Washington (12-0)- Probably my boldest take this year. The Washington Huskies will go 12-0. I don’t see anyone on their schedule challenging them as they avoid Utah and USC and get Oregon and ASU at home. They bring in the best QB in the class of 2021 in Sam Huard and he has already caused other QB’s in the program to transfer, he is that good. They have the best offensive line in the conference so I expect them to be dominant in the air and on the ground. Look out for tight end Cade Otton to be Huard’s favorite target. He is one of the most underrated players in the country and might be the best tight end in the nation. Terrell Bynum is another playmaker for them, the wide receiver averaged 16.3 YPC and also added 70 yards on the ground. They had the best defense in the conference last year but they lost 2 big pieces this year. Elijah Molden was arguably the best DB in the conference last year, he has moved onto the NFL and Zion Tupuola-Fetui or “ZTF” suffered a torn achilles and will miss much of the season. Molden’s absence will not be missed much as the Huskies have three other DB’s that are more than capable to replace him, my favorite one being Trent Mcduffie who I think is a top ten corner in the nation. This team is legit and I expect them to go undefeated and possibly earn a playoff bid.
Oregon (9-3)- I think Oregon is good, but if anyone has this team in the top 10 they are simply delusional. On offense, they are going to have to rely on CJ Verdell and the offensive line to get it done as quarterback Anthony Brown is not a good enough passer to be reliable. Expect Oregon’s offense to plow through very bad teams, but once they play teams that can match their physicality in the trenches, it will be tough sledding. Their defense will be nasty though as they have one of the most electric linebacking corps in the nation, Justin Flowe and Noah Sewell. Not to mention the best player in the nation, Kayvon Thibedeux. Despite all this defensive talent, their defense is still very young as they were in the middle of the conference in total defense last year. The talent is there for the Ducks but I don’t think they are well enough coached or have strong enough QB play to beat Washington, Ohio State or Utah on the road. Give it a couple years and this team will be in the playoff hunt.
Washington State (6-6)- They bring in Jared Guarantano who is nothing special, but brings SEC experience to an offense that only goes as far as their QB will take them. They return all their starters from 2020 so the only way they can go is up. Their secondary was the worst in the conference and I expect them to be toward the bottom of the conference once again, but their offense will be good enough to win them some games as they have some easy home games and a very easy non-conference schedule. Running back Max Borghi needs to be more involved this season as when he is, he is a top 15 running back in the nation. With him and solid receivers like Renard Bell and Travell Harris, I think Washington State’s offense will be more than solid. 6-6 is a great achievement for Nick Rolovich and the Cougs in his second season.
California (5-7)- Another year of all defense and no offense is brewing for CAL fans. I think it's time for them to get rid of Justin Wilcox as he has shown no signs of improving the offense and with his scheme the best CAL will ever be is 7-5. Great defensive coordinator, awful head coach. There really isn’t much to say about the Bears, their offense will be anemic and won’t score more than 3 TD’s in a game. On defense, Kuony Deng is a guy you will be seeing play on Sunday’s down the road and they have some other great players such as Cameron Goode and Elijah Hicks. With an elite defense, but a terrible offense, I have the Bears hovering around 5-7.
Oregon State (3-9)- Hurts me to put the Beavers so low as I love Jonothan Smith and what he has done so far with a program this bad. However, they lose a ton, and by a ton I mean Jermar Jefferson, the most underappreciated running back in the Pac 12. This guy completely carried their offense for years and without him, the Beavers will not know how to move the ball. Quarterback Tristan Gebbia is garbage and they don’t have anyone explosive enough to help him. On defense, Omar Speights is the guy to watch. He had 71 tackles as a true freshman in 2019 and followed up with a 63 tackle campaign in the shortened Covid Season. Other than Speights though, the Beavers don’t have anyone too exciting. Expect a regression from Oregon State in 2021.
Stanford (2-10)- Davis Mills had a very under the radar 2020 that led to him being drafted in April. They also lost their best receiver in Simi Fehoko. I don’t see how this offense makes improvements from 2020 as they only return 4 starters and none of their recruits or incoming transfers blow me away. Their defense was one of the worst in the conference last year as they allowed over 220 rush yards per game. With teams like Washington, Utah and Oregon on their schedule who all have stacked offensive lines, they will get pummeled in the trenches. There simply is nothing about this team to make me excited and a very tough schedule does them no favors. They have to go up against one of the best running backs in the country in week one.
