CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2017: Pac-12 Preview
The 2017 CFN Pac-12 Preview with the top players, teams that will surprise and disappoint, and shoes to fill.
2017 Pac-12 Preview
If it’s possible to have a good bad year, the Pac-12 did it in 2016.
Good: Washington got to the College Football Playoff.
Bad: Washington got stuffed by Alabama, while Pac-12 South champ Colorado wet the bed in its bowl loss to Oklahoma State and Washington State didn’t show up in the Holiday Bowl against Minnesota.
Good: USC ripped it up over the back half of the season and took the Rose Bowl in an epic win over Penn State.
Bad: Alabama applied an atomic wedgie to the Trojans, who started 1-3.
Good: Sam Darnold emerged as a superstar quarterback for the Trojans.
Bad: UCLA’s Josh Rosen got hurt.
Good: Colorado shocked the college football world by taking the South.
Bad: UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State were destroyed by a ridiculous array of injuries.
Good: Stanford closed strong with six straight wins and a bowl victory over North Carolina.
Bad: Oregon, Cal, UCLA, Arizona State, and Oregon State were miserable. That’s almost half of the conference.
But now the Pac-12 might be in for a good, good year.
2016 might have been a bit of a quirk with all sorts of crazy, shocking things happening, but now things should settle down and the league should be really, really good.
And it starts with the quarterbacks.
It’s not just Darnold and Rosen – two almost-certain top five picks in next year’s NFL Draft. Washington State’s Luke Falk is right there on the pro scout radar, Oregon’s Justin Herbert is a growing superstar, and lost in all of the star power, Washington’s Jake Browning was the First Team All-Pac 12 selection.
There’s no chance the Pac-12 South can have that many key injuries again. Colorado might take a step back, but USC has College Football Playoff talent, Utah will be Utah – as always, a tough out – and the desperation at the Arizona schools to produce should make for some wild and crazy shootouts.
Oregon will be far, far better under new head coach Willie Taggart, Cal might actually tackle someone under new head coach Justin Wilcox, Oregon State has a slew of veterans and a great coaching staff, and this year’s Washington State team should be one of Mike Leach’s best yet.
Meanwhile, Stanford should be back to Pac-12 title form, and …
Pac-12 Team That Will Surprise
Huh? Uhhhhh, didn’t Washington just win the Pac-12 title and go off to the College Football Playoff? Yeah, and everyone will be handing over the preseason Pac-12 top spot to USC, maybe Stanford, or maybe even Oregon in a resurgent sort of way. But don’t be stunned in the Huskies turn out to be every bit as good, if not better.
The defense will be its same nasty self, Jake Browning isn’t going to easily cede the First Team All-Pac-12 quarterback spot to Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen, and the team still has the talent and athleticism across the board to do it all again. Having a relatively okay schedule with no USC or UCLA should help, too.
Pac-12 Team That Will Disappoint
If Colorado is winning the Pac-12 South, there’s probably a problem with the Pac-12 South. And last year, between the injury issues at Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA, and the rough start by USC, there was.
The Buffs are still going to be okay, but they lose a ton off the great defense, the offense is missing a few key parts, and the schedule isn’t going to be a plus with many of the winnable games – like Oregon State, Washington State and Arizona State – on the road. Having to deal with Washington from the North won’t help.
Pac-12 Game Of The Year
Washington at Stanford, Nov. 10
It was when Washington announced to the nation that it was going to be really, really good. With everyone watching on a weeknight showdown, the Huskies rose up and rocked the defending Pac-12 champ in a brutal 44-6 beatdown the tall but ended the Pac-12 North race before it really began – but hanging 70 on Oregon the week after helped, too.
This time around the game is in Palo Alto, where Washington hasn’t won since 2007. The winner will still have some work to do, but in some way, this should play a huge role in the Pac-12 title chase.
5 Big-Time Pac-12 Players Who Deserve A Bigger Spotlight
Five players who have been a bit under the radar on a national level, but should rise up and be among the season’s best players.
1. DE Hercules Mata’afa, Jr. Washington State
2. LB Cameron Smith, Jr. USC
3. DT Harrison Phillips, Sr. Stanford
4. LB Koron Crump, Sr. Arizona State
5. RB Ryan Nall, Jr. Oregon State
5 Pac-12 Coaches On The Hot Seat
Five Pac-12 coaches who’d better win this season. Being on a hot seat doesn’t necessarily mean a coach is about to fired, but the pressure is on to produce up to expectations and beyond.
1. Todd Graham, Arizona State
2. Jim Mora, Jr., UCLA
3. Clay Helton, USC
4. Gary Andersen, Oregon State
5. Rich Rodriguez, Arizona
5 Non-Conference Games That The Pac-12 Had Better Take Very, Very Seriously
The showdowns with the Group of Fivers might not be the layups the Pac-12 teams might like.
1. Houston at Arizona, Sept. 9
2. UCLA at Memphis, Sept. 16
3. Stanford at San Diego State, Sept. 16 4. Oregon at Wyoming, Sept. 16
5. Oregon State at Colorado State, Sept. 23
5 Best Pro Prospects
1. QB Sam Darnold, Soph. USC
2. QB Josh Rosen, Jr. UCLA
3. RB Royce Freeman, Sr. Oregon
4. QB Luke Falk, Sr. Washington State
5. DT Vita Vea, Jr. Washington
5 Biggest Shoes To Fill
1. Stanford RB Bryce Love (in a full-time role) for Christian McCaffrey
2. Washington WR Dante Pettis (as the No. 1 guy) for John Ross
3. Utah RB Zack Moss for Joe Williams
4. UCLA DE Rick Wade for Tak McKinley
5. Arizona State PK Brandon Ruiz for Zane Gonzalez