FCS team was highly competitive in 2011, recording its only quality conference win -- against Arizona State -- during the Wulff Era. The Cougars were still outmanned against most Pac-12 foes, but they fought back all season. The fact is, the general mood in Pullman at present is as high as it has been in years, perhaps since Mike Price was on the sidelines.

Grade: C.

Season grade: Washington

January, 24, 2012
1/24/12
1:00
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: Washington

Offense: The Huskies ranked seventh in the Pac-12 with 410 yards per game and fourth with 33.4 points per game. The surprising news is those numbers were both substantially better than 2010 — 363 ypg and 22 ppg — with first-year starter Keith Price, a sophomore, than they were with senior Jake Locker, who was picked eighth overall in the 2011 NFL draft. While RB Chris Polk had another strong season, earning first-team All-Pac-12 honors, the Huskies were not great running the football — 154.31 ypg — and they surrendered 2.62 sacks per game, which is a likely reason Price was banged up most of the year. And Price was the biggest positive story of the season, ranking seventh in the nation in passing efficiency, completing 67 percent of his passes with 33 TDs and 11 interceptions.

Grade: B.

Defense: The Huskies defense struggled mightily — see the Alamo Bowl disaster against Baylor — which is why coordinator Nick Holt was fired at the end of the season. The Huskies ranked 106th in the nation in total defense (453.3 ypg) and 108th in scoring defense (35.9 ppg). They ranked last in the conference in third-down conversion defense, with foes converting 49.1 percent of the time. They were surprisingly mediocre in passing efficiency defense, ranking sixth in the conference, and rushing defense, ranking 6th (142.6 ypg). But the bottom line is the overall numbers, which were bad. Second-team All-Pac-12 LB Cort Dennison was the only Husky to earn All-Conference honors on defense, which showed a number of players regressed from their promise of 2010.

Grade: F.

Overall: Last year, the Huskies started slowly and finished strong. This year, it was the opposite: They were 5-1 when they went to Stanford on Oct. 22. That 65-21 beatdown started a run where they won just two of their final seven games. The Huskies were consistently outclassed when they played ranked foes, losing to Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon and USC, by at least 13 points, and they lost a late-season game at woeful Oregon State by 17 points. There has been a lot of positive momentum this offseason due to coaching hires, particularly defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and ace recruiter Tosh Lupoi. But the 2011 season slowed down some of the positive momentum created by coach Steve Sarkisian's previously impressive rebuilding project.

Grade: C

Season grade: Utah

January, 23, 2012
1/23/12
1:00
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: Utah

Offense: The Utes ranked 12 in the Pac-12 in total offense with 310.9 yards per game and ninth in the conference in scoring offense with 25 points per game. The Utes, after losing quarterback Jordan Wynn to a shoulder injury in game four against Washington, basically leaned on running back John White and their tough defense. White ranked 11th in the nation with 116.9 ypg, and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors, but the Utes ranked last in the conference in passing yards per game and 10th in passing efficiency. They gave up a lot of sacks -- 2.58 per game -- and were terrible on third down, ranking last in the conference in conversion rate. Still, Jon Hays, a transfer from Nebraska-Omaha who replaced Wynn, became a good enough game manager that the Utes won five of their last six games, including a dramatic comeback against Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.

Grade: C-

Defense: The Utes ranked 19th in the nation and first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (20.2 ppg) and third in the Pac-12 in total defense (350.9 ypg). They were No. 1 in the conference in passing efficiency defense and No. 3 in run defense (113.54 ypg). The Utes were good -- but not great -- at pressuring the quarterback (2.5 sacks per game ranking fifth in the conference) and they were good -- but not great -- on third down, ranking fifth in conversion defense. What they were particularly good at, however, was take-aways. They led the conference with 32 take-aways, including 19 interceptions. Two defensive linemen, tackle Star Lotulelei, who won the Morris Trophy as the conference's best defensive lineman, and end Derrick Shelby won first-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Grade: B+

Overall: The Utes would have won the South Division if they didn't gag at home on the regular-season's final weekend in a surprising loss to Colorado. But they bounced back from that with an impressive overtime victory over Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl. An 8-5 finish with a 4-5 record in conference play ain't too shabby for a team that made the move from the Mountain West into an AQ conference. Some wondered if the Utes could handle the weekly grind of Pac-12 play. They did and ended up with the third most wins in the league. Further, if they can figure things out at quarterback, the Utes look like they could be a factor in the South in 2012.

