Pac-12 Conference Preview
Pac-12 North

1. The Washington Huskies made it to the playoffs last year with an 11-1 record and their lobe regular season loss on the year was against USC. Well, the Trojans are not on their schedule this year and that are a much more experienced team than they were a year ago. The Huskies have 85% of their offense yards back from a team that put up 41.8 ppg and 457 ypg last year. They were 8th in the nation in scoring and will be even better this year. On defense ranked 8th in the nation in scoring, giving up just 17.7 ppg and they were 12th in yards allowed at 316.9 ypg. The Huskies have 27 of 35 lettermen back from that group, including six starters. They could use a little more depth in the secondary, but still, I would not expect much of a dropoff, if any from last year's numbers. They have tough home games against UCLA and Oregon this year, but will be favored in both and they avoid USC out of the South. That leaves their toughest test of the season a road game against Stanford. They may lose that game and could fall to an upset somewhere else, but still this is a powerful team that will be playing for a chance at returning to the playoffs with no less than 10 wins on the year.

2. The Stanford Cardinal have had double digit wins in six of their last seven seasons and this looks like it will be another one. Stanford went 10-3 last year and they have eight starters back on both sides of the ball from that team. Keller Chryst is back at QB after splitting time last year with Ryan Burns and he is expected to have a solid season. They do lose their best player in Christian McCaffrey, but a talented stable of backs are ready to take over and they will be running behind the 2nd best OL in the league. The WR corps is below average, but they do have some talent there with their top 2 receiver back. The defense is where this teamís bread is buttered and they will have a strong one this year, especially with the 2nd best linebacking corps in the nation and the 4th best secondary in the land, plus they have a DL that is sound as well. They will allow less than the 20.4 ppg they allowed last year. Their schedule is not the easy as they have tough roadies against the USC, Utah and Washington State, plus a home game against the Huskies, but this is a strong team that will get strong as the year goes on and that should land them in the 2nd spot in the North.

3. Many have Oregon in this spot, but I will go with the Washington State Cougars as they have been a solid team over their last two years and have 16 starters back this year, including nine back on a defense that has really turned things around the last two years. The Cougars had consistently allowed over 31 ppg for year, but the last two year they have allowed just 27.7 ppg and 26.4 ppg. They have nine of their top 11 tacklers back from last year and have talent and some depth at every level of the defense. They should improve on the 26.4 ppg they allowed last year. The offense put up 38.2 ppg last year and they will be just as good, if not better, this year. They have seven starters back, including Luke Falk, who three for 4400 yards, with 38 TDs and just 11 INTs last year. Two of his three top receivers from last year are gone, but this unit ai always stocked and will put up big numbers again. The RB corps and OL are rather average. They have tough road games against Utah, Oregon \and washing, but get USC and Stanford at home. Look for the Cougars to have another solid season and with a big upset or two, they could challenge for the division title just like they did last year.

4. The Oregon Ducks had a miserable 4-8 season last year and while they should bounce back and return to a bowl game, I do not feel that they will be as strong as others feel. Willie Taggart takes over as head coach and it has been a curious move for the Ducks as he has gone just 40-45 in his career. He does step into a nice situation here as the Ducks have 17 starters back from last year and are rated 21st in the nation in experience. The biggest area that Taggart has to work on is a defense that allowed 41.4 ppg, but defense is not really his forte as he is more of an offensive Minded coach. They do have 12 of their top 13 tacklers back from last year, including nine that are starters, but remember, most of those are the same group that allowed 41.4 ppg last year. The offense was strong as usual as they averaged 35.4 ppg last year, but still, that was a TD less per game than in 2015. The Ducks have the top-rated RB Corps, the 2nd best WR corps and 2nd best OL in the league and with Willie Taggart at the helm, you can bet that they will improve on last yearís numbers. This will be a much-improved team over last year, but still, their defense isnít good enough for them to move up in the standings.

5. The Oregon State Beavers have missed the bowl party the last few year, but they will flirt with an invite this year. They went just 4-8 last year, but they have 55 lettermen back, including 15 starters and are the 31st most experience team in the nation. The offense improved by a TD per game over 20154 last year and they could improve even more as seven starters are back and they have added QB Jake Luton, who was a highly-touted Juco transfer. They also have their top two RBs, 5 of their top 6 receivers and a decent OL. The defense improved by a TD over what they allowed in 2015 and it could improve even more as they have eight starters back on that side of the ball and 28 of 35 lettermen overall. This is an improved team on both sides and the schedule gives them a real shot at six wins on the year and a bowl invite after missing out on the party the last three years.

6. The California Golden Bears are in for a long year. They do have 14 starters back, but one of their losses was QB David Webb, who threw for 4295 yards with 37 TDs and just 12 INTs last year. They go from that to Ross Bowers, who has yet to throw a pass at the college level. It is hard to see them topping the 37.1 ppg they put up last year, especially since they have also lost their top RB and top WR from last year, plus have an OL that rates as the worst in the league. Without huge numbers on offense, they will really struggle as their defense will be bad. They do have eight starters back on that side of the ball, but there is a lot of ground tom make up there as they allowed 42.6 ppg a year ago. They just donít have much returning talent on this side and they havenít recruited well on defense either. The schedule is not easy at all; and they are going through a coaching change with Justin Wilcox, who is a 1st time head coach. Many growing pains for the Bears this year.

