CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Pac-12 Rankings
The 2017 CFN Preview ranking of all the Pac-12 teams.
Where do the Pac-12 teams rank going into the season? This is NOT a ranking of how the teams are projected or predicted to finish. This is a ranking of how good they all appear to be going into the fall.
Preview 2017: Pac-12 Rankings
12. Oregon State
If this Oregon State team really is the worst team in the Pac-12, that means it’s a really, really strong conference this year. The Beavers have the linebackers, and they’ve got Ryan Nall and a killer running game, but the O line just okay and the passing game is nowhere near good enough compared to the rest of the league.
Will there ever be a defense? If and when everyone can stay/get healthy, the offense will be a terror – with the running game rolling in the Rich Rodriguez system – but can the defensive front seven stop anyone? On the plus side, there’s no way, no how the team will get hit by the ridiculous array of injures it suffered last year.
Justin Wilcox is going to be a whale of a head coach, but he’ll need a little while to get the right guys in place. First, his defense has to start tackling, but at least there’s experience returning. The quarterback battle will be a fight, and the offensive line won’t be good enough to crank up the running game, but watch out – the Bears will be better.
After a breakthrough season, Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre is locked up with a contract extension through 2021, but that could look like a problem in what should be a big stepback year for the defending South champs. The receiving corps will be incredible, and Phillip Lindsay might be one of the league’s best all-around running backs, but the defense has to undergo an overhaul.
8. Arizona State
If it’s not a do-or-die season for head coach Todd Graham, it’s close. He has offensive playmakers who should explode, and he’s got a solid quarterback situation with Alabama transfer Blake Barnett joining Manny Wilkins. One of the nation’s worst defenses, though, still needs a whole lot of help in the secondary. At the very least, ASU games will be a whole lot of fun.
If you liked Utah last season, or for most of the Kyle Whittingham era, expect more of the same. DT Lowell Lotulelei leads an outstanding defensive front that might be the best in the Pac-12, while the running game will carry most of the offensive weight – and it’ll work. There might not be enough pop in the passing game, but the power style will be effective – aw always.
There are a whole slew of question marks. Can Josh Rosen get and stay healthy enough to be the franchise passer he’s expected to be? Will there be any semblance of a running game to rely on? Can the defensive front overcome the key losses? Probably, not really, and yeah. The Bruins will be maddening again, but the talent is there to be in the South title chase.
5. Washington State
The Cougars will be much, much more than just the passing game. There’s a chance this could be the best and most complete team yet under Mike Leach – and that includes 2008 Texas Tech. The defense has the talent and experience to hold serve so Luke Falk and the air show can do what it does so well. There running game should be dangerous at times, too, for an O that’ll be able to do everything. Of course Wazzu will rely on Falk, but this year, it won’t have to.
2016 was an aberration. Willie Taggart inherits a special backfield with the return of RB Royce Freeman to go along with rising star QB Justin Herbert, but the offense isn’t a concern. This should be the most talented attack in the explosive Pac-12, but the defense needs to show up. The line and secondary are still a problem, but the new coaching staff is supposed to fix both areas.
If the quarterback situation goes from a question mark to a positive, and the receiving corps shows up, the Cardinal will probably take back the Pac-12 championship. The linebacking corps is a killer, the secondary a rock, and the O line stronger, but the attack can’t be stuck in the mud if the ground game doesn’t rumble against the better defenses.
Yeah, Sam Darnold is the superstar who’ll get all the love and attention, but does he have the team around him to win the Pac-12 title? The schedule is a plus, but the offensive line needs some retooling, a few new star receivers have to emerge, and the kicking game will be a bit of a concern early on. But Darnold might really be good enough to overcome all the problems – which aren’t really that big a deal.
Washington won’t be the sexy pick, but it might just turn out to be even better than the 2016 College Football Playoff version. There’s no real weakness, with the defense once again ready to dominate – even after losing some key stars to the NFL – and everything is in place offensively to be every bit as strong.
Losing deep threat WR John Ross obviously isn’t a plus, but the receiving corps is still great, QB Jake Browning is still special, and the running game is still strong. If you thought last year was an aberration … nope.