Best- and Worst-Case 2013 Scenarios for Every Pac-12 Football Team
This fall the Pac-12 is loaded with talent and looking for titles. Each team has a fresh start, but not all are title contenders. Some just want to make the postseason.
This is a look at the best and worst that the fall will have to offer for each Pac-12 team.
National title aspirations return for Oregon and Stanford, while USC would be happy with a shot at the Pac-12 title. Can Mike MacIntyre turn around the Colorado program in year one?
The Trojans find a quarterback before Week 1 and find the right mix of offensive playmakers against Hawaii in front of a national Thursday night audience. They lean heavily on the run for the first few weeks as the passing game develops.
USC is able to push through Hawaii and Washington State with ease, but it struggles into the fourth quarter against Boston College. For the first time the passing attack must earn the win and it does.
The 3-0 start is enough to boost the confidence of the program heading into a tough out-of-conference matchup against the Utah State Aggies. The defense holds this game tight and helps the Trojans push for win No. 4.
A road trip to Arizona State ends September and provides the Trojans with their second conference win.
October is the toughest stretch of the year. After a convincing win over Arizona, a road trip to Notre Dame nearly derails the season. A close loss pushes USC back to the drawing board offensively, but Lane Kiffin is looking like a rock star again with a 6-1 record.
Big wins come in November over Oregon State and Stanford, but the season finishes with the most important regular-season contest—the UCLA game.
This will be the battle for the Pac-12 South title. The Bruins and Trojans struggle to find offensive consistency early, but a deep touchdown pass to finish the second quarter gives USC the edge.
After a tight win to finish the season, the Trojans face Stanford for a second time and walk away with a close loss.
The program finishes the 2013 season with a 12-2 record and BCS at-large berth.
Limping out of the gate against Hawaii was nowhere in the cards, but that’s what happened when USC entered the year playing two quarterbacks.
The Trojans snag an impressive win against Washington State, but Boston College brings a much bigger challenge than expected. A last-minute field goal helps USC hit the 3-0 mark.
Utah State hands the Trojans their first loss in a devastating home loss. The road trip to Arizona State results in a 3-2 start and dwindling hope of a contract extension for Kiffin after the season.
The Trojans defeat Arizona but then get throttled by Notre Dame in South Bend. Another win comes against Utah, but a Nov. 1 trip to Oregon State proves that USC isn’t near the top of the conference.
Now at 5-4 there is a slim chance remaining at bowl contention.
The Trojans travel to Cal and lose in a tight game that marks the first major win for the Sonny Dykes era.
USC returns home to lose to Stanford, but it hits bowl eligibility with a win over Colorado. The UCLA game will be a devastating rivalry loss, marking a shift of power in LA.
The program finishes the year in the New Mexico Bowl.
Cal Golden Bears
A lot has to be accomplished for the Bears to improve on their 3-9 record. The first accomplishment is Zach Kline finding his groove as the starter.
It will be tough with the Bears hosting Northwestern to start the season, and a loss isn’t the best way to start a new era. Still, a strong home showing will provide the program with a boost of confidence heading into Week 2.
Portland State will be a sure win, but another tough contest follows with Ohio State. Starting 1-2 may not seem like a strong start, but this is arguably one of the toughest schedules in the Pac-12.
A trip to Oregon will end in a loss, but a win over Washington State to start October will have the program moving in the right direction.
The team will be competitive in the first few weeks and should hang some points on Oregon, but it won’t be enough to get the Bears any big wins.
A 2-3 start sends them back on the road to a tough showdown with a very talented UCLA squad. A loss follows, but then the wheels hit the track.
Cal takes a tough win at home against Oregon State, and then travels to Washington and walks out with a surprising double-digit win. Zach Kline has his best game in the Dykes offense to date and looks like a future All-American.
At 4-3, the Bears are set to host two home games against Arizona and USC.
This is the most important stretch of the season as it will determine a bowl run for the Bears. With tensions running high in Berkeley, Cal is able to pull off a squeaker against Arizona.
The Wildcats play a tough game and score points, but the high-octane offense for Cal gets the win.
The following week the Bears embarrass the Kiffin-led Trojans and walk away with their sixth win of the year. The game isn’t close, and Cal wins by a touchdown.
A win comes against Colorado giving the Bears a 7-4 record heading into the Stanford game. The Cardinal walks away with a tough win, but Cal goes bowling.
The Bears finish the regular season 7-5 with a trip to the Las Vegas Bowl.
The Cal program is limping into the new year with a new quarterback and head coach running the program.