Grade: B

Season grade: USC

January, 20, 2012
1/20/12
12:30
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: USC.

Offense: USC ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in total offense (456.8 yards per game) and third in scoring offense (35.8 points per game). It ranked fourth in rushing offense at 162.6 ypg and second in passing efficiency. The Trojans' offense took off late in the season -- averaging 43.6 points per game over the final five games -- as quarterback Matt Barkley took off. Barkley led the conference with 39 TD passes and finished second in the Pac-12 and eighth in the nation in passing efficiency. The offensive line yielded just eight sacks, tied for the fewest in the nation. The Trojans' 48.3 conversion rate on third down was second in the conference and 10th in the nation. Questionable numbers? The Trojans weren't great in the red zone, and their six red zone turnovers were second worst in the conference. And 11 fumbles isn't good. Two Trojans offensive players made first-team All-Pac-12 and three others made second team.

Grade: B+

Defense: The Trojans ranked fourth in the conference in total defense (374.8 ypg) and third in scoring defense (23.6 ppg). They ranked second against the run (111.4 ypg) and fourth in pass efficiency defense. Their 2.58 sacks per game ranked fourth in the conference. The defense was good in the redzone, forcing five turnovers. But overall the defense didn't force many turnovers -- its 17 ranked tied for ninth in the conference (not including the bowl games). Three Trojans made first-team All-Conference, and two others made second-team. Year 2 under coordinator Monte Kiffin was much better than Year 1.

Grade: B+

Overall: The Trojans were mostly a forgotten team after they lost at Arizona State on Sept. 24 and then barely hung on against Arizona a week later. But USC transformed over the final seven games of the season. Its lone loss during that 6-1 stretch was in triple-overtime to Stanford, and it featured a win at Oregon and five double-digit victories, including a 14-point win at Notre Dame and a 50-zip whipping of rival UCLA. USC won the South Division -- though NCAA sanctions made it ineligible for the inaugural Pac-12 title game -- and finished ranked in the top-five. And, of course, Barkley made big headlines when he announced he was returning for his senior season, shocking many because he would have been a top-10 NFL draft pick. Further, in the big picture, the Trojans success changed the image of coach Lane Kiffin. Previously skeptical pundits were forced to ask: "Hey, maybe this guy can coach after all?"

Grade: A-

Season grade: UCLA

January, 19, 2012
1/19/12
7:00
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: UCLA

Offense: The Bruins ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (23.1 points per game) and ninth in total offense (376.6 yards per game). They ran the ball well -- again -- out of the pistol formation, ranking third in the conference with 191 yards rushing per game. But the passing game was -- again -- mostly anemic with 198 yards per game. It ranked eighth in passing efficiency with just 16 TD passes. Good running teams typically do well on third down, but not UCLA, which ranked 10th in the conference with a 36.4 percent conversion rate. The Bruins also fumbled 16 times, most in the conference by three. Seven teams had single-digit fumbles. The Bruins had no first- or second-team All Pac-12 players.

Grade: D+

Defense: The Bruins ranked eighth in the conference in both scoring (31.4 ppg) and total defense (417.1). They were particularly weak against the run, surrendering 190.6 yards per game, which ranked 11th in the conference and 96th in the nation. While the pass efficiency defense was mediocre in terms of rating, the Bruins surrendered 27 TD passes, third most in the conference. The Bruins also struggled to pressure the QB. They had just 13 sacks, which ranked 11th in the conference. Opponents converted on third down at a 48.4 percent clip, which also ranked 11th in the conference. Just like the offense, no player earned first- or second-team all-conference honors.

