Bold Predictions for the Pac-12?
The conference of champions has been somewhat at the shorter end of the stick when it comes to powerhouse conferences for the past few years, but just recently the conference saw the University of Washington make an appearance in the College Football Playoff, only to be eliminated by the University of Alabama. But, no need to worry fellow Pac-12 fans! This year the teams within the Pac-12 seem a lot more competitive with USC getting the preseason rank at #4, Stanford at #14, and Washington State at #24. College football fans shouldn’t sleep on UCLA either with star quarterback, Josh Rosen. Besides those few teams though, the competition seems pretty bleak except for maybe the University of Utah and the University of Colorado, Boulder. Even though the Pac-12 might not be as competitive as other teams looking to make a berth for the CFP, there are still a lot of great storylines and rivalries to be excited about this season.
Namely, the rivalries between the two powerhouses in the North – Washington and Washington State and in the South – UCLA and USC. These four teams look to be some of most competitive within the Pac-12 and will probably finish on top of both their divisions within the Pac-12. Each team has a solid leader at quarterback in Josh Rosen for UCLA, Sam Darnold for USC, Jake Browning for Washington, and Luke Falk for Washington State. The season might just be beginning, but each of these teams’ offenses seem like they’re going to be tough to stop, let alone handle. When it comes to defense, on the other hand; some of these teams might need to step it up if they want to stay competitive on the national scene, but in conference play they shouldn’t have to worry too much. For instance, in this weeks match against Western Michigan; USC gave up 31 points to a MAC team and gave a few Trojan fans a scare up until the final quarter. Washington gave up 14 against Rutgers, but only won by 16 more points. Washington State in contrast didn’t allow Montana State to score a single point, but let's be honest, it’s Montana State. Lastly, UCLA hasn’t played yet, but will play a SEC powerhouse in Texas A&M and regardless if Texas A&M start a freshman QB on Sunday, the team will be nonetheless decent enough to knock down UCLA. Each team will play their own role in the path to the CFP, but enough about the four major rivalries within the Pac-12, there are eight other teams and some really good ones at that.
The only Pac-12 ranked team not mentioned above is Stanford (14) and they will probably finish either in 2nd or 3rd in the Pac-12 North with Washington going at #1 and either Washington State beating them out for #2 or vice versa. The #2 spot will be decided by the game between the two teams and will set a tone for the Pac-12 Championship. In the Pac-12 South a team to look out for is Colorado, Boulder because of their ability to hold offenses and have one of the best home field advantages in all of the nation. Regardless of positional play there are great rivalries all over the Pac-12. A great game to watch will be the Arizona State vs Arizona game that will decided in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe over the Thanksgiving holiday. Even though both sides will be fighting to stay out of the bottom portion of the South standings this year – the rivalry is one the most notable in the Pac-12. Even though Arizona has been somewhat lackluster the past few years, they have given the notably better Sun Devils of late a run for their money recently. Expect for a high scoring game with a close game towards the end because both teams' defenses are something of a joke and their offenses aren’t too much better either. The only thing that will make this game worth watching from all around is the intensity and hatred towards the two opposing sides.
But, who’s going to be the champion of the Pac-12? It seems pretty clear that Washington will take the North even with Stanford’s consistently solid teams and Washington’s rivals, Washington State nipping at their heels. And in the South, most analysts say they got USC winning it, but UCLA is a team that could surprise a lot of faces. UCLA wasn’t even predicted in the preseason top 25, but they have everything that a Pac-12 champion needs and more. So, for all the Trojan fans out there, watch out for your cross-town rivals to take the South this year. If UCLA and Washington were to meet up in the Pac-12 Championship game, count on the better defense to take home the trophy. With two of the best quarterbacks in the nation – both likely Heisman nominees this season and some incredible offenses as a supporting cast, anything can happen in this game. That is why the defenses will be so important in stopping the pass game on each side. Whosever secondary and safeties can play a better game will win the game for their respected side and take home the trophy and hopefully make an appearance in the CFP.
In the end, the game will probably come to down to a last-minute drive or field goal decided on a turnover by the opposing team. My final prediction is UCLA going on top of Washington 36 – 30.