The Most Underrated Team in the Pac-12 is…

Last week, we discussed the most overrated teams in college football. This week, we discuss the most underrated teams. TSS Associate Editors Bart Doan and Terry Johnson join staff writer Kevin Causey and special rotating guests in our weekly roundtable discussing all things college football.

So far this week we have examined the underrated teams in the ACC, the Big Ten and the SEC. Today we explore the Pac-12.  Joining us in this conversation is TSS writer and the man behind The Next Wave Football, Ryan Palencer….

Question: The coaches poll has been released, other outlets are releasing their Top 25 polls (SI, Athlon) and we are in the middle of releasing our poll. Which Pac-12 team is the most underrated heading into the 2015 season?

Ryan Palencer:
On Twitter @RyanPalencer

I’ll go with Arizona.

Despite being in the Pac-12 South division with USC, UCLA, and Arizona State, it is hard to doubt the Wildcats after the success of last season and the returning players. Seeing it’s first 10-win season since 1998, the squad returns quarterback Anu Soloman, Nick Wilson, and Scooby Wright — all players who were the main backbone of last year’s team. As a freshman last season, Solomon showed that he has the ability to play in the Pac-12 and star in Rich Rodriquez’s offense. He also just appears to have the look of a winner. Fellow sophomore Nick Wilson also had a breakout season with nearly 1,400 yards in 2014. Leading receiver Cayleb Jones also returns. The Wildcats do have some replacements up front on offense, but so far so good.

Wright showed video game numbers last season with 163 tackles, 29 for loss, and 14 sacks. If Wright is even able to come anywhere near those totals in 2015, the Arizona defense will have similar success as last season. Along with Wright, the defense has both experience and talent. As a multi-talented bunch, Arizona is going to be tough to beat in a loaded Pac-12. Seeing them finishing outside of the top two or three in the south division seems like a stretch, but is where they are predicted in the preseason.

Bart Doan:
On Twitter @TheCoachBart

While most of the press goes to Oregon and Southern Cal, it wouldn’t be a shock if the conference’s winner came from the Grand Canyon State. Either Arizona or rival State could get the job done. For my money, give me Arizona and an extremely elite offense that could finish as the best in a crowded conference seemingly full of them.

The main logic behind that is that they return just about everyone from a skill position standpoint and Anu Solomon (who came from so far out of nowhere, I swear, it’s the scene from every other horror movie with idiot 20-somethings taking a short cut to some beach destination before blowing a tire) should improve even more than from his breakout freshman season.

The Pac-12 is crowded with good teams, but don’t be shocked if Arizona emerges on top of them all, fully stocked on both sides of the ball and plenty motivated after sour end to last year.

Kevin Causey:
On Twitter @CFBZ

So far there has been a lot of talk of teams from Arizona in this roundtable. The reason for that is simple…these teams are better than you think. UCLA and USC will always get the press but the teams from Arizona could surpass them this season.

I’ll take Arizona State over Arizona because I think they will have a better defense and a better coach. I’m no fan of Todd Graham, especially with the way he has treated his former teams, but there’s not denying he’s a good coach. Now that he’s finally settled down in one spot, he has a chance to finally start to cement a legacy.

Keep an eye on the Sun Devils, they could be the team to beat in the Pac-12.

Terry Johnson:
On Twitter @SectionTPJ 

I’ll qualify my comments by saying that I agree with everything that’s been said so far. Arizona and Arizona State don’t get the type of respect that they deserve nationally.

While they’re both good choices, I believe that Utah is the most underrated team in Pac-12. Just one season after defeating USC, UCLA, and Stanford — which all received votes to win the conference — the Utes were picked to finish fifth in the South Division.

Thanks to another top notch pass rush, Utah will finish higher than that. Although many expect the Ute rush to take a step back with Nate Orchard moving on to the next level, key contributors Hunter Dimick (10 sacks), Jason Fanaika (4 sacks), and Lowell Lotulelei (4 sacks) are back to help anchor another solid unit. They’ll be even better this year under the tutelage of defensive coordinator / line coach John Pease, who’s sent several players to the NFL, including every senior starter that played for him at Washington.

The Ute offense will show significant improvement this fall as well. Despite losing Dave Christensen to Texas A&M, the offense will remain the same with longtime Whittingham assistant Aaron Roderick and Jim Harding (who ran Christensen’s scheme at Wyoming) calling the plays. This marks the first time since 2009 that Utah will run the same offensive system that it ran the year before. Without having to learn a new scheme this fall, the Ute offense won’t experience any early season growing pains that have plagued them in the past.

Adding these factors together, Utah appears headed for a 10-win season, which is considerably better than second-to-last in the Pac-12 South.