Pac-12 South

1. The USC Trojans are not the most experienced team in the league this year, but they have 12 starters back and have really recruited well the last couple of years. This is a very talented team that has a decent shot at making it to the National playoffs this year. The Trojans have just five starters back on offense, but one of them is QB Sam Darnold, who threw for 3086 yards with 31 TDs and just nine INTs last year. He has been rated as the top QB in the nation and he has plenty of weapons to work with as the Trojans have the 2nd best receiver corps and 2nd best RB corps in the league and they will all set up behind the best OL in the league. This offense is talented and they should easily top the 34.4 ppg they put up last year. The defense allowed 29.5 ppg through their first four games last year, but they then allowed just 18.6 ppg over their fine 8 regular season games and that is the defense you will see from them this year as they have seven starters back on that side of the ball. The Trojans are loaded this year and they should parlay all the talent they have into a date with Washington in the Pac-12 Title game.

2. The Utah Utes won nine games a year ago and this looks like it could be a rebuilding one as they are ranked 122nd in the nation in experience. The Utes do have some youngsters that are ready to step up, especially on defense. This is normally one of the best defenses in the league and this year it should be no difference. They have just 5 starters back on that side of the ball, but 26 lettermen back on defense overall, so this is a more experienced defensed than one might think and they could improve on the 23.9 ppg they allowed last year. The big plus on defense is a line that rates as the best in the Pac-12 and the 7th best in the nation. The offense took some big hits, but they do return 63.7% of the yards from a year ago. QB Troy Williams is back and so are four of their top five ball carries from a year ago. They do lose their top two receivers from last year, but the next four all return and that is important as they will be going from a ground and pound type of offense to more of a wide open one. The Utes also have a pretty good schedule as three of their toughest games are all on the road. Those games are at USC, at Oregon and at Washington. They have a legitimate shot at winning their other 9 games and I will look for them to finish 2nd in the Pac-12 South, just ahead of a much-improved UCLA squad.

3. The UCLA Bruins went just 4-8 last year, but they are primed for a big bounce back season. A big part of their problem last year was injuries, but that just means that a lot of younger players have more experience for this year and the Bruins are the 43rd most experienced team in the nation. They have eight starters back on offense, including Josh Rosen, who did miss parts of last year due to injury. He has plenty of talent and he also has the leagueís 2nd best WR corps to throw to, including Darren Andrews and Jordan Lasley, who combined for 1329 yards and nine TDs last year. The Bruins put up just 24.9 ppg last year, but they will get back to averaging over 30.0 ppg this year, just like they did in their previous four seasons. The defense was rather average last year as they allowed 27.5 ppg and they will need to improve on that if they hope to challenge the Trojans for the Top spot in the South. They did lose Jayon Brown (119 tackles LY), but they still have six starters back and have added three of the top defensive recruits at their positions. This defense will improve on last yearís numbers and it will be even better next year. The Bruins have road games against Stanford, Washington Utah and USC and that brutal road slat should keep them in 32rd in the South, but still they will get back to a bowl game after missing out last year.

4. The Colorado Buffaloes had a very strong season last year as they went 10-4 overall and played in the Pac-12 Title game. They did lose to Washington in that game by a score of 41-10 and then fell 38-8 to Oklahoma state in the Alamo Bowl, but still, it was their most wins in a very long time and it was the first time they played in a bowl since 2007. This year they are not as talented and they will not sneak up on anyone, which has me looking for them to take a couple of steps back. The offense has nine starters back, but they lose QB Seth Liufau, who was also their 2nd leading rusher. They have their top RB in Phillip Lindsay (1252 yards, 156 TDs and their top seven receivers as well, but new QB Steven Montez does rate as one of the worst in the league and the OL is below average. They will be hard pressed to top the 31.1 ppg they put up last year. The defense is where the issues will really hit for this team as they have just three starters back from a unit that allowed just 21.7 ppg and with all the high-powered offenses in this league, that will be a problem for them. The Buffs return just 38.2% of their tackles from last year, which is 126th in the nation. The Schedule is not kind at all with road games vs Washington State, UCLA and Utah, while getting homer games against Washington an USC. They may get to seven wins on the year, but no more.

5. The Arizona State Sun Devils could surprise this year as they are coming off a 5-7 season and have 13 starters back from that team. It was their first time since 201-0 that they missed out on a bowl party and that makes them a mission team. The offense was solid as they averaged 33.3 ppg and it could be a bit stronger this year as they have seven starters back on that side of the ball, including Manny Wilkins, who has a solid season a year ago as a sophomore and he is ready for big things this year. The WR corps is a bit thin and the OL is a mess, but still they have a very solid stable of backs, which will help open up throwing lanes for Wilkins. The defense is where the problems are as they allowed 39.8 ppg last year, including 42.4 ppg in league play. They have six starters back on that side of the ball, but still just 20 of 36 lettermen return on defense overall and they. The Sun Devils do have one of the best defensive lines in the league and that should help them improve on the numbers they allowed last year. The Sun Devils have a tough schedule, but still, they will flirt with bowl eligibility this year.

6. The Arizona Wildcats are in for a long year. They were just 3-9 overall and 1-8 in league play last year and have a lot of ground to make up before they start challenging for a postseason berth. They do have 14 starters back and 51 of 72 lettermen, but still, this is a team low on talent at the moment. They have some talent, but it is young and that will make them a better team next year. Seven starters are back on offense and they should improve on the 24.8 they put up last year, which was 12.6 ppg less than they averaged in 2015. Brandon Dawkins is back at QB and he was also their top runner as well, but they do lose their 2nd best RB and three of their top four WRs. They do have the 2nd best OL in the league, but they will need a bit more from their skill players to really be competitive. The defense allowed 38.3 ppg, including 43.7 ppg in league play and it will have to be that defense that steps up if they have any hope of escaping the basement. I see improvements on both sides of the ball from this team, but it will not be enough for them to escape the basement of the South.

Look for the Washington Huskies to knock off the USC Trojans and a thrilling Pac-12 title game.