It was a crazy season for the Pac-12 in 2015, where the conference will send ten teams to a bowl game. This year, we saw Oregon stumble out the gates, and bounce back tremendously. Utah looked like a playoff-caliber team and then slowly ran off track down the home stretch, and the Golden Bears of California even saw some struggles as well in that same span.
Stanford ultimately emerged, and gives the Pac-12 one last gleam of hope of making the College Football Playoff. But they have to take on the USC Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship Game, with the winner automatically getting a bid for the Rose Bowl.
Arizona and Arizona State had high aspirations this season, and both fell well short, ending their seasons at 6-6. And then the feel good story of the Pac-12 was the Washington State Cougars actually reaching nine wins, and have the potential to get to ten in bowl season.
1. Stanford Cardinal
The Stanford Cardinal have been the top dog in the Pac-12 virtually all season long. Their offense has been the best in the conference, and since week two of the regular season, they have put up 30+ points in every game this season.
Led by Heisman hopeful Christian McCaffrey and senior leader Kevin Hogan, I absolutely love this offense. As of now, I would pick Stanford to beat USC, in a similar fashion to how they did earlier. Stanford is by far the best team in the conference, although some could argue Oregon is right behind them now, but I would expect Stanford to give the Pac-12 a strong showing in the post season.
2. Oregon Ducks
The Oregon Ducks are playing like the best team in the conference. Remember when we thought Oregon was bad? Well they're three early losses were to Michigan State, now in the hunt for the College Football Playoff, Utah, who was a very dangerous team this season, maybe not so much without Devontae Booker, and then Washington State, who had a great season.
Vernon Adams is leading this offense to perfection, and this team hasn't scored less than 38 points in the last five games. It's a shame that he only has one year, and that he joined the team so late and battled injuries early on, because Adams would be a very exciting player to have in this conference.
3. USC Trojans
The 8-4 USC Trojans are now one game away from a Rose Bowl bid. Another team we thought was terrible, after their loss to Washington, and the firing of Steve Sarkisian. They were the first team to take down Utah this season, and ended up winning the necessary games to make it to this point.
In my opinion, I think Clay Helton is a good hire for the program, but I felt that it was a week too early. How terrible would it look if USC rolls over to Stanford and loses 42-14? Still, I think he's a good fit, but he's not a coach that the Pac-12 should fear compared to those on the market.
4. Washington State Cougars
The Cougars needed one more win to finish with a 10-win season, but fell flat on their face vs. their rival in the Apple Cup. They were without Luke Falk, who is obviously the heart and soul of that air-raid offense, once the nation's leading passer for much of the season. But I would have thought that Mike Leach would have had another quarterback ready to go.
The Cougars were the feel good story of the season, as they were actually finally relevant, and played a lot of great teams close. Heck, they were a couple of feet away from taking the Pac-12 North lead in their game vs. Stanford. Once Luke Falk comes back, I would expect the Cougs to hit 10 wins on the season, and that's just awesome.
5. UCLA Bruins
UCLA came out of no where for the Pac-12 South title, but lost their 3-game winning streak to USC over the weekend.
This was a game where Josh Rosen showed his true age. They held it close for the first half of the game, and then the freshman had three turnovers in the second half, and that doomed the Bruins.
6. Utah Utes
This is clearly not the same team without Devontae Booker. They skated by Colorado, and might struggle heavily down the stretch of the season.
For once being the No. 3 ranked team in the nation, Utah slowly fell out of the top 25, and became the some old Utah we've seen over the past few years. They'll lose Devontae Booker next year and Andy Phillips, but they'll be able to have another strong showing next season, and put up another 8-win season under Kyle Whittingham.
7. California Golden Bears
The Golden Bears stumbled down the stretch of their season, once possessing a 5-0 record, and then dropping to 5-4 a few weeks later. They powered through their season and salvaged a 7-5 record, only losing to Stanford in the final stretch.
I was pretty down on this team heading into the season, and a lot of people felt like they were the sexy pick as the darkhorse of the north. I wasn't big into the Jared Goff hype, and I'm still not entirely sold on him, but he has some awesome weapons on the outside, and I hope that the Golden Bears can sustain some success once Goff leaves.
This is a high-powered offense, and they'll likely make a strong appearance in the Cactus Bowl.
8. Washington Huskies
The Washington Huskies give the the Pac-12 their 10th bowl eligible team for 2015. They dismantled their rival Washington State. The Cougars have been a great story for the Pac-12 this year, but getting ten teams in the postseason is a great feat for this conference. So thank you, Washington Huskies.
Bowl eligibility might be the regular for this team, especially with the youth they have going forward, and Chris Petersen at the helm.
9. Arizona State Sun Devils
For once being dubbed as Todd Graham's best team he's ever had, this team failed miserably, finishing the season at 6-6, giving up over 32 points a game. This team really had no excuse for their lackluster season. They had a loaded roster filled with a handful of NFL Draft prospects, and just couldn't pull it all together. Mike Bercovici was supposedly a dark horse for the Heisman, and things were going to be fine and dandy without Jaelen Strong, with D.J. Foster making the move out to receiver. The defense was risk/reward, and it didn't really work out all that well.
Now, it seems as if the Sun Devils are Shreveport bound, searching for their seventh win on the season.
10. Arizona Wildcats
Arizona's bye week was nice but they moved down one spot this week, and it was entirely because of Washington's win over Washington State, which pushed the Huskies up to No. 8.
This team was just plagued with injuries before the season even began. On top of that, they had to replace a ton of experience on defense. Looking back, Arizona could have beaten Washington State, and going into the Washington game, you would have thought that Arizona could have pulled it off, giving Arizona an 8-4 season, not bad without the bowl game.
This team now has 30+ days until they play their bowl game, when you count the days from their last game vs. Arizona State, to the projected bowl dates. So that's a lot of time off, but also gives this team a lot of time to get more extended reps. We'll find out later this week where Arizona is headed.
11. Colorado Buffaloes
Colorado played the Utah Utes fairly tough. Of course, the Utes were without Devontae Booker, but nonetheless, they held it close on the road. Competitive was the storyline of this team in 2015.
They held so many opponents to a close game, Oregon, Arizona State, Arizona, USC, UCLA. They were in those games for much longer than you would expect, but just eventually fell apart. Without Nelson Spruce next year, this is going to be an interesting team. With the rise of Utah this year as well, Colorado might be the bottom feeder for quite some time now.
12. Oregon State Beavers
Well, Oregon State was winless this season in Pac-12 play, and their quarterback situation isn't the greatest heading into next season. They played Seth Collins at wide receiver this past weekend vs. Oregon, who had been their starting quarterback for the first half of the season before getting hurt.
I'm not too sure Oregon State can bounce back entirely next season, especially if California and Washington State remain fairly competitive in the Pac-12 North. But who knows, maybe Gary Andersen has a plan.