There have been a lot of changes in Berkeley, and it spells disaster to start the year. The Bears lose in devastating fashion at home to Northwestern, then pull out a win against Portland State.
At 1-1, Ohio State comes to town and drops the hammer on the Bears. Another loss comes to Oregon in embarrassing fashion, and a close loss follows at home to Washington State.
The growing pains are obvious from the coaching change as the Bears sit at 1-4.
Another win is not seen for the program until the Colorado game as the Bears mount losses to UCLA, Oregon State, Washington, Arizona and USC.
At 2-9, the program finishes with a loss to Stanford and one win short of 2012’s total.
A 2-10 record is not where the program wanted to be under new management, but growing pains happen. It is the first year in a tough conference, and Cal has to expect growth to happen over time, not overnight.
Utah played well in its first season in the Pac-12, but it still struggled to produce consistently. The most devastating loss came against Utah State in the second week of the season. That can’t and won’t be repeated.
The Utes begin the season against Utah State and will walk away with a huge win. A double-digit margin will prove they belong in the Pac-12.
A 2-0 start comes after the Weber State game, and a tight win over Oregon State follows.
A big test comes for the Utes when they travel to BYU. The Cougars are not as strong as in years past, but they are a talented team that can make plays and win big games. Still, Utah pulls out the tight win.
The next two games will come at home, but UCLA and Stanford will be tough to beat. They lose both games, but play respectable in both.
Walking into a tough road stretch at 3-2 isn’t a bad start.
The Utes split the next two games with a win over Arizona and a loss to USC.
A home game against Arizona State is a major test, but the Utes walk away with win No. 5.
A road trip to Oregon is the last loss of the season. The Utes are able to travel to Washington State and find a win, and crush Colorado at home. The program finishes with a 7-5 record and a berth in the Sun Bowl.
Utah State took home a win last year against Utah, and it does it again in upset fashion to start the 2013 season.
The Utes are able to rebound against Weber State, but the first conference game against Oregon State spells disaster. Utah is embarrassed at home by the Beavers and is off to a 1-2 start.
Traveling to BYU marks another tough loss for the program. Games against UCLA and Stanford leave the Utes with a 1-5 record through the midseason mark.
They are able to rebound a big win on the road at Arizona, but a road trip the following week to USC is another sandblasting.
Arizona State comes to town and walks away with a win and a road trip to Oregon ends in absolute disaster. The Ducks may have faced a coaching change, but putting up 60 points on Utah will happen.
The Utes finish the season with two rebound wins over Washington State and Colorado, but the second year in the Pac-12 ends with a 4-8 record.
The UCLA program is on the rise, and the Bruins are set to challenge for the Pac-12 for the second year in a row. The return of a powerful offense and one of the country’s best linebackers in Anthony Barr will make this team a tough program for 2013.
The start against Nevada will be a fast one with UCLA winning big. The Bruins will then march to Nebraska and knock off the Cornhuskers and follow that up with a blasting of New Mexico State.
They will travel to Utah for a Thursday night contest in October, opening a tough month with a win. A home game against Cal ends well, but consecutive road games lay ahead that could spell disaster.
The Bruins split road trips to Stanford and Oregon, winning a surprising defensive battle with the Ducks.
The Bruins are on their way to another South Division title with a home win over Colorado and road win over Arizona. A big challenge comes on Friday night against Washington, but the home crowd helps pull them through, and the Huskies fall in the final minutes.
UCLA finishes with a win over Arizona State and a tough road win over rival USC.
The Bruins walk into the Pac-12 title game and knock off Stanford, sealing their spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
Coming off a huge 2012 campaign, spirits are high in Los Angeles. Starting against Nevada seemed like a solid plan, but Cody Fajardo puts the Bruins defense to work and pulls out the upset win in L.A. The Bruins are 0-1.
After an attempted regrouping during their bye week, the Bruins travel to Nebraska and lose their second game of the season.
The following week they host New Mexico State and win, then travel to Utah and sneak away with a tight win to mark their second of the year.
They then travel to Cal and walk out with a win, but consecutive road games to Stanford and Oregon spell disaster as the Bruins get blasted in both contests.
A win comes against Colorado, but a loss follows to Arizona and Washington.
Arizona State and USC both hand losses to the Bruins, ending the season at 4-8.
Starting the season against Nicholls State provides Oregon with the tune-up it needs to start big boy competition.
The following week the Ducks travel across the country to take on Virginia. The game starts slow, but the offense finds its groove after halftime and the Ducks walk away with a convincing win.
