Let’s face it: As college football fans, we spend the entire regular season talking about the end of the season. Playoff predictions are made before ground crews have even spray-painted the 50-yard line on the field and Heisman watchlists are published before those on the list have played a single down. In the spirit of the way-too-early and way-too-presumptuous nature of college football, here are our bold predictions for the Pac-12.
Arizona State will win the Pac-12 South.
What? A school that isn’t in L.A. is going to win the Pac-12 South? Blasphemy. On top of that, Utah, the only ranked team in the division, which also happened to beat one of those prolific L.A. schools (USC) this weekend, isn’t going to win it either? More blasphemy. Before the season, it was fair to say that UCLA was the favorite to win, given USC’s quarterback confusion and overall extremely tough schedule.
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen was supposed to be dominant, but so far his four picks versus five touchdowns (not to mention 10 sacks) on the season have proven a source of the Bruins’ mediocrity. On the other hand, Arizona State is a legitimate offensive threat, especially on the ground. Sophomore quarterback Manny Wilkins has rushed for four touchdowns (three of which came against Cal this weekend) and 263 yards. Running backs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard have also combined for 10 touchdowns and 625 yards on the season. What’s more, the productive Sun Devil offense is not set to face Stanford, arguably the best rush defense in the Pac-12, this season.
Chad Hansen will win the Biletnikoff Award for best receiver in college football.
Maybe this isn’t quite so bold given that he is currently second in the nation in receiving yards, but it’s safe to say that a month ago, very few people knew about the talent of Chad Hansen. As a transfer student out of Idaho State — the only offer he got coming out of high school — Hansen has had a touchdown and double-digit receptions in every game this season. Compelling enough.
On the other hand, maybe it is bold, given the caliber of receivers who have won this award in the past. Ever heard of Amari Cooper? Golden Tate? Michael Crabtree? All Biletnikoff award winners who continue to be standouts in the NFL. Hansen will certainly be tested by the defensive abilities of Utah next week and Stanford down the road; the rhythm he has established with quarterback Davis Webb, however, can and should lead him to national recognition.
USC will not make a bowl game.
As much as people may worry that college football as an institution would completely implode if it ever happened, USC not making a bowl game is more than a possibility at this point. Starting off the season with an embarrassing defeat in an incredibly hyped game against Alabama was certainly not the way to create cohesion nor confidence in new head coach Clay Helton. It took three games before they had even decided on a starting quarterback. Was USC’s schedule tough for the first month of the season? Sure. Alabama, Stanford and Utah are all completely legitimate opponents. But is the rest of their schedule equally as tough? Certainly. The Trojans would need to go 5-3 against ASU, Colorado, Arizona, Cal, Oregon, Washington, UCLA, Notre Dame and Washington to reach the coveted six wins. Maybe you see a clear five victories on that list, but I don’t.
Colorado will make a bowl game.
After victories against Colorado State, Idaho State and, surprisingly to many, Oregon last weekend, Colorado is halfway to becoming bowl eligible. Senior quarterback Sefo Liufau has yet to throw a pick all season and is averaging more than 10 yards per attempt. Head coach Mike MacIntyre has expressed his satisfaction with the defense’s cohesion and communication. If that wasn’t enough, the Buffs are set to take on Washington State, Oregon State and UCLA at home, three teams potentially inferior to the Oregon team Colorado upset this weekend. If anything goes wrong there, they also take on Arizona, USC and Stanford on the road (hey, it’s college football: Anything is possible).