*In the North division, I'm taking Stanford to as the champ following a head-to-head win versus Washington.
*Going purely by records, I get the sense that the commentariat – and the postseason selection committee – will hold the Pac-12 in fairly high regard this year. The non-conference matchups across the league look pretty favorable.
- USC: Still has Notre Dame, but Replaces Alabama from a year ago with a rebuilding Texas team at the Coliseum.
- UCLA: Hosts Texas A&M this year.
- Stanford: Swaps Kansas State game from last season for San Diego State in addition to the annual game against the Fighting Irish.
- Oregon State: Gets a return visit from Minnesota.
- Oregon: Drops Virginia for Wyoming and hosts Nebraska.
You could argue that California's out-of-conference games got tougher from last season, as the Golden Bears take on North Carolina and Ole Miss. Arizona State also travels to Texas Tech this year. On the flip side, Utah, Arizona, Washington State and Colorado are missing Power 5 opponents in the non-conference. Washington's one Power 5 opponent, Rutgers, barely qualifies.
Strange to see it play out this way, given the Pac-12's reputation for challenging games outside league play.
*I don't know if Jim Mora will be feeling the heat from the UCLA administration this fall. A 7-5 record, however, sounds an awful lot like no man's land for a coaching staff generating plenty of buzz and very few actual achievements.
*I'm looking for decent regression out of Colorado. The Buffaloes will take some steps forward offensively, but casualties on the other side of the ball will create big headaches for Mike MacIntyre. In addition to the lost contributors on defense, heralded defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt moved to Oregon.
*Frankly, I still have a hard time buying Clay Helton. Until the Trojans actually break through on his watch, I'm going to keep expect enough mistakes to knock USC down a peg when all is said and done.
*Washington lost so much from last season's College Football Playoff-qualifying squad. I'd typically fade the Huskies hard here, but that schedule is a damn cakewalk.