This time, Elldee Sports is looking out west to preview the PAC-12 Conference. 2019 appears to be a year that multiple teams can make the claim of being the top dog. so who will emerge victorious and represent this power conference at the highest levels? Let’s find out.
Starting in the uber-competitive North, the Oregon Ducks, Washington Huskies, and Washington State Cougars will duke it out for supremacy and a ticket to the conference championship game. The Ducks are coming off of a 9-win season, bring in the top recruiting class in the conference, and return virtually every starter from a top 25 nationally-ranked scoring offense! The cupboard is not bare on the other side of the ball, either, as the defense returns 7. Honestly, most years, I think they would be a shoe in to win the conference but according to the Elldee Sports Formula, Oregon will drop back-to-back games to the teams from the state of Washington and finish third in the North with 10 wins.
Washington and Washington State are the cream of the crop in the PAC-12 North and these two cannot stand each other. Chris Petersen is a proven great all-around coach but Mike Leach is possibly the best offensive mind in college football today. Leach has the Cougars primed with 13 returning starters from a group that surprised last season and won 11 games. Petersen, on the other hand, has to re-mold a defense that only returns two players in their 22-man rotation. Washington has had the recruiting cache over the previous years that the talent level is there, they just need to see how fast the youngsters pick up the game plan. Washington state has more returning starters but lost arguably their top player after QB Gardner Minshew graduated. Luckily, Leach’s name carries a lot of weight and they picked up the top FCS QB in the country, ensuring the offense will be in good hands. The North will come down to the Apple Cup in Seattle but the Cougars will exact revenge from their 13-point loss in Pullman last season and become the North Champion.
The PAC-12 South is a different story altogether, as Utah looks to have a stranglehold on the division. In fact, Utah and USC are the only two schools that have a head coach who has been at the school more than a year. That continuity and blue collar work ethic is what will set the Utes apart from their South Division brethren. Expect Utah to only lose two games this season, a home game to Washington State and a trip to Seattle to play Washington. The gap between Utah and the next best team in the division means that even those two losses will not keep them out of the PAC-12 Championship game.
The PAC-12 Championship game will create a rematch between Washington State and Utah. This is an opportunity for Utah to save face and show the first match-up was a fluke. The problem, though, is that the first game was not a fluke and if the Utes couldn’t win in Salt Lake City, why would they win in Santa Clara? Give the nod to Washington State 9-7 which will propel the Cougars into the College Football Playoffs for the first time ever as a #4 seed! Until next time, good luck!