Tribune's Pac-12 picks: Oregon No. 1?
1. OREGON (10-2 overall, 7-2 Pac-12): Going bullish on the Ducks, based on QB Justin Herbert, an experienced offensive line, an improved defense under Andy Avalos and overall talent and experience. The Ducks, who have average skill players, could go the other way and lose up to five games, but expect big things, IF Herbert plays like an NFL prospect.
2. WASHINGTON (9-3, 6-3): Not sure what to expect, given new QB (Jacob Eason) and defensive losses, but coach Chris Petersen hasn't disappointed Husky fans, yet. Will Eason be a star, supported by tackle Trey Adams, and rival the Pac-12's best QBs?
3. STANFORD (7-5, 5-4): Arguably the league's best QB, K.J. Costello, and O-lineman Walker Little lead coach David Shaw's team, which is a bit of an unknown. Is it a program that can restock talent and still battle for the North title?
4. WASHINGTON STATE (7-5, 5-4): If QB Anthony Gordon (who beat out Gage Gubrud) plays well, watch out, as Mike Leach's Cougars have receiver depth and a great running back in Max Borghi, as well as a defense that continues to excel.
5. CALIFORNIA (5-7, 3-6): The Bears will play solid defense, led by coach Justin Wilcox and defensive end Evan Weaver, but will they be able to generate consistent enough offense with QB Chase Garbers? Not a safe bet.
6. OREGON STATE (2-10, 1-8): In a world of certainties, the Beavers MUST play better run defense to be competitive. QB Jake Luton, RB Jermar Jefferson and receivers (Isaiah Hodgins, Trevon Bradford) should do damage.
1. UTAH (10-2, 7-2): Everybody's vogue Pac-12 pick, the Utes have another set of large/talented lines, solid defense (see: Bradlee Anae) and a great 1-2 QB/RB punch in Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss, as well as big-time playmaker Britain Covey. Can the Kyle Whittingham-coached Utes win with high expectations? If so, it's the most solid all-around team in league.
2. USC (8-4, 6-3): QB JT Daniels and company will put up some passing yards and points in coordinator Graham Harrell's offense, which should concern everybody in Pac-12. The Trojans have talent. If they catch some success/momentum, watch out.
3. ARIZONA STATE (7-5, 5-4): Running back Eno Benjamin and a good defense make the Sun Devils a darkhorse South contender, but starting a true freshman QB (Jayden Daniels) makes people hesitant to go all-in with coach Herman Edwards' team.
4. UCLA (7-5, 5-4): Coach Chip Kelly's second team will go to a bowl game, as QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson should improve and Josh Kelley rambles with the ball. But it's hard to see the building Bruins fighting for titles with Pac-12's parity and more experienced teams.
5. ARIZONA (5-7, 3-6): QB Khalil Tate and RB J.J. Taylor will enjoy their moments, but coach Kevin Sumlin's Wildcats won't be consistently good enough — especially on defense — to make a bowl game run.
6. COLORADO (2-10, 1-8): Visions of QB Steven Montez tearing up Oregon in 2016 remain, and he and receiver Laviska Shenault will shine, but first-year coach Mel Tucker's Buffaloes don't have much overall talent and depth.
Pac-12 championship game
Oregon 27, Utah 20
1. OREGON (10-2 overall, 7-2 Pac-12): We'll know more about the Ducks after their opener against Auburn at AT&T Stadium. With Justin Herbert at quarterback and one of the nation's best offensive lines, though, we know the Ducks should be able to outscore most opponents.
2. WASHINGTON (9-3, 6-3): The Huskies have a new quarterback (Jacob Eason) and running back (Salvon Ahmed), but there's a veteran offensive line and enough defensive talent to approach a 10-win season.
2. WASHINGTON STATE (9-3, 6-3): I've learned my lesson underestimating Mike Leach and his Cougars. The QB this year is redshirt senior Anthony Gordon, who beat out McMinnville's Gage Gubrud for the starting job. Gordon has appeared in two games and completed three passes in his career, but Price's Air Raid system always seems to make it work.
4. STANFORD (7-5, 4-5): The Cardinal have been a bastion at or near the top of the Pac-12 North, claiming division titles in 2013, '15 and '17. It's an odd year, but the hunch here is Coach David Shaw's team, hit hard by graduation from last year's 9-4 club, will struggle more than usual.
5. CALIFORNIA (6-6, 3-6): Coach Justin Wilcox's Golden Bears gained four of their seven wins by seven points or fewer last year. Even with one of the conference's best defenses, that could flip in '19.
6. OREGON STATE (3-9, 1-8): A better product may not show up much on the win/loss sheet for the Beavers, who at the least are moving in the right direction in terms of recruiting and talent base.
1. UTAH (10-2, 7-2): There are celebrated seniors Tyler Huntley at quarterback and Zack Moss at running back, a veteran defense and a feeling this could be the best Utes team since Kyle Whittingham's 13-0 Sugar Bowl team of 2008.
2. SOUTHERN CAL (8-4, 6-3): With head coach Clay Helton's job on the line, new O-coordinator Graham Harrell — an ex-Leach protege and Texas Tech QB — will beef up the offense. QB JT Daniels has grown from what he was as a freshman. And the Trojans, as always, have excessive talent.
3. UCLA (7-5, 5-4): Everything will be better in Westwood than it was during the first year under Chip Kelly, when the Bruins started 0-5 and finished 3-9.
4. ARIZONA STATE (6-6, 4-5): Herm Edwards surprised with a 7-5 regular season, a runner-up divisional finish and wins over USC, Utah and Arizona during his first year as coach. Can't see him duplicating this season.
4. ARIZONA (6-6, 3-6): Will senior QB Khalil Tate adjust to the system of head coach Kevin Sumlin (and O-coordinator Noel Mazzone) in their second season together? More likely, Sumlin will adjust better to the mobile Tate's considerable assets. Defense, too, could be an adventure for the Wildcats.
6. COLORADO (3-9, 2-7): Senior QB Steven Montez is back, but it promises to be a rough first year for new coach Mel Tucker.
Pac-12 championship game
Utah 31, Oregon 24
2018 Pac-12 standings
Team Conference Overall
Washington 7-2 10-4
Washington State 7-2 11-2
Stanford 6-3 9-4
Oregon 5-3 9-4
California 4-5 7-6
Oregon State 1-8 2-10
Team Conference Overall
Utah 6-3, 9-5
Arizona State 5-4 7-6
USC 4-5 5-7
Arizona 4-5 5-7
UCLA 3-6 3-9
Colorado 2-7 5-7
Championship: Washington 10, Utah 3
Heart of Dallas: Utah 30, West Virginia 14
Las Vegas: Boise State 38, Oregon 28
Foster Farms: Purdue 38, Arizona 35
Sun Bowl: North Carolina State 52, Arizona State 31
Cactus: Kansas State 35, UCLA 17
Holiday: Michigan State 41, Washington State 17
Alamo: TCU 39, Stanford 37
Cotton: Ohio State 24, USC 7
Fiesta: Penn State 35, Washington 28
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