Opponent Watch: Pre-Bowl Season

This will be the second to last 2011 opponent watch, though it will also include news about the teams we'll be facing in 2012, just to get you ready!

Also! This one includes the 2012 opponents that we haven't been following: Fresno State and Sacramento State. Read up on them at the end!

If you're only interested in our opponents the week we're slated to play them, then this piece isn't for you. This is a look at all 12 13 16 of our opponents in 2011 & 2012 and how they did from week-to-week. Eventually, this will be a measure of our Schedule strength, but since there's a pretty good chance we're not playing for a BCS bowl this season, it's just a friendly update about those teams that we'll be facing at some point. Also, with us playing Cal in '10 and this season, OSU is the only Pac-12 team we don't know anything about, so I figured we should follow them a bit so we know what to expect when we face them finally in 2013. And because they're important too.

*Updated to include ASU's (really delayed) hire for Head Coach

Hawaii Warriors (6-7, 3-4 WAC)

The Warriors finished the season with a loss to BYU, leaving them ineligible for a bowl invite. More importantly, though, Head Coach Greg McMackin retired after four seasons at the helm in the Islands. We won't face them again for a few years, so the Warriors may very well have a different look when we see them again, though somehow I doubt they'll abandon the run-n-shoot offense they've been running.

Follow the jump to see which team hired a ghost as its next Head Coach!

California Golden Bears (7-5, 4-5 Pac 12)

Hello, Bridgepoint Education Bowl! The Golden Bears take on the Texas Longhorns on Dec 28th. We don't play Cal next year in what could be a big year for Jeff Tedford. With the pieces they have in place and the strong recruiting year they're having, they could make a run for the Pac-12 North in 2012, and a bowl victory will go a long way towards that. The more practice time for Zach Maynard, the better (for them). They could also go the other direction and not see any improvement, which may be bad news for Jeff Tedford.

Colorado St. Rams (3-9, 1-6 MWC)

...Holy Cow! Or should I say Ram! Colorado State is facing a VERY different Mountain West Conference in 2012, but they will also look pretty different. With a brand new athletic director who is a former QB and bigtime booster, a high-profile and (for the MWC) well paid head coach in Jim McElwain from Alabama, they Rams are looking to seriously turn things around. They may not be dangerous next year, but they will be soon.

Ohio St. Buckeyes (6-6, 3-5 B1G)

Well how did I miss this? I knew that OSU had hired Urban Meyer as their new head coach, but I didn't realize that they were facing Meyer's former team in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl (...really? These names are ridiculous). More than a little ill will will be featured in this matchup coming from the UF fans. But OSU is poised to be much better next season, with Braxton "The Future" Miller seemingly the perfect candidate to run Meyer's offense, like Tebow was not too long ago.

Washington St. Cougars (4-8, 2-7 Pac 12)

Well, they ended up doing away with Paul Wulff, and brought in one of the most entertaining college coaches out there. Well hello again, Mike Leach! This should definitely help the Cougars be more competitive, though us Buffaloes shouldn't worry too much. He didn't have a ton of success against us when he was at TTU, and Greg Brown saw his offense plenty. But still, they do have young talent that Leach can use to put up a ton of points. Excellent hire for WSU.

Stanford Cardinal (11-1, 8-1 Pac 12)

This is a bowl game that I'm really looking forward to! The Cardinal faces the Cowboys in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Jan 2, in what should be one of the best games of bowl season. It will be Andrew Luck's final hurrah, as well as a number of other talented players for Stanford (and OSU). The Cardinal will have to replace a lot this offseason, but I have a feeling they have the depth to keep from falling too far. They may not be as well off as Oregon in the North going into 2012, but they should still be able to finish in the top half of the division. They definitely will be a much easier matchup going forward.

Washington Huskies (7-5, 5-4 Pac 12)

In one of the many seemingly lopsided matchups of bowl season, the Huskies face off against Heisman winner RG3 and the #12 ranked Baylor Bears. I'm hoping they win, but I have a tough time seeing that happen. But Washington has a tough task ahead, most likely replacing Chris Polk and needing to put together a more consistent year in 2012 to keep Coach Steve Sarkisian's job safe. They do have a lot of offensive talent, and we keep hearing about how good Nick Holt is as a defensive coordinator. I'm looking forward to playing them at home next year, that's all I'm trying to say here.

Oregon Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac 12)

The Pac-12 champion Ducks face B1G champion Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl (presented by Vizio) in what should also be a fun game. The Ducks are most likely losing LaMichael James in 2012, but I don't think it matters at all for them. They've got Darron Thomas coming back, and plenty of other guys who can replace the production that LMJ gave them. In fact, they look like they could be even better next year...scary, right?

