There’s really only one thing left to do after previewing the Pac-12 North. Preview the South! Does Cal play in the Pac-12 South? Of course not, each team can only play in one division, but who am I to say what divisions of good old fashioned collegiate American football this newspaper is to cover or not cover. Onward and upward.
- Arizona State
I think it’s important to say here that I don’t expect the teams at the bottom of the South to be nearly as bad as the teams at the bottom of the North. Cal and Oregon State strike me as being in truly poor shape and unlikely to play in all that many seriously competitive games. The Sun Devils are a pretty well-coached team with a lot to like on offense before you even consider that they’re bringing in quarterback Blake Barnett as a transfer from Alabama. But a defense that already really stunk last year lost some big pieces, so it would take a seriously great offense to get over five wins this year.
The Utes finished in the top-25 last year so this pick certainly feel strange, but I just don’t know what I’m supposed to like about this team. They return only nine starters from a team that squeaked out a top-25 ranking by beating USC early in the season before the Trojans got their feet underneath them, squeaking out wins against Oregon State and UCLA, while losing to Cal and pitiful Oregon. They return senior quarterback Troy Williams, but he’s at risk of losing his job to transfer Cooper Bateman, who threw less than 100 passes in three years at Alabama. I remain uninspired.
The WIldcats notched just three wins last season, but I’m willing to chalk that up to injuries and give head coach Rick Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt. To me, playing Utah, Oregon State and Washington State means they’re virtually certain to jump from one win in the conference to at least three. Put that together with a fairly weak out-of-conference schedule and you’ve got a good shot at a bounce back season.
Because of how fun the Buffs were last season, I’d like to put Colorado in the two spot and say they have an outside shot of competing with USC. But after losing their starting quarterback from the previous four seasons, and losing four defensive players to the NFL, I have little faith they have the depth necessary to plug the holes and keep chugging along. They return almost everyone on the offense outside of the signal caller, so I don’t see them all of a sudden getting blown out every week, but I’m extremely confident in saying they won’t win five games by 25 points again.
UCLA’s 3-3 play with Josh Rosen to start the season wasn’t overly impressive, and the Bruins 1-5 record once Rosen was hurt certainly looks bad, but I think the team is in good shape for this year. Post-Rosen, they kept it shockingly close in games against Washington State, Utah and Colorado, before rolling over in horrific losses to Cal and USC once their season was unofficially over. With almost all of their offense remaining intact from last season, I think they should be lighting up the scoreboard and find their way into a decent bowl game.
I don’t know how much needs to be said, the Trojans look absolutely stacked this year and are competing for a CFP spot more so than a division win. For most teams, losing guys as talented as Adoree Jackson and Juju Smith-Schuster would be devastating, but they still have boatloads of talent at corner and wide receiver. The biggest stumbling block in their way to title contention is an out of conference schedule that feature Texas and Notre Dame, but their path to the top of the South feels pretty good right about now.