I’m actually on the wrong side of the Mississippi these days to utilize this expression. It’s an old expression meant to describe unique features of the frontier in contrast to the more densely packed populations and civilization on the east side of the country. Nowadays the east side of the Mississippi has 58% of the population, which is a much narrower gap than in previous centuries. Of course on election nights we generally know who’s going to win by the time they’ve got most of the eastern precincts in because of the nature of the map and current political alignments. There’s always talk of how Arizona, Nevada, or Colorado could prove a crucial swing state but then things are basically settled before they get their results in.
In college football, the west side of the country is quite a bit weaker than the east but there are a few major exceptions. In particular, the top dogs in the Big 12 and Pac-12 (as well as a few B1G teams that we already mentioned in the Midwest preview). Neither the B12 nor the P12 have done really well in the playoff era but they have made a few appearances and their struggles have been related to the malaise suffered by flagship programs USC and Texas.
Oklahoma has been to the playoffs on three occasions, always losing to a team from the South in the first round, and then Oregon and Washington have each appeared once as well. The Oregon team that showed up in 2014 was quite good and took down Jameis Winston’s Florida State before Ohio State put a bruising on them. The Washington team in 2016 played good defense on Jalen Hurts but was overmatched by Saban’s own defense. Everyone is waiting for Texas and USC to finally show up in this scene again.
Does this team have offensive tackles and an overall line that won’t limit them when they face teams with NFL players on the DL? If you can’t win battles in isolation in the trenches, either protecting your QB or blocking for your RB, then that’s going to be trouble.
How is the defense up the middle? Are there proven veterans at the nose, linebacker, and safety that will allow the team to have flexible gameplans and match up against great offenses without getting blown away?
Does this team have elite facets or game changing players that can allow them to overpower even the best opponents? For instance, the 2018 Alabama Crimson Tide were impossible to handle up the middle of their defense. The 2019 Clemson Tigers ended up being able to fling the ball around on anyone with Trevor Lawrence and had an all-NFL DL.
Even good or great teams can be derailed by an unfavorable scheduling draw. Schedule is a regular reason that top 25 caliber SEC teams go 8-5.
This is where Texas is getting hammered nationally, particularly by analytics folks, and where Tom Herman has been making a defense of late. As Scipio Tex noted in his preseason annual, a significant amount of Texas’ departing production is comprised of guys that any healthy team has in their pipeline. Yes, Tre Watson ran for a lot of yards, Patrick Vahe played a lot at guard, and Anthony Wheeler made a lot of tackles but does anyone think that Texas’ roster can’t produce similar or better? Herman’s argument is similar and has centered around the fact that Texas is much more experienced and established up the middle of the defense than the returning starters number suggests.
DL will probably feature RS freshman Keondre Coburn platooning with senior Gerald Wilbon at nose, 4th-year contributor Malcolm Roach at RDE, and junior/2018 sub Ta’Quon Graham at LDE. They moved OLB Jeffrey McCulloch to LB behind them, much like LSU did with Michael Divinity, and then at safety they have 3rd year starting senior Brandon Jones and sophomore/freshman AA Caden Sterns.
The OL has two returning starters plus another pair of guys that have picked up some spot starts and snaps for the last two years in Denzel Okafor and Derek Kerstetter and then 2016 freshman AA, 2017 All-ACC, and 2018 All-ACC LG Patrick Braun. Then there’s Sam Ehlinger, whom is now a household name. The infrastructure is quite good in Austin, outside of developing more depth and knowhow at ILB, believe it or not this section isn’t really the question for this team.
This is where things are more interesting. Will Texas have an identity on offense and defense that can overpower opponents? On offense it looks like that identity will be built around using RPOs to the 6-6 jump ball master Collin Johnson and 4.4 former track star Devin Duvernay to keep defenses from getting enough numbers to the box to stop a now 220 pound Keaontay Ingram…
Then Texas of course has an edge in tough games or tough situations when they need to finish drives and convert in short-yardage, Sam Ehlinger. They need to find some replacements for Lil’Jordan Humphrey in the passing game but the foundations of the offense look good.
On defense they’re hoping to replicate the 2017 strategy of being able to flood the field with insane speed and size with a dime package that gets BJ Foster, DeMarvion Overshown, Brandon Jones, and Caden Sterns all on the field at the same time. Making that work is really more about finding a pair of ILBs to play behind the aforementioned DL to make sure that teams can’t blow holes through the front and instead get spilled to all these big, fast safeties. If it works, that’ll give Texas a championship defense that causes unique problems for opponents.
