The Pac-12 has seen its fair share of dynasties over the years - USC in the 60s, 70s and 2000s, Washington in the 90s and recently Oregon and Stanford in the 2010s. With the Ducks dynasty officially over and the Cardinal’s at least waning in two of the past three years, the conference seems primed for at least one new dynasty with two powerful programs coming off huge seasons in 2016 - USC and Washington.
The Trojans and Huskies are unanimous preseason Top 10 teams loaded with experience, talent and coaches who look ready to string together big season after big season. So which program will put together a dynasty, or will both in the next few years. Here’s the case for, and against each:
The Case For
The Trojans are the only program in the Pac-12 that is really setup to produce dynasties. They have the tradition, the geography and less elite recruiting competition nearby than any other blue blood program. They will always pull the best recruits out of LA, and the entire Western region really, and can now recruit nationally as well as any program.
All things considered, the Trojans should never win less than 10 games a year.
That’s the bigger picture. The smaller picture looks as rosey for the Trojans as it has since Pete Carroll was there.
The Trojans look to have finally found a steady coach who can connect the blue chip, blue blood and ideal location dots in the way they should be at USC. Clay Helton still needs to prove that he can do that this year, but the second half of 2016 points to him doing that. I have always thought you don’t need another Carroll to have a dynasty at USC, you just need an at-least above average coach.
I cannot remember an era where college football success is more closely-tied to quarterback play and that is good news for the Trojans in the short and long-term. Sam Darnold looks to be their next Heisman winner, a rare QB who is accurate, but also athletic and I think there is a good chance he sticks around for at least two more years.
In the long-term, the Trojans are without a doubt the West’s best program for historically recruiting and developing QBs, if not the nation’s best. Scouting and developing top-flight college QBs is near impossible, but the Trojans will at least always be able to bring a blue chip quarterback recruit each year.
The same can be said for the Trojans at just about every other position on a football roster. They are in the top two of three of talent at every position in the conference right now, especially in the younger classes, and will always be able to restock those talent reserves better than any other team in the conference.
The Case Against
We have been here before with USC...coming off a huge season, star quarterback returning, coach who still isn’t 100 percent proven, but just they won a lot of games the year before, then...disappointment. The Trojans simply haven’t strung together two good seasons in a row since 2007 and 2008. They are anything but reliable.
Part of that problem is the Trojan’s struggles at head coach. Clay Helton couldn’t have finished 2016 any better, but you still can’t ignore the program was burning in early 2016 and it seemed he could have been fired at any moment. Despite what it seems, USC is a very tough job. Only one coach has had consistent success there in almost 30 years, and he is a future NCAA and NFL Hall of Famer. Helton still has to prove himself in year two.
Almost every college football team has to replace holes every year, but the Trojans have to replace some big ones. Two starting All-Pac-12 tackles and an All-Pac-12 guard, their big playmaker at receiver, All-American cornerback and special teams stud, best defensive lineman and a few other holes here and there. The Trojans need to find quality new starters right away to remain a Top 5 team.
The talent the Trojans are patching these holes with isn’t what it was in the 2000s either. The Trojans can’t replace an All-American with a sure-fire blue chip All-American right now and the players patching holes aren’t head and shoulders ahead of the talent at other Pac-12 schools the way they were in the 2000s. Programs like Stanford, Washington and UCLA have narrowed the talent gap, if not exceeded it, at a lot of positions.
The Case For
The Huskies are coming off a 12-win season and return loads of talent and experience across the board. Momentum hasn’t been this high at Washington since the Don James days and they have the most talented and proven depth chart returning since the 90s.
Chris Petersen silenced all doubters with 2016’s Playoff run and the scary thing is it seems he is only getting started laying the foundation for a dynasty at Washington. Petersen is stockpiling talent that is as-good as any program in the conference, his team showed the focus and competitive killer instinct he is known for in 2016 and it doesn’t look like he is going anywhere anytime soon.
Back to the Husky depth chart. In the short-term, the Huskies are loaded going into 2017. The Huskies have more than 10 players who should be first-team All-Pac-12 candidates (many All-American candidates as well) and many more which should fill second and honorable mentions.A lot of the talent on the roster is also young, with highly-rated recent recruiting classes ready to break out.
The most-important position where the Huskies are stocked is quarterback. Heisman candidate and record breaker Jake Browning will likely be back for two more seasons. Browning is well on his way to being Petersen’s Kellen Moore in Seattle and might be an even-bigger talent with more tools to work with.
The Case Against
The Huskies haven’t had major consistent success in more than 15 years. Something has always seemed to come up and keep the Huskies grounded in recent history and fans tend to be a little gunshy because of it.
The Huskies’ performance against elite teams in recent seasons has also been concerning. The Huskies have struggled when forced to take on Top 10/15 teams with elite talent like Stanford (when at their best), UCLA (when at their best), Alabama and USC. A well-coached Huskies team might be able to dominate the Colorado and Washington State’s of the college football world, but they have yet to prove that they can truly trade punches with college football’s blue bloods when those programs have strong teams.
Plain old geography and demographics do not work in the Huskies’ favor. The state of Washington produces a lot of very nice football talent, but not enough to make it not fairly difficult to restock talent on a regular basis, especially in a modern era when more programs like Stanford, USC, Notre Dame and powers from the Big Ten and SEC will come in and cherry pick blue chip prospects. This puts a lot of pressure on Washington to never lose in-state talent to out-of-state raiders and to have to do the near impossible and pry blue chips from USC and UCLA in California to stay stocked with elite talent.
So What Happens?
I’m a Pac-12 homer, so let’s just say USC and Washington string together dynasties in the next few years and a program like Stanford or Oregon picks their dynasty back up or a Colorado, Utah or Arizona school puts one together.