The Pac-12 has quickly transformed into one of the elite conferences in the country. While it fails in comparison to the SEC, you can make a pretty strong argument that it’s at least on par with the Big Ten and ahead of both the Big 12 and ACC. In 2014, the Pac-12 had 6 teams finish with at least 9 wins, which was the best mark of any conference in the country.
The Pac-12 has also backed it up in their bowl games. They have went 6-3 in postseason play each of the last two years, giving them the highest winning percentage of any conference (SEC is 2nd at 14-8) during that stretch.
While you could argue that the South is a better division top to bottom, the North has provided each of the last 4 conference champions, with Oregon and Stanford accounting for 2 each. Oregon was the top dog in 2014 and nearly gave the conference it’s first national championship since USC won it all back in 2004 (vacated).
Here’s a quick look at how I see both division shaping up in 2014, plus my prediction on who will claim the PAC-12 title.
Pac-12 North Predictions
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||North Odds||Pac-12 Odds|
I was a bit surprised to see Oregon listed as the overwhelming favorite to win the North in 2015, as the Ducks lose Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, along with several other key pieces to last year’s impressive run to the national championship game. Not that Oregon doesn’t have the talent to defend their title, but Stanford looks to be on the rise after a rare down year and gets the all-important game against the Ducks at home. Either way, this figures to once again be a two-team race for the top spot.
I believe there’s such a big drop off from the Ducks and Cardinal, that I have Cal finishing 3rd in the division with a conference record of just 3-6. I will say that I wouldn’t be surprised if Cal exceeded my expectations, as they do have 17 returning starters and a potential Heisman candidate in junior quarterback Jared Goff, but best case for them would be 5-4.
Washington State is another team that could potentially finish higher than what I have them, but there’s just too big of a gap between them and the top teams for a significant jump. As for Washington and Oregon State, both of those teams look to be in rebuilding mode, with the Beavers undergoing some major changes under new head coach Gary Anderson.
Pac-12 South Predictions
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||South Odds||Pac-12 Odds|
The South is absolutely loaded once again. Last year Colorado was the only team in the division that didn’t win 9 games, while Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA all reached 10-wins. The Wildcats surprised a lot of people by winning the South last year with a 7-2 conference record, as most had pegged the Bruins or Trojans to finish at the top.
This year it looks like a 3-way race for the top spot between USC, UCLA and Arizona State, though you can’t count out Utah or Arizona. I give the slight edge to the Trojans, who I believe are poised to return to elite status under head coach Steve Sarkisian, but the margin is slim over both UCLA and Arizona State. The big deciding factor for me was experience at quarterback. USC returns a legit Heisman candidate in Cody Kessler, while the Bruins have to replace Brett Hundley and Arizona State has to replace Taylor Kelly.
It’s also worth mentioning that while I have Colorado pegged at just 2-7 in conference play and last in the South, this is a team that is on the rise under head coach Mike MacIntyre. While the Buffaloes went 0-9 in the Pac-12 last year, they were extremely competitive in 5 their losses and were only -51 ypg in conference play. Colorado has 16 returning starters and it wouldn’t come as a surprise at all if they pulled off a couple big upsets this year.