One other factor is that Texas’ freshman kicker tandem of Michael Dicker and Ryan Bujcevksi figure to be improved from last year. Dicker was a really solid kicker last year and Bujcevksi (another Aussie and cousin to Michael Dickson) had mixed results but has been putting it together. Overall Texas has the formula to build a team that forces you to stop the run with limited numbers, forces you to run against a fast but conservative defense, turns the game into a grind out contest and then picks up another edge with special teams.
LSU comes to Austin in week two, that’s the big one. It should be a huge test both for Texas’ young but insanely talented secondary and then the vaunted new LSU passing attack. Then there’s the Red River Shootout against Oklahoma, who we’ll get to later, and the normal challenge of surviving the B12 round robin format unscathed. @TCU and @Iowa State stand out as particularly stiff tests. Finally there’s the B12 title game, which could require that Texas beat a good team for the second time in the same season, which is always tough.
You figure that 12-1 with a B12 title gets the Longhorns into the playoffs. Whether that loss comes to LSU, OU, or one of the other B12 teams as long as it’s only one loss, it isn’t brutal (unless Ehlinger was out, in which they’d get a mulligan), and they win the league title game you figure they’re in. To their advantage, they only play two games outside of Texas all year.
This Texas team has the talent and plan to hit that 12-1 mark, whether they can put it all together with a relatively young team or not remains to be seen. It probably hinges on injury luck at QB and LB.
This is the third most likely B12 team to factor into the playoff race, imo. TCU and OSU have outside shots but they’re barely worth mentioning because so much would have to go right and they don’t tend to get much benefit of the doubt. A big Iowa State season could create some buzz because they’re already a popular story.
The infrastructure here is very solid. PFPurdy is back at QB and the talk of the offseason has been designing the offense specifically around his unique skill set as well as the Cyclones’ now well-stocked TE room. So 12 personnel, RPOs and play-action, and QB run game galore is to be expected. The OL is all back too, although it wasn’t that great last year.
The middle of the defense is about as strong as it gets. NT Ray Lima is back, as are DEs Jaquan Bailey and Eyioma Uwzurike, ILBs Marcel Spears and Mike Rose are back, and middle safety and leading tackler Greg Eisworth is back.
The Cyclones’ best weapons are a creative and cutting edge playbook (on both sides of the ball) and a very sound and disciplined overall team. If you have a good plan for dealing with those first two factors, then a lot of their strength we’ve seen is definitely marginalized because the talent level of the roster isn’t comparable to a Georgia or Ohio State.
However, it’s possible they’ll get an extra boost from PFPurdy who is a special playmaker and then there are a handful of guys on the roster that have some NFL measurables.
There’s the annual Cy-Hawk rivalry game with Iowa, which should be a win this time around, and then a normal Big 12 slate with an interesting ending. The Cyclones get a bye week Nov. 2 and then go @Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and @K-State to finish the year. Getting Texas and OU back to back is tough but getting them after a bye week certainly helps. That probably comes down to health, which of those three teams is still running strong?
No, not a playoff team. Their schematic and hard-working advantages aren’t enough to get them through the league without some disqualifying Ls. 2020 could be interesting though if some of their younger talent really emerges to pair with a junior PFPurdy.
On offense it’s there, just not quite as formidable as in 2017 or 2018. Jalen Hurts is a steady leader at QB that will cause problems for lots of teams, the FB/TE situation is probably better than a year ago and there are tons of experienced wideouts. OL is more the question mark. Creed Humphrey is great at center and Adrian Ealy has been talked up this spring at RT, but the other spots are still settling out. Smart prognostication says they’ll be a good unit but not a dominant one like the last two seasons, at least not consistently so.
The defensive infrastructure is much more iffy. DL overall is shaky even though Neville Gallimore is a great start at nose tackle, I don’t know if they have 3-4 other guys that can reliably beat blocks or hold their ground when facing teams that can pick up their slants and movement. LB is okay, Kenneth Murray will need to play a new style and be much faster to the ball in 2019 to make the Alex Grinch’s scheme work, no more waiting to close on the ball or he’s going to be caught a lot. Dashaun White is generally well reviewed but he’s green. Then safety looks like an absolute mess with current practice reports suggesting the Sooners will start two new faces there for the second consecutive season. Grinch’s D requires safeties in the middle that are smart about closing on the ball and physical when they do so, Oklahoma hasn’t been recruiting and developing that sort of player in recent seasons.
