The Pac-12 Conference is coming off a very disappointing 2017 regular-season and even worse postseason. Going into the 2017 campaign, just about everyone had USC and Washington ranked in the Top 10 and many believed that with Sam Darnold back the Trojans were a legit national title contender.
Neither team lived up to expectations and the conference failed to send a team to the playoffs for the second time in three years. Then came the awful showing in bowl games. The Pac-12 sent 9 teams to a bowl game and only one of them returned home with a win. USC lost 7-24 to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl and Washington fell 28-35 to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl.
Pac-12 College Football Preview & Predictions
Looking ahead to 2018, the team that figures to have the best shot at getting the Pac-12 back in the playoffs is Washington, though teams like Stanford, USC, and Oregon all have the potential to do something special.
The even bigger headline for the conference is all the new head coaches that will be making their debuts with their new programs in 2018. The biggest of those names is a familiar one in Chip Kelly, who is now in charge at UCLA. Kelly went 46-7 with a 34-3 mark in Pac-12 play in 4 years with Oregon (2009-2012).
Two other big name hires were Arizona landing Kevin Sumlin and Arizona State bringing in Herm Edwards. You also have Mario Cristobal taking over at Oregon and Jonathan Smith the new guy in charge at Oregon State.
Coaching changes is just one of the numerous factors that go into making my college football predictions. Below you will find my projections for all 12 teams, both in the conference and overall. I’ve also included a number of future odds for teams and players in the Pac-12.
One thing that isn’t listed that you might want to check out is the win totals for 2018. It’s also never too early to start getting ready for the start of the new season. Week 1 betting odds are out and ready to wagered on.
2018 Pac 12 Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||North Odds||Pac-12 Odds|
My pick to win the North is Washington. The Huskies finished 10-3 last year with all 3 losses coming by 8-points or less and 9 of the 10 wins came by more than 2 touchdowns. After going just 15-12 in the first two years under head coach Chris Petersen, Washington has compiled an impressive 22-5 mark the past two seasons.
With 17 returning starters, including a legit Heisman candidate in senior quarterback Jake Browning, this should be the most complete team that Petersen has fielded in his short tenure with the Huskies. Whether or not Washington lives up to the hype will come down to their ability to win on the road, as they have to go to Utah, UCLA, Oregon, Cal and Washington State inside conference play. I believe they are more than capable of running the table, but will call for them to slip up once away from home.
While I’m extremely high on the Huskies, it’s far from a sure thing that they win the North, as you could argue the two next best teams in the Pac-12 are Stanford and Oregon.
The Cardinal are never going to be an easy out with David Shaw at the helm and are certainly capable of not only winning the North, but making the playoffs. Stanford has 15 starters back and should be potent on offense. They have a legit Heisman candidate of their own in running back Bryce Love, a potential star at QB in sophomore K.J. Costello and one of the best offensive lines in the country. The biggest concern with Stanford is the schedule. They have three brutal road games against Oregon, Washington and Note Dame, plus have to play Arizona State (Thursday night) Cal and UCLA away from home.
The Ducks are another team you can’t sleep on, even though they will be going into their 3rd straight season with a new head coach. Oregon made big improvements last year under Willie Taggart and will bring back 14 starters. Note that Cristobal was the OC here last year, so the offense will have the same look and feel to it and he brought back defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt, who did a tremendous job in his first season. Oregon allowed just 29.0 ppg and 369 ypg in their first season under Leavitt and that was after allowing 41.4 ppg and 518 ypg the previous year.
My biggest sleeper team in the North outside of the Top 3 is Cal, who was a lot more competitive than a lot of people expected in their first season under head coach Justin Wilcox. Despite fielding one of the least experienced teams in the country and introducing new schemes on both sides of the ball, the Golden Bears just missed out on a bowl bid at 5-7. This year they have 18 starters back and will be one of the most experienced teams in the nation. With home games against Washington, Stanford and Oregon, they are definitely going to have a say in who wins the North.
While Cal might be the team in the division with the biggest upside in 2018, Washington State may be the team in the North most likely to decline. The Cougars have come a long way under Mike Leach, but only get back 10 starters and have to replace their all-time leading passer in Luke Falk.
There should be no surprise to see Oregon State picked to finish last in the division. The Beavers went just 1-11 last year and the only win was a 35-32 victory against FCS foe Portland State. They do get back 15 starters, but with a new head coach will be forced to learn new schemes and simply don’t have the talent to compete with the top teams in the conference.
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||South Odds||Pac-12 Odds|
After failing to live up the preseason hype in 2017, plus the departure of Darnold, I could see a lot of people being hesitant to pick USC to repeat in the South. Not me. Don’t get me wrong, the loss of Darnold is a big one, but the Trojans recruit at an exceptional level and will be one of the most talented teams in the Pac-12 in 2018.
If one of their three young talented quarterbacks emerges, this team could end up repeating as Pac-12 champs and potentially make their first trip to the playoffs. That’s because the Trojans should feature one of the best defenses in the country. We won’t have to wait long to find out what this team is made of, as they play at Stanford in Week 2 and at Texas in Week 3.
The other big thing for me and picking USC at the top, is I’m not sold on any of the other 5 teams in the South. With that said, one team to keep an eye on is Utah. The Utes could take big strides on offense if junior quarterback Tyler Huntley can stay healthy. Huntley can torch teams with his arm and is a more than capable runner. They also should feature one of the better defenses in the conference. The only problem is they draw the top 3 teams out of the North, play 5 of their 9 conference games on the road and 3 of their 4 home games are against the likes of Washington, USC and Oregon.
A popular surprise pick in the South will be Arizona, as people really fell in love with quarterback Khalil Tate, who came out of nowhere in 2017. Tate only saw the field because of an injury to starter Brandon Dawkins. He made the most of it and is one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks in the country (rushed for 1,411 yards and 12 TDs). However, teams did seem to figure out Tate and the Wildcats offense as the season progressed (lost 4 of their last 5).
My big sleeper in the South is Colorado, who took a big step back after their improbable run to the Pac-12 title game in 2016. I really like what Mike MacIntyre has done with this program and with a top-tier talent at quarterback in junior Steven Montez, the Buffaloes are a team that no one will want to face in 2018.
That leaves UCLA and Arizona State. While I’m pretty confident with the Sun Devils struggling in Edwards’ first season, I will admit I had a difficult time picking the Bruins this low. The biggest reason being the respect I have for Chip Kelly and his track record at the collegiate level. I just couldn’t get past UCLA losses on the offensive side of the ball. Not only did they lose Josh Rosen at quarterback, but they also lost their top two receivers and 3 starters on the offensive line. The Bruins also have a brutal schedule. They have to play at Oklahoma in non-conference play, draw the top 3 teams out of the North and their five home conference games are against Washington, Utah, Arizona, USC and Stanford.
PAC-12 Championship Game Prediction: Washington defeats
|Players (Pos, School)||Odds|
|Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)||+700|
|Khalil Tate (QB, Arizona)||+1400|
|Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)||+1800|
|Jake Browning (QB, Washington)||+2200|
Click here for a full list of Heisman odds for the 2018 season.
These odds are only to make the 4-team playoff. If you want to see what the payout would be for your team to win it all, check out our 2018 championship odds.