Pac-12 sneak peek: Lots of talent, star power and QBs galore

  • Kyle Bonagura Close Kyle Bonagura ESPN Personnel Author Covers the Pac-12. Joined ESPN in 2014. Attended Washington State University.Paolo Uggetti Aug 22, 2023, 07:00 AM ET While the Pac-12 was the talk of college football much of the previous month for all the wrong factors

  • , don’t let the age-old conference’s death eclipse the immediate future– this league is loaded with talent and established for a splendid swan tune this season.With defending Heisman Prize winner Caleb Williams of USC blazing a trail, the Pac-12 has as much star power behind center as any conference in current memory. And the most significant headline grabber might be on the Colorado sideline in Buffaloes coach Deion Sanders.We’ll leave the adjustment handwringing and odes to lost custom for another day. For now, ESPN reporters Kyle Bonagura and Paolo Uggetti eagerly anticipate the brightest newcomers, biggest early-season games and predictions for the season to come. Three transfers to understand

    How they’ll finish: Pac-12

    1. Utah 1. USC
    2. USC 2. Washington
    3. Washington 3. Oregon
    4. Oregon 4. Utah
    5. Oregon State 5. Oregon State
    6. UCLA 6. UCLA
    7. Washington State 7. Washington State
    8. Cal 8. Arizona
    9. Arizona 9. Cal
    10. Colorado 10. Colorado
    11. Arizona State 11. Stanford
    12. Stanford 12. Arizona State

    WR/CB Travis Hunter, Colorado: Colorado went from having the least quantity of talent in the Pac-12– and amongst the worst in Power 5– to being a remarkable wild card that included playmakers from all over the country. Hunter, the former five-star recruit, is the most significant addition. After a year at Jackson State, he’ll play both methods for the Buffs, and if they turn things around, he’ll play a big function.– Bonagura

    QB DJ Uiagalelei, Oregon State: The previous Clemson quarterback was once tabbed as one of the”next big things”in college football, but it didn’t exercise for the Southern California local in the ACC. There’s no denying his natural ability, so possibly a change of landscapes and the possibility to work with coach Jonathan Smith is what he needs to use that promising capacity.– Bonagura

    Pound Mason Cobb, USC: The Trojans went into the offseason an enhanced defense away from being a true nationwide title competitor, making Cobb’s arrival from Oklahoma State maybe the most essential in the Pac-12. He was among the best linebackers in the Huge 12 last season and will supply a boost that might have playoff implications.– Bonagura

    Three essential positions to fill

    UCLA QB: Among inbound Kent State transfer Collin Schlee, experienced backup Ethan Garbers, redshirt freshman Justyn Martin and possible star freshman Dante Moore, Chip Kelly has 4 quarterbacks to select from this fall as he tries to change Dorian Thompson-Robinson.– Uggetti

    Editor’s Picks

    2 Related

    USC DL: Tuli Tuipulotu was the very best USC player last season not called Caleb Williams. His departure to the NFL leaves behind a void that requires to be filled if the Trojans’defense is to make a required leap. Coach Lincoln Riley and protective planner Alex Grinch utilized the transfer portal to bring in players such as Arizona’s Kyon Barrs and Bear Alexander from Georgia, both of whom ought to play crucial roles in the trenches.– Uggetti

    Utah DB: The longtime stalwart of the Utes’defense, Clark Phillips III will no longer be playing in Salt Lake City, and he leaves behind not just a spot to be filled at cornerback however a void in terms of leadership. All signs point to Zemaiah Vaughn or Miles Battle (or both) being the ones to try to preserve the Utes’ defense this season.– Uggetti

    Three impact freshmen

    UCLA QB Dante Moore: There’s some genuine boom-or-bust potential in selecting a guy who has no assurance to even see the field this season, but such is the world of preseason prognostication. If Moore does win the task, he’ll lack question the most impactful freshman, if for no other reason than the value of the position. He’s the just real freshman quarterback who has a possibility to start his group’s opener disallowing unpredicted injuries.– Bonagura

    USC WR Zachariah Branch: The quick Branch was ESPN’s top-ranked receiver in the class of 2023 and is expected to carve out a considerable function right now for the Trojans.– Bonagura

    Arizona S Genesis Smith: Smith has actually generated rave reviews considering that showing up on campus prior to spring practice and appears ready to instantly help improve Arizona’s secondary.– Bonagura

    Three must-see September games

    Utah at Baylor, Sept. 9: The Utes welcome Florida to Salt Lake City in late August in a rematch of last year’s fun opener in Gainesville, however early September brings possibly a tougher test– a roadway game against a Baylor group that is flying under the radar.

