The Pac-12 used to be a college football conference of differing styles and contrasts. However, in 2018, it appears that there will be one dominant trend: Defense.
Defense will rule this conference from beginning to end. It’s not just because the defense is so good. It’s because the offense is so anemic for most teams this year.
Let’s take a look at these team’s defensive profiles and how it compares to their offense, according to S&P+.
Best of the best
Utah Utes, 2nd: With a defense this good, you’d expect the Utes to be ruling the Pac-12 South. Nope. They managed 7 points against Washington because they have the 108th best offense.
Washington Huskies, 3rd: Washington should be the best team in this conference by miles, but because of a scattershot, non-explosive offense, the Huskies currently stand at 35th in offensive S&P. Capable, but not destructive. It cost them against Auburn and nearly did them in against Utah. It’ll be hard to trust this unit going forward.
Stanford Cardinal, 4th: The Cardinal are slightly more balanced than the Utes, but the offensive troubleshooting is still an issue. 17 points against USC isn’t a bad performance (the Trojans have good defensive talent).
California Golden Bears, 8th: This is the most extreme case: Cal is 3-0 almost entirely due to their defensive prowess. The Bears stand at 120th on offense, nearly bottom ten in the country.
USC Trojans, 15th: It’s hard to imagine the Trojans being 1-2 with a top 15 defense. But having the 87th best offense in the nation is a far cry from the days of Sam Darnold.
These Pac-12 defenses will make lives miserable for the rest of the conference, with some more balanced teams (Washington State at 38th on defense, Arizona State at 47th, Colorado at 50th) likely to provide some inspired performances as well. With only one top-25 offense (Oregon at 25), this is the year Pac-12 football gets defensive.