Photo credit Lisa Horne
Pac-12 media members have correctly picked the last 12 of 15 Pac-12 conference champions. Later this summer, they will be asked to rank all 12 Pac-12 teams in the order they will finish in their respective divisions.
Frankly, college football fans cannot wait until July to hear the results of those rankings. The dog days of summer are tortuous. It's time to throw the fans a bone.
So here you go. Chew on this.
The Ducks have four possible roadblocks in their quest to play in the conference championship: Michigan State, Arizona State, Stanford and USC. It's a respectable schedule and not nearly as difficult as other Pac-12 teams' slates but the Ducks must navigate it without Heisman winning quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The Cardinal could be 0-3 after their first three games against Northwestern, Central Florida and USC. With Arizona, UCLA, Oregon and Notre Dame also on the docket, winning the North looks like a stretch. Still, they return a lot of starters including quarterback Kevin Hogan.
Head coach Chris Petersen did a decent job in his first year in Seattle but the Huskies failed to beat an FBS team with a regular season winning record. This year the Huskies face this six-game gauntlet: at USC, Oregon, at Stanford, Arizona, Utah and at Arizona State.
4- Washington State
If the Cougars cannot get the running game going then this season will be difficult. The schedule is favorable, especially with them drawing Colorado and avoiding USC and Utah. They will pull a big upset in the Pac-12.
5- Oregon State
The Beavers have a new staff since Mike Riley left for Nebraska. I usually lower expectations when a head coach is in his first year at a new program. I'm not expecting a lot from Gary Andersen this season.
The Golden Bears drew Arizona State, USC, UCLA and Utah from the South and play at Washington and Oregon. Ugh. Unfortunately, their final record will not reflect the vast improvement the Bears will have made.
Quarterback Cody Kessler returns as well as his offensive line. Kessler will still have plenty of weapons in his arsenal despite the loss of receivers Nelson Agholor and George Farmer and running back Buck Allen. The Trojans are looking to make a statement and finish all four quarters of the game.
2- Arizona State
Quarterback Taylor Kelly has left but Mike Bercovici showed a lot of promise when he relieved an injured Kelly last season. The Sun Devils also get Oregon at home.
The loss of quarterback Brett Hundley is the elephant in the room--he was the heart of the team. The schedule is one of the toughest in the country. The Bruins' league road games include Stanford, Utah and USC and their non-conference opponents are Virginia, UNLV and BYU.
Quarterback Anu Solomon was a nice surprise last year but this year he could really explode with a lot more confidence. The secondary will have to be rebuilt but linebacker Scooby Wright III returns.
Last year the Utes were a very good team but injuries to key players were difficult to overcome. Utah never really got into a groove. This year they lose two coordinators but they do get quarterback Travis Wilson back. Utah could be a sleeper in the South.
For the last two years big playmakers carried most of the Buffs' offense on their backs. Receiver Paul Richardson was special. Nelson Spruce will return and will likely set new records at Colorado. If the offense can depend less on a big play to move the chains then we should see a very improved team.
Pac-12 conference championship game
Oregon Ducks v USC Trojans