Utah enters 2022 the clear favorite for the conference title.
Photo: Jeffrey Swinger USA Today
Article by WestCoastCFB
The Utes will enter the 2022 season as a potential Top 10 team and a clear favorite to repeat as Pac-12 Champs. Utah stumbled out of the gate in 2021 but after the change to Cameron Rising at Quarterback, the Utes became one of the most dangerous offenses in the country. The majority of offense will return with elite playmakers at QB (Rising), Running Back (Tavion Thomas) and Tight End (Brant Kuithe). On the offensive line, Utah is projected to return 4 starters and could enter the Fall with the top OL in the conference. Kyle Whittingham will need to replace a few stars with Devin Lloyd, Britain Covey, Nick Ford and Mika Tafua all off to the NFL, but no one develops talent consistently like the Utes. All things considered, there's a great chance the Utes will be better in 2022 than 2021.
USC may have had the best offseason in the country when they landed Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma. Riley is the most accomplished coach in the conference with 5 Top 10 finishes and 3 playoff appearances. His impact has already been felt in the transfer portal as USC has landed 9 transfers including Mekhi Blackmon and Brenden Rice from Colorado, Terrell Bynum from Washington, and Mario Williams and Latrell McCutchin from Oklahoma. Figuring out who will be the USC Quarterback will be key and the Trojans are still in the running for former Oklahoma star Caleb Williams.
Many will have the Ducks ahead of the Trojans but a late season swoon, losing Cristobal and key personnel losses will take a toll. Dan Lanning has a slight rebuild ahead of him with Travis Dye transferring and Kayvon Thibodeaux, Mykael Wright, Verone McKinley and Devon Williams off to the NFL. Oregon has added Bo Nix at Quarterback who comes from Auburn where he threw 39 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.
UCLA has had a nice offseason with the surprise return of Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and star RB Zach Charbonnet. The Bruins' offense should be high scoring once again and with the resignation of DC Jerry Azzinaro, UCLA could make much needed strides on the defensive side of the ball. With the right hire, Chip Kelly's squad could become very dangerous in the coming years.
Despite an 8-5 season, it felt like ASU underachieved relative to expectations. The Sun Devils now enter the offseason with concerns about possible sanctions that resulted from recruiting violations during the pandemic and it feels like they have lost the momentum under Herm Edwards that they once had. Jayden Daniels is back at quarterback for ASU and will need to make major strides if the Sun Devils are to contend for the conference title.
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.
7. Oregon State
Jonathan Smith has worked wonders at Oregon State and has quickly become one of the most respected coaches in the conference. The Beavers have a proven commodity leading the offense in Chance Nolan who threw for 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions but must find a new workhorse at running back with BJ Baylor off to the NFL. Defense has been the achilles heel for OSU and it still feels like that unit could be lacking especially with Avery Roberts leaving early for the NFL.
Washington feels like one of the biggest mysteries in 2022. UW has recruited well over the years and will likely have the 3rd most talented roster in the conference based on recruiting rankings but the offense was horrible last season and that kept UW from reaching their potential. UW went out and hired Kalen DeBoer who is known for prolific offenses and if he can get his team to figure out that side of the ball ASAP, the Huskies could compete for a bowl and maybe even win 8 games.
It's hard to know what to make of the Wilcox era. The team is competitive every week but for some reason they can't pull out close wins. In 2021, the Golden Bears lost 5 games by 7 points or fewer. Given that stat, it seems likely Cal could have been better than their record indicated. Chase Garbers has finally graduated and now it will be the Jack Plummer era.
The Wildcats have nearly had as good of an offseason as USC and that is saying something for a program that just went 1-11. Jedd Fisch has been a master at recruiting and marketing and it feels like he is building something special in Tucson. Fisch has 9 former 4 stars entering the program for 2022 and that should quickly get the Wildcats back to contention from week to week. Their biggest pick up thus far may have been the addition of WSU star Jayden de Laura. With one of the best QB's in the conference, 5-6 wins is not out of the question.
Stanford fell off a cliff this past season while looking inept in nearly every game down the stretch. The offense is broken and needs drastic change in philosophy. Better QB and OL play could pay dividends but it seems like success is unlikely in 2022.
The Karl Dorrell era is on very shaky ground as players continue to transfer out. In recent days, Mekhi Blackmon, Jarek Broussard, Brenden Rice and Christian Gonzalez have all left. This team is devoid of talent and it is hard to see things improving much. This might be a 1-2 win team.