Every season of college football starts out the same way. We have all of these things that we think are knowns — lead-pipe locks as one popular radio host calls them. Then, by midseason, we're all wrong, sitting around wondering what happened to all that we thought was written in stone.
It shouldn't surprise us, considering that we are dealing with young men in their late teens and early 20s, but it always does.
The Pac-12 Conference is full of a bunch of things we think we know heading into the 2015 season. We think USC is a serious national title contender. We think Oregon will take a small step back without Marcus Mariota. We think the Pac-12 is the best or second-best conference in college football.
As the great Lee Corso always says, "Not so fast, my friend."
Here are some outrageous predictions for the Pac-12 in 2015.
USC will be out of national title contention before November
It would be shocking to see a team with two or more losses qualify for the College Football Playoff. USC has a good chance of losing two games before Halloween. Everyone wants to crown the Trojans as the top dog in the conference, but you don't lose two of the top players in the nation on each side of the ball and just be better than you were a year earlier. After two easy non-conference games, they host Stanford, travel to Arizona State, host Washington, travel to Notre Dame and host Utah. They'll lose two of those games.
Colorado will be bowl eligible by the end of the season
The lowly Buffaloes return their starting quarterback, one of the conference's best wide receivers, two tackles, their center and nine defensive starters. One of the softest non-conference schedules you'll ever see a Power 5 team play is accompanied by two very winnable conference road games at Oregon State and Washington State. Toss in one upset somewhere and you're looking at a seven-win campaign.
Arizona State will lose at least five games
Despite being ranked in nearly everyone's preseason Top 25, the Sun Devils will struggle to finish in the "others receiving votes" category. This is a very young and inexperienced team on both sides of the ball, led by a head coach who really hasn't won anything with guys he actually recruited. They'll play games against USC, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona, Utah, Washington and Texas A&M. I'll be stunned if they win more than two of those.
2015 will be David Shaw's last season at Stanford
No, he's not on the hot seat, and he's won't leave his alma mater for another college. He'll stay right in the Bay Area and follow the footsteps of his Stanford predecessor to the San Francisco 49ers. Shaw is only 43, yet he has 10 years of coaching experience in the NFL. As far as coaching the 49ers, it's not so much that Harbaugh wasn't the "yes man" Jed York wanted, but you get the sense that he's just not a very pleasant guy to be around. Shaw, on the other hand, is about as personable as you'll find.
UCLA will play in the College Football Playoff
This may be the least outrageous of the five predictions. That said, I don't see a whole lot of other people calling it. The Bruins are arguably the most complete and experienced team in the nation with exception of the quarterback position. Normally, I'd say that's a problem. In UCLA's case, however, the inexperience at quarterback comes in the form of Josh Rosen, a talented signal-caller who became a household name in the state of California while still in high school. He'll play on Sundays someday, but not before driving this well-oiled UCLA machine to the top of the college football mountain.