Phil Steele always has some cool figures for his always read-worthy columns, and he did a good job compiling up the assorted injuries that everyone in the initial starting lineups for each college football team. The Pac-12 figures are very intriguing, so let's go up and down the list.
There does appear to be some good news for the bad teams from last season: They appear to have some solid excuses in hand. Both Oregon State and Colorado were the first Pac-12 teams to pop the top of the list, with the Buffs hitting a near 14% on the dot. That gives you hope to believe that if their injury luck turns around, there's a chance they could be much more effective on the field this upcoming season.
The final Pac-12 numbers:
4th: Oregon State, 54 starts lost, 20.45% of starts missed.
Snakebitten. The Beavers were a vulnerable, injured team for much of 2011. The BYU game atypified their season.
On the Cougars’ first play from scrimmage, middle linebacker Feti Unga hurt his knee. It went downhill from there, as three linebackers and two defensive linemen left with injuries.
"When Cam (Collins) and Feti were both out, that’s not a good thing,’’ coach Mike Riley said of his two most dependable linebackers.
Tony Wilson replaced Unga and went out with a hip injury. Neither returned. With a big hole in the middle, Rueben Robinson then shifted to his old position (he switched to outside linebacker from the middle during fall camp). When Collins suffered a strained groin, the Beavers turned briefly to former BYU linebacker Shiloah Te’o. Then they tried true freshman D.J. Welch, who got more playing time than he could have possibly imagined.
Meanwhile, defensive end Taylor Henry injured his shoulder, and defensive tackle Castro Masaniai got the worst of it, a broken fibula. And safety Lance Mitchell was not available for every-down duty. He played only in the nickel package, as de facto outside linebacker, despite his lingering groin injury.
Yikes. Oregon State's defense held pretty well the rest of the season, but the Beavers did go 2-4 to end the season.
12th: Colorado, 40 starts lost, 13.99% of starts missed.
A seven percent drop to the next level, but Colorado definitely had their fair share of hurting. There were no huge season-enders outside of team suspensions, but their entire secondary and offensive line seemed to rotate who got hurt on a week-by-week basis.
15th: UCLA, 37 starts lost, 12.01% of starts missed.
The eternally wounded, it's no surprise to see UCLA this high up, although it was probably higher in years previous considering the Bruins added those terrible suspensions in the desert to boot.
24th: Arizona State, 34 starts lost, 11.89% of starts missed
ASU's defense was wrecked by injuries before the season even started, and it only got worse through the course of 2011. Soon the Devils were being shredded by almost every offense they faced, giving up 37+ points on four occasions over their final seven contests.
46th: Washington State, 25 starts lost, 9.47% of starts missed.
The Cougars struggled with keeping their quarterback on the field, and Washington State's offense never really stayed at an even keel when Jeff Tuel was off the field. There were flashes, but nothing ever really lasted.
51st: Oregon, 24 starts lost, 7.79% of starts missed.
Like many of the teams on this list, the Ducks had to fill in the gaps defensively with a lot of walking wounded on that side of the football. Sadly for the rest of the Pac-12, the offense was a bit more resilient. LaMichael James dislocating his elbow and popping it back into his socket resilient.
54th: Arizona, 23 starts lost, 8.71% of starts missed.
Several Wildcats defensive starters fell by the wayside during the course of the season, and Arizona's defensive profile fell apart from there. Not to mention the ugly fight with UCLA to add more
72nd: Washington, 19 total starts lost, 6.64% of starts messed.
Maybe Nick Holt doesn't deserve all the blame. 16 of 19 starts missed on defense! (And no he totally deserves blame. ALL OF THE BLAME isn't enough for Nick Holt.)
78th: Stanford, 17 total starts lost, 5.94% of starts missed.
Most of these starts were defensive, with the bulk of those starts coming from the loss of Shayne Skov early in the season. The Cardinal defense didn't drop off much against the overmatched, but USC, Oregon and Oklahoma State did appear to have a much easier time marching up and down the field without the presence of a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
82nd: Utah, 16 total starts lost, 5.59% of starts completely missed
Utah generally didn't have too many extended injuries, but they did have a big one early when Jordan Wynn went down with a shoulder injury. The Utes still managed to win football games with Jon Hays, as they relied heavily on their defense.
101st: USC, 11 total starts, 4.17% of starts completely missed
Other than Anthony Brown getting injured against Cal, most of USC's attrition issues came via transfers or off-the-field issues (like Dillon Baxter or Markeith Ambles), with none of them slated to start.
123rd: Cal, 3 total starts, 1.05% of starts completely missed
I'm not sure if the Bears should have performed better than 7-6 given that clean bill of health (they weren't expected to do that much anyway), but considering Cal lost three NFL-caliber starters in Cameron Jordan, Shane Vereen, and Chris Conte, the Bears probably had trouble regrouping from such critical talent losses. Regardless, the Bears sent another handful of players to the draft, and now they'll have they to find ways to replenish the coffers and keep their guys on the field; such an extraordinary healthy group might be difficult to duplicate two years running..