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PAC 12 College Football Preview

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PAC-12 College Football Preview

The Pac 12 is constantly underrated when it comes to rating conferences and the universities getting its due respect. I understand the games are on too late for the old people on the east coast but come on you can DVR those games and judge for yourself. Another thing to note that’s underrated about this conference is that all the teams play nine conference games.

So when the other divisions get games against Nicholls State & Austin Peay the Pac 12 is playing a divisional opponent. The fact is they should be given much more credit for that. This year one of the big stories of the Pac 12 will be the quarterback play. The conference is full of stars and future NFL QBs.

SOUTH DIVISION

1. USC TROJANS

Many experts were of the opinion that USC was the best team in the country when the season ended last year. Narrowly missing the playoffs because their early losses to Alabama, Stanford & Utah. During those losses the Trojans found their star QB in Sam Darnold who very well could be the top pick in the draft next year. Darnold really impressed me with his decision making and poise. The bigger the spotlight the better he played it seemed. The Trojans will be favored in every game this season and many have them a lock for the playoffs.

The out of conference schedule has games vs Western Michigan, vs Texas & @ Notre Dame. I know people think 3-0 for sure there but I think Texas and Notre Dame are talented enough to really give the Trojans a game. In conference the road games are at California, Washington State, Arizona State & Colorado. On first glance you think great they miss Washington & Oregon but I still think Washington State & Colorado could give them a good game. At home in LA they get matchups vs Stanford, Oregon State, Utah, Arizona & UCLA. If they can get by Stanford I think they’ll go undefeated at home but I do think they trip up somewhere.

2. COLORADO BUFFALOES

Not sure if you remember last year but I called for Colorado to be one of my sleeper teams of the season and they even exceeded my own expectations and won the Pac 12 south. Now the preseason polls have the Buffs 4th in the South because they lost their QB and a ton of players on the defensive side of the ball including their D Coordinator Jim Leavitt (now at Oregon). I’m not ready to hit the panic button yet. Steven Montez played in six games last season as a freshman and played pretty well. Plus they have Philip Lindsay returning as well as they best offensive line in a decade.

Then mix that with one of the top receiving units in the country and the offense should be the strength of the team. The defense will need to find some leadership but there’s talent there. The out of conference schedule has matchups vs Colorado State (neutral site), vs Texas State & Northern Colorado. If the Buffs can get past a loaded Colorado State team they should be undefeated when league play comes around. The conference road games are at UCLA, Oregon State, Washington State, Arizona State & Utah. I’m thinking 3-2 here or 2-3. The UCLA & Arizona State games are toss up games for me and I think Utah & UCLA will be slight favorites but I’m going to 3-2. At home in Boulder the Buffs get matchups vs Washington, Arizona, California & USC. 2-2 is what I see here but maybe they can upset Washington or USC. All together that would make the Buffs 8-4 for the season.

3. UCLA BRUINS

The seat is incredibly hot right now for head coach Jim Mora Jr. after last years 4-8 season. Last year the Bruins had some bad luck and bad bounces barely losing to Texas A&M & Stanford and losing their star QB Josh Rosen for the season early on. This year perhaps they can rebound and make a play for the south title. Josh Rosen is back and in case you forgot, the guy has NFL 1st round talent. If they can improve the run game Rosen should really be able to show why many have him as a top 10 pick next year. The out of conference schedule has games vs Texas A&M, vs Hawaii & @ Memphis.

The A&M game is a toss up game where both coaches will be coaching for their life. The Memphis game scares me a bit, although I’ll say the Bruins will be favored. Let’s just say 3-0 in the out of conference or at worst 2-1. The road games in conference are at Stanford, Arizona, Washington, Utah & USC. That’s a brutal road schedule that will probably have them favored in only the Arizona game. I think they sneak past Utah though and go 2-3 on the road. At home in Pasadena the Bruins get matchups vs Colorado, Oregon, Arizona State, & California. I’m thinking 2-2 here but 3-1 or 4-0 is certainly possible. I’m going to say 7-5 for the Bruins this year.

