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Pre-spring Reset: Pac-12 Returning Production rankings
As (most of) the dust from the transfer portal settles, which teams on Cal's 2023 schedule are well poised for success?
Every year, Bill Connelly puts in a ton of work to track the comings and goings of college football players all across the country so that he can build his returning production numbers to measure continuity for each team. This year’s first report has been released (and will be updated as player movement continues) and gives us a first sense of which teams are likely to improve or not in 2023.
You can read the entire article for the rational and evidence behind these numbers, but suffice to say that this isn’t just his opinion - it’s based on years of measuring what is and is not predictive for improved performance.
But around these parts, there are only a few teams we’re concerned about. Here is where the Pac-12, and Cal’s non-conference opponents, rank:
USC (14 nationally)
Oregon State (53)
Arizona State (109)
Auburn: 28 nationally
North Texas: 20 nationally
The top half of the Pac-12 featured six teams that all won at least nine games on the season and collective lost exactly two games to teams in the bottom half of the Pac-12. Those same six teams all rank in the top seven in collective returning production, and in the top half nationally. In other words, the top half of the Pac-12 projects to be as strong as it has been in quite some time - certainly the best the conference has looked at least since 2014, when six teams finished the season ranked and Oregon made it to the national title game.
Cal plays all six of those top-half teams, and four of those games will be on the road.
Auburn and North Texas will be very tough to project - both teams were decidedly mediocre last year, but they have a solid base of returning talent for their new head coaches (Hugh Freeze and Eric Morris) to build around.
Colorado and Arizona State will also be very tough to project, because both programs have new head coaches and both have been, by a wide margin, the two most active teams in the transfer portal with 25 and 27 portal commitments each respectively.
Utah (5 nationally)
Oregon State (20)
Arizona State (86)
Auburn: 44 nationally
N. Texas: 27 nationally
Those top 4 teams are going to have absolute flamethrower offenses. USC has to replace Jordan Addison, but they grabbed Dorian Singer from Arizona so I’m betting they’ll be fine.
DTR and Zach Charbonnet are finally gone from UCLA, along with a couple offensive linemen and Mike Bobo. If Chip Kelly maintains anything close to 2022’s production it will have been an impressive reloading effort.
North Texas has one of 2022’s better G5 offenses and much of it is back, which makes me more than a little wary about a trip to play on the road in Denton.
Kinda glad we don’t have to play Arizona this year, their offense was already pretty good last year.
Is losing a ton of continuity off of a bad offense a problem? Jake Spavital will answer that question come September.
USC (15 nationally)
Oregon State (92)
Arizona State (117)
N. Texas (36)
USC and UCLA both bring back a lot of talent, and also hit the transfer portal hard for reinforcements. Both were straight up bad on defense last year, so a defining question of the off-season will be whether the combination of a year of experience plus transfer competition can fix that side of the ball for either traitor to the Pac-12.
Cal’s defense last year was kinda blah. But in terms of impact defenders, they’re really only losing Daniel Scott and Oluwafemi Oladejo. How big of a step forward can a team that will be full of veteran defenders make?
Oregon State and Wazzu both surprised last year with top half defenses. Can two teams that often have trouble reloading manage to maintain high levels of performance with key guys leaving?
Any time there’s a game played in the desert, tune in to watch the points go up on the scoreboard at comical rates because the defense will be bad.
So there you go Cal fans. Who do you think is vulnerable in 2023, and who are you dreading watching Cal face next season?