Grade: D.

Overall: Some of you have been averaging the two above grades and then taken issue with our math, which is fine, but not what the final grade is about. The final grade takes in the totality of a season; it's not just about statistical measures. And the Bruins' season was complicated. Not much was expected of them in the preseason, yet they managed to finish the regular season at 6-6 and -- because of USC's ineligibility -- claim the South Division title. So, say what you want, but they did enough to eclipse four other South Division teams. That said, they also played poorly enough to get coach Rick Neuheisel fired, and it's difficult to spin a three-game losing streak at season's end that included a 50-zip defeat to those rival Trojans. In the end, the Bruins had a bad season, but it probably needs to be distinguished from Arizona State, which completely collapsed, and Oregon State, which went 3-9. Ergo, the "+" below.

Grade: D+

Season grade: Oregon State

January, 17, 2012
1/17/12
7:00
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: Oregon State

Offense: The Beavers, who welcomed back seven starters from 2010, ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in total offense (373.7 yards per game) and 11th in scoring (21.8 points per game). Notably a year after running back Jacquizz Rodgers bolted early for the NFL, the Beavers ranked last in the conference -- and 118th in the nation -- in rushing with 86.9 ypg. That, of course, put a lot of pressure on redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion, who ranked 10th in the conference in passing efficiency with a conference-high 18 interceptions and 16 TDs. The Beavers' 31 total turnovers was the most in the conference by seven, and they were by far the worst team in the red zone. Of course, Mannion was the story of the season. He was expected to be signalling in plays from the sidelines to Ryan Katz, but he -- in a surprise to many -- unseated Katz before the season was two games old. Why? He had consistently outplayed Katz in practice, which seems like a good enough reason, only not when a program accustomed to going to bowl games every year goes 3-9. Mannion flashed ability, but the outcome on offense was poor. Further, no Beaver earned All-Pac-12 first- or second-team honors on offense.

Grade: F.

Defense: The Beavers ranked seventh in the Pac-12 in total defense (411.3 ypg) and scoring defense (30.8). Those numbers actually are surprising in a positive way considering the Beavers ranked last in the Pac-12 and 1o1st in the nation in run defense (196.8 ypg) and were ninth in the conference and 104th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. The defense forced 23 turnovers, which was tied for fourth in the conference, and that helped a bunch. Other bright spots: Freshman defensive end Scott Crichton ranked second in the conference with 14.5 tackles for a loss, and junior cornerback Jordan Poyer earned second-team All-Conference honors. This unit welcomed back just four starters from 2010's mediocre unit, and the only one of them to start (almost) every game in 2011 was safety Lance Mitchell. An argument could be made that, based on what coordinator Mark Banker had to work with, the unit performed at least adequately.

Grade: C.

Overall: In the preseason, Oregon State had a lot of questions, and coach Mike Riley was the first to point that out. There were, particularly, concerns on both lines, but the defense seemed far more worrisome, considering it lost defensive tackle Stephen Paea, defensive end Gabe Miller and cornerback James Dockery from a unit that was below average in 2010. In August, few thought quarterback would generate the most controversy, and that the offense would end being perhaps the worst during Riley's tenure. Still, though the Beavers looked potentially down in 2010 -- 6-6 down or perhaps 5-7 down -- few foresaw a 3-9 record that included a loss to Sacramento State, an FCS team. In other words, it was a bad year in Corvallis, one that has Riley facing a critical year in 2012.

Grade: D

Season grade: Colorado

January, 13, 2012
1/13/12
1:30
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: Colorado

Offense: The Buffaloes ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (19.8 points per game) and 11th in total offense (346.3 yards per game). They ranked ninth in rushing (108.7 ypg) and 12th in passing efficiency. Three times the Buffs didn't reach double digits. So not much went right this season on offense, despite having a veteran QB in Tyler Hansen, a proven rusher in Rodney Stewart and a nice combo at receiver in Paul Richardson and Toney Clemons. The offensive line was surprisingly poor: The Buffs gained 3.5 yards per rush and yielded 31 sacks, which ranked ninth in the conference. The worrisome thing is the unit looks like it will be rebuilding in 2012 with just four starters back.