The SEC comes to town when Tennessee visits on Sept. 14, and a big win will come over the Vols. The Tennessee program is on the rebound, but the Ducks are marching towards a national title, and Tennessee won’t stop them.
Cal follows to start Pac-12 play, but the Bears lose big. Consecutive road trips to Colorado and Washington push the Ducks into the national title discussion for good after they throttle both teams with double-digit wins.
Washington State folds after a tight first-half battle, but UCLA refuses to go away. The Bruins lose in the fourth quarter, marking the first real challenge for Oregon of the season.
A win over Stanford to start November seals the North Division for the Ducks. They are headed to the title game.
The Ducks march through the final three games against Utah, Arizona and rival Oregon State. The Civil War is not close this year as the Ducks are on the national title hunt and undefeated.
Oregon finishes the year as Pac-12 champions and in the BCS National Championship Game.
The Ducks are hoping for a shot at the national title in 2013, and getting the first win of the year is the most important. Nicholls State provides that.
The following week Oregon travels across the country to Virginia, and the Cavaliers hand the Ducks a surprising loss. The first growing pains of the coaching change are felt.
A home game against Tennessee spells disaster for the second week in a row, but the Ducks are able to rebound against Cal. A road trip to Colorado provides another win for the Ducks, but Washington gets the best of them in Seattle the following week.
Mike Leach comes to town in mid-October and pulls off another surprising upset win over the Ducks. A loss comes the next week against UCLA, and Oregon is now out of the Pac-12 discussion.
An embarrassing loss comes against Stanford on Thursday night to start November, but a rebound win comes against Utah at home. Another win comes over Arizona on the road, but a loss follows against rival Oregon State.
The Ducks finish 5-7 and out of the bowl discussion.
Oregon State Beavers
The Oregon State program had one of the most impressive turnarounds in football last season. That turnaround will continue this fall.
It all begins against Eastern Washington in August. A big win lands in this game, and another win comes with Hawaii. Tough road trips follow to Utah and San Diego State, but the Beavers are able to roll to a 4-0 record.
Colorado continues to limp through conference competition and the Beavers march through them to a win. Washington and Cal are two more victories for the Beavers as they continue on the path for a Pac-12 title.
The next week it falls apart against Stanford.
Another home loss comes to USC, but at 9-2 the program is still on the rise. The Beavers push for a road win over Arizona State, and then host Washington earning their ninth win of the season.
The final game comes against Oregon, and the Beavers have the chance to get to 10 wins. It is a tight game, but it marks a new era for the Beavers program.
At 10-2 they head to the Alamo Bowl.
The Beavers want to finish with at least nine wins to match last year’s mark, but that may not work out.
They start the year with a win over Eastern Washington as expected, but a struggle against Hawaii has the Top 25 voters examining their placement of the Beavers.
The Beavers head to Utah at 2-0, but the Utes get the best of them and send them home with their first loss.
San Diego State continues its national rise with a surprising win at home over the Beavers, and then Colorado follows that up with a surprising win.
Mike Leach’s Cougars host the Beavers and win big in a game that returns Leach to the top of the coaching ranks.
A road game to Cal finally has the Oregon State program on the rebound. The Beavers win a close battle with the Bears, but the next two weeks spell disaster.
Stanford and USC walk into Corvallis and drop bombs on the Beavers. The season is lost, and it gets embarrassing in these two games.
Arizona State puts another loss on the board, and Washington wins big in a nasty home loss.
The final game against Oregon is one of the most disappointing in recent years, with the Ducks winning by a double-digit margin that is a blasting from kickoff.
The Beavers finish 3-9.
Steven Sarkisian has been on a tear since arriving at Washington, but the teams have produced just enough to get by. There hasn’t been a champion just yet, but this season could mark a change.
Boise State comes to town to start the year, and a big win instantly gives the Huskies national credibility.
They travel to Big Ten country and snag win No. 2 against Illinois, and then they return home against Idaho State.
At 3-0, the Huskies are marching steadily towards a special season. A conference win comes in a home contest against Arizona. They then take on a tough Stanford program on the road and come away with a win.
They host Oregon and the Ducks walk away with a close win. It is the Huskies' first loss, but they are still in the conference title talk.
Games against Arizona State, Cal and Colorado all turn into wins.
A Friday game against UCLA is one of the most difficult games they face. It pushes to overtime, but the Huskies are able to walk away with a win. They aren’t so lucky the following week.
A road trip to Oregon State ends in the second loss of the season, but the following week they defeat in-state rival Washington State. The Huskies finish 10-2 and land a Holiday Bowl bid.
The Huskies are on the verge of something special in Seattle, but all it takes is a few unexpected losses to turn the program.
