Questions and answers for Pac-12 South

With the Pac-12 schedule beginning in earnest Week 5, we at the Pac-12 blog identified one question that each team has answered thus far in a satisfactory way, and one that still needs to be figured out. Next up: The Pac-12 South.


One question that has been answered: Will the offense be OK with freshman QB Anu Solomon?

The Wildcats rank No. 5 in the country in total offense (593.5 yards per game) and are averaging 42 points per game. Yeah, that’ll work.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Will early-season success translate against better teams?

At 4-0, Arizona is where it wants to be, but close games against UTSA, Nevada and Cal make it tough to gauge where the Wildcats stack up with the upper echelon of the Pac-12.

Arizona State

One question that has been answered: This is a difficult one because the question answered already has a new question posed and it relates to the offense.

The question answered was that the Sun Devils will have one of the most prolific offenses in the Pac-12 this season. Then QB Taylor Kelly got hurt and we've yet to see how his backup, Mike Bercovici, will fare. Still, we can say for sure that RB D.J. Foster is proving to be a more than adequate replacement for Marion Grice.

One question that hasn’t been answered: How good will the defense be?

We still don’t know if the Arizona State defense will be any good, at least whether it will be good enough to support an A-list offense and get the Sun Devils back to the top of the South Division. With the conference schedule ahead, starting with UCLA on Thursday, this question should get answered fairly quickly.


One question that has been answered: Will Colorado find a viable replacement for the explosive and departed Paul Richardson?

Yes, yes, 1,000 times, yes. Nelson Spruce went from being a solid possession receiver alongside Richardson last year to a bona fide star in the Pac-12. He already has 37 receptions and seven touchdowns -- which matches the seven he had for his career coming into this season. He’s averaging 14 yards per catch and has posted 100-plus yards in three of four games this season.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Can the defense make plays in the red zone?

Heading into Saturday’s game against Hawaii, the Buffs were last in the league in red zone defense and the only Pac-12 team to not record a red zone stop. Teams are now 17 of 17 in trips to Colorado’s red zone -- and 12 times those drives have ended in touchdowns. The good news is Hawaii made three trips inside the CU 20, but came away with three field goals. Pac-12 teams won’t be as forgiving. The Buffs' D needs to find a way to make a stand.


One question that has been answered: How will the Bruins' defense cope with the losses of coordinator Lou Spanos and linebacker Anthony Barr to the NFL?

So far so good. While the sack numbers haven’t been there post-Barr the defense has bailed out the struggling offense, though the Memphis game was pretty forgettable.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Will the offensive line improve?

If it continues to struggle as it has through three games, the Bruins won’t win the South Division. Simple as that.


One question that has been answered: Is Cody Kessler the right fit for Steve Sarkisian’s offense?

You can’t argue with the results. Right now Kessler is completing 71 percent of his passes (71-of-100) for 846 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. He’s fourth in the Pac-12 with an adjusted QBR of 83.9 -- which is 14th nationally. There aren’t many coaches who wouldn’t take those numbers through three games.

One question that hasn’t been answered: Will the zone-read defense be a season-long issue?

Boston College crushed the USC defense with it to the tune of 452 rushing yards. While there are some identity issues the Trojans need to work out offensively, opposing coordinators have to be looking at what BC did and wondering how they can exploit this. They’ll see read-option from ASU, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Cal (with Luke Rubenzer) and UCLA -- plus a balanced attack from Oregon State this week and Air and Bear raids in consecutive weeks. There is a lot of offense coming up against a defense that suddenly looks unstable and leaky.


One question that has been answered: Who would be the player (or players) to step up in the pass rush in the absence of a graduated Trevor Reilly and an injured Jacoby Hale?

Reilly had accounted for 8.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss last season while Hale registered 6.5 sacks and 10 TFL, but the Utes have replaced them on a committee basis -- Nate Orchard 4.5 sacks, 5 TFL), Jared Norris (2 sacks, 4 TFL) and Hunter Dimick (2.5 sacks, 3 TFL).

One question that hasn’t been answered: Can the Utes sustain this nonconference momentum through Pac-12 play?

A 3-0 start, especially with such an impressive win over Michigan in Ann Arbor last weekend is nothing to short change. However, Utah has had good starts before -- 3-1 in 2013, 2-1 with a win over No. 25 BYU in 2012 -- but the wheels have always started to fall off in conference play. In 2012 the Utes finished the conference schedule with a 3-6 record and in 2013 they finished with a 2-7 Pac-12 record. The 2014 league season isn’t exactly kind but will this momentum carry over? Could they pick up three wins in conference play and find themselves bowl eligible?