4. UTAH UTES

Utah and head coach Kyle Whittingham are always a tough underrated football team year in and year out. Normally I’m always really high on the Utes but this year they bring in the spread offense which scares me a bit. The Utah i know is a smash mouth offense that runs clock and lets their defense take care of things. Well with the new spread offense that’s coming in that scares me a bit, which has me having the Utes at 4th in the south.

One bright spot is they did just bring in Oregon grad transfer Darren Carrington at wideout and the guy is a game breaker. The out of conference schedule has games vs North Dakota, @ BYU & vs San Jose State. I got the Utes going 2-1 in those games. On the road in conference the Utes get games at Arizona, USC, Oregon, & Washington. I’m thinking 1-3 in those road matchups which means they’ll have to take care of business at home where they get games vs Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, Washington State & Colorado. I’m thinking 3-2 here or 2-3 which would leave the Utes with a 6-6 season. Still bowling but perhaps a down year in Salt Lake City.

5. ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS

The seat is hot for head coach Todd Graham and rightfully so, the sun devils went 5-7 last year and missed out on a bowl game. The defense was absolutely awful, if they want any chance at a bowl game this year that will certainly need to be improved. The good news is the Sun Devils bring back junior quarterback Manny Wilkins and also bring in Blake Barnett from Alabama who was one of the top recruits in the country.

The out of conference schedule has games vs New Mexico State, vs San Diego State & @ Texas Tech. The Texas Tech game is a toss up for me and should resemble an arena football league score but let’s just say 2-1 here. Although I should note that the San Diego State game could be a scary one for Sun Devil fans. On the road in conference the Sun Devils get games at Stanford, Utah, UCLA & Oregon State. They could lose all of those but I’ll say 1-3 here. At home in Tempe they get matchups vs Oregon, Washington, USC, Colorado & Arizona. I’m thinking 2-3 at best here which would make them 5-7 for the season which should end the Todd Graham era.

6. ARIZONA WILDCATS

Yet another coach on the hot seat? Hate to say it but Rich Rodriguez certainly is but hey maybe he can muster up six wins and find the Wildcats in a bowl game. He’s got his mobile quarterback back in Brandon Dawkins so maybe Rich Rod has some magic up his sleeve. The out of conference schedule has matchups vs Northern Arizona, vs Houston & @ UTEP.

They could win all of those but I think Houston comes into Tucson and gets the W. So lets say 2-1 in out of conference games. On the road in conference the Cats play at Colorado, California, USC, Oregon & Arizona State. 1-4 is what I’m thinking here but maybe 2-3 could happen. At home in Tucson Rich Rod and company get games vs Utah, UCLA, Washington State, & Oregon State. They’ll need to find two wins here if they want to go bowling but I think they fall just short and go 5-7 for the season but maybe they can pull an upset or two.

NORTH DIVISION

1. WASHINGTON HUSKIES

Chris Petersen is one of the best coaches in the country, we should all know that by now. This year Peterson should have his best team yet with junior quarterback Jake Browning back at the helm. Mix Browning with RB Myles Gaskin and wideout Dante Pettis and boy are the Huskies loaded to make another run at the playoffs. Plus they somehow manage to avoid playing USC in the regular season.

The out of conference schedule has games @ Rutgers, vs Montana & vs Fresno State. They should blow out all three of them and be 3-0. On the road in conference their games are at Colorado, Oregon State, Arizona State & Stanford. I’m thinking 3-1 or 4-0 here. At home in Seattle the Huskies get games vs California, UCLA, Oregon, Utah & Washigton State. I’m thinking 5-0 here and a 11-1 regular season.

2. WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS

Head coach Mike Leach has already went public saying this is the best team he’s ever had at Pullman. I’m guessing the main reason Leach is so big on this years team is that he returns his star quarterback in senior Luke Falk. Maybe the big reason Leach is ready for this season is they don’t have Eastern Washington on the schedule, EW has won back to back season openers against the Cougars.

This year the out of conference schedule for the Cougars is games vs Montana State, vs Boise State & vs Nevada. The Boise game is a toss up but I’m going to listen to Leach and say the Cougars are 3-0 out of conference. The road games in conference are at Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah & Washington. That’s not bad with exception to the Washington game. I’m going to say 3-2 on the road. At home in Pullman the Cougars get games vs Oregon State, USC, Colorado, & Stanford. I’m thinking 3-1 here even though the Colorado and Stanford games won’t be easy. I’m thinking 9-3 for the Cougars.

