Pac-12 Preview: Is there a clear-cut favorite?

Finally, it’s August so that means football is close to being back. The NCAA season is imminent and should provide another set of unexpected as well as chaotic events.

Most people would rather focus on the player that could win the Heisman or even the team that could hoist up a national championship. However, none of these things can be achieved without owning your conference and taking it one week at a time.

Without further ado, let’s break down the Pac-12.

Here are some other conference previews: ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC

The Contenders

David Shaw returns for his eighth season as the Stanford Cardinal head coach. Last season, the Cardinal won the Pac-12 North before coming up short in the Pac-12 Championship against USC 31-29. They also lost in their bowl game against TCU in the Alamo Bowl. With the return of Bryce Love at running back and one of the best offensive lines in college football, the Cardinal once again should be one of the favorites in the Pac-12.

Chris Peterson enters his fifth season as the Washington Huskies head coach. He has a 37-17 record during that span and winning the conference in 2016. The Huskies return 16 starters from the 10-3 team in 2017 including senior quarterback Jake Browning and senior running back Myles Gaskin.  The Huskies open the season in Atlanta against Auburn which could be a interesting early season test. They have enough talent on both sides of the ball to not only compete for a Pac-12 title, but a spot in the College Football Playoff as well.

Clay Helton is entering his fourth full season as the USC Trojans head coach. Helton’s record is 26-10 overall, leading the Trojans to the Pac-12 title in 2017. With no Sam Darnold under center, Helton will turn to either true freshman quarterback JT Daniels or freshman quarterbacks Jack Sears and Matt Fink to lead the Trojans’ offense in 2018. Until a signal caller emerges from the bunch, the offense will be predicated on the strong offensive line and ground game of sophomore running back Stephen Carr.

The Players to Watch

Stanford’s Love broke Christian McCaffrey’s rushing record by rumbling for 2,118 yards with 18 touchdowns. He was a Heisman finalist and you can expect to see much of the same from him this season.

Khalil Tate of the Arizona Wildcats might be a cheat code like Lamar Jackson was during his three years of terror in college. Tate rushed for well over 1,400 yards as a dual-threat quarterback a year ago. It will be important for helping improve his NFL resume and Arizona if he can show a refined ability to throw the pigskin.

Washington’s Browning passed for 2,719 yards with 19 touchdowns and only five interceptions. He threw for 43 touchdowns in 2016 which made the Huskies a national title contender. It will be important for him to be an effective player if Washington wants to continue there choke-hold on the conference. A healthy Browning could be the key to the success the Huskies in 2018.

N’Keal Harry is a wide receiver playing for the Arizona Sate Sun Devils. Last season was a break out season for the sophomore as he had 1,142 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Look for Harry to have another solid season as he has become a go-to-guy over the last two seasons for ASU

A Dark Horse Team

Arizona State could very well be that dark horse Pac-12 team in 2018. New head coach Herman Edwards takes over a 7-6 team that has talent on both sides of the ball.

Senior quarterback Manny Wilkins will lead the offense along with one of the most talented receiving cores in the conference led by Harry and Kyle Williams.

The defense is anchored by a couple of seniors in nose tackle Renell Wren and outside linebacker Koron Crump. With talent and a new head man running the show, the Sun Devils could finish as high as first or as low as last making them a very interesting dark horse team to watch in 2018.

The Pac-12 was a very competitive conference last season. This season shouldn’t be any different. Any one of the teams has a legitimate chance at winning the conference in 2018.

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