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Looking Back at the 2016 PAC-12 football Season

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Evaluating the 2016 PAC-12 football season

Pac-12 Championship - Colorado v Washington Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images

The season is over and done, the bowl games have been divided up, and now it is time to make some sense of how the conference has done as a group and when measuring against the preseason expectations.

The as advertised teams

In the group - Oregon State, Arizona State, Cal and Utah.

The Beavers roster is really young and the Sun Devils and Cal both have decent offenses combined with really bad defense. Of the three teams, the Beavers have the best shot of improvement because their young talent should be improving and developing on both sides of the ball. Cal is going to lose Davis Webb and the Sun Devils have not been recruiting any immediate difference makers on defense to help out this unit. I also put Utah in this group because they won a lot of games, which is what we all expected. But they still lost their really big games against Washington and Colorado and yet again were a few games from really dominating the conference. Worst of the best in the conference was about were everyone expected.

Underperformers

In the group - Oregon, UCLA, Arizona and Stanford.

Oregon had awful defensive play and was inconsistent on offense, partly due to play calling. Both UCLA and Arizona fell here on big injuries, leaving this placement more or less out of their control. UCLA lost Josh Rosen, the player that the roster and game plan is built around. Arizona struggled with injuries all-over the roster and while they probably were not expected to win a ton of games, injuries forced an under performing season. Stanford also falls on this list as there were a couple dropped games this year. I do not think in any scenario that they beat Washington, but Washington State and Colorado were both winnable games. However, the coaching staff started out the year assuming the defense would be dominant, which led them to make the conservative choice at quarterback in Ryan Burns. Unfortunately the defensive front was not up to expectations and they put in the gunslinger a few weeks too late at quarterback. That paired with the Christian McCaffrey injury left some meat on the bones as far as wins.

The overachievers

In the group - USC, Washington, Washington State and Colorado.

Washington and Washington State both were expected to do well because of their respective quarterbacks. However, the rosters around them played far above expectations. The Huskies had nine defensive players achieve the All- Conference team and the Cougars offense averaged 40 points with 498 total yards a game. While USC may have not blown expectations out of the water, it is important that they went 9-3 with a new coaching staff, and not a very good one at that. They had a great year despite the new coaching staff’s best attempt to ruin their season by passing up Sam Darnold in camp for Max Browne at quarterback. Given what they year could have been after three weeks, they belong in the group. Colorado may be the biggest surprise of the season after the terrible year they had in 2015. But they bounced back behind a vicious running attack in Phillip Lindsey and one of the most solid rosters from top to bottom. These teams where the class of the conference and all exceeded expectations.