Aside from just doing a general power ranking, I look to go through each Pac-12’s schedule before the season and figure out exactly which games each program will win and lose. Here is how I think the conference shakes out based on the schedules going into the season
- Washington 11-2 (8-1) (loses Pac-12 Championship Game) Bowl: Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma - Here’s the thing with the 2017 Huskies. I look at their schedule and don’t see a game I would be they lose, but they are going to lose at least one game. I will give them a lose at Stanford by default. It’s on the road on a short week and the Cardinal have the defense to slow down Washington’s offense and have an axe to grind after last year’s bashing in Husky Stadium. Other than that, the Huskies should run the table, but I don’t see them beating USC in the championship game, after struggling against them last year, in Husky Stadium. A New Year’s Day bowl will be a nice consolation prize.
- Stanford 9-3 (6-3) Bowl: Alamo Bowl vs. Kansas State
Another very good, but not great year for the Cardinal. Their defense will carry them and they will grab some big wins, but also lose a few because of their lack of explosion on offense and dynamics at quarterbacks.
3. Oregon 8-4 (5-4) Bowl: Holiday Bowl vs. Minnesota
The Ducks bounce back. Justin Herbert takes another step towards stardom, their offensive progresses and helps Royce Freeman back to another big year and their defense gets better enough to allow them to win more games. They aren’t going to the Playoffs, but they are back headed in the right direction and poised for a very big 2018.
4. Washington State 8-4 (5-4) Bowl: Foster Farms Bowl vs. Iowa
The Cougars hover with another solid season with Luke Falk under center. This is nice territory for the Cougars as they have a very good season and make another very good bowl.
5. Oregon State 6-6 (3-6) Bowl: Hawaii Bowl vs. Hawaii
The Beavers are officially back. They fight their way to a bowl and take the next step forward under Gary Andersen. They will be a tough out for everyone in the Pac-12.
6. Cal 2-10 (1-8)
This looks bad, but Cal will not be as bad as this record suggests in Justin Wilcox’ first season. They are just playing in a very tough conference and have a very tough non-conference schedule. They will get a win over someone, maybe grab two if things go right.
- USC 12-1 (8-1) Bowl: Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State This is the Trojans’ year. Like the Huskies, I don’t see an obvious loss on their schedule, but it’s a tough slate and they will lose to someone. I think their November game at Colorado could be where it happens. They will beat Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game and get a bid to the Playoffs.
2. UCLA 8-4 (5-4) Bowl: Sun Bowl vs. Virginia Tech
Josh Rosen and the Bruins won’t have the whirlwind season I think many expected them to have in 2017 when they signed Rosen and Mora’s was killing it in recruiting, but this isn’t bad. This is a decent season, but does it keep Mora in Westwood?
3. Colorado 8-4 (5-4) Bowl: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Boise State
This is a nice follow-up season for the Buffs. They get some great wins, get close to the 10 win mark and hold steady to show that 2016 was just the start of a long powerful Pac-12 run under Mike MacIntyre.
4. Utah 7-5 (5-4) Bowl: Cactus Bowl vs. West Virginia
The Utes keep their solid formula chugging. This isn’t their best year, but they have to replace a lot on the offensive line and on their defense so this is a middle year for them.
5. Arizona State 4-8 (2-7)
The Pac-12 is just too tough for a team like this year’s ASU team to make a bowl. They will be competitive and win a couple games, but they won’t make a bowl.
6. Arizona 4-8 (1-8)
See Arizona State. The Pac-12 is nails and Arizona just doesn’t have all the pieces together. Tough year for the desert schools again.