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12 Pac-12 Stats You Need to Know for 2016

Royce Freeman

Royce Freeman

The Pac-12 Conference marketed its athletics in the 2015-16 school year with the motto, "The Power of 12." In recognition of the league's mathematical slogan, the following are 12 statistics to know heading into the Pac-12's next college football campaign.

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Related: Pac-12 Football 2016 Predictions

The numbers of a season ago provide insight into how last year shaped up, and gives a forecast for what's to come in the autumn.

49.2: Arizona's PPG yield in losses

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Arizona struggled defensively in each of Rich Rodriguez's first two seasons as head coach, but showed marked improvement en route to the Pac-12 Championship Game in 2014. The Wildcats regressed in a big way in 2015 — losing the best defensive player in the nation can do that to a team, which Arizona experienced with Scooby Wright missing most of last season due to injury.

But even without Wright, last season's almost 50-point per game yield in six losses exposed major issues in the Wildcats system. That prompted Rodriguez to replace longtime assistant Jeff Casteel with Marcel Yates, previously of Boise State.

0: Total college passes thrown by Arizona State QBs

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Taylor Kelly started each of head coach Todd Graham's first three seasons at Arizona State, including an injury-plagued 2014 in which veteran reserve Mike Bercovici gained invaluable game experience. Bercovici took over last season as a fifth-year senior, after having arguably outplayed Kelly in the year prior.

The changing of the guard at quarterback this season looks considerably different than a year ago. The Sun Devils competing for the vacant starting spot — Manny Wilkins, Bryce Perkins and Brady White — have zero in-game pass attempts between them at the college level. 

38: Cal receiving TDs lost to departures

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Get used to hearing some new names in Cal head coach Sonny Dykes' "bear-raid" offense. Not only do the Golden Bears replace No. 1 NFL Draft pick Jared Goff — the only starting quarterback the program's known in Dykes' three-year tenure — but they also lose the top six pass-catchers.

Those players caught a whopping 38 of Cal's 44 passing touchdowns a season ago.

9: Colorado's average margin of defeat vs. Pac-12 South

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Colorado's seen incremental progress in head coach Mike MacIntyre's tenure, and the Buffs have moved ever-so-close to being truly competitive in the Pac-12 for the first time since joining the conference in 2011.

Colorado dropped five divisional games last season by a combined 45 points — nine points per game. Take away a lopsided loss at Arizona State early in the docket, and the Buffs were a gut-wrenching five-point per game losers against Arizona, UCLA, USC and Utah combined. Returning the second-most starters (15) of any team in the Pac-12 next season, Colorado may finally be ready to turn some of those narrow losses into wins.

1,882: Yards Royce Freeman needs to set Oregon's rushing record

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Oregon running back Royce Freeman might be the most underrated player in the country, given his outstanding production through two seasons. The power-back from southeastern California bulldozed his way to 1,365 yards as a freshman in 2014, and 1,836 as a sophomore last year.

Freeman broke LaMichael James' single-season rushing record of 1,805 last year. If Freeman can set the bar for his own program-best just five first downs higher in 2016, he'll surpass James as the Ducks' all-time leading rusher.

225: Rushing yards Oregon State allowed per game in 2015

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Oregon State finished worst among all Pac-12 defenses against the run in head coach Gary Andersen's first season, allowing 225 yards on the ground per game. Among Power Five conference programs, only Kansas and Texas Tech were worse.

The Beavers face a tough road to turn it around in 2016, replacing defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake. Sitake accepted the head coaching vacancy at BYU, leaving Oregon State to find answers under newcomer Kevin Clune.

3,903: Christian McCaffrey's yardage logged in 2015

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Heisman Trophy runner-up Christian McCaffrey racked up serious yardage last season. The do-everything Cardinal star rushed for 2,019 yards; caught 645; returned kickoffs for 1,070; ran back 130 in punt returns; and passed for 39 yards just for good measure. All together, that's nearly 2.3 miles. Add up the space he covered on cut-backs and jukes, and McCaffrey probably could have crossed the Bay from Stanford and back.

Along the way, McCaffrey become just the third player in college football history to run, catch, pass and return both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in a single season, joining Reggie Bush (2005) and C.J. Spiller (2009).

245: Passes Josh Rosen threw without an INT

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Some folks needed to pump the brakes on the Heisman Trophy talk thrown Josh Rosen's way in Week 1 of his true freshman campaign at UCLA. While he couldn't maintain the otherworldly level of his debut, however, Rosen was pretty terrific last season, including setting a program record of 245 pass attempts without an interception.

Rosen's final interception total came to 11 — the same as predecessor Brett Hundley in his debut campaign — while Rosen's 3,669 yards were just 71 behind Hundley's 3,740 in 2012, despite playing in one less game.

99: Combined wins in 2015 for USC's 12 2016 opponents

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USC ushers in the toughest schedule not only in the Pac-12 next season, but arguably all of college football, by playing defending national champion Alabama. It gets easier from there for the Trojans — but not by much.

USC's 2016 schedule features 11 opponents that played in bowl games in 2015 — the lone exception is Colorado, which took the Trojans to the wire in a late November matchup — and all 12 squads combined to win 99 games a season ago. In addition to defending national champion Alabama, USC sees reigning Pac-12 and Rose Bowl champion Stanford, and a Notre Dame squad that came one field goal shy of participating in the College Football Playoff.

34: Turnovers gained by the Utah defense in 2015

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Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah has consistently featured one of the better defenses in the conference, even in losing seasons. It should come as no surprise, then, that one of the best Ute defenses of the last five years performed in a breakthrough, 10-win campaign.

Utah held 11 of its 13 opponents last season below 30 points, and generated a Power Five-best 34 turnovers. Only American Athletic Conference champion Houston forced more (35).

11.4: Opponent scoring average in Washington's wins

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Lofty preseason buzz welcomes the Washington Huskies into the 2016 season, due in no small part to the outstanding defensive effort of the 2015 squad. Eight starters return from a defense that finished last season ranked 13th nationally in points allowed per game at 18.8, but that impressive figure only tells part of the story.

In seven wins, the Huskies trimmed a full touchdown and extra point off that yield at 11.4. Remove a postseason win over Southern Miss, in which the Golden Eagles scored 31 points, and Washington allowed a staggering 49 points to six opponents — a little more than eight points per win.

18: Receiving TDs Gabe Marks needs to set a Pac-12 record

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Former USC star Dwayne Jarrett's career mark of 41 receiving touchdowns has endured through a decade in which pass-happy offenses became prevalent around the conference. Gabe Marks would need a record-setting season to surpass Jarrett and became the Pac-12's new receiving touchdown king, but it's anything but impossible for the fifth-year Cougar senior.

Marks set a new Washington State single-season scoring mark last season, hauling in 15 touchdown catches. Eschewing the NFL Draft for a year to pair with Luke Falk one more time, Marks is capable of smashing his own record to break another.

— Written by Kyle Kensing, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sportswriter in Southern California. Kensing is publisher of Follow him on Twitter @kensing45