Next week the Media, Players and Coaches from around the Pac 12 Conference will gather in Hollywood for the annual Pac 12 Football Media Day. Each year the Conference sends various and assorted members of the media a ballot to vote on how they think the Pac 12 will play out over the season. I have been lucky enough to get a ballot annually from the League.
Outside of Washington in the Pac 12 North, this season was a little more difficult than recent years to predict. Below is how I voted and a short explanation for each…
Pac 12 North
- Washington-Chris Petersen in his 5th season at the helm has things humming in Seattle. Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin back for their Senior Seasons will anchor the offense, while JoJo McIntosh and Taylor Rapp will hold down things defensively. Only injuries can prevent Washington from winning the North Title.
- Oregon-Justin Herbert is the best quarterback in the Pac 12 Conference and if he can stay healthy the country will know his name by November. Mario Cristobal takes over for Willie Taggart and that is a bit of a question mark. However, the continuity with Jim Leavitt returning on defense will help. Biggest question for me are playmakers in the passing game for Herbert.
- Stanford-Many may think this is too low for a David Shaw team, perhaps it is. But I have questions about the Cardinal on defense and need to see KJ Costello do it for an entire season. Bryce Love and the offensive line should both be outstanding. If Stanford can go 5-1 or 4-2 in their first six game, it could be a better year than I think in Palo Alto
- Washington State-Mike Leach doesn’t have a proven QB or offensive line, plus he has to replace his Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch. Feels like a 6 or 7 win rebuilding season on the Palouse.
- California-Justin Wilcox had a solid, if not spectacular, first year in Berkeley last year going 5-7. Considering Sonny Dykes didn’t leave him much it wasn’t too bad. This year he’ll bring back 9 starters on offense, including Ross Bowers his QB. One big loss is WR Demetris Robertson, who transferred to Georgia. 8 starters return on defense. Their biggest issue is that they play in the North. Cal could be better but the record may not reflect it.
- Oregon State-Jonathan Smith inherits a program void of talent right now. Just one win a year ago, but 15 starters back. Tough start to the Smith Era for the Beavers opening at Ohio State on September 1st.
Pac 12 South
- Utah-Is this going to be the year Utah wins the Pac 12 South for the first time? On paper it appears their best chance in 8 opportunities. 16 starters return for Kyle Whittingham’s team, including Quarterback Tyler Huntley. For the 1st time in a long time there wasn’t an off season change at Offensive Coordinator, so the system stays in place. Add in Freshman All American Britain Covey returning, plus a defense loaded with playmakers, the best special teams unit in college football and a wide open Pac 12 South. The biggest hurdle for Utah will be the schedule. Utah plays the toughest conference schedule this season.
- USC-Who is the Quarterback? It appears right now S-C will go with a true freshman in JT Daniels. Daniels is an elite talent, but has never taken a college snap. If it is Daniels he won’t lack weapons to get the ball to: Stephen Carr at RB and Tyler Vaughns at WR are among the best in the Pac 12. Defense should be outstanding led by Cam Smith and Porter Gustin. But can a true freshman QB lead USC to a division title?
- Arizona-The Kevin Sumlin Era opens in Tucson and so does the Khalil Tate Heisman Trophy Campaign. Offense shouldn’t be a problem for the Wildcats. The Defense that gave up 34pts and 471 yards per game returns 9 starters. Can Tate become a consistent passer? Can the Defense even slow teams down?
- Arizona State-I know the popular and fun thing this off season was to mock the hire of Herm Edwards at ASU. I have no idea how the “experiment” will turn out. But with Manny Wilkens, N’Keal Harry and Eno Benjamin on offense, I think the Devils can score enough to keep things interesting.
- UCLA-Chip Kelly is a good football coach. Chip Kelly will have success in Westwood. I just don’t think it will happen this year. There just wasn’t much talent for the Bruins the last couple of years. Kelly is bringing in a whole new system. It will take time.
- Colorado-One year after winning the Pac 12 South, the Buffs went 5-7. I’m not sure if 2016 was an anomaly or if 2017 was just a down season. We’ll find out more this year. Steven Montez will have to be much better and CU must find a replacement for Phillip Lindsay, one of the best backs in school history.
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