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Pac-12 Football: House of Sparky’s Pac-12 preseason poll

Our staff’s prediction of where the Pac-12 stands.

USC v UCLA Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Pac-12 media day begins on Wednesday in Hollywood, California, and its annual preseason will begin that morning. House of Sparky co-managing editors Maxwell Madden and Josiah Destin and staff writer Matthew Tonis predict where each team will fall at the end of the season.

Pac-12 South

Rank Destin Madden Tonis
Rank Destin Madden Tonis
2 UCLA Colorado Colorado
3 Utah Utah UCLA
4 Colorado UCLA Utah
5 Arizona State Arizona State Arizona State
6 Arizona Arizona Arizona

Pac-12 North

Rank Destin Madden Tonis
Rank Destin Madden Tonis
1 Washington Washington Stanford
2 Washington State Stanford Washington
3 Stanford Washington State Washington State
4 Oregon Oregon Oregon
5 Oregon State California California
6 California Oreogon State Oregon State

Who wins the Pac-12 Championship?

USC beats Washington

  • Destin: There’s too much talent on the Trojans not to count them out of the College Football Playoff. Sam Darnold’s Rose Bowl performance has left a major mark in my mind. With his return and several of USC’s four to five star weapons, USC should finish top-4 in the nation. Washington, on the other hand, might have the best QB and running back combo in the conference, but won’t be able to overcome its 26-13 home loss to the Huskies in 2016.

USC beats Stanford

  • Tonis: I’m all aboard the Trojan hype train. Note that this is usually a curse for the team I pick (I predicted UCLA losing one game en route to a College Football Playoff appearance a season ago), but I’m confident in myself and fellow, more read, prognosticators in thinking USC is back in a big way in 2017.

USC beats Washington

  • Madden: These two seem to be on a collision course for Santa Clara in early December, unless Stanford gives Washington some trouble. I really wanted to pick the Huskies over Helton and the Trojans, but if they couldn’t stop Darnold in Seattle with Sidney Jones, Kevin King and Buddha Baker, they certainly won’t be able to do it without them during a glorified home game for USC in the championship game.

Breaking down our Pac-12 picks

  • Destin: The Pac-12 has been a league of the quarterbacks, and that’s why UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Washington State’s Luke Falk will creep their schools into second-place in their respective divisions. Colorado lost Sefo Liufau to the NFL and new likely starter Steven Montez performed great as backup against one of the Pac-12’s worst defenses last year; Oregon. I don’t see him leading the Buffs as dominantly as my colleagues predict.
  • Tonis: USC peaked right at the end of the 2016 season and I see that momentum carrying over into 2017. Sam Darnold is the presumed Heisman Trophy frontrunner, but I don’t see that phasing him much. Colorado and Steven Montez will give USC a run for their money. Other than a brief stretch last season, Stanford was Stanford and I expect that to continue into next season. Washington impressed me a lot, but I think the Huskies lost a little too much firepower to be expected to top the North for a second season in a row.
  • Madden: For the second season in a row, the Pac-12 should prove to be one of the most unpredictable conferences in the country. Other than the leaders for both divisions, there’s a ton of parity in even our own rankings. The South is particularly difficult to assess, often posing more questions than concrete answers. Will MacIntyre duplicate his success and live up to his hefty new contract at Colorado? Will Utah have a chance to upset the Trojans during their trip to the coliseum? Is any of this analysis? Absolutely not, but it’s only because I’m as unsure as anyone coming into this season.

Deciding on the Devils

  • Destin: With Arizona State’s schedule the Sun Devils could very much start 4-0 again. But a five game stretch against Stanford, Washington, Utah, USC and Colorado could put the Sun Devils under the win column. Arizona State’s offense will be great, actually one of the Pac-12’s best, but after having the nation’s worst pass defense and losing two starting corners, keeping opponents to below 30 points per game might even be challenging.
  • Tonis: The Sun Devils are caught in a rough spot in 2017. Their anemic defense from a season ago will likely get worse with the losses of Armand Perry, Gump Hayes and Kareem Orr in the secondary. Manny Wilkins played well a season ago when healthy, but will he (or whoever else plays quarterback) be able to score at the volume ASU will need to stay competitive against the quarterbacks on the schedule? I find that unlikely.
  • Madden: Let’s be honest here. That schedule is not doing Todd Graham any favors as he heads into what could be a pivotal year in his career. The Devils play the top-two teams in the North, two of the best three teams in the South on the road and face another offensive onslaught in Lubbock against Texas Tech in just the third game of the year. Combine that with the fact that the defense looks like it’s going to be worse than before and that the offense may well be the exact same. It’s going to be a struggle this year.