Arizona St. Sun Devils (6-6, 4-5 Pac 12)

They take on Boise State (that's #7 ranked and 11-1, BSU, by the way) in the MAACO Bowl after losing their final four games and firing their head coach. They still don't have a new one lined up, after offering and then un-offering June Jones the job, even though they seem to have a good amount of talent on the roster coming back. I don't see them having a chance in the bowl game, and depending on the hire, I'm not sure I seem them being any better in 2012. Though it remains to be seen who might want the job... one to watch.

***Word just got out that ASU is hiring Todd Graham as their new Head Coach. He just spent one season as the HC of Pitt after a few years as the Head of Tulsa and one season at the helm of Rice. He's bounced around a lot, so it'll be interesting to see what kind of a Staff he can put together this late. Also it will be interesting how a hire like this affects recruiting, especially because he has less than a week before a dead period starts, and hasn't even officially been handed the job yet

USC Trojans (10-2, 7-2 Pac 12)

Finished very strong, and possibly as the best team in the conference. This is the last season that they're banned from the post-season, but their scholarship restrictions begin. It won't matter so much for 2012, especially if Matt Barkley and/or Matt Kalil return for their senior seasons (both pretty doubtful, but still possible). They have a ton of talent, and it looks like Lane Kiffin might actually be a good coach. They are easily the favorites to with the south.

Arizona Wildcats (4-8, 2-7)

‘Zona hired another head coach that some of our Staffers will be familiar with. Brian Cabral and Greg Brown were both coaching for the Buffs when we played against the Rich Rodriguez led Mountaineers of West Virginia. So we have a little familiarity with his system, and a little previous success as well. The Wildcats need a lot of work, though, and 2012 won't be a good year for them. This is a matchup that I'm happy we have on the road next season, because it looks like one we should definitely win.

UCLA Bruins (6-7, 5-4 Pac 12)

They face Illinois in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, (game desperately in need of some punctuation) in a matchup of two average, head coach-less teams. They brought in Jim Mora Jr. in what can only be described as an "interesting hire." A guy with almost no college coaching experience but a pretty good Football mind, they hope that he'll bring his passion and energy to recruiting and developing their young players. He certainly wasn't the worst head coach the NFL has ever seen, but he was far from the best. But then again, Pete Carroll was in a similar position before heading to USC.

Utah Utes (7-5, 4-5 Pac 12)

The Utes face Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on New Years Eve. The Utes wisely gave Coach Kyle Wittingham a raise after he (despite a disappointing loss to us) fared better than many thought he would in their first year in the Pac-12. They return a pretty good amount of talent on both sides of the ball, and the move to the Pac-12 has given them a big boost in recruiting. The so-called, "Rumble in the Rockies" looks like it will be a good game going forward. The Utes will be a tough matchup in 2012.

Oregon St. Beavers (3-9, 3-6 Pac 12)

They had a tough year, but they still won one more conference game than we did... oy. Mike Reilly stays because he turned the program around, but can he withstand another disappointing year in 2012? Probably not, so it's a good thing that they look to be improved heading forward. They found a young quarterback of the future and find themselves in a conference with a lot of coaching turnover; the perfect ingredients for improvements next season.

Sacramento St. Hornets (4-7, 3-5 Big Sky)

The Hornets are one of the teams we face next year that isn't replacing a head coach, but are coming off of an incredibly disappointing season. Injuries played a large part it in, but it also means that there are a lot of younger guys who got experience and look poised to take over in 2012, including (to be) sophomore QB Garrett Safron, who is a dual threat quarterback. The Hornets began 2011 with an upset over Oregon State and saw themselves ranked #12 in the FCS, but struggled the rest of the way. Really, this game shouldn't be close, but Sacramento State should be better next season.

Fresno St. Bulldogs (4-9, 3-4 WAC)

The Bulldogs finished the season on a disappointing note, blowing a 21 point lead to San Diego State, and followed that up by firing their head coach of 15 years, Pat Hill. If you remember, he led them, along with David Carr, to the doorsteps of the BCS in 2001 with victories over a bunch of ranked teams, including our Colorado Buffaloes. But they lost to Boise State (a foe he could never vanquish, going 1-10 against them) to fall short of being a BCS Buster. He took them to 11 bowl games and a number of victories over AQ conference teams, but never could quite compete with the top teams in his own conference. The Bulldogs now move to the Mountain West with recently announced Tim DeRuyter as head coach. The current Interim HC of Texas A&M was their defensive coordinator for the last two seasons after being plucked from Air Force. He has a Carr of his own, with David's younger brother Derek as his (to be) junior quarterback. I have no idea how they'll adjust with a new head coach and what changes will be made (except that they'll be a 3-4 Defense under DeRuyter), but they do have talent. They've just underperformed recently. While we definitely don't have a difficult Out of conference Schedule, it will be filled with unknowns, which can be difficult to deal with.

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