When will we see the return of a power Pac-12?
As far as the entertainment value was concerned, the conference certainly provided that in 2018. And as far as betting was concerned, it was truly an unpredictable experience — and the most unpredictable of the Power Five conferences. For example, who in the hell saw Los Angeles schools USC and UCLA being as horrible as they were? But we should have known from the get-go that the Pac-12 was going to suffer after Washington lost to Auburn to kick off the season. That game pretty much set the tone for the Pac-12 the entire 2019 campaign.
You could say there were a few good teams within the conference, but there was never a team that stuck their neck out to become great. I don’t know how much stock you personally put into bowl season, but I do see it at as a reflection of the conference — and it wasn’t good with a combined record of 3-4 in bowl games from the Pac-12. It’s even worse when you consider that those three wins came by a combined four points over, well, not the best talent. (Washington beat Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl, Stanford beat Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl and Oregon defeat Michigan State in the RedBox Bowl) It just wasn’t the best look for the last-best conference in the Power Five, and by far at that.
In the Pac-12’s defense, however, they are currently in the middle of a rebuilding phase. Chip Kelly would take the helm at UCLA to begin their rebuild, Kevin Sumlin was given the opportunity to do the same thing at Arizona, Jonathan Smith has been implementing his model at Oregon State, and my man and former NFL head coach Herm Edwards is doing his thing at Arizona State and delivered a winning 7-6 record and the 2nd placement in the Pac-12 South in 2018.
With that being said, expect all second-year head coaches and their programs to have seasons of improvement.
Another rebuilding process to keep an eye on is Colorado with their new head coach Mel Tucker. On top of that, you can expect a much better product coming from the University of Southern California this season.
If each of those six teams can have successful campaigns this year, the Pac-12 will have taken a massive notch up to bringing their conference back to power.
2019’s version of the conference, of course, comes with favorites, such as Utah, but that just shows you the “power” of the Pac-12. With the Utes though, the only question concerning them is the offensive backfield. If they can keep that in good order, Utah will be in good shape to have a very strong season.
As far as the other schools, Stanford has a lethal squad set in place that is currently floating under the radar and they have the potential to create some shockwaves this season. Washington State once again enters a season being underrated, and by a good value. The California Golden Bears will repeat this year themselves, and for them, it will be an elite defense — one of the best in the nation to be exact. As far as Oregon and Washington are concerned, they should put themselves back into powerhouse position.
But here’s the problem, and it’s the same problem that the conference faced in 2018: Even though it appears that most teams, if not all, are prepared to have successful seasons, can anyone stick their necks out to become great? Parity, it’s what comes to mind when you describe the state of the Pac-12.
When the season begins and we kick off with non-conference play, it is extremely important that the Pac-12 represent themselves well in this stretch by getting out to a hot start. Also, for the reputation of the conference, they need to provide us quality play full of fireworks, competitiveness, and entertainment. And the most important facet: One of the schools need to separate themselves from the rest of the pack and become elite.
In other words, the Pac-12 needs to provide their own Alabama, their own Clemson, their own Ohio State or Oklahoma. In even better words, they need a school in the College Football Playoff.
Well, I highly doubt that happens, but it’s going to be an extremely entertaining year of Pac-12 football regardless. I’ll give them that.
Let’s go over the top favorites to win the 2019 Pac-12 championship, review their odds for a top-quality betting prediction, and afterwards, I’ll be giving you my personal pick to take home the conference title. I’ll also be providing you a long-shot pick to ride with for a major payday. Strap up, kids. It’s time to go out west.
According to online sportsbook Bovada, the Utah Utes are the top-dog favorite entering the season to win the 2019 Pac-12 at +250 odds. Following in second place, we have a tie between the Oregon Ducks and Washington Huskies at +300, and then another tie for fourth with the USC Trojans and Washington State Cougars at +900 to round out the top five. In the No. 6 spot, we have the Stanford Cardinal at +2000 odds, with the UCLA Bruins following them in seventh at +2200. In eighth place, we’ve got the Arizona State Sun Devils at +2600, and then their rival Arizona Wildcats placed in ninth at +2800. Rounding out the top 10, the California Golden Bears are sitting in 10th at +3500 odds. In the No. 11 spot, the Colorado Buffaloes come in at +5500, with the Oregon State Beavers placing themselves at +20000 odds to take us to the end of the Pac-12 conference.
You can also check out my other Power Five conference season previews and predictions with the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and Big 12. Also, look forward to my biggest piece of them all about the entire landscape of college football, and who I’ll have as my national champion of the College Football Playoff.