The season starts off slow with a big loss to Boise State, launching the Huskies down into the bottom of the Pac-12 discussion.
A road trip to Illinois ends in a close loss and a major win for the Fighting Illini. The Huskies are now 0-2 and are heading into a sure win. Idaho State provides what it is supposed to, and the program notches its first win.
A home game against Arizona is another flop for the Huskies. They can’t stop the Rich Rodriguez offense, and they end their hopes of a Pac-12 run.
A road trip to Stanford is disastrous, and a home game against Oregon makes the Huskies look like the worst team in the Pac-12.
The next win won’t come until a home game against Colorado.
A road trip to UCLA is the worst loss for the season, and Oregon State plows through the Huskies for a second week in a row. A home game against Washington State ends well, but a 3-9 season is not where this program expected to be at the end of the season.
Washington State Cougars
The Cougars are entering the second season under Mike Leach, and there is a lot to like about the program.
The Cougars start the year with two very tough road games. A trip to Auburn will produce a close loss and one that the Cougars can build a solid season on. They follow it up with a game against USC in L.A., and again push the limit to a possible win.
The fourth quarter ends with the Trojans pulling away.
At 0-2 the season is far from lost, and the Cougars return home to get a win over Southern Utah.
They follow that up getting even with a win over Idaho. At 2-2 they head into a tough home game against Stanford with a ton of confidence.
Stanford handles the Cougars despite a tough effort, but the Cougars are able to bounce back for a big win against Cal.
They are able to win a home game against Oregon State and push the Oregon Ducks to the limit in a close loss.
The Cougars offense is finally hitting stride under Leach’s watch.
Sitting at 4-4 the Cougars have a shot at a bowl game. They earn a fifth win when Arizona State rolls into town, and they earn a big road win over Arizona.
The Cougars are now bowl eligible at 6-4.
To finish the year with a seventh win as they host Utah, but lose the final game of the year on the road against Washington.
The Cougars face a lot of growing pains in Mike Leach’s second season.
Early losses to Auburn and USC lead to a bad start, and a win against Southern Utah doesn’t come easy. A tight win against Idaho gets the Cougars to 2-2, but the following week Stanford embarrasses the program.
At 2-3, the Cougars travel to Cal and get another loss. Oregon State rolls into town and blasts them off the field, making the Cougars 2-4.
Oregon hosts Washington State and it has the reserves in by the second half. The Cougars are nowhere near competitive with the Ducks.
A home game against the Sun Devils ends badly, and a road game against Arizona gives the Cougars their eighth loss of the year.
The Cougars rebound with a home win against Utah, but a road trip to Washington closes the season with a loss and leaves the Cougars with a 3-9 mark.
A lot has changed since last season for the Buffaloes.
A new coaching staff has taken over, and new expectations are leading the program. There is a lot to like about this program heading into the new year, and the start to the season adds to the excitement.
The Buffaloes start against Colorado State and will walk away with a major home win. The following week they will blast Central Arkansas.
In Week 3 they host Fresno State and will earn their third win of the year. The game will be tight, but the Colorado team will be on an expected three-game winning streak.
A trip to Oregon State will mark the first loss of the year, and a follow-up home game with Oregon will be the second loss for the Buffaloes. Still, at 3-2 they will be on their way to bowl eligibility.
A road trip to Arizona State will be a close contest, but the Buffaloes come away with the win. A home game against Arizona will mark another close victory, and the fifth win for Colorado and new coach Mike MacIntyre.
UCLA will be another loss, but a road trip to Washington will end in a surprising overtime win.
The following week a win will come against Cal, but a loss will follow against USC.
Colorado ends the season against Utah on the road, and in a tight game the Buffaloes lose, but the season will mark a major turnaround for the program.
The Buffaloes finish 7-5 and go bowling in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
This program is on downward spiral, and nothing can be done in one year to stop it. Mike MacIntyre has stepped into a much bigger mess than he expected.
The Colorado program starts the year in a rivalry game against Colorado State. It is a closer game than expected, but the Buffaloes come out with a win.
Central Arkansas is the next win for the program, but at 2-0 the Fresno State Bulldogs bring a talented quarterback and tough challenge to Colorado. It ends in a surprising loss.
Losses follow to Oregon State and Oregon in consecutive weeks, and then the chips really tumble. Arizona State hosts the Buffaloes and destroys them on the road, then the Buffs return home to lose to Arizona.
Consecutive losses follow to UCLA and Washington on the road, and then the Buffaloes finally respond.