    — Uggetti Colorado at TCU, Sept. 2: It’s Colorado’s season opener, Deion Sanders’ first game as Enthusiasts head coach, in

    Texas, versus in 2015’s Cinderella team and nationwide title runner-up. Required I say more?– Uggetti USC at Colorado, Sept. 30: All eyes will be on the Buffaloes and Sanders the first month of the season,

    so it

    ‘s no

    surprise that the match in Boulder versus the other team in the conference that’s an attention magnet will be a must-watch occasion.– Uggetti play 2:23 Ranking the leading QBs in the Pac-12 Dirty Dvoracek and Takeo Spikes break down the pecking order of Pac-12 quarterbacks

    , consisting of Oregon’s Bo Nix.MVP choose Uggetti: Caleb Williams It’s hard to break the ruling Heisman winner, particularly when he looks, feels and has said he’s much more comfy at USC and in Lincoln Riley’s offense going into his junior year. It will be challenging for Williams to match his explosive production of more than 4,500 passing backyards and 42 touchdowns in his first season at USC, but if anyone can do it en route to being the No. 1 choice in the NFL draft, it’s Williams.

    Bonagura: Williams is the only choice here for obvious factors, however I’ll offer up Michael Penix Jr. as a backup. It’s not impossible he might toss for 5,000 backyards on a group that starts the season in the playoff conversation.On the hot seat

    Uggetti: Justin Wilcox

    The training turnover in the Pac-12 has actually been such that the majority of the conference’s groups have changed coaches in recent years, that makes it tough to find one who might be in trouble should things go south this season. While longer-tenured coaches such as Chip Kelly and Kyle Whittingham are definitely safe from their seats getting hot anytime quickly, Wilcox might be one to view. He has been at Berkeley given that 2017 and has actually not had a season at or above.500 since 2019. All that being said, Wilcox, who was one of the candidates to replace Mario Cristobal at Oregon, signed a six-year contract extension in 2015.

    Bonagura: Wilcox Entering into his seventh season, Wilcox is the only coach who can be considered here, as Paolo mentioned. The other 11 are either brand brand-new, have actually experienced some early success or are strongly entrenched. Wilcox, on the other hand, has yet to coach Cal to a winning conference record and won simply 2 Pac-12 games a season ago.Sleeper group

    Uggetti: Oregon State

    Under Jonathan Smith, the Beavers have had an exceptional climb to the leading half of the conference. After a 2022 season in which they ended up 10-3, lost two games by three points and won their championship game over Florida by 27, it is difficult to call Oregon State a sleeper group. But in the context of the Pac-12, in which much of the attention surrounds the likes of USC and Oregon, the Beavers are still flying under the radar. Adding quarterback DJ Uiagalelei from the transfer website need to just raise the ceiling for this group entering into the season. Should DJU turn out, don’t be amazed to see Smith’s group complete for a spot in the conference title game.

    Bonagura: Cal While I just made the argument that Wilcox is on the hot seat, I’m really meticulously optimistic the offseason Cal had– restoring offending coordinator Jake Spavital and bringing in numerous transfers– has a likelihood to jump-start the program. It’s a difficult year to make a leap thinking about how stacked the Pac-12 is, however the Bears will almost certainly be much better than last year’s team and must suffice to go to a bowl.Conference title

    game forecast

    Uggetti: USC 42, Washington 35 The 2 best quarterbacks in the conference propel their groups to the last Pac-12 championship game, in which a correct shootout ensues and the reigning Heisman winner leads the winning drive.

    Bonagura: Utah 35, USC 31

    If USC were coming off back-to-back conference titles with the very same quarterback returning for many years 3, as Utah is, the Trojans would be a popular national title pick. Let’s not let big-brand bias deal with the Utes any in a different way.

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