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2020 Pac-12 Preview


(image credit: Sean Meagher / The Oregonian)

Written by: Joseph Yun

Twitter: 2Yoon2ZeroBlitz


The last of the Power 5 conferences finally kick their season off on Friday night after a quiet offseason full of gross internal miscalculations about their national perception. The Pac-12 will feature a short six-game run after initially being the strongest proponent of canceling the season. They have zero room for error, much like their overlords/cohorts, the Big Ten due to the ineffective and oftentimes blase leadership at the top. In case you missed the other four conference previews, they are linked as below:


ACC

Big 12

SEC

Big Ten


How will each team fare during this short season? Can the Trojans finally live up to their potential and return to glory? Will the Ducks fly high once more? Is there a team that will upset the balance of power and storm to the top? The conference title game will be held at the home of the best conference record instead of Las Vegas due to the pandemic. An interesting scheduling quirk is that the conference will play a seventh game in a tournament style. The seventh game will be matched up with corresponding conference records outside of the title game participants (so North 3 vs. South 3 and so on).



North


Cal


Sat Nov. 7 HOME vs. Washington (W)

Sat Nov. 14 AWAY @ Arizona State (L)

Sat Nov. 21 AWAY @ Oregon State (L)

Fri. Nov 27 HOME vs. Stanford (W)

Sat Dec. 5 HOME vs. Oregon (L)

Sat Dec. 12 AWAY @ Washington State (W)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 3-3


- Cal might be the sneaky darkhorse pick to take the North division due to having the best returning quarterback and a stingy defense full of 2021 draftable prospects. Chase Garbers if healthy can be really good but health has been a big question. The defense lost tackling machine Evan Weaver to the draft and defensive tackle Luc Bequette to transfer but returned Cameron Goode, Kuony Deng, and cornerback Cam Bynum. The return of Bynum is especially big as he opted out but elected to return after the Pac-12 returned to play. Head Coach Justin Wilcox has done well with the resources given to him and 2020 won’t be any different.


Oregon


Sat Nov. 7 HOME vs. Stanford (W)

Sat Nov. 14 AWAY @ Washington State (L)

Fri Nov. 20 HOME vs. UCLA (W)

Fri Nov 27 AWAY @ Oregon State (W)

Sat Dec. 5 AWAY @ Cal (W)

Sat Dec. 12 HOME vs. Washington (W)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 6-0


- Even though the Ducks were the heaviest hit in terms of COVID19 opt-outs which include a potential top-five pick OT Penei Sewell, recruiting has Oregon fans optimistic. They will have to replace the entire offensive line plus Justin Herbert AND an OC but should have a little issue doing so. Particularly as the OC is none other than Joe Moorhead, who is much more accomplished and talented than the previous OC, Marcus Arroyo. In comes the combo of Tyler Shough and BC transfer Anthony Brown to help replace potential offensive rookie of the year candidate Herbert. Defensively, they have budding star Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jordan Scott, and talent across all three levels. Watch out for cornerback Mykael Wright, he’s the next big thing there and it only helps that senior Deommodore Lenoir returned from opt-out. It's not all bereft for the Ducks offensively as they return leading rusher CJ Verdell and former top recruit Devon Williams at receiver along with untapped potential in Mycah Pittman (younger brother of former USC receiver Michael). They are also on the verge of a top 3 recruiting class if everything holds in 2021.


Oregon State


Sat Nov. 7 HOME vs. Washington State (W)

Sat Nov. 14 AWAY @ Washington (L)

Sat Nov. 21 HOME vs. Cal (W)

Fri Nov 27 HOME vs. Oregon (L)

Sat Dec. 5 AWAY @ Utah (L)

Sat Dec. 12 AWAY @ Stanford (L)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 2-4


- Don’t let the 2-4 record fool you, Johnathan Smith can flat out COACH. He’s led Oregon State back to respectability, something you couldn’t count on even 10-15 years ago. Five wins at OSU is like 10 wins anywhere else. The Beavers have some talent such as running back Jermar Jefferson and EDGE Hamilcar Rashed, Jr. They did lose star receiver Isaiah Hodgins however. The last three-game stretch is brutal but they do catch Wazzu at a good time, who’s breaking in new staff and a new quarterback.