Grade: F

Defense: Colorado ranked last in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (36.5 ppg) and 11th in total defense (439.3 ypg). It was bad against the run and pass, ranking last in pass efficiency defense. It forced 15 turnovers, fewest in the conference. It was last in the conference in red zone defense, with opponents scoring TDs on 45 of 60 red zone trips. Injuries were an issue, most notably LB Douglas Rippy blowing out his knee at Washington on Oct. 15. There is good news, however. Seven starters will be back in 2012, and there's some intriguing youth that should take a step forward.

Grade: D-

Overall: Look at those grades. Bad, huh? But guess what? The Buffaloes, who played a 13-game, no-bye schedule that was among the toughest in the country, were statistically worse than their season actually was. No, going 3-10 is not good by any measure. And the numbers are hard to spin -- 109th in the nation in scoring offense and defense. But Colorado won two of its last three games, including an impressive effort in a win at Utah that ended a 24-game losing streak outside the state. The question is can coach Jon Embree parlay that small bit of success into offseason momentum, both in recruiting and offseason workouts? And can that then carry over into a strong spring session that inspires some confidence within the program?

Grade: D

Season grade: Oregon

January, 12, 2012
1/12/12
7:00
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: Oregon

Offense: The Ducks finished the season ranking third in the nation in scoring (46.1 ppg), fourth in total offense (523 yards per game) and fifth in rushing (299.2 ypg). So, well, not much to say there. Pretty darn good. Areas for criticism? Well, Oregon was sloppy against LSU in the opener and couldn't run the football, though no other team scored more on the Tigers than Oregon (27 points). Quarterback Darron Thomas had moments when his accuracy was off. No Ducks receiver earned even honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors. Running back LaMichael James didn't win the Doak Walker Award again. Yeah, we're reaching a bit.

Grade: A.

Defense: The defense ranked fifth in the Pac-12 in both total defense (390.1 ypg) and scoring defense (24.6 ppg). But the Ducks ranked second in the conference in yards per play -- 5.07 -- which is a better measure of the defense because of how quickly the offense works. LSU scored 40 points but only gained 273 yards -- the Ducks were done in by four turnovers. USC piled up 462 yards and 38 points in a win in Eugene. Wisconsin ran over the Ducks in the first half of the Rose Bowl, but the Ducks stiffened in the second half. Still, after replacing six starters from the 2010 unit, it's hard to call the Ducks' defense anything less than solid.

Grade: B.

Overall: Oregon began the season as a national title contender, ranked third in the preseason poll. They finished ranked fourth -- a year after finishing ranked third. There were high expectations this season and the Ducks met them. The biggest accomplishment was winning the Rose Bowl after losing two previous BCS bowl games. That was a meaningful step in terms of national perception. By the way, the Ducks look like national title contenders again in 2012. Really, there was only one way the Ducks could have produced a better season, and that's finishing ranked No. 1. And, folks, I can't bring myself to give a team an A- when it wins the Rose Bowl and finishes ranked in the top five.

Grade: A.

Season grade: California

January, 11, 2012
1/11/12
7:00
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: California

Offense: The Bears averaged 419 yards and just under 30 points per game. That's not bad. But in their losses, they averaged 16.5 points. That's bad. They ranked fourth in the conference in rushing. That's good. They ranked ninth in passing efficiency. That's bad. They ranked second in the Pac-12 in red zone offense. But only 33 of those 54 red zone opportunities produced TDs, which is mediocre. The offense looked good the last two games of the regular season. It looked rotten in the Holiday Bowl loss to Texas. Keenan Allen and Marvin Jones were a first-rate receiving combo, and Isi Sofele ranked 22nd in the nation with 1,322 yards rushing. The offensive line yielded only 22 sacks. QB Zach Maynard bounced back from a midseason slump to play well down the stretch. At least until the bowl game. In other words, there was good and there was bad with the Cal offense this year, which is not a new story in Berkeley. Nor was inconsistent QB play.

