As the calendar turns from June to July it means two things. First, it is the season of hundreds of college football players being placed on watch lists for various awards. Second, football is another month closer to Media Days are just a few weeks away.
The Pac-12 will holds its Media Day next Thursday and Friday in Southern California. House of Sparky will have coverage, but before the preseason Pac-12 Media Poll is released, we asked our staff to give us their outlook for the conference.
Ryan Bafaloukos - Co- Managing Editor (@RyanBafo)
Connor Pelton - Co-Managing Editor (@ConnorPelton28)
Kaelen Jones - Staff Writer (@kaelenjones)
Zac Pacleb - Staff Writer (@ZacPacleb)
|3.||Washington State||Washington State||Washington State||Oregon|
|5.||Cal||Oregon State||Cal||Oregon State|
|6.||Oregon State||Cal||Oregon State||Cal|
Zac Pacleb: College football has trained me to believe in very little of the massive amounts of offseason hype. I won't believe in Oregon rolling out its third starting quarterback in three years until I see it. I won't believe in Wazzu and Luke Falk because I don't know what's running through Mike Leake's head even though he's led WSU to a nice run last season.
I could be wrong, but in this chaotic world and cloudy season to predict, I believe in three people: David Shaw, Christian McCaffery and Chris Peterson. Shaw has done more with less during his time at Stanford, and he still has a human highlight reel at this disposal. Meanwhile, Chris Peterson is one of the top coaches in the Pac-12 and in the country, and he fielded a respectable and youthful Washington team last season. In his third year at the helm, he finally has the players needed to fit his style. It should be fun to watch.
Kaelen Jones: Sure, Stanford returns Christian McCaffrey, but his supporting cast in quarterback Kevin Hogan, offensive linemen Joshua Garnett and Kyle Murphy, and receiving core of Devon Cajuste and Austin Hooper are all gone. The Huskies' defense makes it a legitimate threat to dethrone the Cardinal at the top, especially if (if, I say) quarterback Jake Browning takes the next step in his maturation as a signal-caller paired with the rushing talent of second-year man Myles Gaskin.
Oregon, defensively, gives me slight pause early on, but I suspect I'm being too low on the Ducks, who are behind Luke Falk's Cougars, whose passing game is to be respected.
Connor Pelton: I'm buying into the Washington hype. This is a down, down year for the North and the Huskies will have one of the top defenses in the Pac-12 with Budda Baker leading the way. Stanford returns a lot of talent and should be the only real challenger to Chris Petersen's team, but with arguably the toughest schedule in the country (will play USC, at UCLA, and at Washington before September is even over) it is tough to see the Cardinal winning the division.
Washington State and Oregon seem to be a step below the top two teams but miles ahead of the bottom two in the North. The Cougars return Luke Falk at quarterback along with three wide receivers, so Mike Leach's Air Raid offense should be entertaining at the very least.
Oregon finished 2015 with four losses and that feels about right again in 2016. Its success could very well boil down to how well Montana State graduate transfer Dakota Prukop performs at quarterback, but it will be challenging for him to match the numbers that Vernon Adams put up last year in the same situation.
Gary Andersen and Oregon State are in year two of a long rebuild but have enough talent and a schedule that sets up for the Beavers to possibly double their win total from a season ago. And then there's California, which loses Jared Goff at quarterback along with its top six wide receivers from 2015. It's tough to see this offense scoring enough to keep up with the rest of the conference this fall.
Ryan Bafaloukos: The north is far more interesting this year than in years past because Oregon and Stanford lost a ton from their 2015 squads and it should leave the door open for the Washington schools to make a run at the division title. Jake Browning (Washington) and Luke Falk (WSU) are perhaps the two top quarterbacks in the conference and certainly they are the top quarterbacks in this division.
I went with Stanford at No. 1 because of David Shaw, Christian McCaffery and the fact that they have been recruiting at a high level over the last few seasons. Shaw is probably the top coach in the conference and McCaffery is the best player in the league. I'm interested to see how Cal fairs in 2016 without Jared Goff and how Oregon State progresses under Gary Anderson will be another storyline to watch as well.
Zac Pacleb: I have UCLA over USC for two reasons: USC lost its starting quarterback, and UCLA's starting quarterback is still Josh Rosen. There is little to no reason why Rosen won't light up the Pac-12 this season, and UCLA's schedule is a heck of a lot easier than playing Alabama for its season opener (still looking at you, USC).
Logic also says Todd Graham will manage a winning season after a losing one, Kyle Whittingham will have another strong team in the trenches and Colorado will still struggle against teams in the conference. As far as Arizona, replacing an entire defensive staff (and its best defensive player) is enough of a reason to have concern.
Kaelen Jones: Last offseason, there was a preempt media love affair with USC (can you blame them, looking at that roster?). This offseason, the hype surrounds rival UCLA, and for good reason—it has the best quarterback in the conference on its squad.
Neither program's team is perfect, but all things considered, they're the most talented in the division. The bottom four are all in range of one another, but consistency at head coach pushes Utah (Kyle Whittingham, 67% win percentage at Utah) and ASU (Todd Graham, 64% win percentage at ASU) ahead, for now.
Connor Pelton: UCLA was the definition of inconsistent last year but things should be much different. Nine starters return on the defensive side of the ball, and while the offense is looking very young, sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen should be able to carry them.
Utah and USC will be hot on the heels of the Bruins all season long, but both the Utes and Trojans have to play Jim Mora's team in the Rose Bowl. Arizona State finished fourth in the South in 2015 and with just 10 starters coming back it will be challenging to improve on that standing. The Sun Devils do have a lot of young talent at quarterback and offensive line, and an upper-half finish is very possible if they can find a way to better the 0-3 record in close games which buried them a year ago.
It seems clear that Arizona and Colorado are the bottom two teams in this division, but the gap isn't nearly as big as it is up North. The Wildcats open the month of October with road games against UCLA and Utah and a home date with USC, so we should find out then just how good they are.
The Buffaloes are the most experienced team in the Pac-12 but it's tough to pick them anywhere but sixth until they can prove to stay healthy and perform better down the stretch in tight games.
Ryan Bafaloukos: We are all in agreement that UCLA comes into the season as the team to beat in the Pac-12 South. USC, Utah and Arizona State all lose their starting quarterbacks and Utah also loses bell cow running back Devontae Booker. UCLA returns Josh Rosen and 10 staters on defense to go along with a favorable 2016 schedule. This should be the season Jim Mora's team to Santa Clara.
Behind UCLA things get murky. Utah seems to always be good, USC has so much talent but just can't put a competent season together, although maybe things will change with Clay Helton at the helm. ASU and Arizona seem interchangeable and Colorado once again seems destined for the basement of the division.