The final conference to get underway is on the Left Coast. It's time for PAC 12 football! Our nights will no longer end early, and now that Mountain West is underway, football will extend deep into the night!
The conference will play a seven game schedule and the championship will be on December 18th.
As we did in the MAC, we will discuss the favorites, a team or two to watch and predicted order of finish and futures I personally bet.
Oregon: A lot of people love Oregon and so do I. But let me get some things out of the way. One thing that makes me want to like teams like Cal slightly more is the fact of what season we're in. Oregon has to break in a new QB, mainly new OL and a new offensive coordinator in Joe Moorhead. The battle at QB hasn't been decided yet but the running backs back are strong with CJ Verdell and Travis Dye. The wideouts are good as well. They took a big hit up front when LT and top 5 pick Penei Sewell opted out. Defensively they have some holes to fill also but with the way they recruit and the group coming back things look fine. Moorhead will be interesting at OC. He thrived at Penn State in a coordinator role. He flopped at Miss State and is now back in a dream job type of role. All in all, they have growing pains but there's still plenty of talent for Mario Cristobal and crew to pick against them. One of my favorite players in the conference is Kavon Thibodeaux. He had 9 sacks as a freshman last year and will blossom into new next great PAC-12 defensive star.
Cal: Let's face it, HC Justin Wilcox is one of the great young coaching minds in the country. Since taking over in Berkley, he has increased the win total for the Golden Bears every season and even won a bowl game last year. Coming back this season with one of the strongest defenses in the conference and likely in the country, I am bullish. They welcome back eight starters and are led by LB Kuony Deng. Losing a guy like Ashtyn Davis in the secondary will hurt but there's plenty of other experience there. Offensively, if Chase Garbers can stay healthy, they will be fine and a factor. They need to be serviceable. The defense will carry them. My one worry about the offense is the lack of a big time WR. Possibly Nikko Remigio can be that guy. The schedule helps as well with home games against Washington, Stanford and Oregon.
USC: It's pretty simple, the South will be the Trojans to lose. They are significantly better than everyone else and might be the best team in the conference. My major issue coming into a shortened season is new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. Orlando sucks. He has stolen money at Houston and Texas. It amazes me he continues to get jobs, he just frankly isn't a good coach. However at USC, the talent is there at linebacker and in the secondary. When looking at the offense it will be the leagues best. Kedon Slovis fully takes over an offense led by Graham Harrell that was fantastic last year. It was mentioned that in the offseason Slovis worked on gaining more strength and muscle to better serve him. They have a stable of running backs and wideouts to involve as well. Keep an eye on WR Drake London, a 6'5 mismatch everywhere on the field. This offense scored 33 points per game last year, they will eclipse that this season.
Arizona State: How can you not like what Herm Edwards did last season? Everyone and their mother said Herm was nuts for taking the job in Tempe. But he was terrific and really showed his ability as a leader of young men and will make a big difference in a lot of football lives. This season, they are the biggest threat to USC outside of Utah. They welcome back exciting sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels, who had a great freshman campaign. Frank Darby is a big play wideout that developed a good rapport with Daniels finishing with a team high 20 yards per catch. The defense is truly the most intriguing part of this team. They have two big names at co defensive coordinator in Marvin Lewis and former Giant Antonio Pierce. They welcome back seven starters including leading tackler Darian Butler and Jack Jones at corner who had 3 picks last season. This defense is the BEST in the conference to me. I'm very high on the Sun Devils
Utah: This has a lot to do with coaching. Kyle Whittingham is the best coach in the conference and top 10 in the country. He constantly thrives and get the best out of his programs. This year in a season that is different than any other, why can't the Utes contend for the title? They did lose a lot of talent, mainly guys like RB Zach Moss, QB Tyler Huntley and DE Bradlee Anae. One of the best things Whittingham has been able to do is constantly retool and replace. There are very few I'd rather have in a season like this. The cupboard is not bare though. A few wideouts in Bryan Thompson and Britain Covey are back as well as one of the best offensive line units in the country. I also look forward to the return of Brant Kuithe at TE who led them in receptions last season Former South Carolina QB Jake Bentley and longtime Ute Drew Lisk will battle it out for signal caller. Defensively I trust in Whittingham to retool. Over the years, they've had one of the strongest defenses in the league. Keep an eye on CB Clark Phillips III, the highest ranked recruit they've ever signed at Utah.
Washington State: I'll admit this group intrigues me. They have a new coach in Nick Rolovich who did a bang up job at Hawaii and I think he might be the perfect guy for the job. Yes, I know they are still deciding who the quarterback is, but the skill positions and running backs are really strong and they welcome back an elite offensive line. Without Sewell playing Oregon, Wazzou may have the best group up front. I'm confident in Rolovich that he may have found the best signal caller. He did it Hawaii, he will do it Pullman. It was recently reported that Jayden De Laura will start this week against Oregon State. De Laura was a star at famous St Louis High School in Honolulu. Keep in mind, De Laura ran the Run and Shoot offense in high school that Rolovich wants to run. I love the returning running back Max Borghi who will have a more defined role and be able to show out. Wazzou coaches have also raved on defense about the strong unit they welcome in the secondary. They also get Oregon, Cal and Washington at home. As I said I'm very intrigued.
Oregon State was among the top five teams in the country ATS last year. They were 9-3 overall and 7-2 in conference games to the number. With big play running back Jermar Jefferson back, they may be a thorn in teams sides again this year.
Arizona gave up over 35 points per game last season. Over the last six seasons, the Wildcats were 8th or worst in the conference in points allowed per game in every season.
Arizona State allowed just 3.6 yards per rush last season. With new co coordinators former Bengals HC Marvin Lewis and All Pro NFL linebacker Antonio Pierce. The 4-3 defense should be one of the strongest in the conference.
Stanford OT Walker Little joined Penei Sewell on the opt out list. That hurts a Stanford team that now has no seniors on the line along with 2 underclassmen on the left side.
PAC-12 NORTH (BMOC Predicted Order of Finish)
5. Washington State
6. Oregon State
PAC 12 SOUTH (BMOC Predicted Order of Finish)
2. Arizona State
Oregon beats USC in Championship
FUTURES I GRABBED AT BARSTOOL SPORTSBOOK:
Oregon 2/1 (played for 2u)
Arizona State 12/1
The PAC 12 remains one of my favorite conferences. I'm a night owl and I can't wait. #PAC12AfterDark