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Beta_Rank Pac-12 Predicitions

I think Jon Wilner is generally correct in that the Pac-12 is going to have some good teams on top with good records and that requires some bad teams on the bottom with poor records. The Pac-12 North is starting to look a little SEC West-ish with the rise of Washington alongside Stanford and WSU and Oregon as well. The three teams you might pick to finish last in the North this year all have good staffs; including Cal which might be the worst team in the conference this year.

The South is not showing similar progress. Utah will likely take this as a rebuild year, Colorado could be explosive on offense, and USC could be one of the best teams in college football, but UCLA, ASU, and Arizona all enter with coaches on the hot seat. Each of them probably has a different bar to hit to keep their jobs, but they all need to show progress off disastrous seasons in 2016. The North being so good and Colorado and Utah being competent couldn't come at a worse time.

You can find my full predicted 2017 rankings here.

Pac-12 South

USC

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #7

Predicted Record: 12-0

Predicted Tossup Record: 12-0

Coach: Clay Helton, 12-3, .800, Pac-12

There is no hype quite like USC with a top QB hype. Sam Darnold has been ever present, particularly for a year with a returning Heisman winner, especially one coming back under one of the most dynamic offensive coaches in the last 20 years. USC projects to be extremely good though. The recruiting has been top notch, they return a lot of production, and they finished extremely strong last year.

If you had to take the over or the under on the wins the model projects; you should take the under. Clay Helton still has to prove himself as a top flight coach. I think USC goes 11-1 and wins the South though. I'll pick a visit to Pullman as the loss for the Trojans.

Human Adjusted Record: 11-1, 8-1 Pac-12

Wins: WMU, Stanford, Texas, Cal, OSU, Utah, Notre Dame, ASU, Arizona, Colorado, UCLA

Losses: WSU

Critical Game: Stanford

UCLA

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #28

Predicted Record: 8-4

Predicted Tossup Record: 7.5-4.5

Coach: Jim Mora, 25-20, .556, Pac-12

If Jim Mora had put together the kind of record he has at most of the rest of the Pac-12 he would be sitting on a new contract extension instead of the hot seat. The trouble with UCLA and Mora is that he has recruited extremely well and has, thus far, been unable to really put it together on offense. The job former PSU coordinator Bradley has done with the Bruin’s defense is really quite good and even with the talent they lose I like the defense to be extremely good again.

I think the model has UCLA pretty well pegged. I think the offense plays better and UCLA wins some games they would have lost last year. 8-4 should keep Mora around another year at least. If Josh Rosen and the offense put it together and beat A&M at home it could be another 10 win season for Mora.

Human Adjusted Record: 8-4, 6-3 Pac-12

Wins: Hawaii, Memphis, Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, Utah, ASU, Cal

Losses: Texas A&M, Stanford, Washington, USC

Critical Game: Texas A&M

Colorado

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #36

Predicted Record: 7-4

Predicted Tossup Record: 6.5-4.5

Coach: Mike MacIntyre, 10-26, .278, Pac-12

The Buffs are a little tough to peg because not only do you lose a lot on defense, but you lose Jim Leavitt; the architect of a really wonderful unit last year. The upside is really on offense though where CU returns a bevy of talented players at the wide-out and running back positions. Montez looked pretty good when he played last year and he should progress with more first team reps and another year in the system.

The Buffs seem pretty accurately rated by the model. Beat CSU and win an unexpected Pac-12 game and things could go their way. If the defense can manage to look talented and disciplined then maybe they are better than the model predicts, regardless this team could be involved in some fun shootouts.

Human Adjusted Record: 8-4, 5-4 Pac-12

Wins: CSU, Texas State, Northern Colorado, Arizona, OSU, Cal, ASU, Utah

Losses: Washington, UCLA, WSU, USC

Critical Game: WSU

Utah

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #55

Predicted Record: 4-7

Predicted Tossup Record: 3.5-7.5

Head Coach: Kyle Whittingham, 25-29, .462, Pac-12

Let’s get this out of the way. Kyle Whittingham is arguably the best coach in the Pac-12, Utah is consistently a tough (but sometimes pretty boring out), and I expect Utah to continue to produce some of the nation’s best special teams, and make few unforced errors, BUT Utah lost way too much production off last year’s team to not expect a rebuilding year. Utah doesn’t recruit at the level where you can reasonably expect to plug and play and even a USC type program would expect a bumpy year after sending 4 starting O-linemen to the NFL.

I could see Utah picking up an unexpected game and getting to bowl eligibility. Utah fans should laud Whittingham if they go 5-7 on the year. This is a tough schedule though. The Utes get Stanford and Washington and miss Cal and OSU. Funny that Whittingham basically runs through offensive coordinators at a faster pace than Jim Mora, but benefits from being in lower pressure SLC.

