Aaaaaaaaaaaand we’re back! 15 sleeps until sweet, sweet college football content returns for real. Until then, I’m here to tide you over with conference previews. Only two more to go, and this one’s the West Coast’s favorite conference – complete with weird TV schedules and dubious decision-making by corporate governing bodies. That’s right, it’s PAC-12 time!
Below I’ll take you through the likely contenders and pretenders for this coming year. Two rules here. First, if I say your team won’t be any good, you are free to call me a paid media shill and disagree stridently in the comments. Second, this is all my opinion – based on research, yes, but given the record Homo sapiens has at predicting things, it’s probably not 100% accurate.
But if you like piping hot semi-reliable college football takes, gimme a follow on Twitter! Now, westward ho!
Tons of factors favor a big comeback year for the Ducks. They’re positively poised to peak.
Their offensive line, one of the best in the entire country, should do an admirable job safeguarding savvy passer Justin Herbert. The WRs should grow into their role as the year goes on, but Oregon will probably rely on their solid running corps at first.
The Ducks also boast the most consistently excellent D in the conference across all positions, with an exceptional group of linebackers. They should give PAC-12 offenses fits if they live up to their preseason expectations.
Yes, Oregon gets Auburn in Week 1. No, I don’t expect them to lose.
RUNNER UP: Washington
The Huskies boast a zoomy receiving corps, near the top tier of the league. If transfer Jacob Eason fits in quickly, they’ll have a brutal passing attack. Their unreliable running game won’t take any pressure off, though. And their overall shaky defensive unit will allow mid-range opponents more chances than a championship contender really should.
When Washington meets Oregon in mid-October, the result will probably decide the conference, and the Huskies have the distinct advantage of hosting. I still think the Ducks have the edge, but home field could make a difference.
There’s still too many questions on defense to predict another conference championship for Washington. Maybe next year.
DARK HORSE: Arizona State
They return Eno Benjamin at RB, who’s a legit big play threat. The Sun Devils will need him to break a few with a weak receiving corps. A beefy and experienced offensive line should be able to help him out.
Arizona State also can count on their up-and-coming defense to keep them in close games. And if their D improves further, they’ll be a true force to be reckoned with.
Never count out Herm Edwards, either. The veteran helmer may be able to pull a rabbit out of his hat this year.
DISAPPOINTMENT: Washington State
On paper Wazzu looks like a solid offense with a lackluster but semi-experienced defense returning six starters.
But there’s no guarantee that transfer QB Gage Gubrud will settle easily into mustachioed Gardner Minshew’s shoes. And their schedule’s just brutal. Road tilts against Houston, Utah, Arizona State, Oregon, AND Washington. Utah and ASU occur back-to-back. And Houston’s a short week.
The sheer number of bodyblows that schedule forecasts is enough to put me off the Wildcats this year. There’s always the chance they catch fire, but I think it’s far likelier that they underachieve.
NOT A CHANCE: USC
Clay Helton’s coaching seat is so hot you could fry eggs on it. And this year probably won’t help matters.
The Trojans will probably have the best group of receivers in the conference, skill-wise. But I do not see JT Daniels consistently delivering the ball to them, especially with a blah OL to safeguard him.
On top of that, they get an extremely game Fresno State to open the season. And they have to travel to Washington, Notre Dame, and Arizona State.
I heard the goofballs on the Shutdown Fullcast joking that Urban Meyer might take the USC job after this year. I’m serious. He might.
There you go! Next week we sink our metaphorical teeth into some down home Southern cooking, as we finally get around to previewing the SEC. See you then! And don’t forget to follow @WatchingCFB on Twitter!