It’s that time of year to take a look at the full Pac-12 schedule and actually predict which teams will win which games and figure out how the Pac-12 standings will look at the end of the season. Here’s how I think things play out, as of today.
- Washington 8-1 (12-1) - I like Washington’s schedule and their potential with Jacob Eason at quarterback. They get their two toughest opponents at home in October along with their tough rival in November. I feel like the Huskies probably lose two conference games, but I just can’t find two when I actually look at their schedule.
The Huskies get a rematch with Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game and pull it out again, beating the Utes four times in two years.
2. Oregon 8-1 (10-2) - The Ducks get another run with Justin Herbert, but the schedule isn’t easy with a road trip game against Auburn and road games against Stanford and Washington. Like Washington, I think the Ducks lose more games than this, but I just can’t pick them to lose any other than Auburn and Washington. I’ve gone back and forth with them against Stanford, but ultimately like their offense against Stanford’s defense. The Ducks only lose one in-conference, but lose the tie-breaker with Washington.
This puts them in a good spot for an NY6 bowl like the Cotton Bowl.
3. Stanford 6-3 (8-4) I like Washington’s schedule, but I love Stanford’s in-conference schedule, enough that my first take at predicting the season actually had them winning the North because they get Oregon and Washington in Palo Alto. But, Stanford still has too many holes and will struggle to replace Bryce Love and JJ Arcega-Whiteside. I also think their scary tough non-conference schedule will wear them out.
Still, they finish well and can easily win the North if they play at their best and KJ Costello keeps progressing.
4. Cal 5-4 (7-5) Cal gets back to a bowl game behind the strength of their tough defense. I think they figure out things on offense a little more too and get some progression from QB Chase Garbers. They aren’t going to finish in the Top 25, but Justin Wilcox is doing big things in Berkeley and should start to become a hot job candidate.
The Bears should land in a better bowl game then they did last year and that’s solid progress.
5. Washington State 4-5 (6-6) I feel like I’m underrating the Cougars yet again. I know they will win a game or two that I don’t expect, but I’m just having a hard time predicting which games those would be. I don’t like their schedule as they get three of five North teams, including Oregon and Washington, on the road, and have to go at Utah and Houston as well.
This is still good work for the Cougars. Getting to a bowl every year is a realistic, but challenging goal in Pullman and Mike Leach should continue to do that.
6. Oregon State 1-8 (3-9) The Beavers should get better in 2019. The problem is the North is absolutely stacked and the lower-middle of the conference is so strong, it’s hard to climb out of the cellar right now. Missing Colorado on their schedule stings and they’ll have a tough time even challenging for bowl eligibility this year.
- Utah 8-1 (11-2) Unlike the North, the South is an easy choice. I think Utah takes the lead in the division early and runs away with it. They’re very experienced, very well-coached, and very talented. I don’t think they’ll lose one division game. I only see them losing at Washington with the Huskies coming off a bye week. They’ll get another shot at the Huskies in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but I don’t see them pulling it out.
I think the Utes will compete with the Ducks for a second NY6 bowl slot for the Pac-12.
2. UCLA 4-5 (5-7) Huge drop off here. I give UCLA the tie breaker over Arizona State because I think they win the head-to-head match-up. Unfortunately I think UCLA’s very difficult non-conference schedule keeps them out of a bowl game even though they improve from Chip Kelly’s first year. The Bruins are a team that should knock off a team or two you don’t expect them to who also lose a game or two that they shouldn’t.
3. Arizona State 4-5 (6-6) The Sun Devil stay steady in Herm Edwards’ second season, proven that he’s a capable Pac-12 coach. I don’t think the Sun Devils do anything remarkable, and they have to win the Territorial Cup just to get to a bowl game, but that’s solid in a semi rebuilding year in Tempe.
4. USC 3-6 (5-7) I don’t think Clay Helton lasts long with USC’s nightmare schedule. The Trojans are going to have a tough 2019, but it should be a new start for them at some point as I think they’ll have a new coach very soon.
5. Arizona 2-7 (5-7) The Wildcats are a decent team, but they just don’t seem to have what it takes to get over the edge. Something could break and get them to a bowl game if some things go their way and Khalil Tate gets his form back so don’t completely write them off just yet.
6. Colorado 1-8 (3-9) I think Colorado is better than this record, but who are they going to beat? Again, that ultra-tough middle of the conference is tough to crack.