Previewing The Pac-12 North – Who’s The Favorite?

Pac-12 football is less than two months away, ye ye! Really it’s about one month and one week, but who’s counting? This article will be a two-week series in which we look at each respective division in the conference. In today’s edition, we will start by previewing where teams will land in the North.

6 . Washington State

Strengths

The Cougars have an absolute warrior at the offensive tackle position in Abraham Lucas. The redshirt senior is arguably the best pass blocker in the Pac-12 and will likely provide stability for the Cougs in the trenches. WSU also benefits by returning running back Max Borghi. He is probably the best dual-threat back in the conference and is often compared to Christian McCaffrey. 

Weaknesses

The Cougs don’t know who their quarterback is going to be. Jayden de Laura, WSU’s signal-caller last season, may not play this year due to off-the-field circumstances. The Cougars also need to improve their defense which allowed 38.5 PPG in 2020-21.

Outlook

The Cougs will probably need a good quarterback if they are going to compete this season. With uncertainty at that position, combined with an unproven defense, the going could get real dingy. WSU still may make a bowl game, but it’s unlikely they’ll compete in the division. 

5. Oregon State

Strengths

The Beavers have a samurai upfront in center Nathan Eldridge. The 5th year senior will likely be selected to the All-Pac-12 First Team by the season’s end. On defense, linebacker Avery Roberts and defensive back Jaydon Grant are probably the best players on a unit that could prove sneaky good. 

Weaknesses

The Beavers have no proven consistent playmakers on offense. They may struggle to move the ball this year. On top of that, even though their defense has probably improved, they still allowed 33.3 PPG last season. All of this uncertainty could prove troubling.  

Outlook

Under Head Coach Jonathan Smith it’s obvious that OSU has improved. This team is solid but probably doesn’t have enough talent to beat the elite teams consistently. That combined with a difficult schedule means that the Beavs will likely hang around that .500 mark.

4.Stanford

Strengths

The most notable preseason name on offense is running back Austin Jones. He’s a good dual-threat back with the ability to finish in the red zone. On defense, defensive lineman Thomas Booker is likely their best player. He’s slotted as a second-team preseason selection by Athlon Sports. 

Weaknesses

Stanford is another one of those teams that faces uncertainty at the quarterback position. They also lack playmakers at the wideout position. On defense, this isn’t the same old Cardinal; last year, they allowed 31.7 PPG. This team needs to find a clear identity. 

Outlook

This is a monumental season for Head Coach David Shaw. Stanford is teetering right now, and this year will likely prove pivotal in deciding the future of the program. They should have enough talent on the offensive line to grind out a decent amount of wins, but at some point, their lack of playmakers at the receiver position could hurt them. The Cardinal should finish slightly above .500.  

3. Cal

Strengths

Chase Garbers is probably the most overlooked quarterback in the Pac-12; he’s posted a 14-5 record in games in which he played a half or more. Garbers, combined with running back Christopher Brown Jr., could provide a nasty one-two punch for the Bears. Cal’s defense should also prove solid this year. 

Weaknesses

The Bears lack proven talent at the wideout position. Their leading returning receiver is Kekoa Crawford, with 232 yards. Another potential problem is the Garbers injury situation. It feels like he’s been injured throughout most of his career at Cal, and he’s vital to their success. 

Outlook

The Golden Bears don a good head coach, solid defense, and a proven quarterback; they could upset some teams this season. Unfortunately for them, their schedule is challenging, with three of their first six games on the road against TCU, Washington, and Oregon. If they can survive that stretch, eight wins seem reasonable. 

2. Washington

Strengths

This year, the Husky defense should be among the best in the conference, led by defensive back Trent McDuffie. Linebackers Ryan Bowman and Edefuan Ulofoshio are other standouts on this unit. On offense, tight end Cade Otton is an Athlon Preseason All-Pac-12 First Team selection, and Left Tackle Jaxson Kirkland projects to be a First Round NFL Draft pick. 

Weaknesses

The Dawgs have a glaring hole at the receiver position. They lost two of their best wideouts to the transfer portal in Puka Nacua and Ty Jones in the offseason. They also lack an elite running back, which could leave them deficient in skill position players. 

Outlook

This UW team is good, and we’re talking potential ten-win season good. They have one of the best defenses in the Pac-12, a great offensive line, and arguably one of the best tight ends in the nation. If they can find some playmakers at the wideout position, they could win the division.

1. Oregon

Strengths

The Ducks have a plethora of playmakers on offense. Running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye are the best combination in the Pac-12 and should rack up gigantic numbers this season. Wideout Devon Williams is another name to remember. On defense, this team has too much talent to get into. They’ll likely prove the best in the Pac. 

Weaknesses

This team only has one obvious weakness, and it’s their instability at the signal-caller position. With Tyler Shough transferring out of the program, the Ducks will likely need someone to provide leadership on offense. 

Outlook

The Ducks are not only talented but also the beneficiary of an easy schedule. If they can upset Ohio State, this team realistically has a shot at getting out to an 8-0 start. With decent quarterback play, they should win the division. Oh ya, did we forget to mention Kayvon Thibodeaux?

About Nick Bartlett 120 Articles
Hello there ya wild rabbits. My name is Nick Bartlett and I’m a sportswriter, broadcast manager, and youth basketball coach. I’m from the Greater Seattle Area and a graduate of the Edward R. Murrow school at Washington State University. I’ve had over 50 articles and 10 podcasts published in Seattle PI, and my work featured on OregonLive, SportsPac12, and South Florida Tribune. You can contact me at NB206wsu@gmail.com or on twitter @WordsByBartlett. Cheetos and Tuna.

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