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Will the Pac-12 North be on the line in the Apple Cup?

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Washington State v Washington Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With Pac-12 Media Days taking place this week, local and regional football writers are starting to weigh in on how they think the upcoming season will shape up. This week, it was Seattle Times UW beat writer Adam Jude’s turn. His forecast lines up pretty well with what I think will happen, which is good, and terrible.

Jude tabs OSU as the team on the rise and sees Cal trending downward. It’s hard to argue with the Cal pick, as they’re breaking in a first-time head coach and quarterback. That isn’t a recipe for success. I might consider Oregon as the team on the rise since they plummeted downward last season, but Oregon State is reasonable too, as they were patently awful just two seasons ago.

There really is no argument when it comes to the easiest schedule, as Washington’s is laughably weak, which we’ve documented before. If they aren’t 8-0 with Oregon coming to town, things have gone pretty sideways. I’ll be stunned if they suffer a loss before heading to Stanford.

So how will that Pac-12 North play out? Well, if Jude is correct it’s good news and about the worst news imaginable, all rolled up into one day. As with 2016, Jude thinks the North will be decided in the Apple Cup. On one hand, having the Cougs in title contention on the last conference weekend is tremendous. On the other hand, well, we know how this movie ends. This year, it would likely end with WSU in the Alamo or Foster Farms Bowl.

I also think Stanford will have something to say about this. It’s pretty incredible that three bad weeks in October seemed to paint the picture for Stanford’s season. A common theme is that they suffered a down year. They still went 10-3, and did so with little-to-no reliable production at quarterback. Personally, I see the Washington-Stanford game deciding the North, but predicting such things is damn near impossible.

Jude also wrote an extensive preview of the South, and there don’t seem to be a lot of surprises here, either. USC has the mandate when it comes to division supremacy, which almost always spells disaster for the Men of Troy. Tough to see that this year, though, as they are the most talented team in the league, with possibly the best quarterback.

As with Cal in the North, Colorado is largely seen as the team likely to make the biggest drop. I knew they were losing a lot of guys, but NINE starters on defense (along with the coordinator)? Yowza. UCLA should be a lot better, as Jude believes. The big wildcard with them, aside from Jim Mora consistently doing less with more, is Josh Rosen coming off injury and learning his third scheme in three years.

One big enigma is Utah. They always seem to meet or beat expectations, but then November comes and things fall apart. I did not realize, as Jude notes, that Kyle Whittingham will have his eighth offensive coordinator in nine seasons in 2017. That Whittingham has been able to stay relatively consistent is pretty remarkable, but it doesn’t say much for his ability to hire top offensive assistants.

The Arizona schools are also big question marks, as both suffered a boatload of injuries last season, particularly at quarterback. It’s still shocking to me that ASU won its first five, then lost its last seven last season. That’s really tough to do.

The next big step in the season preview process will come Wednesday and Thursday, when the media releases its preseason poll and all-conference team. Something tells me Cody O’Connell will not be absent from the First Team.

Poll

If given the choice today, would you want the Apple Cup to decide the Pac-12 North champ?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    Yes
    (220 votes)
  • 10%
    No
    (29 votes)
  • 10%
    I’d rather walk barefoot across broken glass
    (29 votes)
278 votes total Vote Now

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