Stanford


Sat Nov. 7 AWAY @ Oregon (L)

Sat Nov. 14 AWAY @ Colorado (W)

Sat Nov. 21 HOME vs. Washington State (L)

Fri Nov 27 AWAY @ Cal (L)

Sat Dec. 5 AWAY @ Washington (L)

Sat Dec. 12 HOME vs. Oregon State (W)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 2-4


- Stanford saw a massive amount of turnover via the portal this past summer and returns very little in terms of talent. To make matters worse, OT Walker Little and CB Paulsen Adebo elected to opt-out. QB Davis Mills will be in for some long games behind an offensive line that was already one of the worst in the conference last year. David Shaw can’t resist the siren songs of the NFL forever, can he? It’s going to be a long year on The Farm again.


Washington


Sat Nov. 7 AWAY @ Cal (L)

Sat Nov. 14 HOME vs. Oregon State (W)

Sat Nov. 21 HOME vs. Arizona (W)

Fri Nov 27 AWAY @ Washington State (W)

Sat Dec. 5 HOME vs. Stanford (W)

Sat Dec. 12 AWAY @ Oregon (L)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 4-2


- An interesting year in store for hand-picked new head coach Jimmy Lake, who was Chris Petersen’s defensive coordinator. The Huskies have talent issues as a lot of draft picks have left the roster in the past couple of years, resulting in subpar recruiting gains. They haven’t named a starter at quarterback as of press time. With the schedule they have, they can eke out a winning record but much will hinge on Lake’s recruiting ability. They were projected to have defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike and linebacker Joe Tryon until both opted out. Only Elijah Molden remains that’s remotely draftable.


Washington State


Sat Nov. 7 AWAY @ Oregon State (L)

Sat Nov. 14 HOME vs. Oregon (L)

Sat Nov. 21 AWAY @ Stanford (W)

Fri Nov 27 HOME vs. Washington (L)

Fri Dec. 4 AWAY @ USC (L)

Sat Dec. 12 HOME vs. Cal (L)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 1-5


- Gone are the days of high flying Mike Leach Air Raid. In his capable stead, former Hawai’i head coach Nick Rolovich has installed his run and shoot offense. The Cougars will have to replace a ton of talent, regardless so it will be a challenge. Star running back Max Borghi returns so there’s one building block on offense. Defensively, Jahad Woods returns for a senior season. Still, the run and shoot will scare some teams that don’t really play against that type of offense. Expect the Cougars to be competitive at least.


South


Arizona


Sat Nov. 7 AWAY @ Utah (L)

Sat Nov. 14 HOME vs. USC (L)

Sat Nov. 21 AWAY @ Washington (L)

Sat Nov. 28 AWAY @ UCLA (L)

Sat Dec. 5 HOME vs. Colorado (W)

Fri Dec. 11 HOME vs. Arizona State (L)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 1-5


- The hot seat for head coach Kevin Sumlin is white-hot after years of underperforming in Tucson. Defensively, it will be a work in progress with multiple starters leaving via transfer including linebackers Tony Fields II and Colin Schooler. The Wildcats will have to win with an offense that features rising QB Grant Gunnell and receivers Jamarye Joiner and Brian Casteel. The schedule makers didn’t do them any favors with a bad start on the horizon.


Arizona State


Sat Nov. 7 AWAY @ USC (L)

Sat Nov. 14 HOME vs. Cal (W)

Sat Nov. 21 AWAY @ Colorado (W)

Sat Nov. 28 HOME vs. Utah (W)

Sat Dec. 5 HOME vs. UCLA (W)

Fri Dec. 11 AWAY @ Arizona (W)

Sat. Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 5-1


- Arizona State might be the favorite to win the South division with its talent with an NFL coaching staff. HC Herm Edwards brought in former Bengals HC Marvin Lewis to be a co-DC with former NFL linebacker Antonio Pierce. Star QB Jayden Daniels returns to pilot a unit that features Frank Darby and a host of young talented guys. They did lose all-world receiver Brandon Aiyuk but Darby is a salve. The running back room will be brand new as well since Eno Benjamin went to the NFL. There’s talent across the defense as linebacker Merlin Robertson is junior and is likely a Day 2 selection. Senior cornerbacks Chase Lucas and Jack Jones return as well for another year. The schedule is manageable as well as the only trouble spot is the opener in Los Angeles.


