In honor of Pac-12 Football Media Days today and tomorrow, it’s time to break down how I believe the conference will shape up in 2017. Below I’ll project each team’s record (overall and in-conference) and give a bold prediction (at least I hope so) for each team.
1. USC Trojans (11-1, 8-1)
There might be an upset along the way but I’d still give the Trojans a 98% chance to win the South. They’re just too talented and the other five teams have too many questions. A definite National Championship contender especially if they play a semifinal game in the Rose Bowl.
Bold Prediction: QB Sam Darnold is among the Heisman Trophy finalists and gets selected #1 overall by the New York Jets in the 2018 NFL Draft.
2. UCLA Bruins (7-5, 5-4)
Remember when Josh Rosen was touted as the next great college QB in 2015? After an injury-plagued sophomore season, the talented QB no longer has the hype compared to cross-town rival, Sam Darnold. I expect the Bruins to win enough for a bowl game but otherwise Bruins fans shouldn’t get their 2017 hopes up too high.
Bold Prediction: UCLA will replace Coach Jim Mora this offseason.
3. Utah Utes (6-6, 4-5)
Coach Kyle Whittingham is easily one of the most under-appreciated head men in college football. His teams are always competitive and despite the Utes bringing back only 9 starters from last year’s 9-4 team, I expect Utah to once again be bowl eligible in 2017.
Bold Prediction: The Utes fail to win a game on the road this season.
T-4. Arizona Wildcats (5-7, 3-6)
Once again poor recruiting and serious liabilities on defense will come back to hurt the Wildcats. I’m not sure the program has seen lower morale since the John Mackovic days. On top of that, linebacker DeAndre Miller, projected to be a key contributor on defense, may miss games with a foot injury. Not good.
Bold Prediction: Arizona’s bowl hopes and potentially Rich Rodriguez’s job status will be determined by the result of the Houston game on 9/9.
T-4. Arizona State Sun Devils (5-7, 3-6)
This year’s ASU team is far from the least-talented squad in the conference. In fact I’d rank them above at least 3-4 other teams. But the schedule is a nightmare and does Coach Todd Graham no favors in trying to retain his job.
Bold Prediction: Sweep the Oregon schools and ASU makes a bowl game.
6. Colorado Buffaloes (5-7, 3-6)
Should be potent on offense once again with 9 returning starters but the defense could be a major problem. Only three starters return on that side of the ball and excellent Defensive Coordinator Jim Leavitt moved on to Oregon. Expect to see the Buffs in a ton of shootouts this season.
Bold Prediction: Will put a serious scare into either USC or Washington (both games at home) but fail to win both.
1. Washington Huskies (11-1, 8-1)
The Huskies lose several key members of last year’s Pac-12 Championship defense but with no USC on the regular season schedule, they should cruise to the North title with ease. QB Jake Browning should be looked at as an under-the-radar Heisman Trophy candidate.
Bold Prediction: Stanford exacts payback for last year’s 44-6 drubbing in Seattle and gives the Huskies their only regular season defeat on November 10th.
2. Stanford Cardinal (9-3, 6-3)
One of the most well-coached teams in the country and with 16 returning starters, a North Division title wouldn’t be a huge surprise. Even so, I’ll predict that the Cardinal will lose 2 of 3 at OSU, at WSU, and home vs. UW to end hopes of a CFB Playoff berth.
Bold Prediction: Coach David Shaw leaves Stanford at the end of the season for an NFL HC job.
3. Oregon Ducks (8-4, 5-4)
Willie Taggart will bring a new energy to the program and returning 16 starters helps. If they can find a way to beat ASU and UCLA on the road, 10-2 is a definite possibility.
Bold Prediction: True freshman and former Arizona commit Braxton Burmeister will replace Justin Herbert as Oregon’s QB by November.
4. Washington State Cougars (7-5, 4-5)
A favorable first schedule means the Cougs won’t leave Pullman until early-October. Beat USC on 9/29 and this team could have a chance at a special season. QB Luke Falk definitely has an NFL future.
Bold Prediction: Last season, WSU lost their last two regular season games. This year they’ll lose their last three (Stanford, at Utah, at Washington).
5. Oregon State Beavers (5-7, 3-6)
Should continue to improve under third year head coach Gary Andersen but not quite ready to take the leap to .500 range due to struggles on the road. A 5-1 home record with upsets over Stanford and Colorado is certainly possible.
Bold Prediction: For the third straight year, OSU won’t win a game away from Corvallis.
6. California Golden Bears (4-8, 2-7)
New coach Justin Wilcox has a heck of a rebuilding job on his hands. This team will be much improved next season but won’t come close to bowl eligibility this year,
Bold Prediction: Cal upsets beleaguered Ole Miss at home on September 16th.
Pac-12 Championship Game
USC over Washington
Rose Bowl (CFB Playoff) – USC
Fiesta Bowl – Washington
Alamo Bowl – Stanford
Holiday Bowl – Oregon
Sun Bowl – UCLA
Las Vegas Bowl – Washington State
Cactus Bowl – Utah