First: As I have already declared, I like Stanford to win the PAC-12 this year, but in all honesty I have made that same prediction every year for the past decade. In all neutrality though, most everyone agrees that the Cardinal have the best offense in the conference, and playing in the offensive era that football now finds itself in certainly bodes well for Stanford. That being said, U Dub, U$C, Utah, Arizona, and Oregon will all be tough again this year, and Chip Kelly did move to Westwood. So, “like sands through the hour glass”, this conference remains absolutely loaded at the top.
Second: The single most interesting story in the PAC-12 this season has to be Bryce “Dr.” Love. Coming off a season where he nearly won the Heisman Trophy on one leg, football fans are only left to wonder what he can do when healthy, and behind this elite Stanford O-line. The games still need to be played, but I expect another All-World season in 2018 for “The Doctor”.
Third: Perhaps the biggest threat to Stanford this year is the Washington Huskies. Quite simply, the Dawgs are stacked on D. Senior linebackers Ben Burr-Kirven and Tevin Bartlett are both proven All-Conference players, and leaders at the heart of that unit. Fellow senior D-lineman Greg Gaines might be the best nose tackle in the PAC-12, and junior Benning Potoa’e is a menace on the edge. In the secondary, junior safety Taylor Rapp is an NFL player in the making.
Fourth: Huskies senior running back Myles Gaskin has thrived in the shadows of Bryce Love and Christian McCaffrey the past three years, in terms of his outstanding play to the minimal media coverage he has received up to this point. He returns this fall with the chance to break several all-time U Dub rushing records, and to improve his pro draft stock measurably.
Fifth: The Stanford at Washington match-up on November 3rd, time TBD, will likely determine the PAC-12 North Champion.
Sixth: All things considered, the biggest PAC-12 question in ’18, is what will Chip Kelly’s Bruins look like? While his approach did not fare well over time in the professional ranks, he is a proven winner at the college level, where he can “coach” and not merely “manage” his players. I see UCLA struggling a bit this season, going something like 7-5, but fighting for the PAC-12 South Title in the next 2-3 years. #BlueChipBruins
Seventh: Arizona junior Khalil Tate is the most dangerous running quarterback in the country, and if he can stay healthy over the full season, the PAC-12 will have no less than two (Dr. Love) legitimate Heisman candidates this year.
Eighth: Another high-caliber QB out west is Oregon junior Justin Herbert, who is touted by many as the best NFL prospect of all the PAC-12 quarterbacks. Personally, I find that talk to be mild-manned madness, as Oregon has been down by their standards under his watch. “Tools” are one thing, but I need to see the proof on the field.
Ninth: On the other side of the ball, the Oregon defense should be “tough as Duck”. Leading that group, senior DE Jalen Jelks is as good as anyone in college football coming off the edge, and projects as a potential 1st round NFL draft pick. Equally, junior linebacker Troy Dye is an amazing playmaker, and is certain to suit up at the next level as well. These Ducks fly around, and could mix things up in the PAC-12 if that funny shaped ball bounces in their direction.
Tenth: USC is tough to read this year. While they are loaded on athletes as always, they are equally vulnerable at several key skill positions, most of all QB. Their defense might just be good enough to win the PAC-12 South, as they are an impressive unit on paper, but it is their offense that will determine how far they can go this season.
Eleventh: While Arizona State may not have a big year in ‘18, junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry will. The 6’5” 220 lbs. lightning-quick wideout causes defenses a world of problems with his ideal combination of size and speed. If they get that young man the ball early and often as they should in Tempe, you can look for him on Sportscenter Saturday nights.
Twelfth: Here at “The Twelver”, I always finish the segment discussing beer, and the multitude of other adult beverages that we football fans enjoy as we watch our teams battle throughout the season. Last year I got ‘hooked’ on Ballast Point Sculpin, and to be honest I kept riding the Sculpin Train on the reg during the off-season. Though, to be honest, I have been on a big Mai Tai kick as well. Rum is fun. Anyhow, please feel free to drop a line here on your favorite coldies and cocktails for game days. Cheers y’all.