No offense to any baseball fans, but this summer’s been getting pretty unbearable. The Seattle Mariners have shown life so far, but that franchise has always felt brittle. Until they win a playoff series, I just can’t devote any time emotionally because I hate having a broken heart.
What I do know about the second of August is that college football is less than a calendar month away, and it’s also time for PAC-12 rankings. No, this isn’t just another front for bashing Washington State, since I’ll be giving a bit of insight on what to expect this season.
- Washington State Cougars
I wasn’t looking for this moment to trash the Cougars, I swear. Due to the miraculous mysteries of life, the Cougars have gone through a pretty bad offseason to no fault of their own. Luke Falk has left the school as its best passer ever, and fans had to witness the awful passing of the young Tyler Hilinski, who was pretty frickin’ good.
The offense will be left to an extremely young prospect behind an offensive line that just saw two solid players leave. Not to mention, Alex Grinch was the hot-shot defensive coordinator for this team before he abruptly left the program for Ohio State to be the 10th coordinator. That leaves WSU with Tracy Claeys, a defensive coordinator that hasn’t coached in some time.
It’s a lot to ask for a program to stay resilient, but being this young in a stronger conference will be a huge uphill climb. The entire PAC-12 benefits when the Cougars play well.
- Arizona State Sun Devils
Dear lord, I can’t believe Herm Edwards is coaching college football. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice gentleman but he’s been out of the game for a long, long time. The team’s returning some solid guys on the offensive end, but there’s a lot left to be desired. Kalen Ballage is gone, but Manny Wilkins returns as the leader.
- Colorado Buffaloes
This team is suffering a decent sized overturn on offense, so there’s not much hope here. The Buffaloes could easily come in last place considering their schedule, and there’s nothing desirable about their offense. Former Buffaloes cornerback Isaiah Oliver has taken any modicum of defense with him to the Atlanta Falcons. Most teams will run the Buffs over.
- California Bears
This is me calling bust on an up and coming team. The Bears only answered the call once last year in a throttling of a Coug team that choked on wildfire smoke during their game last year (why the hell did they even play that game again?).
This team gave up 130 points to Washington, Oregon, Stanford, and USC combined last year. Their offense might be fine heading into the season, but that defense is a sieve.
- Oregon State Beavers
Everyone should be excited for this team. There was a bunch of drama last year when coach Gary Anderson left, but the school got a real home run in Jonathan Smith. The guy’s an offensive guru, and will put quarterback Jake Luton’s development in hyperdrive.
Keep this dark horse in the back of your pocket, and don’t be surprised if they’re flirting with some random bowl sponsored by a lame hotel brand by the end of the season.
- UCLA Bruins
Chip Kelly returns to the PAC-12 as coach of UCLA, so this has become a weird timeline. By all means, he of all people can turn the conference on its head, but I still don’t think he’ll overcome the speedbumps of a first year head coach right away. I think the team’s offense will have a couple of really nice performances during the year, but that’s about it.
- Oregon Ducks
This is the part of the rankings where it starts to get extremely muddled. Oregon has always had talent, but the team is on their third coach in three years. I personally don’t think teams perform very well without stability at the coaching position, so this season is going to be a true test on Oregon’s foundation. They will definitely get a bowl game this year, and will routinely be a tough out as the season comes along.
- Utah Utes
They might have a tough schedule, but the team is tougher. Key offensive players are returning, and the program will get every chance to make the conference juggernauts bleed. The Utes have a chance at pouncing on the Washington Huskies at home should the team from the northwest stumble against Auburn. From there the Utes will enjoy a nice break before starting a road trip.
- Stanford Cardinal
The Cardinal have every tool on offense to grab all the yards necessary, but their defense still remains a big concern. For reference, the team gave up over 400 yards on defense last season, and gave up about six yards per play.
Bryce Love comes in as a favorite to win a second PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Year award, and will have to again shoulder much of the burden suffered from the defensive side of the ball.
- USC Trojans
At this point, I just couldn’t put USC over Arizona and it’s mostly because I think the Trojans will lose on September 29th when they take on the Wildcats. More on the Wildcats in a bit, but USC will have to find special magic in a bag that I don’t think exists. Many are suspecting a huge jump in defensive production but I just don’t see it. The team gave up about 400 yards per game last year, and gave up about 56 yards to penalties alone. So no, the defense isn’t “elite” enough to take the jump people are hoping for.
The team’s schedule is a little chummy, but I think the Arizona and Utah could be tough outs. USC will have a great record because of blowouts against weak teams.
- Arizona Wildcats
You ever see or drive a sports car so powerful, loud, close to the ground, but can glide all at the same time? That’s Khalil Tate.
You might be thinking to yourself that this rankings list has gone off the rails here, but I’m completely serious. This merging of Kevin Sumlin and Khalil Tate has the ultimate potential to throw the Wildcats’ offense into sights unseen. Last year Tate accumulated 3,000 yards through the air and ground combined. Is it crazy to think he can pull off 4,500 under the new regime? I say so, and that’s how they blow through the South.
- Washington Huskies
Yeah I’m a huge fan of this dawg squad. Under the Supreme Leader in Chris Petersen, the program has reached unbelievable heights, and it’s not looking to end anytime soon. Last season, the UW was pelted with constant talk of a cupcake preseason. The Dawgs open up against the Auburn Tigers in a game where I hope they don’t mess up, or else it’s going to be a tough first couple of cupcake talk. Jake Browning enters the season looking to rebound from a sort of hiccup year where the team had to divert to the ground game after some key offensive players went down. He should still be considered a candidate for player of the year when the season is all said and done.
On the defensive side of the ball, Taylor Rapp, Byron Murphy, and Jo Jo McIntosh form the nation’s Bermuda Triangle. Don’t expect this trio to give up many deep balls this season. All being said, the Husky roster stacks up the best nationally out of the PAC-12.