Though we have about three and a half months until the start of the 2019 season, Go Joe Bruin predicts how the Pac-12 football landscape may look by season’s end.
Pac-12 football is an enigma. The 12 teams in the conference have beaten up on each other for the last few seasons. Mixed with widespread underperforming, it has been difficult to predict a clear winner. And this will continue with several teams in transition, rebuilding or reloading, the causing another year of calamity with the Pac-12.
But division winners will emerge regardless. The North will have at least four teams battling for the division title while it is a complete toss-up in the South. Washington will be a favorite in their division, but will they get brought down by Stanford, Washington State or Oregon? And can Utah repeat as division winners, or will one of the five other teams claim the title in 2019?
- Washington State
- Oregon State
Let us start with the North Division. As long as Chris Petersen is in Seattle, Washington will be relevant. They might not always win the division, but they will be competitive.
Washington is thinking not only on a conference level but a national level. They want to get back to the College Football Playoffs, they just need to avoid stumbling along the way (hint: don’t lose to inferior Pac-12 teams). And in that pursuit, they will handle their business in the conference and once again take over the North.
Make no mistake, it will be a dog fight in the North; the problem is when analyzing the teams behind Washington, it becomes a bit of a log jam. Stanford, Washington State, and Oregon are all going to be in the hunt for the division, but will any of them take that next step to challenge the Huskies? And it is not like the Huskies will dominate this season, but one game can change the entire landscape.
Stanford had a “down” season in 2018 (by their standards), but that usually doesn’t last long with David Shaw, which is why I believe his team will come in second. I would also have Wazzu higher, but they need to find a way to finish the season. They started the season strong as they went 3-0 in the non-conference, but as the Cougars were on their way to winning the North, they ran into their old rival UW and lost a heartbreaker in the snowy Apple Cup. Can Wazzu have a better finish this year?
And here is a take that will be a point of contention with Oregon fans. The Ducks are good, but they are not great. For all that was expected of Oregon last year, they woefully underperformed. Though they have a lot of talent, they have to find a way to make it all come together.
Cal has an outstanding defense; they need to figure which one of their quarterbacks will lead the offense next season. With that in mind, I’m not sure if Cal will take that next step next season. And as for Oregon State, well, they should be better next season but are nowhere near competing for the division title.
- Arizona State
Now let’s have a little chatette about the South Division. This year is going to be an interesting one for many reasons. It seems that most of the teams in the division do not have their head on straight. Though there were a few success stories, all six teams were having problems last year, and that says a lot about the division as a whole. Still, Utah should also improve off of last season’s efforts. Kyle Whittingham always seems to find a way to win and after claiming his first division title last year, that momentum will stay with him. They should once again take the South, but who follows?
Many will look at UCLA’s 3-9 record from last season and expect more of the same. What many will miss, especially if they did not follow the team carefully, is how much they improved in Chip Kelly‘s system from the start to the end of the season. With the team having one year of this new style under their belt, they will have a stronger start to the 2019 season as opposed to the 2018 season.
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Arizona State was a surprise for many last year. Not many people expected Herm Edwards to have that much success, let alone finish second in the South. But they lose one of the best receivers in the nation, N’Keal Harry, so they have to adjust and find that nest go-to guy.
USC had to replace their offensive coordinator (twice), which should help them take a step forward in 2019, but they still have a lot of systematic issues (and having former players give their vote of confidence for Urban Meyer to replace Clay Helton before this next season begins is not a good sign). Can the offense improve enough to cover up the lot of those issues? I can’t see it.
Unless Arizona figures out what is happening with their quarterbacks, then they are going to continue to struggle. It seemed odd that Kevin Sumlin could not figure out a way to use the talented Khalil Tate, but hopefully, they iron out those wrinkles and return to having an explosive offense this fall.
And as for Colorado, a seven-game losing streak to end the season after starting 5-0 will always get you a spot in the cellar.
So with Utah and Washington projected to win their respective divisions, we will once again see the Utes and Huskies in the Pac-12 Championship Game. And once again, it will be UW snagging the Pac-12 title.