Christmas time in the Pac-12 this year is the waiting period before a barrage of very winnable bowl games. So, what does every Pac-12 school want under their Christmas tree this year?
Washington: Stanford to stop stealing their in-state recruits
It’s a very cherry Christmas in Huskyville this year. Not much more they could realistically ask for (asking for a national championship this year is like asking for a Ferrari when you’re 16 at this point, maybe next year), but with recruiting season about to heat up, the Huskies want to stay local with this year’s gift by keeping Stanford from poaching their state’s top recruits. Chris Petersen has done a fine job of putting a fence around the state of Washington, but it looks like Stanford may steal the nation’s top offensive line prospect in Foster Sarell out of the state and the state’s number two prospect in former Husky commit Connor Wedington. Both seem like Stanford leans, but things aren’t over yet and the Huskie would love to avoid letting any future David DeCastro’s or Josh Garnett’s leave to their North rival this signing day.
Washington State: A senior year for Luke Falk
Falk has done just about everything for the Cougars the past couple of years and even though it seems like he has been in the conference forever, is still only a junior. Logic would suggest he is going to head to the draft a year early, but he has made statements in the past which suggest he will come back for his senior season. Seeing how horribly Pac-12 North brethren like Oregon and Stanford have fallen off once they lose a veteran quarterback, having Falk in 2017 could be the difference between another bowl or a rebuilding season, so I would think the Cougars selfishly might want the NFL Draft lock to play his final year in 2017.
Oregon: Jim Leavitt to do what he did at Colorado at Oregon
The Ducks made a huge splash by stealing away the man who helped turn Colorado’s defense from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best. He might have an even tough job at Oregon though as the Ducks have had a historically bad defense the past couple of years and don’t have the massive amount of experience and sneaky talent the Buffs had this year. The Ducks are hoping a Christmas miracle is coming to Eugene this off-season in the form of a complete defensive turnaround.
Oregon State: To not be at home next bowl season
The Beavers made massive strides this year by getting to four wins (three in-conference) and ending their awful streak in The Civil War. Now it’s time to win a couple more and get back to a bowl game and end what is now the Pac-12’s longest current streak without a bowl game.
Cal: A quarterback for the future
The Bears bought a year with Davis Webb, but grad transfer quarterbacks have been proven to be just band aides and Webb wasn’t even enough protection to get them to a bowl. The Bears need a home-grown quarterback to pin their future hopes on and hope one can appear in 2017 the way Justin Herbert did for Oregon.
Stanford: Another overnight offensive revolution
Remember early in 2015 when the Cardinal offense officially flatlined? Then remember when Kevin Hogan went from liability to Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate in a couple of weeks, Josh Garnett wen from borderline bust to Outland Trophy winner and Christian McCaffrey from tweener to Heisman? The Cardinal are hoping for another one of those revolutions before 2017 because their offense didn’t have a single first or second-team all-conference player other than McCaffrey in 2016 and he is gone.
UCLA: A healthy Josh Rosen
2016 was a disaster for the Bruins. They won just four games for a lot of reasons, but none more simple and as large as losing Rosen to injury. The Bruins simply just want him back at 100 percent in 2017 to see what they can do with their star quarterback.
USC: To keep a level head in the coming off-season hype
Get ready for a whole load of USC hype between January and September this year. The Trojans are poised to be a preseason Top 5 team next year and Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones Heisman candidates. The Trojans want to avoid the massive letdown they had in 2012 after an offseason of hype and come into 2017 with sometime to prove.
Arizona: A little health
It’s not a complete excuse for how unbelievably bad the Wildcats were in 2016, but it played a large factor. The Wildcats want nothing more than to come into 2017 fully charged with a healthy Brandon Dawkins so they can look more like the team which took Washington to overtime than the one that got blasted at Washington State.
Arizona State: A clear quarterback
The Sun Devils threw a lot of young quarterbacks into the fire and they all showed some promise, but mainly came out burned. The Sun Devils want one guy to emerge this off-season as the leader and go-to-guy so they can start to build for the future.
Utah: A new Devontae Booker/Joe Williams
The Utes took off once Joe Williams came back and turned into an all-conference running back like the one they had before in Booker. They should have a strong offensive line again and if they can find someone to be a workhorse/playmaker like they can count on that helps them wear down opponents, control the ball and give their signature lockdown defense time to rest.
Colorado: Another year of Phillip Lindsay and Shay Fields
Colorado’s two best offensive playmakers are juniors who could declare for the draft. The Buffs already lose a ton of talent and experience all across their roster, including quarterback Sefo Liufau, so losing their two biggest stars on offense would make maintaining their success from 2016 even harder.