Defense may not be as bad as last year, or then again it might, but it definitely won’t give the Sooners a championship gear for big games. They’ll need the offense again for that. The marginal declines on offense hurt them here and it’s entirely possible that the firepower they lose on offense will be more crucial than any gains on defense. The key point here is whether Jalen Hurts can burn teams with play-action like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray did before him. I’m betting not, which reduces the effectiveness of the entire offensive concept, but if he can put together a worthy effort there than of course the Sooners are still a major contender to win the B12 and return to the playoffs.
The non-conference schedule looks a little trickier every time you glance at it. They start by dueling Dana Holgorsen again, this time as HC of the Houston Cougars and in Norman. The scare here is that the Cougar skill talent is really good and QB D’Eriq King will probably be the best player on the field. There’s potential for the Cougars to light up a green defense working out a new scheme with players like King that can punish mistakes and assignment errors with scores. Then the Sooners have a road trip to UCLA to play Chip Kelly, another team that can potentially burn you for making mistakes on D.
The B12 schedule worked out to be sorta backloaded for the Sooners. They get Texas in October of course but then they end the year with a bye week before the Iowa State game (just like the Cyclones get), then ISU, @Baylor, TCU, and @Oklahoma State. There’s a chance that isn’t too bad and then there’s a chance that this will match the Sooners against the four best non-Texas teams in the league.
None of these details have mattered in the last four years, the Sooners have had a championship gear with their offense that allowed them to power through (or at least survive) the round robin format and even more challenging non-conf slates that included the Herman/Ward Cougars and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
I think the Sooners go 10-2 or 9-3 and then come up short in the B12 title game due to lack of depth up front on defense that allows better running teams like Texas or Iowa State to control the game in the key Nov/Dec contests played in cold weather. Oklahoma figures to be able to run the ball pretty dang well too but their defense doesn’t look near as good as Texas or Iowa State’s. That doesn’t matter if you have extra firepower on offense but if things grind down more then it makes all the difference in the world.
By all accounts this is the question mark for this team, particularly the OL which includes well regarded LT Josh Jones and then some other guys that Dana Holgorsen doesn’t sound all that excited about. TE is also somewhat in question, it looks like Parker Eichenberger is atop the depth chart and he was probably selected to be an ancillary out of Katy but is currently only 230 pounds.
On defense they’re retooling to be a 4-2-5 team and have a bunch of new faces everywhere except safety where there’s more starting experience. Will they be ready to stand up to the Sooner run game? Can their OL keep the athletic and fresh OU defenders up front out of the backfield? Probably not and maybe, especially when operating at tempo in summer weather.
D’Eriq King operating in the space that Dana Holgorsen can create for his athletes is pretty scary, we saw a good glimpse of that last year under Kendall Briles when King scored 50 touchdowns despite missing several games. The Cougars also have explosive people that can score at RB (Patrick Carr), and receiver (Marquez Stevenson, Bryson Smith). This unit is actually really similar to the West Virginia squad that Holgorsen inherited that had Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey, and Tavon Austin.
Since then Holgorsen has learned how to control games more carefully and also emphasize defense so…this could be interesting.
At Oklahoma, obviously, that’s a really big obstacle. They’re also playing Washington State in NRG (Houston) a few weeks later, which is another considerable obstacle and a classic “guru vs disciple” matchup with Mike Leach. Then they drew from the AAC East Cincinnati at home and @UCF. That’s as tough a schedule as you’ll ever see for a G5 team.
I just wanted to mix them in as a G5 team that looks pretty intimidating for 2019. They’d have to run the table against OU and then an always tough ACC but, unlike UCF, they’d have a stronger scheduling case to make for the committee should they go undefeated. I don’t think they’ll do it, the defense and OL sound too iffy, but it could be a fun storyline for a while if they get past the Sooners. It’s very plausible (though not likely) that they could be 8-0 going up against UCF on the road in early November (the second).