3. STANFORD CARDINALS

I’m still somewhat torn between Stanford or Oregon at the 3 spot in the North but as of this moment I’ll stick with Stanford. David Shaw is a solid coach and the program should continue to improve as quarterback Keller Chryst continues to develop. The out of conference schedule for the Cardinals has games vs Rice (in Australia), @ San Diego State, & vs Notre Dame.

I’m thinking 3-0 here but the Notre Dame and even the San Diego State games could be tough ones. On the road in conference Stanford gets games at USC, Utah, Oregon State, & Washington State. I’m thinking 1-3 on the road here but maybe 2-2 if they can get past Utah. At home in Palo Alto the Cards get games vs UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon, Washington & California. I’m thinking 4-1 here although the UCLA & Oregon games are almost toss up games. I’m thinking 8-4 for the season.

4. OREGON DUCKS

Oregon really fell apart last season which led to the firing of Mark Helfrich then they made a big splash by hiring head coach Willie Taggart away from South Florida. Taggart made a great hire himself by getting Colorado defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt to come to Eugene. All were great moves which should have the Ducks rebound nicely. Another plus is that although Oregon struggled last year, they found a future star QB in Justin Herbert.

They did lose their best wideout Darren Carrington to a DUI which led to his grad transfer move to Utah. The out of conference games are vs Southern Utah, vs Nebraska & @ Wyoming. I’m thinking 3-0 here but Nebraska is good enough to beat you and the Wyoming game could be a trap game. On the road in conference the Ducks play at Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA, & Washington. That’s tough. I’m thinking 1-3 here or 2-2 but maybe Taggart gets by Stanford. At home in Eugene the Ducks get games vs California, Washington State, Utah, Arizona & Oregon State. I’m thinking 4-1 or 5-0 here. The Washington State game being the one I think they may drop. All together that would have the Ducks at 8-4 or 9-3.

5. OREGON STATE BEAVERS

Gary Anderson made quite the splash when he left Wisconsin for Oregon State. I remember all the so called experts were pretty shocked at that but many considered it a great win for the OSU program. Now comes the important year 3 under Anderson. Last year OSU struggled but as the season went on they began play better and better each week, winning their final two games. Now the real question is how much better can they do in a division that’s loaded with great teams? The out of conference games are @ Colorado State, vs Portland State, & vs Minnesota.

Colorado State should be favored in that Aug 26th matchup so I’ll say 2-1 here but don’t sleep on Minnesota and their new head coach PJ Fleck. On the road in conference the Beavers play at Washington State, USC, California, Arizona & Oregon. The Beavers could go 0-5 here but the California & Arizona games are complete toss ups. So I’ll say 1-4 on the road. Which would mean they need to win three games at home to go bowling. At home in Corvallis the Beavers get games vs Washington, Colorado, Stanford, & Arizona State. Ouch. At best I’m thinking 2-2 but there’s a decent chance they go 0-4 or 1-3. I’m thinking 1-3 here. Which would be another 4-8 season for the Beavers.

6. CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS

Cal made a surprisingly late season move and fired head coach Sonny Dykes even though his Bears barely missed out on a bowl and hired head coach Justin Wilcox. While I love the hire and disagree with the firing of Dykes this is going to take some time to work itself out, mainly because of the contrast in styles between the two coaches. Dykes is famous from his days as Texas Tech’s air raid offensive coordinator under then head coach Mike Leach.

They’d throw the ball 100 times a game. Now they bring in Wilcox who was previously the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin where they play smash mouth football and now hopefully you see my point. Wilcox will likely be a great hire but this might take some time to fix. The out of conference schedule has games @ North Carolina, vs Weber State & vs Ole Miss. I’m thinking 1-2 here despite the Freeze firing at Ole Miss. On the road in conference the Bears get games at Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Stanford & UCLA. Ouch! I’m thinking 0-5 here. At home in Berkeley the Bears get games vs USC, Washington State, Arizona, & Oregon State. The Arizona and Oregon State games are toss ups so I’ll say they go 1-3 here and end the season at 2-10.

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