PAC 12 football after dark Saturday nights on ESPN. There’s nothing else like it. The PAC 12 is one of those conferences that always brings a bit of mystery and suspense going into each new season. Year in and year out, new teams make noise and give the traditional powers like USC and Washington some serious headaches. With some teams seriously flying under the radar, does that mean they will make a huge step forward and surprise the rest of the country? In order to keep you thinking more and more about football, let’s take a look at some power rankings.
12. Oregon State Beavers
This is probably one of the toughest jobs in the country to deal with right now. The Beavers have virtually no depth and did not win a conference game last season. Only four players were available in the secondary during spring practice and things are looking extremely bleak in 2018 for Oregon State. It’s going to take a lot of time for this team to regain its depth and become competitive again.
11. Colorado Buffaloes
Steven Montez returning at quarterback is huge for this team. However, losing Philip Lindsay at running back and Isaiah Oliver at defensive back will really hurt. There haven’t been many changes to the team’s roster but a lot of the holes that still need to be filled are open and fall practice is just around the corner. If Colorado still has gaps in its starting lineup, this could be a rough season if they can’t figure out their issues.
10. California Golden Bears
Justin Wilcox has this program heading in the right direction and the fight that they bring to every game is admirable. With a tough schedule, 2018 may be a statement year. Quarterback Ross Bowers has returned and Vic Wharton has returned to spark the offense. Michigan graduate transfer tight end Ian Bunting may also become another reliable weapon. The defense will determine the outcome of some games. If they can stand tall, Cal will be going bowling in December.
9. Arizona State Sun Devils
Herm Edwards is the gift that keeps on giving. The former NFL Coach and TV personality has taken over in Tempe and he is going to deal with one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Sophomore wide receiver John Humphrey tore his achilles during spring ball and two backup quarterbacks transferred from the program. Manny Wilkins is a seasoned veteran at quarterback and it will be up to Herm Edwards to get his team ready to play once the season starts.
8. Washington State Cougars
Mike Leach. What a guy. He doesn’t like candy corn, mint juleps, and fruitcake because they’re “awful.” Wazoo was faced with a possible rebuilding season but the addition of East Carolina grad transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew is a huge get. The addition of Minshew gives the Cougars a veteran passer after losing Luke Falk to graduation and the next guy up, Tyler Hilinski, passed away in the winter. Look for more crazy Mike Leach interviews this season and they will not disappoint.
7. Utah Utes
Defense. Defense. Defense. If Utah wants to make a push forward, they will need their defense to step up big time after losing a number of key players. For the 2018 season, Kyle Whittingham’s team will have one of the better one-two punches in the PAC 12 with Tyler Huntley and Zak Moss. If they can add a receiver to that equation, that offense will be extremely explosive.
6. Arizona Wildcats
Enter Kevin Sumlin and his philosophy of keeping the media out of his practices. Khalil Tate returns as the clear-cut starter after a strong 2017 campaign. Tate’s name will definitely be flying around the Heisman conversation throughout the season. The defense returns a large majority of its starters but in order to win more than six games, the Wildcats will need to clean up their pass defense which was last in the PAC 12.
5. UCLA Bruins
Chip Kelly comes to Westwood with a fresh set of ideas that could potentially bring UCLA back to the top of the PAC 12. The Bruins added graduate transfer Wilton Speight and Justin Murphy on offense and there will most likely be a quarterback battle between Devin Modster and Speight. Jim Mora’s offense was more of a pro-style look and it wouldn’t be surprising if Chip Kelly made the offense into a bit of a multiple style.
4. Stanford Cardinal
Good news! Bryce Love is back. Bad news. Keller Chryst transferred to Tennessee and KJ Costello’s hip injury left the Cardinal without a scholarship quarterback for formal workouts. Walk-on Jack Richardson played for both sides during the spring game and was put on scholarship after the spring game. The lack of quarterback depth and losing key defensive players are usually disasters for some programs. David Shaw has been in this spot before and the Cardinal will be making noise in 2018.
3. USC Trojans
Sam Darnold, Ronald Jones, and Deontay Burnett are off to the NFL and now it’s time for Clay Helton to usher in a new group of Trojans for the 2018 season. The three-way quarterback battle will come down to JT Daniels, Matt Fink, and Jack Sears with Fink and Sears gaining valuable reps during spring ball. The Trojans will take a small step back in 2018 but it won’t take much longer until they’re back on top again.
2. Oregon Ducks
Willie Taggart left for Florida State and now Mario Cristobal is stepping in as the new head coach. Cristobal was on Taggart’s staff and was the interim coach during the Las Vegas Bowl. Justin Herbert returns at quarterback for the Ducks and he could be a real factor in determining Oregon’s success this season. Losing Royce Freeman in the backfield hurts but the offense will remain explosive and push for a PAC 12 title in 2018.
1. Washington Huskies
Jake Browning is back, Miles Gaskin is back, the defense is still solid even after losing Vita Vea. The story of the offense will be the re-emergence of wide receiver Chico McClatcher. The fleet-footed receiver would have been a matchup disaster alongside Dante Pettis in 2017 but an injury sidelined him for a majority of the season. Dante Pettis is now in the NFL and it’s McClatcher’s time to shine. This team is the clear favorite to win the PAC 12 and may even reach the College Football Playoff.