Colorado


Sat Nov. 7 HOME vs. UCLA (L)

Sat Nov. 14 AWAY @ Stanford (L)

Sat Nov. 21 HOME vs. Arizona State (L)

Sat Nov. 28 AWAY @ USC (L)

Sat Dec. 5 AWAY @ Arizona (L)

Fri Dec. 11 HOME vs. Utah (L)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 0-6


- The Buffaloes made the most laughably poor hire in retread Karl Dorrell, whose tenure in Westwood was a mixed bag when Mel Tucker left for Michigan State. The talent drain in Boulder is palpable and real as do everything receiver Laviska Shenault is plying his trade in the NFL. Defensively, they do return two draftable stars in linebacker Nate Landman and defensive tackle Mustafa Johnson so there’s that. It’s going to be a long year for Ralphie and co in 2020.


UCLA


Sat Nov. 7 AWAY @ Colorado (W)

Fri Nov. 14 HOME vs. Utah (L)

Fri Nov. 20 AWAY @ Oregon (L)

Sat Nov 28 HOME vs. Arizona (W)

Sat Dec. 5 AWAY @ Arizona State (L)

Sat Dec. 12 HOME vs. USC (L)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 2-4


- Year three of the Chip Kelly administration probably won’t go well as they have to replace a lot of talent but bring back DTR. Gone are Joshua Kelley (draft) and Theo Howard (transfer). DTR beat out Washington transfer Cole Yankoff and Yankoff subsequently transitioned to receiver. For Kelley, in steps another upperclassman Demetric Felton. The receiver room isn’t completely barren as Chase Cota and Kyle Phillips are intriguing talents. The schedule makers did try to help the Bruins but there’s not a lot of winnable games on it. The Bruins athletic department was in a massive red hole to begin with so firing Kelly might not be so feasible after the pandemic fiscal hits are tallied.


USC


Sat Nov. 7 HOME vs. Arizona State (W)

Sat Nov. 14 AWAY @ Arizona (W)

Sat Nov. 21 AWAY @ Utah (W)

Sat Nov. 28 HOME vs. Colorado (W)

Fri Dec. 4 HOME vs. Washington State (W)

Sat Dec. 12 AWAY @ UCLA (W)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 6-0


- The Trojans arguably have the best roster in the conference, at least offensively. Quarterback Kedon Slovis is a sophomore and they have three legitimate receivers in Tyler Vaughns, Drake London, and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Left tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker opted back in after the season was announced. Running backs Stephen Carr and Vave Malapeai anchor the rushing attack. The defense did take a hit when Jay Tufele opted out but still return a ton of talent, namely in the secondary such as Talanoa Hufanaga, Isaiah Pola-mao, Olajah Griffin, and Isaac Taylor-Stuart. The front seven features the likes of Drake Jackson, Palaie Gaoteote, and Jordan Iosefa. USC has an easy schedule so they should roll into the title game with relative ease should they stay healthy.


Utah


Sat Nov. 7 HOME vs. Arizona (W)

Sat Nov. 14 AWAY @ UCLA (W)

Sat Nov. 21 HOME vs. USC (L)

Sat Nov 28 AWAY @ Arizona State (L)

Sat Dec. 5 HOME vs. Oregon State (W)

Fri Dec. 11 AWAY @ Colorado (W)

Sat Dec 19 TBD


Projected Record: 4-2


- The Utes are rebuilding after a lot of talent graduated or were drafted, including nine defensive starters, RB Zack Moss, and QB Tyler Huntley. The secondary is brand new as starters Javelin Guidry, Julian Blackmon, Marquise Blair, and Jaylon Johnson made it to the NFL along with Terrell Burgess. In the front seven, they lost every one of note including Bradlee Anae, Leki Fotu, and John Penisini. Not to mention the turmoil that DC Morgan Scalley found himself in after allegations of racial remarks surfaced in the offseason. So yes, this is a long way of saying, Utah might be in trouble. However, head coach Kyle Whittingham is nothing but consistent if not flashy as a developer of talent. That consistency will result in .500 or better against a relatively soft schedule.


North Winner: Oregon


South Winner: USC


PAC-12 Champion: Oregon

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