Grade: C

Defense: The Cal defense ranked first in the Pac-12 and 25th in the nation in total defense, and it was fourth in the conference and 48th in the nation in scoring defense. You can be sure that coordinator Clancy Pendergast would be glad to reverse those rankings -- scoring is really what a defense is all about -- but the numbers again say that the Bears played good defense in 2012. But not always. Oregon scored 22 in the third quarter alone and rolled up 563 yards. Arizona State rolled up 477 yards and 38 points, with a 4-1 turnover advantage saving Cal. LB Mychal Kendricks earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, DE Trevor Guyton had a nice year and LB D.J. Holt was quietly efficient. Further, lots of young guys played: This defense should be good next year, despite the loss of six starters.

Grade: B-

Overall: We projected Cal ninth in the Pac-12 preseason power rankings, so a sixth-place finish means the Bears slightly exceeded our expectations. And, heading into the bowl season having won three of four -- the lone loss being a tight one against rival Stanford -- it seemed the Bears had pulled things together for a nice late-season surge. Then the Holiday Bowl happened, when the Bears got whipped by a mediocre Texas team 21-10, mostly because it lost the turnover battle 5-0. Just when it seemed like Cal had found its rhythm, it reminded everyone of its chronic inconsistency of the past few seasons. A win over Texas might have generated some momentum for a preseason top-25 ranking. Now that's not going to happen. The 2011 season produced reasons for hope in 2012. But it didn't do enough to change the general perception that coach Jeff Tedford will be on the hot seat in 2012.

Grade: C

Season grade: Arizona State

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
7:00
PM ET
The 2011 season is over. That means report cards are due.

Up next: Arizona State

Offense: It's difficult to find too much fault with an offense that averaged 446 yards and 33.15 points per game, numbers that ranked in the top-five of the Pac-12 and top-30 in the nation. Quarterback Brock Osweiler broke through in his first full year as a starter into an A-list quarterback and leader, while receiver Gerell Robinson also found himself after an up-an-down career. When healthy, running back Cameron Marshall was one of the top-five or so backs in the league. Lots of credit should go to coordinator Noel Mazzone -- now with Jim Mora's staff at UCLA -- who in two years transformed an anemic offense into a potent one. Questionable areas? The Sun Devils sometimes struggled to convert touchdowns in the redzone, were mediocre on third down and couldn't seem to put together decisive drives in the fourth quarter of games during their second-half collapse.

Grade: B-

Defense: The Sun Devils get graded on a negative curve, as their mediocre numbers feel much worse based on the talent on hand, starting with the Pac-12's most disappointing player: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Burfict had long been a difficult presence in the locker room, but his liability on the field previously had been only about boneheaded penalties -- notably personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct calls. The problem this season was he missed tackles, couldn't get off blocks and disappeared during long stretches of games. And this isn't a sour grapes, "Vontaze won't talk to the media" deal. He didn't even earn honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors from the coaches vote. It's fair to wonder how things might have gone if two unit leaders, cornerback Omar Bolden and linebacker Brandon Magee, hadn't suffered season-ending knee injuries. The Sun Devils gave up 419 yards and 26 points per game and were bad against the pass, yielding a 66 percent completion rate. During the five-game losing streak to end the season, the defense gave up 40 points per game.

Grade: D

Overall: The Sun Devils played two seasons. The 6-2 start was, at worst, a B+. The 0-5 finish was an F, and it felt even worse based on the early season optimism. Further, the collapse got coach Dennis Erickson fired, and the process of hiring Todd Graham to replace him couldn't be described as a well-oiled machine finding a candidate that reinvigorated the fan base. Then Osweiler surprises many with his decision to bolt to the NFL. The program, in fact, feels pretty low at present. Still, the Sun Devils won six games and played in a bowl game. The season can't be considered a total failure. Just close to it.

Grade: D.

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