The Pac-12 was completely out of wack last season, which seems to be a common occurrence within this conference every year in recent times. But last season, however, seemed to be a little more amplified than usual — 2019 could be a similar feat. And it could be a feat that leads the Utah Utes to the Pac-12 crown.
Last season, Utah would nearly secure a double-digit winning year tallying a 9-5 record, and at times, it appeared that the Utes were ready to step into a level of greatness.
Going into the new season, not many changes have been made with the personnel. However, they do have a quarterback tandem returning of Jason Shelley and Tyler Huntley that put up numbers of 2,950 yards, 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2018. When you mix that in with the fact that literally, nearly every wide receiver from last year is coming back for the new season, you have to be pretty excited for Utah’s passing attack in 2019 — expect a lot of improvement there at the least.
Despite having those weapons though, head coach Kyle Wittingham won’t ride-or-die with his passing game to win.
Don’t be surprised to see the Utes preferring to grind it out with opponents with their rushing attack, and not just that, but a solid defense to go along with it. With the rushing game, Zach Moss will be the focal point for Utah. Moss would blaze past opposition last year with a stat line of 1,096 yards and 11 touchdowns. Leading their defense is their defensive line, charged by John Penisini and Bradlee Anae — they would combine a tally of 9.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss last season.
After the 2018 season was over, Oregon junior quarterback Justin Herbert was expected to forego his senior year and enter the 2019 NFL Draft. Instead, Christmas lasted a bit longer for head coach Mario Cristobal and the Ducks with Herbert deciding to come back for another year. You see, Herbert was projected by most to be the first quarterback taken in the draft, so this was a pretty big deal for Oregon to bring back their star QB. This also puts the Ducks in a position where they have a legitimate shot to win the Pac-12 championship in a season where things can get a bit out of control in the conference.
Here’s why I would put Oregon above Utah in the odds, personally. Remember earlier when I mentioned that the Pac-12 needs a team that separates themselves from the pack and launches themselves into the College Football Playoff or at least enter themselves into the conversation? Well, I think the Ducks may be that team, I don’t have that same vibe with the Utes.
When you look at the return of Herbert, their running attack in CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, Juwan Johnson transferring out of Penn State, Mycah Pittman doing his thing at the wide receiver position and they also have one of the best offensive lines in the nation, it’s clear to see that Oregon will be massively potent on the offensive side of the ball, there’s no question there. With that being said, there are questions that do exist on defense.
New defensive coordinator Andy Avalos certainly has the talent to work with, pieces such as linebacker Troy Dye and highly-anticipated new recruit Kayvon Thibodeaux on the defensive line are sure to be effective.
With that talent, Avalos’ successful track record at Boise State and the rest of his background will provide a more aggressive Ducks defense in 2019, particularly with pressure and play-calling, to put the doubt to rest.
The weaponry is certainly there for Oregon to have a power season, even an undefeated season that sees them in the College Football Playoff. Now we just need to see if the Ducks can meet the potential and the hefty expectations, but those expectations are existent for a reason. This is a really good football team that has the opportunity to be great.
Since arriving at the school in 2014, head coach Chris Petersen has been an absolute gift from God for Washington. The first two seasons were a bit rough with six losses in each campaign, but that was just a build up to what would be three consecutive double-digit winning years. The last year of that stretch, last season, they would place with a 10-4 mark that would eventually give them the Pac-12 championship.
But here’s the problem for the Huskies entering 2019: They would take two massive hits in the offseason in the form of their quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin — Browning would be taken by the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL Draft, while Gaskin would be taken by the Miami Dolphins. Now, Washington is in a situation where they must replace their playmakers and secure a fourth straight double-digit winning season.
If they aim to do so, they’ll really need to focus in on the potential success of their new quarterback Jacob Eason, who is a transfer out of the University of Georgia. Eason would lose his starting spot with the Bulldogs to Jake Fromm while in Athens, but the talent is certainly there, and he’s a former 5-star recruit coming out of high school. Eason also has talent that surrounds him, including one of the best offensive lines in the nation keeping him protected. With that being said, that’s also going to do wonders for new running back Salvon Ahmed as well.
The Huskies will also need to deal with the turnover that they suffered on the defensive side of the ball as well, with Ben Burr-Kirven, Taylor Rapp and Byron Murphy all gone. With that being said, Washington has a fantastic defensive line to work with, as well as a nice core of linebackers and the recruiting has been solid for their secondary. They may have taken some hits, but the Huskies still have tools in place to have an elite defense this season.
