The Pac-12 may be, pound for pound, the deepest conference in college football. And that’s the problem.
A conference with nine good teams and zero great ones creates a thrilling week-to-week product, and a weak one when it comes to reaching the College Football Playoff. As we saw last season.
With no generational quarterback around to run the conference, 2016 shapes up more like 2015 than 2014.
1. Washington (7-6, 4-5 Pac-12): Most often, the off-season hype is wrong, fodder for the sake of fodder to get us through the long night that is the off-season. I don’t think this is one of those times. The Huskies don’t have Christian McCaffrey, but they have the best defense in the league, the best quarterback in the division and a coaching staff good enough to win the whole damn league.
2. Stanford (12-2, 8-1 Pac-12): It feels like a sign of disrespect to pick against the machine David Shaw helped build, and then maintain and elevate after Jim Harbaugh‘s departure. Especially when they have the game’s sharpest Swiss Army knife. Come to think of it, why are they No. 2 again?
3. Oregon (9-4, 7-2 Pac-12): The Ducks can score on anybody. The question: can they stop anyone? Not even new defensive coordinator Brady Hoke is sure of that answer.
4. Washington State (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12): Last year was a grand success for Wazzu. The Cougars won nine games, claimed twice as many Pac-12 games as they lost and stayed in the divisional race deep into the season. Another season like 2015 would be an even grander one.
5. California (8-5, 4-5 Pac-12): As we saw Friday night, Davis Webb may be the only thing standing between this team and an empty December.
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