LOS ANGELES -- Football coaches and players from each school in the Pac-12 Conference will forecast the 2012 season today at Pac-12 media day at Universal Studios.
The focus will be on USC, a national title contender and favorite to win the conference as well as Oregon, which is seen as the biggest hurdle standing in front of the Trojans. Washington and former USC assistant coach Steve Sarkisian are a darkhorse in the race while Stanford is hoping not to slip too much after losing quarterback Andrew Luck to the NFL.
Arizona, Arizona State, Washington State and UCLA feature new coaches and what those men add to the conference is another major story line.
But Colorado coach Jon Embree will take the podium first after commissioner Larry Scott. Embree will be flanked by junior tackle David Bakhtiari who was named to the Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy preseason watch lists and senior safety Ray Polk, who was on the Lott IMPACT Award watch list.
The major topic of conversation with the Buffs is expected to be how Embree and a small group of veteran players can improve on a 3-10 season as the least experienced program in the nation this fall.
Expectations are low for the Buffs in their second season under Embree, in large part, because the team is so inexperienced and will have a new starting quarterback. Only one team in CU history has had fewer seniors than this year's eight member senior class. The 1995 team had just seven seniors.
Few expect Colorado to earn a trip to a bowl game for the first time since 2007 or produce a winning record for the first time since 2005 because it will rely on so many freshmen and sophomores with a total of just 32 juniors and seniors on the roster.
But it turns out having so little experience might not be much of an excuse for Colorado if things go bad again this fall.
In his preseason magazine, college football analyst Phil Steele publishes an experience chart rating each team in the Football Bowl Subdivision based on senior starters returning, seniors in the two-deep depth chart, lettermen returning, percentage of offensive yardage returning, percentage of tackles returning and career starts by offensive linemen. Colorado ranks last among the 124 teams with only six senior starters and just 22 percent of its offensive yardage production in 2011 returning.
That would lead most to believe the Buffs have little hope of improvement in the wins column. However, recent history shows that inexperience doesn't necessarily doom a team.
Brandon Pertner, an assistant editor at Phil Steele Publications, assembles the experience chart for the magazine and reports some of the least experienced teams in the nation from the past five seasons have gone on to have excellent seasons.
Pertner looked at the five least experienced teams in the nation heading into each of the past five seasons to see how those teams fared that year. His researched showed that 11 of the 25 teams finished with winning records and a 12th team finished .500.
TCU went 11-2 in 2011 and Oklahoma State went 11-2 in 2010 despite being among the least experienced teams in the nation in those seasons. In fact, according to Steele's formula, OSU was the least experienced team in 2010.
In 2011, Auburn, Louisville, Iowa, Memphis and TCU entered the season as the least experienced teams in the nation. Auburn was the least experienced and was coming off a national title in 2010. The Tigers went 8-5 after finishing 14-0 the previous season, and all five of their losses came against ranked teams, including Alabama and LSU, which played in the 2011 national championship game.
Perhaps Louisville, Iowa and Memphis are better comparisons for the Buffs. . Louisville and Iowa finished with winning seasons at 7-6 despite being among the least experienced in the nation and Memphis improved its record by one game over 2010.
In the spring, Embree said he would not use the inexperience factor as an excuse for his team. He tried to put a positive spin on it.
"If you have enough leadership and things fall the right way, it can be, obviously, a huge benefit to play some guys when they're young," Embree said.