The other Air Raid Cougars on our list have to replace perhaps the three best cogs from their breakthrough 2018 team: QB Gardner Minshew, LT Andre Dillard, and RB James Williams. The OL has four starters back, the QB room has two RS seniors AND an Eastern Washington RS senior grad transfer (Gage Gobrud), and RB has Max Borghi. So things look okay, but those three departing guys were very good last year. All of their top WRs are also back. I’ve seen this story before in Lubbock and it usually turned out pretty well.
The defense seems to be returning nine starters from a solid unit in 2019 and they’re coordinated by Tracy Claeys from Minnesota, who knows what he’s doing. There’s a ton of knowhow on this team.
I don’t know how much game-changing talent is around on campus. My viewings of the 2018 team mostly centered around Minshew and the RBs, who powered a team I called “check down city.” They seem kinda like Iowa State, a squad with a lot of veterans playing smart football, I don’t know if they have a PFPurdy to put them over the top. If they do? The Pac-12 North isn’t the SEC West.
Houston is the only real challenge in the non-conference slate. They do have to play @Utah and then @Washington to close the year. If they lack the “championship gear” in the form of a Michael Crabtree or Wes Welker type player then they look like a 9-3/10-2 kind of team that has a shot to win the P12 but isn’t going to the playoffs.
I think the scenario I just laid out is most likely.
Clay Helton is desperate this season. If he doesn’t win and win big then he’ll get the axe and the Keck school of medicine will start developing technology to heal the issues plaguing Urban Meyer so he can get back into coaching. I bet they could find some surprising success in that venture…
The Trojans hired Kliff Kingsbury to bring the Air Raid, which made a lot of sense for a school based in private skills-intensive southern California, then he left them for the NFL so they got another former Leach/Tech QB named Graham Harrell to do the same thing.
The infrastructure for this team is pretty iffy. They’re losing a ton of starters along the OL and their returning left tackle Austin Jackson had to donate bone marrow this offseason to save his sister. It doesn’t seem from the articles like that will limit him this coming year but I’m no doctor. At any rate, best of luck to his family.
On defense they’re replacing a few longtime stalwarts up the middle like “predator” LB Porter Gustin, LB Cameron Smith, nickel Ajene Harris, and safety Marvel Tell. None of those guys were able to stop their senior-year team from going 5-7, which speaks to the chaos overwhelming the Helton era, so maybe they won’t be too badly missed. Or maybe they will and they were keeping the whole enterprise from going under.
Second year QB JT Daniels in an Air Raid system throwing to 4-year teammate Amon-Ra St. Brown and two other returning starters at wide receiver in an Air Raid offense. I think most of us are skeptical that this USC team that collapsed a year ago is going to flip a switch but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
They also have a TON of talent coming up the wings and if there’s a better attitude and culture in place for those guys combined with a lethal spread passing attack then things could definitely be interested.
The non-conference is @BYU, Fresno State, and @Notre Dame which is pretty tough. From the North they draw @Washington and then they have Chip Kelly’s Bruins coming to the Coliseum to close the year. Pretty tough and also front loaded, so if they can’t get things together quickly and the morale isn’t there they may not be able to clean up like they should on the back end.
I’ve heard too many rumors of total disorder under Helton to think that this will come together. I bet they show a few things with Harrell but go 7-5 or 8-4 and Helton gets the boot. Then we see if Urban Meyer feels comfortable enough showing his face again or if he chooses a little more obscurity under the safety blanket of the Ohio State program. The next head coach of USC is far and away a more fascinating story then if they middle about and remain competitive and the media sharks will be circling hoping to start telling the story of “what’s next?” at the first sign of trouble. I think they’ll break.
The Utes maintain a pipeline of Polynesians into their trenches every year, it’s been a key to their success since the Urban Meyer days when Kyle Whittingham was the DC, and they’re always reloading at a high level. Their vision as a program is to beat teams up with really effective four-down defenses that blitz well and then big OL executing zone run games.
Their DL looks particularly strong this year with Bradley Anae and Leki Fotu leading a half dozen other Polynesians who’ve played a reasonable amount. They were crushed at LB with a pair of 100+ tacklers graduating in Chase Hansen and Cody Barton. Those two combined for 231 tackles, 33.5 TFL, and nine sacks. They do have an older BYU transfer to help replace them though and they’ll probably be okay, they know what they’re doing here. At safety they moved promising CB Julian Blackmon over to shore things up.
