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With Fall camp right around the corner and with it the BEST time of the year approaching, it’s time to break down how I believe the Pac-12 conference will shape up in 2019.
I went game-by-game and tried to predict my share of upsets – yes, some of them are a bit surprising (i.e. Oregon State over ASU)…but to me for example, OSU is better than a 1-11 team and ASU historically doesn’t play well in Corvallis in the cold of November. I also had trouble picking middling teams winning road games. I’m sure I’ll be proven incorrect but as of now on paper, this is what I chose to go with.
Below you’ll see the schedule matrix along with a brief synopsis as I see it for each team this Fall.
Before that, here’s how I fared with my predictions in 2018:
|2018 Projected Overall Record||2018 ACTUAL Overall Record||2018 Projected Pac-12 Record||2018 ACTUAL Pac-12 Record|
Correct Picks in 2018:
Regular Season Record: 2 (3 in 2017)
Conference Record: 5 (2 in 2017)
Bowl Predictions: 6 (0 in right bowl)
1. Oregon Ducks (10-2, 8-1)
Quite simply – if the Ducks beat Auburn in Arlington on August 31st, you’re looking at a team with a golden chance to represent the Pac-12 in the CFB Playoff. QB Justin Herbert stunningly turned down the NFL for a chance to return to school and it will pay off. With 17 returning starters including 10 on offense plus a stacked recruiting class, coach Mario Cristobal will have no excuses if Oregon falls short of expectations this season.
Bold Prediction: If the Ducks win on opening day, they’re virtually a lock to make a New Year’s Six bowl game (assuming Herbert stays healthy). But if not, could Cristobal’s job be in danger if the Ducks win 8 or less?
2. Washington Huskies (9-3, 7-2)
Despite a fairly inexperienced team coming back, I like the Huskies’ potential with highly talented Georgia transfer QB Jacob Eason. If they can win 2 of 3 early in the season – at BYU, at Stanford, and at Arizona, this is a team that could very well challenge for a repeat conference championship.
Bold Prediction: Eason turns heads as UW’s starter and is hyped in the offseason to be the second QB off the board in the 2021 NFL Draft (behind Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence).
3. Stanford Cardinal (7-5, 5-4)
David Shaw is one of my favorite coaches in America – his teams usually overachieve year-in and year-out. And despite having a future NFL QB in K.J. Costello, I don’t expect the Cardinal to win more than seven games with only nine returning starters. Next year, if Costello stays for his senior year, watch out!
Bold Prediction: As mentioned above, K.J. Costello stays for his senior year in 2020 and the Cardinal are a preseason top-10 team.
4. Washington State Cougars (6-6, 4-5)
I couldn’t have been more wrong about the Cougars and new QB Gardner Minshew last season. They very well could’ve been 11-0 going into the “Snow Bowl” against UW in late-November. And while I like this year’s transfer QB, Gage Gabrud from Eastern Washington, this is one of those teams where I just can’t find many (or any) away games they should win. Last year they faced one bowl team on the road…this year they face FIVE who made bowls in 2018-19.
Bold Prediction: After eight fairly successful seasons in Pullman, Mike Leach finally leaves to take the Baylor job once Matt Rhule heads to the NFL.
5. California Golden Bears (5-7, 3-6)
With only four returning starters on offense and a punishing road schedule, I just don’t see how Cal improves upon last year’s 7-5 regular season record. Fortunately for us, the fans, we won’t have to watch them slug through another miserable bowl game (a la the 2018 Cheez-It Bowl which was one of the worst ever played).
Bold Prediction: Coach Justin Wilcox is mentioned as a prime candidate for the USC job in the offseason.
6. Oregon State Beavers (2-10, 1-8)
Coach Jonathan Smith has an incredibly difficult rebuilding job in a place where it’s really, really hard to recruit. Quite simply, if the Beavers don’t win in Honolulu and at home vs. Cal Poly during the non-conference portion of the season, they could be in for a winless season. The schedule has to be one of the most difficult in all of college football outside of the SEC.
Bold Prediction: Oregon State will make a bowl game by 2021 but it certainly won’t happen this season.
1. Utah Utes (10-2, 7-2)
With a load of returning starters and an absence of scary away games on paper (outside of a trip to Seattle), there’s no reason the Utes shouldn’t be playing in their second consecutive Pac-12 Championship Game.
Bold Prediction: An upset in Tucson in late-November costs the Utes a chance to compete for a Final Four berth.
2. USC Trojans (7-5, 5-4)
I’m just not buying into any kind of USC hype this year. I’m not a Clay Helton fan as far as him being anything more than a solid offensive coordinator; he’s simply overmatched as a head coach for a big time program. The late addition of former Texas Tech QB / North Texas OC Graham Harrell as OC (replacing Kliff Kingsbury who left shortly after accepting the job to take the AZ Cardinals HC position) was a smart move…but the schedule isn’t friendly enough for me to predict any more than 7 or 8 wins at best.
Bold Prediction: Clay Helton is fired on November 24th, the day after he beats rival UCLA for the fourth time in five tries.
T-3. Arizona Wildcats (6-6, 4-5)
There is no doubt in my mind that this Arizona team is a heck of a lot better than the one we saw in 2018. With the lack of any proven receivers and defensive linemen being the most glaring weaknesses, there are still plenty of holes for Kevin Sumlin to plug. I’m curious to see if Khalil Tate can live up to the hype of once again being named a top-100 CFB player by multiple outlets…if not, it might be time for freshmen Kevin Doyle and/or Grant Gunnell. Don’t be surprised if Arizona starts 5-1 but the back half of the schedule is absolutely BRUTAL.
Bold Prediction: The Wildcats pull a couple of stunning home upsets over two of the Pac-12s top-3 teams at home – Washington and Utah.
T-3. Arizona State Sun Devils (6-6, 4-5)
I very well might be selling the Sun Devils short a game or two. But I’m simply not confident that any of their young QBs, whether true freshman Jayden Daniels or junior Dillon Sterling-Cole can win on the road. I have the Devils 6-1 at home and 0-5 on the road…that might be too extreme but needless to say, their road schedule isn’t all that friendly. Either way, Herm Edwards takes his team to a bowl game for the second consecutive season.
Bold Prediction: ASU wins the Territorial Cup for the third straight season with a 40-34 victory over the Wildcats.
T-3. UCLA Bruins (6-6, 4-5)
With potentially 19 returning starters, the Bruins also might very well exceed my record projection. This is a team to look out for in 2020 assuming Chip Kelly can still coach nearly as well as he did at Oregon.
Bold Prediction: Chip Kelly’s seat grows warmer in LA after another lackluster season. Anything short of 8 wins in 2020 might result in another coaching change in Westwood.
6. Colorado Buffaloes (4-8, 2-7)
This team had a stunning fall from grace after a 5-0 start…not winning again in 2018 and costing coach Mike McIntyre his job two years after winning the South Division title. New coach Mel Tucker will turn things around in due time…but having only four returning starters on defense won’t help this year.
Bold Prediction: Star WR Laviska Shenault leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards before becoming a late-1st round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Pac-12 Championship Game
Utah 27, Oregon 24
Rose Bowl – Utah
Cotton Bowl – Oregon
Alamo Bowl – Washington
Holiday Bowl – USC
Redbox Bowl – Stanford
Sun Bowl – Arizona
Las Vegas Bowl – UCLA
Cheez-It Bowl – Arizona State
At Large* – Washington State