The Pac-12 Football Media Day is coming up on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. Before heading out to Southern California I had to fill out my ballot as to how the teams will finish in 2018. Anybody that follows the Pac-12 Football Conference knows how the conference can be when trying to pick a winner.
Here goes nothing.
- Washington Huskies: The Dawgs are still the class of the conference. The Huskies return starting quarterback Jake Browning who seems like he has been the Washington quarterback for 10 years. Running back, Myles Gaskin will provide the punch out of the backfield and take the stress off of Browning. The Dawgs will probably the lone hope for a playoff berth this year. The Huskies start off with Auburn. The road games include trips to Oregon and Utah. If the Huskies finish 11-1, they get into the playoff.
- Stanford: The oddsmakers have Stanford at eight wins. That is way to low for a David Shaw coached team. Coach Shaw has a program that is one of the most reliable and consistent in the country. Heisman Trophy hopeful, Bryce Love, returns to put added pressure on conference defenses. I don’t think they beat Washington, but they are the second best team in the North.
- Oregon: This was a difficult choice for me. The Ducks have a possible Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback in Justin Herbert, but the best thing the Ducks have in their favor is their schedule. Oregon has Washington and Stanford at home. We all know how tough Autzen Stadium can be. The road games include trips to California, Washington State, Arizona, Utah, and the Civil War against Oregon State. The road games at Arizona and Utah seem like the only challenges for Ducks.
- California: Head coach Justin Wilcox has created some excitement around Berkley. California started 3-0 last season. That created some buzz around the program, but now we are in the second season of this big rebuild. What are Cal fans expecting this year? With away games at Arizona and USC it could be a season where they just miss a bowl game. If everybody stays healthy, I can see the Golden Bears getting five wins.
- Washington State: Arguably, the most interesting part of the Cougar football program is the head coach, Mike Leach. With him almost leaving last season for Tennessee, you have to wonder how much longer Leach will be around the Palouse. It’s been a rough off season in Pullman. A tragic death of a quarterback, the offensive line coach leaves for Ohio State, and trying to rebuild the O-line may make it a long season for the Cougars.
- Oregon State: First year head coach, Jonathan Smith, returned to his alma-mater to get the program headed in the right direction. The task in front of Smith is daunting to say the least. Gary Andersen left in the middle of the season putting the program in a state of flux. Coach Smith has a massive rebuild in front of him and getting the Beaver players to buy into his system will take time. Beaver fans are going to have to be real patient. I see Oregon State getting three wins this year.
- Utah: After talking with Ute head coach, Kyle Whittingham, during spring practice he was certainly excited about his quarterback situation. He tried to down play it, but it was obvious he was looking forward to playing these quarterbacks. In my opinion, the Utes are the team you don’t want to see on the schedule. Whittingham teams play tough for 60 minutes. Opposing teams spend a little extra time in the hot tub after playing Utah. With 1,000 rusher, Zach Moss, returning and quarterback Tyler Huntley under center the Utes are in line for their first division crown since coming to the Pac-12.
- USC: Another tough pick for me. I, like many other media types, side with the Trojans in the South Division most years. However, with questions at quarterback and even running back the Trojans could be vulnerable in the South this year. I am not saying its a certainty that they are, but anything is possible. Remember, it is the Pac-12.
- Arizona: With the hire of new head coach, Kevin Sumlin, Wildcat fans are excited to see how Sumlin works with quarterback, Khalil Tate. I know I am. The defense at Arizona is going to have to get better. Make some stops and give Khalil Tate a few more possessions and who knows what happens in Tucson.
- Arizona State: New head coach Herm Edwards has come back to coaching college after almost 30 years. Coach Edwards is putting in a program that is run more like a professional franchise. Lets see how this goes. Manny Wilkins returns at quarterback and he will have man-child N’Keal Harry to throw to. Eno Benjamin takes over at running back, so that will be some thing to keep your eye on. Once again, questions on defense will abound. Add in the whole new coaching staff and schemes and ASU could finish in the middle of division.
- UCLA: Chip Kelly is back. Optimism is up in Westwood. Everybody knows what Coach Kelly did at Oregon, but can he replicate it at UCLA? Chip has depth questions for now. Lets see what happens. It could be a couple years until Chip Kelly has this program humming along.
- Colorado: The Pac-12 Championship Game appearance seems like ages ago. It’s only been two years, but with personnel questions it could be a long time before the Buffs get back there. I am thinking this is a three or four win season in Boulder.
I have Utah and Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game in 2018. Washington will beat the Utes in a close game and will be in the hunt for one of the four College Football Playoff spots.