OL is a bit more iffy with four new starters but this group is insanely large. Darrin Paulo is the LT and returning starter, he’s 6-5, 315. LG Paul Toala is 6-4, 339, C Orlando Umana is 6-4, 340. QB Tyler Huntley is a third year starter and has some playmaking in his legs, returning RB Zack Moss ran for 1096 yards at 6.1 ypc a year ago.
The trick with Utah is that they’ve been a Michigan State style team for years and years only with insanely good rugby punting as one of their trump cards in lieu of a good third down spread passing attack. Either their spread option run game controls the ball and scores points, and they win, or it doesn’t and it’s either a low scoring slog or you win because you figure out their defense. They haven’t had a championship gear on offense and it’s not obvious that they’ll have one this year. Consistently good defense only takes you so far. Ironic that they’ve consistently had some of the best line play in the country but haven’t been able to maximize it.
The Utes have to compete with USC in the South division, which recently has made for an easier life for them. They get BYU in the non-conference this year and draw Cal, Washington State, and @Washington from the North. Not bad but there’s not much here to suggest a team that’s any better than the 9-5 squad we saw a year ago.
The Utes are a sort of fashionable pick this year to be good and maybe to win the Pac-12 but I don’t really see it. They could make the Pac-12 championship game amidst a weak South division but then what? Can they limit the Wazzu passing attack? Handle Oregon? Finally beat the Huskies?
I haven’t been terribly impressed with Mario Cristobal’s Oregon thus far. This would appear to be the year for them as their OL has five returning starters and brings back QB Justin Herbert in a contract year. The defense brings back a lot of pieces as well and is now led by Boise State’s Andy Avalos, who’s well versed in the sort of 8-3/tite front schemes that Todd Orlando or Dave Aranda use.
Losing Jim Leavitt as DC didn’t necessarily seem a great sign though and so far Cristobal’s Oregon offenses haven’t been too scary. His vision was to build up a massive group of thick, powerful blockers to run inside zone and stretch on teams like his Alabama teams used to do. Herbert would then play the role of AJ McCarron or Jake Coker, throwing the odd RPO and play-action to clean up defenses when they loaded the box. That vision for Oregon just seems iffy to me. Kelly’s OL were fantastic but they were often smaller, lighter guys like Hroniss Grasu blocking outside zone and sweeps with all kinds of creative options and tempo attached to help them out. Is Oregon ever going to be able to consistently build the biggest, most powerful OL in the league?
OL are often the position that’s most representative of the surrounding community, which in Oregon’s case isn’t stocked with the deepest supply of 6-5/320 pound inside zone maulers. Then there’s also the fact that so many local rivals stock their DL with these thick Polynesian DTs that aren’t easy to shove out of the way.
All that aside though, the Ducks have all their key pieces back from a solid team, including the heart of their defense with nose Jordon Scott, LB Troy Dye, and both safeties.
This is where I think they hit their ceiling. 27 carries for 37 yards last year against Michigan State in the bowl game, 32-117 vs Utah, 23-65 vs Wazzu, they just weren’t consistently good on the ground. Herbert will need to torch teams for them to win the Pac-12 North, let alone the P12 overall, and I’m less in awe of his abilities or their passing attack than some.
The Ducks open with Auburn, who drop kicked Washington’s playoff contention hopes in last year’s season opener, and who will be a stern test for whether their OL can hang with championship caliber DL. Within the league they have to play USC, Washington, and Stanford all on the road. Fairly tough draw but it’ll really just come down to how Herbert plays this year or what Washington gets up to.
My Cristobal says this plan won’t work.
There was a time not long ago when it was believed that the Cardinal’s strong national recruiting was going to see them break through in a big way. Time is running out on that prognostication after 9-4 and 9-5 the last couple of seasons. The Cardinal are one of the teams in this country for whom a national recruiting strategy makes the most sense
With silent lips. “Give me your energetic, your rich,
Your select few yearning to breathe the bay air,
The brilliant nerds of your flyover wastelands.
Send these, the well situated, test-approved to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
They have some blue-chips across the roster, particularly at positions where their academics/bay area connection pitch lands most easily like QB or OL. The OL looks solid for 2019 and QB KJ Costello is certainly an asset but last year their strategy moved away from the power run game to throwing it up to big, isolated targets like JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Kaden Smith, and Colby Parkinson, only one of which returns.
Their defense has been the missing ingredient in recent years. They haven’t had the dominant LB play that characterized their better units earlier in the decade. For 2019 their DL is rebuilt with some returning starters but ILB will be green and safety isn’t stocked with proven playmakers either.
