The Pac 12 North Division, the presumably weaker division in the conference, may not have as much depth as the Pac 12 South, but it is still loaded with talented players. Washington, the defending division and conference champions, ended last season at 12-2, falling to Alabama in the national semifinals by a score of 24-7.With quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin returning, the high-powered Huskies offense will look to improve on a high-scoring 2016 season.
Washington Huskies– Jake Browning, coming off an exceptional sophomore campaign in which he threw for 3,430 yards and 43 touchdowns while running for another 4, loses his top target in John Ross, keeps Dante Pettis as his option on the outside. Pettis returned for his senior season after pulling down 53 receptions for 822 yards and 15 touchdowns. On the ground, the Huskies return their dynamic duo with Myles Gaskin, who returns after rushing for 1,373 yards and 10 touchdowns, and senior backup Lavon Coleman, who complimented Gaskin with 852 yards and 7 touchdowns. On defense, second leading tackler Kieshawn Bierra returns, as does Taylor Rapp, who lead the team with 4 interceptions. A repeat title is not out of reach.
Stanford Cardinal– Coming off an impressive 6 game winning streak to end last season, head coach David Shaw’s team enters the 2017 season with a ton of momentum. One main element holding this team back is the uncertainty of qaurterback Keller Chryst’s ability to return from a knee injury suffered in the Sun Bowl. On the defensive side of the ball, Shaw will have to replace star defensive end Solomon Thomas, the number 3 ovearall pick in the NFL Draft. Still, the Cardinal will have a strong run game to rely on with Bryce Love returning after a strong sophomore campaign (783 yards and 3 touchdowns).
Washington State Cougars– An exciting offense that averaged 38 points a game last season returns its leader in quarterback Luke Falk, who excelled in Mike Leach’s air raid offense. Falk torched defenses to the tune of 4,468 yards and 38 touchdowns. Tavares Martin Jr. is the team’s top returning receiver, after totaling 728 yards and 7 touchdowns, both good enough for second on the team. Star defensive end Hercules Mata’afa (13.5 TFL, 5 sacks) returns to anchor a potentially solid defense. Thankfully for Leach, the offense should be good enough to hide any inefficiencies on defense. A tough schedule, with USC, Colorado and Utah amongst the crossover opponents from the South division, and Washington and Oregon on the road, will ultimately hold the Cougars out of the top 2.
Oregon Ducks– A surprisingly quick turnaround is not out of the question, even after a dismal 4-8 season. New head coach Willie Taggart will have weapons on offense, with running back Royce Freeman (945 yards and 9 touchdowns) and quarterback Justin Herbert (1936 yards, 19 touchdowns vs 4 interceptions) returning. In addition to those two dynamic players, 4 offensive line starters return. The biggest question mark surrounding the team is a weak defensive unit that surrendered over 40 points per game last season. New defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt will be tasked with a difficult rebuild in order for this team to take a big leap.
Outside Looking In
Oregon State Beavers– After an inconsistent 4-8 season, the weak have gotten weaker, losing quarterback Marcus McMaryion to Fresno State. Senior Darell Garretson is the leading returning passer after playing second fiddle to McMaryion last season, throwing for 617 yards and 3 touchdowns. Head coach Gary Andersen recently announced that Ventura College transfer Jake Luton would be under center for the Beavers. On the bright side, leading rushing Ryan Nall (951 yards and 13 touchdowns) is back, which should take some pressure off the new signal caller.
California Golden Bears– Even with a high-scoring offense (37 points per game), the Golden Bears struggled to a 5-7 record after allowing over 40 points per game on defense. With Davis Webb graduating, the Golden Bears also lost all but 11 of their passing yards from last season. Leading receiver Chad Hansen also graduated, along with leading rusher Khalfani Muhammad, leaving the offensive cupboard almost bare. New head coach Justin Wilcox will have a tough road ahead of him that seems to have no end in sight.
Pac 12 North
Pac 12 South