Human Adjusted Wins: 5-7, 2-7 Pac-12

Wins: North Dakota, BYU, SJSU, Arizona, WSU

Losses: Stanford, USC, ASU, Oregon, UCLA, Washington, Colorado

Critical Game: BYU

Arizona

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #66

Predicted Record: 4-7

Predicted Tossup Record: 3.5-7.5

Coach: Rich Rodriguez, 18-26, .409, Pac-12

So Arizona is a team that the model likes because of returning production, but it is worth asking if the Wildcats might be an outlier that gets the benefit of the nature of models pushing coefficients to the mean. What everyone should wonder about Arizona is, "Is the returning production any good?" The defense was just abominable last year and you don’t see much encouraging production returning in the front seven. More interesting for Arizona is that the returning production might get beaten out by redshirt or true freshman, so the model might be off on how much experience Arizona ends up playing anyway.

Earlier I predicted Arizona would finish 4-8 (counting the NAU game), but go 1-8 in the Pac-12 again and I still think that is right. No Washington and Stanford helps a lot. Beat Houston and an unexpected win at home could get you to 2-7 and 5-7, but this team seems more like a downside candidate than upside. Rich Rod has an impossibly poorly negotiated contract with a buyout that stays relatively stable over time, so it is probably less about overall record than style points. If Arizona gets blown out in 5+ games then Heeke won’t have much of a choice, but going 1-8 in the Pac-12 again while you miss Stanford and Washington would probably be too much too.

Human Adjusted Record: 4-8 ,1-8 Pac-12

Wins: NAU, Houston, UTEP, Cal

Losses: Utah, Colorado, UCLA, WSU, USC, OSU, Oregon, ASU

Critical Game: ASU

ASU

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #71

Predicted Record: 1-11

Predicted Tossup Record: 2-10

Coach: Todd Graham, 25-20, .556, Pac-12

The model doesn’t love the Sun Devils. They have recruited pretty well, but they lose some production. Their defense was also horrid last year and that has to make the tiny used car dealer posing as football coach itching mad.

The Sun Devils look like a solid candidate for some upside vs. the model’s prediction. ASU’s skill position players on offense are good enough to start at much of the Pac-12, something you couldn’t say about Arizona over the past few years and though they don’t have a clear starting QB; Barnett, Wilkins, and White were all very highly regarded recruits and have some playing experience. If the offensive line can be Pac-12 average and the defense can step up I could see them easily going 6-6.

Human Adjusted Record: 6-6, 3-6 Pac-12

Wins: NMSU, SDSU, TTU, Utah, OSU, Arizona

Losses: Oregon, Stanford, Washington, USC, Colorado, UCLA

Critical Game: TTU

Pac-12 North

Washington

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #6

Predicted Record: 11-0

Predicted Tossup Record: 11-0

Coach: Chris Petersen, 16-11, .593, Pac-12

Anyone want to bet against Coach Pete in the long run? I sure don't. Washington was the belle that lured him from Boise and he has certainly made the move pay off handsomely for both the Huskies and himself. Washington loses a lot of talent from their excellent defense last year, but, to wander down the halls of coach speak, I trust the process. The Huskies will probably not be as good as their 2015 and 2016 defenses, but their offense could be exceptional.

I think Washington is very good, but I also think going undefeated is very difficult. I think they could lose to a motivated Stanford squad that also looks really good this year, but I still think they win the North.

Human Adjusted Record: 11-1, 8-1 Pac-12

Wins: Rutgers, Montana, Fresno State, Colorado, OSU, Cal, ASU, UCLA, Oregon, Utah, WSU

Losses: Stanford

Critical Game: Stanford

Stanford

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #16

Predicted Record: 10-2

Predicted Tossup Record: 8.5-3.5

Coach: David Shaw, 42-12, .778, Pac-12

The best coach in the Pac-12 is in Palo Alto and while I think you could make an argument for Whittingham or Peterson, Shaw has done more and done it more consistently than anyone in the conference. Stanford has never been a consistent football power, noted football smart person Bill Walsh didn't exactly light it up on the farm, but in hiring Harbaugh and then Shaw Stanford has done the most difficult thing in college athletics; bottling lightening twice. It is hard to find the one great coach that gets you out of the basement, but college sports is littered with the ups and downs of programs that miss on the next hire. Stanford was a frustrating team to watch last year. They just were just terrible on offense; which was inexcusable for a team with Christian McCaffery on it.

The model likes Stanford. They have recruited extremely well under Shaw and they return a decent amount of talent. The model projects them to lose to USC and Washington, but I think they peak ahead on the Huskies and fall to the pirate at home in a game with 20,000 empty seats. You can build it Mr. Shaw, but you can't make them come.

