#Pac12 Football Best/Worst 2016

After sending Oregon to the national championship game the year before, the Pac 12 was shut out of the playoff a season ago. It wasn’t because the conference was down, I had Utah ranked #1 in my poll for 3 consecutive weeks. The Utes did not close the season as strong as they started. After an early season loss in a badly scheduled game versus Northwestern, Stanford finished strong and won the Rose Bowl. Can the Pac 12 get back in the Playoff? Can anyone unseat Stanford as Pac 12 champs? Is this the year USC finally gets back to being USC? A lot of things can and will happen. It is Pac 12 after dark after all. We are going to outline a best and worst case scenario for each member, see if we came close last year, but not predict which team will be in which bowl.

Arizona

Last season: 7-6 (Defeated New Mexico in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 6

We thought the worst case scenario would be to not make a bowl game. Arizona narrowly missed that by sliding into and winning a road game at the New Mexico Bowl. Last season they had 6 road games, this season only 4 true road games and they start off with BYU on a neutral. There is reason to believe they could be better than a 6 win team. Because of them being in the 2nd toughest division in college football, I will contain my optimism. Best case: a mid tier bowl better than the New Mexico. Worst case: stumbling to a sub .500 record.

Arizona State

Last season: 6-7 (Defeated by West Virginia in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 5

Coming off a 10 win season, we thought last year that Arizona State was about to jump in the big time and be a player for the Playoff. Well that didn’t happen. Vegas thinks that there is more regression in store for the Sun Devils. In an interesting schedule, they host Texas Tech on Sep 10, then travel to UTSA on Sep 16 for a Friday night game. Can you say letdown game? Overall there are 6 road games on the schedule and having that much time away from home is never a good thing. They also finish the season with the last 2 on the road against Washington and Arizona and that could seal the deal on a subpar season. Best case scenario: 7 regular season wins. Worst case: struggling to a 4-8 season.

California

Last season: 8-5 (Defeated Air Force in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 4

Anytime you lose the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft, and that guy is the QB you can expect regression. Vegas agrees. Last season they did exceed expectations, can they do that again? If they find a new field general to direct the offense they might can stabilize the ship. The good news is the toughest road game all year will be a Thursday night game at the Coliseum on Oct 27. There are a lot of questions but maybe they can exceed expectations again. Best case: Making it back into bowl season. Worst case: hitting the 4 win prediction.

Colorado

Last season: 4-9

Vegas over/under win prediction: 4.5

They almost got to the 5 win best case scenario we outlined. Perhaps a few plays here and there and they could have gotten a huge upset over UCLA. They scrap the 13 game schedule and only have 3 non conference games this season. Starting off against Colorado State is the game that divides family and friends. Back to back road games at Michigan on Sep 17 and Oregon on Sep 24 will be very tough. Then 2 weeks later they travel to USC on Oct 8. 2 more weeks later on Oct 22 they travel to Stanford. Does returning to the Big 12 seem like a nice idea? Best case scenario: exceeding Vegas prediction. Worst case: seeing no progress and going 2-10.

Oregon

Last season: 9-4 (Defeated by TCU in the Valero Alamo Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 8

It took a little while, but Oregon finally got it cooking on all cylinders. We did see the erosion from Chip Kelly leaving, as the Ducks could only manage the Alamo Bowl. They run to the FCS ranks again for a QB. For some reason Oregon is having issues getting a good QB by recruiting. Something is wrong in Eugene. Oregon has 6 road games this season. Starting with a trip to Nebraska Sep 17. There is also a Friday night roadie at Cal on Oct 21. They finish with 3 of 4 on the road: at USC Nov 5; at Utah the 19th; and at Oregon State in the Civil War the 26th. The Ducks have their work cut out for them. Best case: returning to the Alamo Bowl. Worst case: going 6-6.

Oregon State

Last season: 2-10

Vegas over/under win prediction: 3.5

Oregon State had a very bad season. We stated the worst case scenario would be going 3-9 and they were worse than that. They are on a 9 game losing streak. I stated last season that Gary Anderson would right this ship in the not-so-distant future and I still believe in that. They start off at Minnesota and get Boise State at home in the non conference. The conference schedule is difficult with Washington (Oct 22); Stanford (Nov 5); and UCLA (Nov 12) all coming on the road. You have to tear it all the way down before you can build it back up and it seems that the Beavers are in the tearing it down phase still. Best case: exceeding 4 wins. Worst case: only beating Idaho State on Sep 17 and finishing 1-11.