What does Stanford want to be? David Shaw has maintained that they intend to be a power running team but their ability to recruit California QBs and skill players while nabbing top TE and OT talent from their national recruiting suggests that they’d be better off leaning into a pro-style passing attack. I don’t see a team that can use power running and defense to win the Pac-12, but if they resolve to flex Parkinson out and fling it around then things could get interesting.
The Cardinal open with Northwestern, who will be a real challenge as those nerds have a much firmer grip on their team identity and how to win football games, even if their talent isn’t as good. The next two weeks take them @USC and @UCF before coming back home to host Oregon. That’s a murderous schedule that still includes a home date with Washington, a road trip to Wazzu, Cal, and then ends with Notre Dame coming to the bay. They’ve scheduled like they’re an independent team that’s planning to build a national conference for nerds with ND and Northwestern. Maybe they should, they could throw Rice in, perhaps include a few P12 teams like Cal and USC and convince Texas to join in.
Even if they were to shock everyone by having built a fully fleshed out, spread-passing attack with a better than expected defense that schedule is too tough. To repeat their 9-win successes of the last two years would be about as much as I think we should expect.
This entire article could have been shorter if we’d just talked about OU, Texas, and Washington, the three teams with the best preseason case as national contenders. The Huskies are the most solidly established program in the Pac-12 right now, they know what they’re doing and how they want to do it and have been plugging and playing at a remarkably high level on defense in particular.
In 2017 they had five players drafted, in 2018 five more, in 2019 they had eight. The 2017 secondary included two CBs and a safety that were taken and then their replacements were drafted in 2019 when two more CBs and a safety left. The 2019 Huskies will good again in the secondary, that much should be assumed.
Up the middle on defense there are some good pieces back on DL headlined by DT Levi Onwuzurike, but then they have to replace Ben Burr-Kirven’s 176 tackles at middle linebacker and then the steady presence at safety from Taylor Rapp and Jojo McIntosh (both 3-year starters). You don’t want to bet against the Husky D but there’s a chance for a marginal slide.
On offense they really haven’t impressed since John Ross left. It turned out that four-year starting QB Jake Browning wasn’t too scary without a guy like Ross to throw to and they weren’t able to really punish teams for how they played their solid run game and Myles Gaskin. New RB Salvon Ahmed is a good one and all five potential OL starters are guys that have started in previous seasons. Former 5-star Georgia transfer and Washington native Jacob Eason is assumed to be the starter and he has major “arm talent” but also had a lot of baggage he brought back home regarding his work ethic. He’s had a few years now to grow in the Husky offense and be honed into a professional (if your QB isn’t basically a professional or else insanely athletic then you aren’t winning titles) so at the least there’s hope he can distribute well.
The defense is typically up there for the Huskies and could just as easily improve as slide in 2019. Fall camp reports include tales of lots of INTs, the Huskies are excellent at playing MOFC coverages that keep the ball in front of them and they’ll play as many safeties or safety-sized LBs underneath as it takes to cover things up.
The closest I’ve seen them get to a championship gear on offense though was when they had John Ross, using his 4.3 speed to catch 81 balls for 11150 yards and 17 TDs in 2017. They have some solid wideouts on this team and somehow Aaron Fuller still has eligibility but I don’t know if they have a single dominant player there, much less two. With just one, single weapon out wide that could capitalize off the threat of their run game I think they could win the Pac-12 title and possibly make the playoffs.
The Huskies get Eastern Washington in the season opener, but without star QB Gage Gobrud who will instead meet them in the season finale against Wazzu (assuming he wins that job). Hawaii and BYU fill out the non-conference slate. From the south division they get Utah and USC, both at home. Against the northern contenders they face Stanford on the road and then get Washington State, Oregon, and Cal at home. Seven home games overall and all of the most threatening contests save for Stanford are in their extremely noisy stadium.
I think I like this team to win the Pac-12 North and probably the Pac-12 overall, but Washington State is close and I don’t really trust Eason or his WRs to take this team up a notch to where they could come out 11-1 or 12-0 and then secure a playoff spot.
No one west of the Mississippi looks like a playoff shoo-in at this point, but I think Texas has the best path to building a team that can navigate the season and emerge with a playoff resume.
That makes it Texas, Alabama, Clemson, and Georgia for my playoff picks in 2019.