Pac 12 Preview
This season the Pac 12 ditched the divisional format and are doing a round robin style of standings with the top 2 teams making the Conference Championship Game.
Utah is STACKED! Great defense, great o-line, great run game, very good passing game. Junior quarterback Cameron Rising finished 2021 with 2,493 yards, 20 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. He wasn’t the starter until replacing Charlie Brewer in game 3. Rising also rushed for 499 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Utes top rusher last season returns in junior running back Tavion Thomas, who rushed for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns. The top 2 returning receivers are senior tight ends Britain Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid. The wide receivers are young but have great potential. The defense was incredible in 2021 and most of the starters from that squad are back. However, the top two tacklers, linebackers Devin Lloyd and Nephi Sewell are in the NFL. Sophomore cornerback Clark Phillips, III is a star in the secondary as he finished his freshman season with 61 tackles, 13 passes broken up, 2 interceptions and 1 touchdown. The Utes open the 2022 season at Florida and while the Gators are in a transition with new coach Billy Napier, beating a blue blood SEC team on the road would be a huge win for both Utah and the Pac 12.
The Oregon Ducks hired Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning as their new head coach after Mario Cristobal left Eugene to be the coach for his alma mater, the Miami Hurricanes. Lanning oversaw one of the best defenses ever assembled at Georgia last season. He is returning a good amount of talent from a Ducks roster that went 10-4 in 2021. The offense brings in Auburn transfer quarterback Bo Nix, UCLA transfer wide receiver Chase Cota and Texas A&M transfer wide receiver Caleb Chapman. (no relation) The offensive line was left in great shape by Cristobal, an offensive lineman in his playing days. The running game saw star back Travis Dye transfer to USC, so sophomore Byron Caldwell is the returning leader in rushing yards. The defense is very good and with Lanning coaching them up they should be even better than they were last year. The Oregon defense is led by super sophomore Noah Sewell who led the Ducks in tackles last season with 114. The defensive line has studs Popo Aumavae and Brandon Dorlus and will get some help from the Transfer Portal. The secondary has junior corners Mykael Wright and DJ James returning but will need to replace both safeties. Dan Lanning is fortunate to land his first head coaching job at a place where the roster is one that can challenge for a spot in the College Football Playoffs.
USC brings in former Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley and a truck load of talent from the Transfer Portal. Following Riley from Oklahoma to USC are sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams and sophomore wide receiver Mario Williams. The Trojans also plucked reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, Jordan Addison, from Pitt. However, even with Riley and his host of transfers coming in, the Trojans will still be behind Utah and Oregon this season…this season. UCLA returns a lot from the 2021 roster, but they also hit the Transfer Portal to add some pieces and this season should be the season Chip Kelly puts it together. But the Bruins won’t finish higher than 4th in the Pac 12. Oregon State is my surprise team this season. The Beavers have a decent roster and coach Jonathan Smith is doing a tremendous job at one of the tougher jobs in the Pac 12. Washington is a team who should be toward the top of the Pac 12 hierarchy but have faltered the past few years. They bring in former Fresno State head coach Kalen DeBoer and his high-flying passing attack, but the Huskies are still a few seasons away from seriously challenging for the conference crown again. Thanks to an investigation into recruiting violations, Arizona State saw a lot of players leave via the Transfer Portal. While some good replacements were brought in, it won’t be enough to get the Sun Devils further than the middle of the Pac 12 standings. Washington State retained interim head coach Jake Dickert as former coach Nick Rolovich was fired due to his disagreement with the University over the Covid-19 vaccine. Dickert brought in a new offensive coordinator, new quarterback and completely overhauled the Cougars secondary, but Wazzu will take a step back from last season’s finish. Cal has a decent defense under head coach Justin Wilcox, but the offense is below average, and the schedule includes a road date at Notre Dame, which means it’s going to be a long season for the Golden Bears. Stanford ended 2021 with a 7-game losing streak, an oddity for a David Shaw coached team. 2022 will be a tough season again for the Cardinal, just not 7 straight losses though. Colorado is bad on both sides of the ball but at least has Arizona on the schedule so that will very likely be the Buffaloes lone conference win. Arizona is awful, they were 1-11 in 2021 and could very well repeat that record in 2022…if they can get by FCS powerhouse North Dakota State.
The Pac 12 Championship game will be Utah -v- Oregon and I think Utah will repeat as Pac 12 champs. I don’t think the game will be as lopsided as last season but the Utes to me are just too deep to not win the Pac 12. Depending on how the rest of the country shapes up the Utes could make their first appearance in the College Football Playoffs.