The Pac-12 didn’t live up to expectations in 2015. A year after sending a team to the National Championship Game, they were left out of the playoff picture.
Part of the problem was the top teams inside the conference kept beating up on each other. The best team in the Pac-12 was Stanford, who went 8-1 inside conference play. Had it not been for a heartbreaking 36-38 loss to Oregon at home, the Cardinal may have got the invite to the final 4.
There is evidence to suggest that the Pac-12 deserved to have a team in the playoffs. The conference as a whole went 35-13 in non-conference play. Second only to the SEC, who finished up at 54-12. What hurt them was a 6-9 record against Power 5 teams, though they did go 6-4 in bowl games.
It’s going to be interesting to see if a team can emerge out of the pack in 2016. There’s certainly plenty of teams capable of making the playoffs. The only concern is they will once again knock each other off and not have the record to be considered.
I’ve went through all 12 teams for the upcoming campaign and here’s how I think the Pac-12 will play out this year.
Pac-12 North Predictions
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||North Odds||Pac-12 Odds|
As you can see, where not off to a great start for the Pac-12 when it comes to the playoff picture. I have a log-jam at the top of the North with Stanford, Oregon and Washington all sitting at 7-2 in league play.
The big surprise for most will be Oregon at the top of the list. Most are writing off the Ducks, but I’m not one of them. Each of Oregon’s 4 losses can be pinpointed around an injured Vernon Adams.
Had he stayed healthy, this team potentially could have run the table. Keep in mind that was with a defense that gave up a staggering 37.5 ppg and having just lost Marcus Mariota.
While Adams departs, the Ducks have added in another talented FCS signal caller. Dakota Prukop is ready to take over and will have plenty of talent to work with on offense. The defense should also be improved. Most importantly, they get both Washington and Stanford at home. Oregon is 59-9 at home over the last 10 years.
It certainly wouldn’t come as a surprise if Stanford defended their title. The Cardinal may have the best player in the country on their side in Christian McCaffrey. My big concern is how they replace quarterback Kevin Hogan, who was extremely undervalued.
If you don’t follow the Pac-12 closely, you might not understand how dangerous Washington could be this year. The Huskies have 15 starters back and will be in the second year under head coach Chris Petersen. They have a future star in sophomore quarterback Jake Browning. As well as what looks to be the best defense in the conference. Washington finished 7-6 a year ago, but all 6 came by a touchdown or less.
You also can’t count out Mike Leach and Washington State. The Cougars were the surprise team of the Pac-12 in 2015. After going just 3-9 in 2014, Washington State finished 9-4 with a 6-3 record in league play. With Luke Falk back at quarterback the offense will be explosive. They also get 6 starters back on a defense that only gave up 27.7 ppg.
The “Wild Card” in the North is California. The Golden Bears only have 9 starters back and lost the No. 1 pick in the draft in Jared Goff. However, they did add in Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb. Will it be enough? I don’t think so, but it gives them a shot.
That leaves Oregon State to hold down the basement of the North for a second straight year. The Beavers went 0-9 in the Pac-12 and were outgained by over 200 ypg. They do get back 13 starters, but have too much ground to make up.
Pac-12 South Predictions
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||West Odds||SEC Odds|
The South really beat up on each other last year and it resulted in USC and Utah tying at the top at 6-3. The big disappointment was UCLA, who was a popular pick to win the conference in 2015. The Bruins went just 5-4, though they did get hit hard with injuries.
While UCLA goes from getting 16 starters back to just 13, they are my pick to win the South. I’m expecting big improvements in year two under quarterback Josh Rosen. I also think the defense will be one of the best with 9 starters back.
The biggest key is the schedule. The Bruins get USC and Stanford at home. They also have 4 winnable games on the road and avoid Oregon and Washington.
I have USC picked to finish 2nd, even though I have them right there with UCLA in terms of a talent. The Trojans have 10 starters back on offense alone, but do lose their starting QB in Kody Kessler. My concern with USC is the schedule. They have 5 road games against Utah, Arizona, Washington, UCLA and Stanford. They also have to play Oregon at home.
As you can see, I’m not expecting a whole lot out of the other four teams in this division. Utah lost a lot from last year. On offense they lost their starting quarterback, leading rusher and top 3 receivers. Defensively they lose four of their top five tacklers.
Arizona State only has 10 starters back with zero experience to work with on offense. As much as I like head coach Todd Graham, this is a rebuilding year for the Sun Devils.
Arizona may be a team I’m sleeping on a bit. The Wildcats have an impressive 15 starters coming back. That includes talented junior quarterback Anu Solomon and junior running back Nick Wilson. My concern is the schedule. They have to play Washington, Stanford and USC at home. Plus have difficult road games against UCLA, Utah and Washington State.
Last up is Colorado, who I actually think will be one of the most improved teams in the league. The Buffaloes have 18 starters coming back (9 on each side of the ball). They have just one conference win the last two years, but have suffered a lot of close losses. Eight of their 17 defeats have come by 7-points or less.