Stanford

Last season: 12-2 (Defeated Iowa in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 8.5

After losing at Northwestern, the Cardinal only lost one more game all season. They got in the New Year’s 6 like we thought the best case scenario would be and won the Rose Bowl. Is it safe to say Stanford is now the Pac 12’s most consistent team? Feel free to argue. They have Heisman favorite Christian McCaffrey still and I expect him to light the world on fire just like he did a year ago. Stanford has 6 games on the road and like we have documented many times, that is not a good thing. Especially when they are: at UCLA (Sep 24); at Washington (Sep 30)-yes Friday night; at Notre Dame (Oct 15); at Arizona (Oct 29); at Oregon (Nov 12); and at Cal (Nov 19). Oh and by the way, they start off by facing Kansas State and USC to open the season at home. Maybe the toughest schedule in the country. Best case: repeating their Rose Bowl appearance. Worst case: regression to a 6 win year.

UCLA

Last season: 8-5 (Defeated by Nebraska in the Foster Farms Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 8.5

It was disappointing to watch UCLA, they did have injuries but they didn’t play with the toughness that they showed 2 years ago. We thought the worst case would be a New Year’s 6 bowl. It was worse than that. They lost to a sub .500 team in a bowl. That is embarrassing, no way around that. They, like so many others in the conference, have 6 road games. Two in the non conference: at Texas A&M and BYU Sep 3 & 17. The good news is the remaining 4 roadies are with Arizona State, Washington State, Colorado, and Cal and those four are predicted to combine for only 20 wins on the season. UCLA could find itself winning the Pac 12 south with a chance to host the Rose Bowl. Best case: hosting the Rose Bowl. Worst case: making it back to the Foster Farms Bowl against a bad Big 10 team.

USC

Last season: 8-6 (Defeated by Wisconsin in the National Funding Holiday Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 7.5

They lost 3 of 4 to finish the season but maybe they finally have some stability on the sidelines. We outlined another Holiday Bowl appearance in our worst case scenario. USC still has all the talent you could ask for and if they can put it all together they could have a really successful season. In a matchup we all would have loved as a national championship game for the last decade, USC faces off with defending champ Alabama as Lane Kiffin faces his old employer. If USC is back then this might be one of the games of the entire season. They have 4 of the toughest road games of anyone with 2 back to backs: at Stanford and Utah Sep 17 and 23; and at Washington and UCLA on Nov 12 and 19. They finish with Notre Dame at the end and if the Trojans can somehow be in position to make noise for the Playoff then that becomes a play-in game. Best case: Getting to 10+ wins. Worst case: another Holiday Bowl appearance.

Utah

Last season: 10-3 (Defeated BYU in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 7.5

Back to back Las Vegas Bowl wins, we stated that was the best case scenario. But it had to feel like an opportunity was lost. Utah made it to #1 in my poll weeks 6-8 because quite frankly they were the best team in America I felt for a 3 week stretch. They started 6-0 but a two game losing streak to Arizona and UCLA doomed what could have been. This season guess what, they have 6 road games. Someone should really do a better job of getting home games in this conference. If Travis Wilson can stay healthy all year they may have a chance of exceeding Vegas’ win prediction. Best case: defending their Las Vegas Bowl title. Worst case: not making it to the postseason.

Washington

Last season: 7-6 (Defeated Southern Miss in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 9

Spoiler alert: This is the Pac 12 favorite. I will get that out right away. Chris Peterson knows what he is doing and the last 3 games they won by a combined score of 141-48. I think this the year Washington makes it to the national scene. They start out with 3 unimpressive non conference games, Rutgers is the best team they face. I think the Friday night game when they host Stanford on Sep 30. Such an early date in the season to decide a conference but I believe that this is how it will be. The last date is a road game against an up and coming Washington State program on Friday Nov 25. Two Fridays will decide the Pac 12 North. Best case: College Football Playoff. Worst case: Rose Bowl.

Washington State

Last season: 9-4 (Defeated Miami in the Hyundai Sun Bowl)

Vegas over/under win prediction: 7.5

The Cougars got back in the bowl picture last season in a big way. They were even a game against Stanford away from leading the Pac 12 North. We stated the best case scenario was the Sun Bowl and Washington State not only went, they won that bowl. This season expectations are higher and now they must play as the hunted not the hunter. Learning how to cope with this new identity will be huge to their success. An early test at Boise State on Sep 10 will let us know if they are ready for the big stage. The other 2 key games are at Stanford on Oct 8 and hosting Washington on Friday Nov 25. They have a chance to get to the Rose Bowl if things break their way. Best case: New Year’s 6. Worst case: no improvement and back in the Sun Bowl.

Last season we stated the battle of LA would decide the conference and Stanford ended up as the Champ. This season we think the Apple Cup will decide the conference and UCLA and Stanford also should have some attention shown to them. Overall I think Washington has a chance to win the National Championship.

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