Take an early look at how PAC 12 football stacks up leading up to the 2022 season. Reviewing stats, recruiting ranks, win totals, and more!
Pac 12 Contenders
There is a clear top dog in the PAC 12 this year, and they are known as the Utes. Utah returns 2021 breakout QB Cameron Rising to lead their offense. Last season, Rising began the season on the bench before getting his chance to play. But once he entered the lineup, he proved to be an explosive playmaker that changed the team’s offense.
Additionally, the team boasts one of the best TE rooms in the country with Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid. At the RB position they return Tavion Thomas, who has been named a pre-season Doak Walker candidate. While the pass protection might be in question, the backfield athleticism and plus run blocking should quell those concerns. The WR room, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired.
On the other side of the football, the defense returns a high-end DB group that should continue to make life hard for opposing passers. Last year’s defense was one of the best in the country by almost every metric. Although the team lost playmaking LB Devin Lloyd to the NFL, I do not expect for this unit to miss a step.
New head coach, better results? That is what the Ducks hope happens under freshly minted head coach Dan Lanning. After spending the last four seasons as a LB coach and defensive coordinator at Georgia, Lanning jumped at the opportunity to coach Oregon.
The offense has a strong offensive line that will be able to keep Auburn transfer Bo Nix clean. But that is only part of the equation, as Nix will be working with an inexperienced and unproven group of wide receivers. That QB and WR connection is the main concern when looking at this offense, as the team has quality depth across the rest of the offensive roster.
On defense, the talent is present for the Ducks to have a successful season. Linebacker Noah Sewell (Penei’s brother) leads a talented and ferocious unit. The interior DL boasts two excellent players in Brandon Dorlus and Popo Aumavae. Despite the loss of freakish EDGE rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux to the NFL, the DL should be able to bounce back quickly.
The man. They myth. The LEGEND. Chip Kelly is back! And in 2021 he had the Bruins offense humming. But they will need to become more consistent to compete, as they faltered in a few games in 2021 that may have cost them a better finish to the season. The program did lose a handful of quality players in the transfer portal (players leaving after a year with Chip Kelly, what else is new). However, they brought in 12 transfer players, ranking 2nd in in the FBS for win shares gained via transfer. The transfer class includes four non-power conference players who ranked top 10 at their position in 2021, per PFF.
The offense will be led by returning QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who appeared to finally have that breakout year in 2021. Also returning at RB is Zach Charbonnet, who was one of the best RBs in the country in 2021. Ultimately though, DTR will need to continue his growth and Chip Kelly’s offense will need to do some of the heavy lifting for this offense to carry the team to a successful season.
On defense is where the transfer class really comes into play. Azizi Hearn (CB), Darius Muasau (LB), Jaycob Sykes (DL), and brothers Gabriel and Grayson Murphy (EDGE) all enter the conversation after playing non-power 5 football a year ago. While each player showed high end upside in 2021, they did it against a lower level of competition. How will they manage the jump to Power 5 Football?
Lincoln Riley giveth, and Lincoln Riley TAKETH AWAY! Riley left Oklahoma with a record of 55-10 over 5 seasons. He was able to convince QB Caleb Williams and WR Mario Williams to follow him out the door. In total, USC is bringing in 20 transfers and ranks as the number one transfer class in the country.
Caleb Williams will lead the offense after having a very successful first season at Oklahoma. Although, the QB had his struggles against higher rated defenses last season. Considering that he was a freshman, it is safe to assume he will continue to develop from here. The offensive line will be a strength for the Trojans this season. Additionally, the WR room is in strong shape with Mario Williams and Pitt transfer Jordan Addison entering the conversation.
On defense, the Trojans boast tons of talent, but talent can only get you so far. The DB room is one that has high end talent but could be a group that needs to develop and might get better as the year goes on. EDGE rushers Korey Foreman and Tuli Tuipulotu bring a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the USC defensive line. Turning around this underperforming team is quite the challenge, but Lincoln Riley is a proven coach who has experience coaching high end talent.
Pac 12 Football Cover Machines!
Washington was stuck in a rut in 2021. After starting the year with a 4-5 record, Jimmy Lake was shown the door and the team closed the year with three more losses. In comes Kalen Deboer from Fresno State. At QB, Michael Penix Jr. transferred in from Indiana, and he should be able to generate some fireworks for the Huskies if he can stay on the field. While the defense was a dominant group in 2021, they lost their top two CBs to the NFL. And even though they have talent at LB and EDGE, that talent needs to stay healthy to be difference makers.
“YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME! HELLO!” Man, I bet on herm Edwards to cover games way to often just because of that quote. Arizona State won 8 games last season, with consistently above average metrics across the board. Since last season, the Sun Devils lost five WRs and their starting QB to the transfer portal. On the bright side though, they Added QB Emory Jones from Florida. Ultimately, a net zero change at the QB position, as the players are very similar athletically and stylistically. With quality RBs and a plus runner at QB, the Sun Devils have good ability to tote the rock. But Herm’s ability to coach up a green DB room will be a major key for them this season.
Out of nowhere last year, Oregon State started the season 5-2 while knocking off Purdue, USC, Washington, and Utah. But that did not last as the team finished the year 2-4. Regardless, 7 wins was the most wins for the Beavers since 2013. In 2022, Chance Nolan returns at QB with an elite offensive line in front of him. Nolan is a sneaky good QB who gets overlooked because he looks funny with his mechanics and footwork. But he has gotten the job done so far. He wins with a plus processor more than anything. On defense, the Beavers have excellent talent at safety, but questions up front and at the CB spot.
Pac 12 Football Teams Plotting for Their Return to Glory