Why Pac-12 teams make the College Football Playoff

Joe Broback
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It’s been a rough couple of years for the Pac-12. Not necessarily because their teams were bad, though. Two years ago, the conference struggled mightily in bowl games. They haven’t made the College Football Playoff since 2016. Talks of the conference folding continue, but that could change this year. After missing the playoff, the Pac-12 could produce a handful of elite teams. That would be a huge boost for this conference, as long as things go well early on in nonconference play.


Pac-12 North

Cal Golden Bears

Justin Wilcox has this team as a dark horse entering 2019. He’s shown improvement in just two years with the program, and the Golden Bears have played everyone tough. This remains a young team, but that could mean good things going forward. It most likely doesn’t mean a title run this year, but the long term is looking good.

Oregon Ducks

We’ll know right off the bat if the Ducks are playoff contenders. Their first game against Auburn presents a huge test, and a win will launch them into playoff contention. Justin Herbert returned to give Oregon one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and leads one of the most talented offenses too. Oregon will light up scoreboards once again, and teams will have a tough time stopping them. If the Ducks beat Auburn, they’ll have smooth sailing until conference play.

Oregon State Beavers

Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, the Beavers aren’t going to the playoff anytime soon. They do have Jermar Jefferson though, and that’s enough to turn on the tv to watch them play. Too bad he can’t do everything by himself.

Stanford Cardinal

There’s no reason why the Cardinal can’t make the playoff, but they didn’t do themselves many favors. Stanford faces Northwestern, USC, UCF, and Oregon in their first four games. If they finish undefeated, they’ll be an instant contender. However, that’s a tough first month, and could eliminate them from playoff contention.

Washington Huskies

Chris Petersen’s team doesn’t return many starters defensively, which would concern almost any other team. Luckily, Petersen’s staff brings in talent to compete every year, even if four year starters leave. Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin were staples in the Washington offense, but both are gone. Petersen brought Jacob Eason from Georgia to replace Browning, and gets Salvon Ahmed to replace Gaskin. That eases the transition a little bit. The Huskies aren’t tested much in nonconference play, so they just need to survive their Pac-12 schedule.

Washington State Cougars

Mike Leach continues to thrive no matter where he goes. Even with a transfer quarterback. Last year, he took Gardner Minshew from ECU. This year he gets Gabe Gubrud from Eastern Washington. After the Cougars surprised many with 11 wins last year, who’s to say they won’t do it again? A lot of that falls on Gubrud’s success in a new system.

Pac-12 South

Arizona Wildcats

If Khalil Tate is a Heisman candidate, it’s because the Wildcats are making a serious run. Tate was limited as a runner last year, and Arizona needs him to be free in order to be successful. He improved as a passer, but his arm won’t beat teams on a consistent basis. Kevin Sumlin needs to find a way to improve his defense, because Tate can’t do everything alone even if he’s playing well. Arizona travels to Hawaii right off the bat, and that’s a tough challenge to start the year.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Herm Edwards surprised many in his first season at Arizona State. How does he surprise us again? Double digit wins. He’s got the running back in Eno Benjamin, but does he have the team to make a run? The Sun Devils beat teams like Michigan State, Utah, and USC, and gave Washington, Oregon, and Stanford a run too. They just need to win a handful of those games to be an national contender. With a bunch of close losses in 2018, the Sun Devils could turn those into wins this season.

Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado has two of the best players at their respective positions in quarterback Steven Montez and receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., but there are questions almost everywhere else. Both of their stars will produce once again, but it remains a question how the team will do. Games against Colorado State and Nebraska provide tough challenges in the first two weeks.

UCLA Bruins

Towards the end of last year, the Bruins were beginning to show signs of a Chip Kelly team. Experts believe they’ll be better this season based on Kelly’s history at Oregon. It will be a stunner if they make a conference title run, because there’s still a lot to fix. Their first three games are at Cincinnati, home against San Diego State, and home against Oklahoma. If they win all three, color me surprised.

USC Trojans

Clay Helton finds himself on the hot seat entering this year, but he can cool it quickly. USC’s talent level hasn’t suffered at all, but the on-field production hasn’t matched what it was in years past. Helton needs that to change, and has the talent to turn things around. JT Daniels returns for his sophomore season, and throws to a talented group of receivers.

Utah Utes

Kyle Wittingham’s team enters unfamiliar territory this year: they’re one of the favorites. Utah’s got a target on their back, and they won’t be the underdog this year. Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss headline the offense, and the defense returns a ton of elite talent. BYU is the only tough nonconference opponent, and they avoid Oregon in their divisional crossover games. Can they handle the title of favorite? We know the Utes can play the role of underdog, but this is a new experience for them.

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