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2018 Pac-12 preseason predictions: Washington wins the North and Utah wins the South

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Here’s how I think the Pac-12 season shakes out in 2018.

NCAA Football: Heart of Dallas Bowl-Utah vs West Virginia Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

North

  1. Washington 11-2 (8-1) - I don’t see the Huskies getting over their losing to elite teams hump against Auburn in Atlanta and I think they drop the mother of all traps the Pac-12 set up for them in Eugene. The Huskies run the table outside of that though, beat Utah in a rematch in the Pac-12 Championship Game and make a run to the Rose Bowl.
  2. Stanford 9-3 (7-2) - I see the Cardinal slipping up at Notre Dame and dropping their game at Washington. I expect them to get upset by a Pac-12 team as well with at Oregon being a prime candidate for that.
  3. Oregon 9-3 (6-3) - I think the Ducks win at least one of their home games against Stanford and Washington and drop a couple tough road games - probably Arizona and Utah. They’ll have a shot at 10 wins in their bowl game.
  4. Cal 6-6 (3-6) - The Bears take another step forward under Justin Wilcox. They do well out of conference and get enough in-conference wins to make it back to a bowl. I’m tempted to even give them the upset over Stanford they are long due for, but can’t quite pull the trigger.
  5. Washington State 5-7 (2-7) - The Cougars finally hit that rebuilding year as they install a new starting quarterback from a questionable stable and play a tough schedule. Getting to a bowl game may come down to whether or not they can pull off an upset in the Apple Cup.
  6. Oregon State 2-10 (0-9) - I want to give the Beavers a win in their first season under Jonathan Smith, but I just don’t see it on the schedule. Their best shot is probably getting Washington State at home, but I don’t even see them getting that one.

South

  1. Utah 10-3 (7-2) - I’m pulling the trigger on the Utes winning the South. They get USC and Arizona at home and a great coach and quarterback who’s coming into his own. The Utes are the most-complete team in the division with a proven system and it’s about time they win the division.
  2. USC 9-3 (7-2) - The Trojans were picked to win the South, but I think that was mostly about the media’s comfort level with them . They have really nice pieces across the board, the QB will be a major question mark and I think an early loss at Stanford out the gate gives them little margin for error the rest of the way, and they lose the division in Salt Lake City.
  3. Arizona 9-3 (6-3) - The Wildcats have a great chance to sneak up and win the South, but I don’t know if they’ll be ready with a first year coach and questions still lingering in the trenches. I still see them having a great year, being in the hunt of the South crown into November.
  4. Colorado 6-6 (4-5) - I’m not sure if Colorado is actually better than Arizona State and UCLA, but I love how their schedule breaks down, with almost all of their “toss up” games taking place in Boulder. Getting back to a bowl game would be a major breakthrough for Mike MacIntyre and company a year after it seemed they may have regressed right back to the bottom of the South.
  5. Arizona State 4-8 (2-7) - I think the Sun Devils win more games than this, but it’s hard to straight up predicts which games they will win when you actually look at their schedule. Herm Edwards’ first year might be a rebuilding one.

6. UCLA 4-8 (2-7) - Getting back into college football won’t be as easy as it was getting in the first time for Chip Kelly. The Bruins have some major rebuilds to do and need to change their culture after going off the rails under Jim Mora.