USC (10-2)- I have them at a worse record than Utah but making the Pac 12 Championship as they will have the tiebreaker and one of their losses will be non-conference (AT ND). On offense, they lose running back Stephen Carr, lineman Alijah Vera Tucker and some other offensive linemen, but they return the best QB in the conference in Kedon Slovis and arguably a top five wide receiver in the country in Drake London. I expect Graham Harrell’s air raid to be as potent as it was last season and USC to lead the conference in total offense. On defense they were in the top half of the conference in 2020 but they will surely regress as they lost their best player in Talanoa Hufanga to the NFL and linebacker Palaie Gaoteote as he transferred to Ohio State. Despite a couple of losses, USC should still be alright as they have one of the best cornerback duos out there with Olijah Griffin and Chris Steele and they always recruit well. They get Utah at home and avoid Oregon and Washington. Expect to see the Trojans in the Pac 12 title game.
Utah (11-1)- Another bold Pac 12 prediction as the Utes were only a 3-2 team last season. However, no team in the nation was affected by Covid as much as they were and 10/11 defensive starters were underclassmen. Despite all this inexperience, they had the second best defense in the conference and were one of the best teams in the country at defending the run as teams only averaged 107 rush yards against them. Two players that I expect to have great seasons for them are Devin Lloyd and Clark Phillips III. Lloyd is the oldest player on the defense as a junior, the best linebacker in the conference and in my opinion a top 5 linebacker in the country. He averaged over 9 tackles per game last season and posted 91 tackles in 2019. Phillips was a true freshman last season and was the Utes CB1, he had 2 PDs, 1 INT and a fumble recovery in 5 games last season. I think he will have around 4 INTs and 10 PDs in 2021. On offense the only issue with the Utes was QB. They solved that and some in the offseason bringing in Charlie Brewer, Jaquinden Jackson and Peter Costelli. Brewer was 15/15 in the spring game and looks like has locked up the starting job. At running back, Pac 12 freshman of the year Ty Jordan sadly passed away, but the Utes brought in TJ Pledger from Oklahoma and Chris Curry from LSU. Both guys can ball and will, behind a stacked offensive line with tons of experience. At receiver tight end Brant Kuithe is a swiss army knife as in 2019 he had 602 receiving yards on top of 102 rushing yards and 3 rushing TDs. Britain Covey also brings a lot of experience and talent. Expect the Utes to lose at USC but be extremely impressive and have a great 11-1 season.
Arizona State (9-3)- Over the offseason, I have seen many people call ASU “playoff sleepers.” Which is plain stupid. This is their best team since 2014, which is not very impressive given ASU hasn’t had 8 regular season wins since then. Quarterback Jayden Daniels is good, but nowhere near a first rounder or Heisman talent. Running Back Richard White averaged more than 9 YPC in 2020, which is absurd. He won’t be able to sustain that this year, putting more pressure on Daniels and the pass attack. Johnny Wilson will break out this year after a solid freshman campaign where he grabbed 6 passes for 89 yards. On defense, the Devils have a great CB duo in Jack Jones and Chase Lucas as well as Merlin Robertson, one of the best linebackers in the Pac 12. This ASU team is extremely talented but I would be very surprised to see them finish in the top 2 in the south.
UCLA (8-4)- This year is a make or break year for Chip Kelly, who has been terrible since arriving in Westwood. Dorian Thompson Robinson has matured a lot since being a freshman starter and I expect him to play to his potential and limit the mistakes this year. With one of the best Tight Ends in the nation, Grant Dulcich, UCLA’s offense can be one of the best in the conference. The offense is more than solid, but that's nothing without a good defense. The Bruin’s defense is mediocre at best and will be what weighs this team down. However, 8-4 is great for them and Chip Kelly will stick around. UCLA upsets LSU in week 1.
Colorado (5-7)- Karl Dorell and the 2020 Buffaloes were one of the biggest surprises in 2020 as they started the season 4-0. However, I don’t see that happening again as we saw the real Colorado at the end of the season as they suffered bad back to back losses to Utah and Texas to end the season. Quarterback Sam Noyer transferred so there are question marks all around the offense. The only thing that is for sure is that Jerrick Broussard will be the workhorse and engine for the Buffaloes offense. The plan to feed him will work versus bad teams but once they go up against Utah and Oregon, they may not score. On defense, Nate Landman is an absolute beast, but the rest of the team is not great. 5-7 for the Buffs.
Arizona (3-9)- This program is an absolute joke and hiring Kevin Sumlin was the cherry on top to solidify that. They hired Jedd Fisch this offseason which is a great hire as he brings NFL experience and can get a very solid staff. With the 11th best offense and the 12th best defense in the conference last year, Fisch and Co are in for a fun year. The offense will take a big leap. Quarterback Grant Gunnell was an extremely talented recruit coming out of high school and under Jedd Fisch I expect him to reach his full potential. Gary Brightwell is a very underrated running back and the Wildcats have a plethora of options at receiver. Despite their offense being a lot better, the defense will still be the worst in the conference. 3-9 is bad, but with Sumlin they would probably go 1-11. Baby Steps.
Washington Beats USC 28-20
Washington Over 9 Wins (favorite bet of the year)
Washington to Win the Conference +350
Utah over 8.5 Wins
USC Over 8.5 Wins