Without a doubt, Washington will have a successful and winning campaign. The question is: Just how successful, and how many wins are we looking at here? The potential is strong, for sure.
When quarterback Sam Darnold left USC after the 2017 season, it left the program in a state of chaos. Last season, they would be forced to use a true freshman quarterback in JT Daniels, and as a result, they would be dismal on the way to a losing 5-7 mark. Afterwards, we would then have questions left and right about whether or not head coach Clay Helton was the right man for the job. However, the drama would eventually come to a halt, at least for now, as Helton is back for another season — but the hot seat is definitely on fire.
With that being said, Daniels should have a season of progression in his sophomore year, but at the same time, this is assuming he retains the starting job over Jack Sears. Daniels gave us a few highlights in 2018, but his injury was tainted for the most part due to injuries and a weak offensive line.
To their credit, the Trojans have beefed up their offensive line for the new campaign, and the wide receivers corps is loaded with talent such as Michael Pittman Jr. and Amon-Ra St. Brown. If Daniels is the starting QB, you can expect a solid season from the second-year player.
When you flip to the defensive side of the ball, youth is definitely a huge concern for USC, especially with their secondary — they literally have one 2018 starter returning, and that would be Talanoa Hufanga who did so in just five games. All over the defense, you have freshmen competing for starting positions. The defensive line is pretty solid with Christian Rector leading the way with his passing attack, but everywhere else, it’s a youth movement. And they’ll also have to clean up the inconsistency with their linebackers as well.
With the struggles of the Trojans last season, the pressure on head coach Clay Helton will be real in 2019. As far as that reflecting the performance of the team, that’s to be seen, but the potential is certainly there for USC to recover and have a strong season.
When Mike Leach was first hired as the head coach of Washington State, the school was just hoping for relevancy. The expectations weren’t really much higher than that. Fast forward and now the Cougars are a consistent contender for the crown of the Pac-12 North. Yeah, they may have lost their quarterback Gardner Minshew coming into the 2019 season, but tools are still in place for Washington State to have a successful season, and even still compete for the conference championship. Expectations and confidence is still high in Pullman.
In the last four seasons, the Cougars have compiled a total record of 26-10 in Pac-12 conference play. Overall, it gets even more impressive with a total tally of 37-15. And the main corporate for this is the Air Raid offensive attack coming from Mike Leach’s playbook that has put up absolute incredible statistics. On top of that, WSU has massive momentum on their side with consecutive victories against Pac-12 North rivals: They’ve won three straight games against Stanford, four in a row over Oregon and five consecutive over Oregon State.
However, in order for Washington State to capture the division crown, one of two things must happen:
That’s easier said than done though, they’ve lost six consecutive games against their rivals with the majority of those contests actually deciding the champion of the Pac-12 North. Last season, the Cougars would have a fantastic season, but one of the few blemishes on their resume was, of course, that loss to Washington.
If you don’t believe in Mike Leach’s program yet, you may want to go ahead and hop on the bandwagon. They’ll once again be in the mix for the Pac-12 championship, they just need to figure out a way to get over the Huskies.
The Stanford Cardinal would have a season of success in 2019 putting up a record of 9-4, but in a crazy Pac-12, they would only take the third position in the North division. Despite that, however, they would finish a solid season with a victory over Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl. The expectations were higher though, and those high expectations continue for the new campaign as Stanford looks to return to the conference championship game.
Leading the way for this mission will be their quarterback K.J. Costello, who would turn heads at the end of the season after the team would lean on him for more productivity. Costello won’t have his running back Bryce Love and wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to work with anymore, but there’s plenty of talent in the wide receiving corps (like Osiris St. Brown) that should be able to help out with Costello’s numbers and Stanford’s win total.
The biggest question facing the Cardinal entering the new season is the state of their offensive line. There’s no doubt that tackle Walker Little will do his thing for the line, but the remainder of the group is a bit concerning.
The same exact thing can be said about the defensive side of the ball as well. Linebacker Jordan Fox and cornerback Paulson Adebo will certainly make an impact, but the rest of the pieces around them are feared to only provide Stanford with an average defense.
On top of that, the Cardinal also face a tough non-conference schedule, and it could make things difficult for their energy, durability, and momentum as the season progresses, which then could impact their Pac-12 play. There’s a lot of challenges in the way of Stanford, but if they can jump a hurdle here and there, the Cardinal can certainly make things interesting in the Pac-12 race. Solid long shot pick, for sure.
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