They earn a win over Cal to get to 3-7 but lose to USC and Utah to finish the year. It is another rough season and a tough 3-9 finish in Boulder.
The Arizona Wildcats are heading into the second year with Rich Rodriguez guiding the program. They had a strong finish to the season in 2012 and are looking to keep pushing for wins in the fall.
The Wildcats begin the year with a very winnable lineup facing off with Northern Arizona, UNLV and UTSA to start the year.
The next two weeks bring road trips to Washington and USC which the Wildcats will split. They lose to Washington, but take the win against the Trojans.
A win comes against Utah, then road trips at Colorado and Cal end in wins.
Homecoming week is against UCLA, but the Bruins aren’t ready to be the queen. They will win the game and hand the Wildcats their second loss of the year.
A win follows against Washington State, but a loss will come against Oregon. The Wildcats will finish with a win on the road against Arizona State and a 9-3 record.
They will finish the year in the Sun Bowl.
The Wildcats will start the year 3-0, but a major loss will come in the fourth week when they face Washington.
The Huskies are a talented program heading into the fall, and they will challenge for the Pac-12 title. Along the way they will destroy Arizona.
Games against USC and Utah will also result in losses.
The Wildcats will get a win against Colorado, but a road trip to Cal ends in a close loss.
They follow that up with home losses to UCLA, Washington State and Oregon. Arizona State takes them to the woodshed and ends the Arizona season with a double-digit loss.
Arizona State Sun Devils
The Arizona State program is on the rise with Todd Graham trying to make a mark on the Pac-12.
There is a lot to be concerned with to start the year with a second game coming against Wisconsin, but a season opener against Sacramento State will prep the Sun Devils for the big showdown with the Big Ten foe.
The Sun Devils march to two straight victories, but the wheels wobble a bit against Stanford.
The Cardinal are able to march to a win, and it puts the Sun Devils at the 2-1 mark.
The following week will be a win over the Trojans, followed by a close loss to Notre Dame in Dallas.
Colorado and Washington are consecutive home game wins for the Sun Devils, and back-to-back road trips to Washington State and Utah provide two more big victories.
The Sun Devils win at home against Oregon State, but a road trip to UCLA ends the win streak. They host Arizona and will walk away with the win, finishing the year 9-3 and in the Holiday Bowl.
Arizona State could easily start the year 1-4.
A win will come against Sacramento State, but consecutive losses will drop against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame.
The Sun Devils will bounce back against Colorado, but a loss will follow to Washington.
The Mike Leach magic will provide a close game, but the Sun Devils win their third game of the year on the road against the Cougars.
A road loss will follow to Utah, and a home game will end in an overtime loss to Oregon State.
UCLA will throttle the Sun Devils in L.A., and Arizona will walk away with a huge win in the in-state rivalry game.
Stanford is in a unique position heading into the new year. The Cardinal are a favorite to challenge for the national title, and after putting together a Rose Bowl winning campaign in 2012, it seems possible.
The Cardinal start the season with two very winnable games against San Jose State and at Army. Both should end in big wins.
The third game is at home against Arizona State, and as much as you have to like what Todd Graham is doing in Tempe, the Sun Devils don’t have enough to get by the firepower at Stanford.
Consecutive games against Washington State and Washington will be easy wins and so will a midseason road trip to Utah.
A home matchup against UCLA will be a tough win. For the Cardinal to have a successful season, they have to knock off the Bruins. It will be a tough game for the Cardinal to win, and a special teams play lifts them to the winner's circle.
A tough win comes against Oregon State, but the home contest against Oregon will determine the Pac-12 North.
The Cardinal pull out a big win and secure the title.
Games against USC and Cal will end in wins, but the season finale against Notre Dame will determine if the Cardinal can land in the BCS title game.
They win in the fourth quarter and the Cardinal make a 12-0 run. They win the Pac-12 title and finish the season in the BCS National Championship Game.
The Cardinal have title aspirations, and anything less would result in a major blow to the program.
This year they start with winnable games against San Jose State and Army, but the Spartans don’t go down easy. Stanford splits the first two games after an embarrassing wake-up call from San Jose State.
Arizona State comes to town and hands the second loss of the season to the Cardinal, but they are able to bounce back against Washington State on the road.
The following week Washington takes the Cardinal back down to reality.
UCLA smokes the Cardinal, but the following week they are able to mount a big win over Oregon State. A home game against Oregon ends with a double-digit loss and total devastation for the Cardinal fanbase.
It was a huge fall from the top.
Stanford finishes the year losing to USC, defeating Cal and getting throttled by Notre Dame.
It will be a rough year that could have David Shaw on the hot seat.