The 2016 season brought plenty of surprises in the Pac-12 football conference. Two teams that won a combined 5 games in league play in 2015, faced off the championship game.
Washington was the top dog for most of the year. The Huskies started 8-0 before a loss at USC in November. Washington winning the North wasn’t nearly as shocking as Colorado’s rise to the top in the North.
Pac-12 College Football Preview & Predictions
The Buffaloes posted a 8-1 record in league play. Going into last year, Colorado had won a whopping 5 conference games since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
The Huskies went on to beat the Buffaloes 41-10 in the title game. Washington would get invited to the playoffs, but would fall to Alabama in the Semifinals.
Other big takeaways from last year was the decline of two programs. UCLA, the consensus favorite to win the South last year, finished 4-8. Oregon, just two years removed from playing in the National Championship Game, also finished 4-8.
New Head Coaches
|Name (School)||Previous Job||HC Exp (Record)|
|Willie Taggart (Oregon)||HC at USF||7 yrs (40-45)|
|Justin Wilcox (Cal)||DC at Wisconsin||None|
Looking ahead to the 2017 campaign, we first check out the new head coaches. The one that will get all the attention is the Ducks bringing in Willie Taggart to replace Mark Helfrich. Taggart actually got started in the Pac-12 as RB coach at Stanford. He coached 3 seasons at WKU before spending the last 4 at USF.
The other move came in Berkeley, where Justin Wilcox will try to get Cal back to being a consistent threat. The Golden Bears have had just 1 winning season in the last 5 years.
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 2017. 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.
2017 Pac 12 Projected Standings, Rankings & Betting Odds
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||North Odds||Pac-12 Odds|
While Washington surprised a lot of people last year, I can’t say I was shocked to see the Huskies on top the North. That all boils down to the respect I have for head coach Chris Petersen. He was 100% responsible for putting Boise State on the map. Now with the talent he can recruit at a Power 5 program, the Huskies are here to stay.
The Huskies are loaded offensively with junior QB Jake Browning and junior RB Myles Gaskin. Both of which are legit Heisman candidates. They also have one of the best offensive lines and plenty of talent at wide receiver.
If there was a team to dethrone the Huskies, Stanford has to be at the top of that list. The Cardinal are coming off a quiet 10-win season, as they started just 4-3. They won their final 6 games, all of which came after Keller Chryst took over at quarterback. As much as I love junior RB Bryce Love, the loss of Christian McCaffrey will be tough to overcome. The big positive for Stanford is they get to host the Huskies.
I would be shocked if one of these didn’t win the North, but it’s certainly not out of the question. Washington State has come a long way under Mike Leach. With a mere 5 wins the Cougars will have won more games in the last 3 years than they did in the previous 7.
Most will talk about the offense and the return of senior signal caller Luke Falk. The reason the Cougars have improved is their defense is no longer a liability. Washington State will be strong again on that side of the ball with 9 starters returning.
The biggest ‘Wild Card’ in the North has to be Oregon. I loved the addition of Taggart. He provides some new life to a program that has 17 returning starters. My favorite move was them stealing away defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt from Colorado. The Buffaloes allowed 27.5 ppg in his first year there and that was after alllowing 39.0 ppg the year before. The improvements continued with Colorado only allowing 21.7 ppg last year.
That leaves Oregon State and Cal to battle it out in the basement of the division. The Beavers have 15 returning starters and will be in the third year under Gary Anderson. They will be much improved, though the record likely won’t reflect it. As for the Golden Bears, this looks like a rebuilding year.
|Pos.||Team||Conf||Overall||South Odds||Pac-12 Odds|
I know USC has disappointed in previous years when picked to win the South. I feel this time around is going to be different. You could argue that the Trojans were playing as well as any team in the country to close out last year. They won their final 9 games after a 1-3 start that had them play 3 of 4 away from home against Alabama, Stanford, and Utah.
The big turnaround came when red-shirt freshman Sam Darnold took over at quarterback. He completed 67% of his attempts for over 3,000 yards with 31 TD’s in just 10 starts. Many believe he will be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft, so it’s easy to see why expectations are sky-high.
It’s not just Darnold, the Trojans are absolutely loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. They also have the schedule to runaway with the South. USC gets 5 home games with the four on the road against Cal, Washington St, Arizona St and Colorado.
As you can see, there’s a big drop-off from the Trojans and the rest of the division. I got UCLA pegged for 2nd, but it wouldn’t really surprise me if one of the other four ended in this spot.
I give the edge to the Bruins because they were in a lot of games and lost their starting QB after 6 games. With a healthy and now experienced Josh Rosen (junior), he could be poised for a breakout season. My big concern is that they play 5 conference road games and 4 of those are against Stanford, Washington, Utah and USC.
Utah is another team that I think could surprise this year. The Utes figure to once again have one of the best defenses in the league. The big question is how quickly will the offense take to the schemes being installed. Utah is opening up under new offensive coordinator Troy Taylor. I just question if they have the pieces in place to make it work.
I had a really tough time picking Colorado this low. The Buffaloes will be potent offensively with 9 starters back. I believe the problem will be the defense. The loss of Leavitt will be difficult to replace. Colorado also has just 4 conference home games and two are against the Trojans and Huskies.
I’m surprised how far the Sun Devils have fallen under Todd Graham. After going 28-12 in his first 3 years on the job, he’s just 11-14 the last 2. With that said, injuries have played a big role in the struggles. I just think the schedule is brutal. Arizona State draws Washington, Oregon and Stanford out of the North, while also having to host USC.
Arizona looked like they had turned a corner when they made the Pac-12 title game and finished 10-4 back in 2014. That hasn’t been the case. The Wildcats regressed to 7-wins in 2015 and a mere 3 victories last year. They should be improved with 14 starters back, but I just think they a step behind most of the teams in this league.
PAC-12 Championship Game Prediction: USC defeats Washington
|Players (Pos, School)||Odds|
|Sam Darnold (QB, USC)||+525|
|Jake Browning (QB, Washington)||+2000|
|Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)||+3300|
|Luke Falk (QB, Washington St)||+4700|
|Royce Freeman (RB, Oregon)||+10000|
|Myles Gaskin (RB, Washington)||+10000|
|Justin Herbert (QB, Oregon)||+15000|
|Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)||+15000|
Did you know that at +525, Darnold is the odds on favorite to win the award going into the season? Click here for a full list of Heisman odds for the 2017 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 2017 championship odds.