A strong off-season pushes USC to the top of the Pac-12 entering the Fall.
Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Article by WestCoastCFB
USC is now our favorite to win the Pac-12 after putting together the #1 transfer class in the country according to 247 Sports. The Trojans have depth at every position and the tandem of Caleb Williams and Travis Dye should make for an electric offense. The Pac-12 South will likely be decided when USC visits Salt Lake City to take on Utah in October and FanDuel currently projects USC as a 1 point favorite in that contest.
Utah enters 2022 as the defending Pac-12 Champs. We initially projected them to win the conference in our first Power Rankings in January but the Utes haven't hit the portal hard while USC stockpiled talent. While Kyle Whittingham returns Cam Rising and Tavion Thomas, Utah will struggle to replace names like Devin Lloyd, Britain Covey, Nick Ford, Nephi Sewell, Mika Tafua, Brandon McKinney and Vonte Davis.
Once again, Oregon is the favorite to win the North. The Ducks possess the most talent in the conference according to the 247 Talent Composite and studs like Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe should anchor what could be a dangerous defense under Dan Lanning. On offense, the Ducks will be led by former 5 star quarterback, Bo Nix, who transferred from Auburn.
The Bruins had six players selected in the NFL Draft after an eight win campaign in 2021 but don't count out Chip Kelly's squad after they reloaded in the transfer portal. UCLA's transfer class is ranked 6th in the country and is headlined by names like Darius Muasau who was an All Conference selection at Hawaii and Grayson and Gabriel Murphy who starred at North Texas along the defensive line. A favorable schedule for the Bruins should make nine wins the expectation.
5. Oregon State
Jonathan Smith has done an impressive job at Oregon State. After taking over a program that went 1-11 in 2017, Smith reached a bowl last season and won seven games. OSU's offense led the Pac-12 in Yards per Play last season and with most of their weapons returning, they should be tough to stop in 2022. If the defense can finally turn things around, the Beavers are capable of taking the next step and winning eight or more games.
WSU scored one of the biggest additions in the transfer portal when they landed star QB Cameron Ward. The transfer from Incarnate Ward put up ridiculous stats at the FCS level with 71 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. The Cougs should have an elite offense and with Jake Dickert in charge, you have to believe he will keep the defense playing at a high level as well. With that said, the loss of Max Borghi and Abe Lucas will be big and the Cougs could have issues on the OL as witnessed by their bowl performance.
Washington feels like one of the biggest mysteries in 2022. UW has recruited well over the years and they will likely have the 3rd most talented roster in the conference but the offense was horrible last season and that kept the Huskies from reaching their potential. During the Spring Game, the Defense was flying around and look like they should be one of the best units in the conference. With offensive improvement, DeBoer should be capable of winning 6-8 games.
8. Arizona State
ASU was 5th in our initial pre-season power rankings but fall to 8th after a disastrous off-season. Jayden Daniels, Eric Gentry and Jermayne Lole are just some of the major names that have transferred. Herm Edwards has done a nice job replacing talent but it doesn't feel like it will be enough to win more than six or seven games.
Tanner McKee and nine other starters return to the offense as the Cardinal look to bounce back from a tough 2021 season that resulted in just three wins. If McKee can become the quarterback that many project him to be, an improvement could be on the horizon.
The Golden Bears had tough luck in 2021 while losing five games by seven points or fewer. Justin Wilcox has proven to be a good coach but he needs to find a way to improve the offense if the program is to get back to making bowl games.
Jedd Fisch has been a home run hire when it comes to recruiting and building hype around the program. The next step is winning games and that should begin to happen in 2022 after Jayden de Laura transferred from Pullman to Tucson.
The Buffs have had their roster decimated by transfers. La'Vontae Shenault, Christian Gonzalez, Brenden Rice, Mekhi Blackmon, Jarek Broussard and Dimitri Stanley are just some of the names that departed in the off-season. Colorado may be lucky to win two or three games this season.