Top players, games and champions – Orange County Register

Can the Pac-12 become more than a two-horse race?

Or are USC and Washington destined to meet for the Pac-12 championship in Santa Clara in early December, the Trojans shouldered by their Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback in Sam Darnold, the Huskies an emerging Pacific Northwest powerhouse led by a shrewd coach in Chris Petersen?

The former scenario might make for a more compelling regular season, filled with upsets and competitive late-night shootouts. The latter might improve the national perception for the conference, which has not seen one of its teams win a national championship since USC did in 2004.

Here is how USC reporter Joey Kaufman, UCLA reporter Thuc Nhi Nguyen and USC analyst Scott Wolf see it going this season:


Kaufman: USC again sees a slow start, but a November push leaves it 10-2 to end the regular season.

Nguyen: With whispers of a College Football Playoff run, the Trojans pick up a loss early but recover for an 11-1 finish.

Wolf: The Trojans will be favored in every game, but two look dangerous: at Washington State with one fewer day to prepare and at Colorado the week before the UCLA game. Two losses look possible. One too many for College Football Playoff?


Kaufman: The schedule is challenging, drawing Oregon and Washington in the Pac-12 North, and non-conference dates with Texas A&M and Memphis, but A healthy Josh Rosen helps the Bruins go 8-4.

Nguyen: Jedd Fisch’s mind and Josh Rosen’s healthy arm elevate the UCLA offense, but a lack of other playmakers holds the Bruins back and another strong defense is squandered in a seven-win season.

Wolf: A healthy Josh Rosen sounds great after last season. But is there a running game to complement him? Jim Mora sure needs one. As usual, beating USC and going 7-5 feels good.


Kaufman: Washington at Stanford on Nov. 10 — It looks like this will determine the North representative in the conference championship game.

Nguyen: Washington at Stanford on Nov. 10 — With no Washington-USC matchup on the regular-season docket, the battle of the past two Pac-12 North champions is the heavyweight bout of the conference.

Wolf: Washington at Stanford on Nov. 10 — The Huskies’ schedule is so easy this is the only plausible loss.


Kaufman: Jake Browning, QB, Washington — Browning threw 43 touchdowns to nine interceptions last season, and he’ll put up similarly gaudy numbers en route to his second…

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