Human Adjusted Record: 10-2, 7-2 Pac-12

Wins: Rice, SDSU, UCLA, ASU, Utah, Oregon, OSU, Washington, Cal, Notre Dame

Losses: USC, WSU

Critical Game: Washington

Oregon

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #23

Predicted Record: 9-2

Predicted Tossup Record: 8.5-2.5

Coach: Willie Taggart, 0-0, .000, Pac-12

Oregon fired Mark Helfrich for a monumental defensive collapse last year. The Ducks were suddenly a much more entertaining version of Arizona where the defense let everyone score, but at least the offense was competent enough to put up some points to keep it close. Arizona didn't even do that. Willie Taggart brings in the best coaching staff resumes the Pac-12 has seen in a long time. Christobal, Leavitt, and Salave'a are not just great coaches, but they are phenomenal recruiters. The North is a forbidding place right now and even Cal brought in a great staff, with all their financial problems (see Arizona fans?). I wouldn't bet against this staff and Nike resources, but I also wonder how many North fan bases can live with parity.

The model likes Oregon a bit too much in my opinion. I think the Ducks are improved off last year. They have recruited well and return a lot of talent, but the model doesn't take coaching changes into account yet and I think Oregon needs another year to get fully immersed in the new staff.

Human Adjusted Record: 8-4, 5-4 Pac-12

Wins: Southern Utah, Nebraska, Wyoming, ASU, Cal, Utah, Arizona, OSU

Losses: WSU, Stanford, UCLA, Washington

Critical Game: OSU

Washington State

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #26

Predicted Record: 7-4

Predicted Tossup Record: 7.5-3.5

Coach: Mike Leach, 20-25, .444, Pac-12

When Jim Mora, Todd Graham, Rich Rodriguez and Mike Leach were all hired who would have predicted that the only one not on the hot seat would be the man who clearly has the toughest recruiting pitch of all of them? It turns out that coaches matter a lot and WSU has landed the right one often enough to be among the conference's best in cycles. With Luke Falk returning and Alex Grinch still coaching the defense I expect a very good year out of the Cougars.

I like the Cougars more than the model does, but that is mostly a function of believing that they beat Oregon this year. I think the Cougars manage to avoid losing to an FCS team this year, but I think they drop some unexpected games to Oregon State and Utah, but the upside is that I think they can play spoiler on Stanford in the North and take a USC scalp.

Human Adjusted Record: 9-3, 6-3 Pac-12

Wins: Montana St., Boise St., Nevada, USC, Oregon, Cal, Colorado, Arizona, Stanford Utah

Losses: OSU, Utah, Washington

Critical Game: Montana St., kidding Cougar fans, Oregon

Oregon State

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #53

Predicted Record: 3-8

Predicted Tossup Record: 3.5-7.5

Coach: Gary Andersen 3-15, .167, Pac-12

It is a funny thing, when Brent Bielema left Wisconsin for Arkansas the media asked whether the sky was falling in the Big 10, but when Gary Andersen jetted to Oregon State the story was more about what is wrong with Wisconsin. Andersen is a very good coach and he has the Beavers headed in the right direction, but he does Coach in the Pac-12 North so maybe the Arkansas comparisons should stick.

The model likes the Beavers about as much as it did last year; which I think is about fair. I think they continue their gradual improvement this year and maybe breakout in the next two, but I think they win an unexpected game against WSU. If they can win against a good CSU team in week 1 they could go bowling.

Human Adjusted Record: 5-7, 2-7 Pac-12

Wins: Portland St., Minnesota, WSU, Cal, Arizona,

Losses: CSU, Washington, USC, Colorado, Stanford, ASU, Oregon

Critical Game: CSU

Cal

Model Predictions

Predicted Rank: #70

Predicted Record: 0-11

Predicted Tossup Record: 1-10

Coach: Justin Wilcox, 0-0, .000, Pac-12

Whew, Cal sure did rush to breakup with Sonny Dykes before he broke up with them. It was a bit of a bad fit. Dykes is a brilliant offensive mind and a great play caller, but being hamstrung financially in the Pac-12 North arms race had to be galling. Cal hired a really terrific staff. Wilcox and Baldwin on their own are great pickups, but the Bears face a steep loss of production.

Cal is a team that I think the model has about right. I think the new staff is terrific, but they are not likely to come in and fix things this year or even next year. I think UNC is overrated by a lot of writers and who knows what sort of Ole Miss team shows up, but Cal should circle the visit by Arizona on the calendar if they want to beat a FBS team this year.

Human Adjusted Record: 1-11

Wins: Weber St.,

Losses: UNC, Ole Miss, USC, Oregon, Washington, WSU, Arizona, Colorado, OSU, Stanford, UCLA

Critical Game: Arizona

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