Pac-12 College Football starts this Saturday, as fans and players are anticipating another great season.
In a conference typically headlined by big-name programs, this season is different. The Pac-12 is as wide open as it has ever been.
Perhaps there are just no playoff-worthy teams. However, a more realistic view will speak to the depth of the conference.
Below are some predictions on who to expect to end up on top, hoist hardware, disappoint and others.
Sleeper Team: Washington State
Despite missing out on the initial AP Top-25, Washington State is not to be slept on.
Any time you can bring back six starters on defense, that is a huge advantage. At the same time, newly transferred quarterback Gage Gubrud should be just what the offense and head coach Mike Leach needs.
Their toughest obstacle will be a tough road schedule. However, if any team wants to be good in such a tight-knit conference, they have to win the tough road games.
While Stanford also looks promising and has the pedigree of a top program, the cohesiveness of the returning Cougars defense gives them the edge.
Team Most Likely to Disappoint: USC
For a team as talented as the Trojans, things just haven’t clicked under head coach Clay Helton. A lot of analysts are saying this could be a make-or-break year, and that is probably accurate.
The team has as much history as anyone in the conference, but over the last decade, they haven’t been able to live up to their history.
This year won’t be any different.
Like Washington State, the Trojans have a brutal Pac-12 schedule. Unlike the Cougars, USC hasn’t been able to address their quarterback woes.
A successful season for the Trojans will be banked on the improved play from JT Daniels and their offensive line. To be honest, I don’t see that happening.
Freshman of the Year: Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
Dual-threat quarterback Jayden Daniels has been handed the keys to the starting quarterback spot early on by coach Herm Edwards.
Being highly touted and recruited out of high school, Daniels has reportedly had a huge impact from his first day on campus.
The Sun Devils have increased reason for optimism after a surprising 7-5 season in Edwards’ first year as coach. With Daniels now on board, perhaps Arizona State is now even more poised to make that next step in the foggy Pac-12.
Most Intriguing Non-Quarterback Draft Prospect: Bradlee Anae, Utah
After racking up 15 sacks over the last two seasons, Utah’s Bradlee Anae is on the map for plenty of experts across the college football world.
Anae is the new age athletic defensive end who can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. Either way, he is expected to cause havoc this year in the Pac-12.
With potential defensive awards as well as draft stock on the line, Anae has a big season ahead of him.
If Utah wants to repeat as conference champions, his elite play on defense is going to be needed.
Pac-12 Winner: Oregon
The team with the best quarterback play is usually a safe bet to win. That is the case with Oregon and Justin Herbert.
Herbert is not only the best quarterback in the conference but should be among the Heisman trophy finalists at the end of the season. On top of that, he is expected to be one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2020 NFL draft.
All of this to say that there is hype around Herbert, and rightfully so.
Coupled with a strong recruiting class, and the Ducks look poised to restore the pedigree that has made the program so special for so long.
While Utah may be the “sexy” pick, bank on the reputation of the Ducks. No other team gets as explosive as Oregon when all is right.
- I am a huge Yankees, New York Giants and Los Angeles Lakers fan. However I have a huge passion for all three sports in general across the MLB, NFL, and NBA. I also cover the Cal State Long Beach Men's Basketball team.