Better late than never?
Pac-12 will join the college football season on November 7, with each team looking to compete seven games in seven weeks during the coronavirus pandemic. Number 14 Oregon starting the season as de facto favorite as the conference’s only ranking team, but there are still more questions than usual.
After the conference schedule was released, our experts shared some thoughts, including first impressions, exciting battles and game-title predictions.
Which Pac-12 weekend are you looking forward to the most?
Ivan Maisel: In a year when things turn out to be normal, in a season that looks like it will never start, it’s great to see Thanksgiving weekend feature three of the most enduring contests in Pac-12. Three Northern Division geographic associates will be playing their over-the-top, chatty, year-long game of bragging rights on Thanksgiving Friday. We can all use a day when we can make turkey sandwiches and watch the Big Game, Oregon-The State of Oregon and the Apple Cup.
Bill Connelly: I agree with that, and I’m also glad we got Rivalry Week Part Deux with Oregon-Washington and USC–UCLA two weeks later. I’m really curious about Jimmy Lake’s Washington first team and whether the Huskies can stay with Oregon in the North. While we will most likely get an answer by then, this could still be decisive in the title play. (I’ve gotten to where I’m talking about things like the “mid-December competition to decide division titles” as if it’s normal.)
Kyle Bonagura: I’ve never been more excited for it Arizona vs. Utah. Not that there’s anything special about the game in particular, but by the time November 7 gets here, we’ll be going through September and October without Pac-12 football. Navigating the pandemic doesn’t have a road map, so it doesn’t make sense to stick to the different ways each conference operates with respect to the 2020 season. But because I’ve watched other conference games, I missed Pac-12. That’s why opening weekend, which will also feature Arizona State at USC, Stanford in Oregon, UCLA at Colorado, Washington at Cal and Washington State in Oregon State, is one of the most I look forward to.
Adam Rittenberg: It’s hard to argue with either option, but my eyes are immediately on the Oregon-Cal game on the first weekend of December. Don’t be surprised if this is the Ducks’ toughest division test in their quest to repeat as league champions. Cal has the home pitch and returning midfielders, Chase Garbers. The Bears have disappointed Washington and Washington State at Berkeley. I also think the USC trip to Pullman, Washington, which is likely to be chilly, on that Friday could be tricky, and Washington-Stanford is usually a fun physical game.
What is the most interesting fight?
Maisel: In Week 1, we have a fight between the two best midfielders in the league: Kedon Slovis USC vs. Jayden Daniels from Arizona State. It also explains another fight I love: the USC Soap Opera and all the Trojan fans’ expectations of head coach Clay Helton before the season was stopped, versus the reality of what the Trojans season is like now. They dumped two national championship contenders from their schedule (Alabama and Notre Dame), as well as a match in favorite North Oregon. Their crossover opponent is Washington State at the Coliseum. The schedule maker is doing USC solidly.
Connelly: If we’re honest, the most exciting fight is “Pac-12 vs. whoever tries to beat his best undefeated team.” It is clear that USC (Washington State), Oregon (UCLA), Utah (Oregon State) and Washington (Arizona) did not have the most dominant cross-division opponents, even though this was not a degree of SEC honesty. intention. However, on the ground, I’m glad we can get to USC-Arizona State right through the gate. Daniels fought back Palaie Gaoteote IV, Todd Orlando and the renovated USC defense will definitely shed some light on what we’re working on in the Southern division.
Bonagura: It’s hard to have any expectations going into this strange season. With no spring practices, no traditional training camps, with restrictions on government practices and the choice not to participate, there are too many unique variables to feel comfortable about anything. Oregon is – was it? – Favorites, so I’m intrigued to see how Duck looks against Stanford in Week 1, but even more so against Washington State the following week as the Cougars kick-start the Nick Rolovich era.
Rittenberg: Jimmy Lake actually had Mike Leach as Washington’s defense coordinator, and he wasn’t afraid to tell everyone about it before and after the Apple Cup. Lake is now entering his first year as Huskies coach, while Leach is away for the SEC. Rolovich operates a system similar to Leach’s, and it will be interesting to see if Lake’s Apple Cup reign can continue when rivals meet.
What are your Pac-12 championship predictions?
Maisel: USC has to play in Oregon. I shove all my chips at the end of the fairy tale. Clay Helton led the Trojans to the Pac-12 championship.
Connelly: We know how it will turn out if we trust USC too much, but the USC violation is perhaps the single most proven entity at the conference, and I would say it counts. Meanwhile, Oregon’s defense is perhaps the second most proven unit. This justifies the very tedious selection of chalk I’m going to make: USC vs. Oregon in the title game. And just to make sure we don’t end up unanimous, I think Oregon won.
Bonagura: I fully allow the possibility that something that is completely outside the left plane happens. Something like a Cal vs. Arizona State in the Pac-12 title race would be the perfect way to finish this season. For now, I agree with Ivan and Bill: Oregon vs USC makes the most sense, and Duck still feels the safer option.
Rittenberg: Even with all the options out, I would go with Oregon in the North, although it doesn’t surprise me to see Cal make the title game with a more balanced team under Justin Wilcox. I will lean with USC in the South as new defense coordinator Todd Orlando makes an immediate impact. USC made a small mistake and let Helton haters hate him for another offseason.