You can listen to my 2018 Big ten College Football Preseason Prediction Right Here!: https://bit.ly/2my7ITU
Stanford had a down year last season, which is crazy considering they posted a 9-5 record. But by comparison, David Shaw’s teams the last two years have won 10+ games. This Cardinal team did however manage to make it to the PAC-12 title game but lost a heartbreak to USC by 3 points. In fact, 4 out of 5 of Stanford’s losses last season came within a field goal or less! That’s crazy! Stanford is my frontrunner out of the PAC 12 North this year as they return 15 total starters including superstar running back Bryce Love who rushed for over 2100 yards last season with 19 scores. The top 4 receiving targets also return to an offense that will be fully loaded in 2018. The schedule is tough with road contests against Oregon, Notre Dame, and Washington but I believe this Cardinal team is the squad to beat out of the North.
The WashingtonHuskies will look to build upon the momentum from the last two season. In 2016 the Huskies won the PAC 12 title, went 12-2, and earned a bid to the college football playoffs. Last season, the Huskies went 7-2 in conference and earned a bid in the Fiesta Bowl against Saquon Barkley’s Penn State squad. Washington was within 7 points of winning that game. This season, Chris Petersen returns virtually his entire starting offense and defense, save for 5 players. Their schedule is also very favorable with the only tests against Auburn, at Utah, and at Oregon on October 13th.
Oregon has a new head coach this season and returns 14 total starters. The offense loses its top 2 rushers from a season ago, but the passing and receiving core is intact. For the Ducks to be effective the offense needs to be productive. Total offense was the lowest its been in the last seven seasons. In 2014 when the Ducks won the PAC 12 conference title they were putting up 547 yards of total offense and scoring 45 points a game. Last season, Oregon only put up 441 total offense and averaged 36 points a game. That drop off is significant when your whole offensive game plan is to try and out offense your opponents. The Ducks will benefit from hosting Stanford and Washington at home in Eugene this year.
Washington State will have an uphill battle next season if it expects to return to a 4thstraight bowl game this season. The Cougars were 3rd in the North last season with a conference record of 6-3 and 9 total wins. However, this season Mike Leach will only see 10 total starters return with only four of those players on offense. The schedule is pretty tough with road contests at USC and Stanford, though the Cougars do host Oregon and Washington at home. If Leach can replace the holes at QB, RB, and Receiving then I don’t think it’s too far-fetched that Washington State returns to a bowl game again this season.
USC will need to find a way to replace the production of Quarterback Sam Darnold, who is now in the NFL. This will be no easy task considering Darnold was the first Trojan QB to pass for over 4,000 yards. Unfortunately USC also loses its 1500 yard rusher and 100 yard receiver as well. Total Offense was the best its been in over 7 seasons but with the loss of these three playmakers this season, I expect this total to drop off in 2018. The Trojans return 13 total starters but the schedule is tough with back-to-back road tests at Stanford and Texas.
Utah had 3 loses where the outcome was determine by 3 points or less, including two heartbreaking games against Stanford and USC back-to-back. The keyword for the Utes this season is Focus. This team will put up points in 2018. 1000 yard rusher Zack Moss returns along with QB Tyler Huntley. Together the duo accounted for over 56% of Utah’s offensive touchdowns last season. This squad is definitely closer to the top than it is the bottom and I believe they could be a sleeper team in the South division this season.
Colorado suffered two back-to-back losses last season by the margin of four points or less. The losses occurred early in the season but would wind up costing the Buffalos a trip to a second straight bowl game. Last season was disappointing for Colorado only going 5-7 after posting a 10-4 record in 2016. A season in which they surprised everyone and landed up in the PAC 12 title game. I think its within reason to expect this Colorado team to win at least 6 games this season.
Head Coach Kevin Sumlin inherits an Arizona squad that went 7-6 last season and managed to go to its first bowl game since 2015. Looking at the Wildcats schedule for 2018 it could be very probably that they improve upon their record from a season ago. This team returns 16 starters including 9 on defense which features stud linebacker Colin Schooler who accounted for 7.3 tackles per game. Keep the Oct 27thmatchup against Oregon circled on your schedule. That could be a good game to watch.