Covering the impact of coronavirus on the sports world
With new coaches in at Oregon, USC and Washington, and a bevy of transfer quarterbacks in position to compete for starting jobs, the Pac-12 is getting a makeover for the 2022 season as it seeks to snap a five-year College Football Playoff drought. Among the league's other changes is a shift in how Pac-12 title game participants are determined, as it will now be the two teams with the best league winning percentage squaring off, regardless of division.
Because of the coaching transitions among the league's biggest brands, defending Pac-12 champion Utah enters the new season as the most-established team in the league. Head coach Kyle Whittingham will be coaching his 18th season, and he's got the league's steadiest QB in Cam Rising. But even with the Utes on solid footing after a Rose Bowl appearance, the Trojans figure to be league's biggest story in 2022.
With Lincoln Riley arriving at USC from Oklahoma and bringing in a star-studded class of transfers with him, including QB Caleb Williams from Oklahoma and reigning Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh, the Trojans are expected to quickly rebound from last season's 4-8 fiasco. In the North, Oregon and Washington also expect to be competitive immediately under first-year coaches.
The 2022 college football season is right around the corner, and Caesars Sportsbook has released over/under win totals for every Pac-12 team. Here are our summer picks for how each team will fare in relation to the expectations of Las Vegas.
Analysis: Even if the Wildcats lose two of their three nonconference games, which appears likely, they should be improved enough in coach Jedd Fisch's second season to find three victories. There are no easy or obvious wins on this schedule, but Arizona was far more competitive than its 1-11 record suggested last season. It should be able to break through a few times. Pick: Over 2.5 wins (-140)
Analysis: Buckle up, because Herm Edwards' fifth season as head coach at Arizona State could be a wild ride. The Sun Devils have heavy transfer churn amid an NCAA investigation that led to defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce's resignation. It's going to take a near 100% hit rate on the class of incoming transfers if ASU is going to win eight games again. Getting bowl eligible would be a win given how bleak the passing game could be with Florida transfer Emory Jones at quarterback throwing to an unproven group of receivers. Pick: Under 6 wins (-125)
Analysis: Cal had oodles of experience the past two seasons, yet stumbled to a 6-10 record over that time even after reaching bowls in 2018 and 2019. Head coach Justin Wilcox brought in NFL coaching veteran Bill Musgrave as offensive coordinator beginning in 2020, but that move hasn't sparked the Bears whatsoever. In an era of offense in college football, Cal has essentially shriveled up into a poor man's version of Iowa, and it is tough to watch. Pick: Under 5.5 (-115)
Analysis: Colorado, like Arizona, has no gimme games on its schedule. That makes life tough when you're a projected bottom-feeder searching for footing early in a coach's tenure. Colorado isn't so void of talent that can't win four games. But with Oregon and Washington both on the schedule from the North, six true road games and no pushover opponents, the under is a safer bet on this Vegas projection. Pick: Under 3.5 wins (-130)
Analysis: Dan Lanning's transition from Georgia defensive coordinator to Oregon head coach will be soothed by a veteran offensive line expected to be among the country's best. He may not have Georgia's widespread and deep level talent on the defensive side, but he's got a couple of elite dudes in linebacker Noah Sewell and defensive tackle Brandon Dorius. All told, there is enough here for the Ducks to overcome the initial horror of opening against Lanning's old squad to compete for the Pac-12 title. A nine-win push is firmly in play, but 10 wins feels more likely than eight. Pick: Over 9 (-115)
Analysis: Oregon State's nonconference schedule is sneaky tough with two solid Mountain West foes in Boise State and Fresno State, followed by a game with quality FCS foe Montana State to start things off. The Beavers made considerable progress last season, though, by finishing 7-5 before losing in the LA Bowl. There is enough back for them to replicate that caliber of season even if they wind up dropping a nonconference game. Pick: Over 6 (-115)
Analysis: The door is open for the Cardinal to regain their footing in the Pac-12 after a 3-9 season last year, but it's going to take a massive improvement on both lines of scrimmage for that to happen. Stanford couldn't run the ball last season, and it couldn't stop the run, either. The Cardinal should improve on their 2-7 league record, but nonconference games against Notre Dame and BYU look like road blocks on the path to bowl eligibility. Pick: Under 4.5 (-115)
Analysis: With quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson back for his fifth season, the offense is in good hands after taking a nice step during the Bruins' 8-4 campaign last year. The defense is a question mark under new coordinator Bill McGovern, but UCLA is nonetheless poised to keep building in Chip Kelly's fifth season. The nonconference schedule is cupcake city, and an Oct. 8 showdown with Utah could have big Pac-12 title game implications. Pick: Over 8.5 wins (-115)
Analysis: Year 1 of Lincoln Riley's tenure will be anything but boring. With a bevy of playmakers, including former Oklahoma quarterback Caleb Williams, the offense alone should be enough to get the Trojans back in the league title mix. Ultimately, though, there are too many question marks with the defense to comfortably project that USC will go from four wins to 10 overnight. The tally here calls for a push, but the under is a wise play since it's the side with some juice. Pick: Push -- lean under 9 wins (+140)
Analysis: The Pac-12 belongs to Kyle Whittingham until further notice. As the dean of the league's coaches and leader of the reigning conference champions, he gets the benefit of the doubt in 2022. That's especially true because of the transition occurring within the league's other top programs. An opening game at Florida is tough, and so are trips to UCLA and Oregon. But you know what else is tough? Utah football players, who have persevered through immense adversity to take their program to new heights. Pick: Over 9 wins (+105)
Analysis: By opening against Kent State and Portland State, first-year coach Kalen DeBoer should have no trouble getting to 2-0. From there, the Huskies avoid USC and Utah out of the Pac-12 South. With even the tiniest morsel of competence on offense, Washington should have no trouble returning to bowl eligibility after its disastrous 2021 season. Going from four wins to eight feels like too big of a lift, though. Pick: Under 7.5 wins (-105)
Analysis: Washington State can be a surprise team in the Pac-12 North as it introduces a variation of the Air Raid with first-year coordinator Eric Morris, a Mike Leach disciple who arrives after four years as the head coach at Incarnate Word. Morris is bringing his quarterback, Cameron Ward, with him to run the system, and it could give the conference fits. Pick: Over 5 wins (-130)
© 2004-2022 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.
CBS Sports is a registered trademark of CBS Broadcasting Inc. Commissioner.com is a registered trademark of CBS Interactive Inc.
Images by Getty Images and US Presswire