The 2016 season was a strange year in the Pac-12. In the South, Colorado unexpectedly rose to power and Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA all bit the dust. In the North, Washington leaped to the front and Oregon tanked.
Will 2016 become the new normal in the Pac-12? Will there be a return to glory for some of the fallen teams? Will there be any breakout teams in the Pac-12 this season?
Here’s a look at the teams, coaches and players on the rise in the Pac-12 and some that look like they are headed for a slide:
I love what Colorado did last season improving from 1-8 in the conference to 8-1. Last year, Colorado was loaded with senior leadership and that helped them put it all together for one great run. This year, they take a step back on the experience scale and it will hurt. The Buffaloes won’t drop back down to the bottom of the conference, but they will take a step or two back.
I was inching towards putting Jim Mora here, but I think he still has life this year as long as Josh Rosen stays healthy. Rich Rodriguez is going into his sixth year at Arizona and has only once had a winning record in the conference. Add that to the fact that his team bombed last year with a 3-9 record and Rodriguez is on the hot seat. I don’t see Rich pulling his team out of the funk. They may have a slight improvement, but it won’t be enough to keep Rich Rod in Arizona.
Out with Sonny Dykes and in with Justin Wilcox. Whenever a defensive-minded coach follows an offensive-minded coach, there is always an interesting dynamic change. It’s especially tough when the offense ran the type of scheme that Cal did last season. This is a rebuilding year for Wilcox and Cal. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
This Oregon team has too much talent to have another year like they did last year. The competition in the division has gotten much stiffer, but expect Willie Taggart to quickly get the Ducks headed back in the right direction.
The Cardinal have a lot more experience than they did in 2016. Expect coach David Shaw to have them firing on all cylinders early in 2017. With Keller Chryst getting the rock early this year, they will be more dynamic on offense and will be more well-rounded. Stanford will give Washington a run for their money in the Pac-12 North.
Rosen will be the only reason that Jim Mora will still be employed by UCLA after the 2017 season. Look for Rosen to put up all-conference type numbers and he will be the biggest reason why UCLA will crawl its way back up to the upper-half of the division.