The 2018 Pac-12 Preview with the Game of the Year, Players of the Year, top pro prospects, big-time players who deserve a bigger spotlight, and more.
Preview 2018: Pac-12 Preview
The Pac-12 was in desperate need a splashy infusion of something to liven up life as college football’s after party conference, and it just got it.
And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
There are disastrous seasons, and there’s what the Pac-12 managed to do to end the 2017 campaign. The misconception was that the league was so balanced that it cannibalized itself along the way, but parity was confused with mediocrity.
The league got stuffed in a locker by the rest of college football last bowl season.
Not only did the Pac-12 miss out on the College Football Playoff again – which theoretically should’ve been a plus, meaning the top teams were in the bigger New Year’s Six bowls, while pushing down the pecking order – but it went a brutal 1-8.
Utah was the only saving grace, but that’s because 1) West Virginia’s quarterback situation was a mess without Will Grier, and 2) it’s Utah – it always wins bowl games.
USC was supposed to be the Pac-12’s bright shiny star, and it got pantsed by Ohio State.
Washington fought the good fight to make the Fiesta Bowl interesting, but the Saquon Barkley show was too much in Penn State’s win.
Oregon’s players lobbied for Mario Cristobal to take over the gig once Willie Taggart left, and then the team forgot to show up in the Las Vegas Bowl loss to Boise State.
Stanford? Lost a heartbreaker to TCU. Arizona? Lost to Purdue. Washington State? Annihilated by Michigan State. UCLA? No Josh Rosen, big problem in a blowout to Kansas State. Arizona State? Trounced by NC State.
It was a bad year for what was the worst of the Power Five conferences. But that’s not going to last for long.
Welcome in Chip Kelly – the biggest and best head coach signing of the offseason.
Welcome in Kevin Sumlin, whose offense and style should work perfectly with the Pac-12 and Arizona.
Welcome in Herm Edwards, who, if nothing else, will give the program a shot of energy.
Welcome in Jonathan Smith, a hot young prospect who knows what it’s like to win at Oregon State.
Welcome in Mario Cristobal to the full-time role, helped by a loaded Oregon team that should make a big comeback.
Welcome back Bryce Love.
Welcome back Myles Gaskin, Khalil Tate, Justin Hebert, and the potentially devastating USC defensive front seven.
With those star power players, and the star power new coaches to go along with the star power established guys, the league has the potential to go from fizzle to fantastic in a flash – at least in terms of entertainment value.
Sumlin and Cristobal should be able to hit the ground running right away, but Kelly will need a little while, Smith will need a LONG while, and Edwards will have to get used to the college coaching life again before he’s ready to rumble. At the very least, though, those five are going to be interesting.
Stanford and Washington are going to be fantastic – the Dawgs are more than good enough under Chris Petersen to go to the CFP for the second time in three years – and USC is going to be right back in the conference championship chase.
Cal will be improved under rising star head man Justin Wilcox, and Utah is about to be better after a year to get the offense right.
Now, that might not mean the league will do enough to completely reverse the course – UCLA going to Oklahoma, USC playing at Texas, Arizona State facing Michigan State, Oregon State going to Ohio State, Stanford going to Notre Dame, and Washington dealing with Auburn will make-or-break the national perception early on – but at least this thing will be more entertaining.
There might still be some rough patches, but it’s time to pull the conference out of the After Dark mode and into the spotlight.
Pac-12 Team That Will Surprise
It’s a combination of the offense in its second year after the tweak, a rebuilding Pac-12 South, and a good enough schedule that should keep the Utes in the conference title hunt all season long. They might not quite be able to get to the championship, but the pieces are there for a bounce back from a slightly disappointing 2017.
Pac-12 Team That Will Disappoint
It’s not Chip Kelly’s fault, but the pieces of the puzzle don’t appear to be there yet. This will be an okay team, and it’ll go bowling, but it’ll be a fight to get it done with a nasty schedule that includes Oklahoma and Fresno State on the non-conference slate, and with a brutal November of at Oregon, at Arizona State, USC and Stanford. Give Kelly a little time to work, and then the magic will happen.