A wide-open conference is going to lend itself to some pretty outrageous outcomes.
Ask 10 college football writers and analysts around the country which team is going to win the Pac-12 in 2016 and you're likely to get at least six different answers. You've got two teams that aren't very good and 10 others that could finish anywhere from 6-6 to 11-1 depending on friendly bounces and bad breaks. You've also got five or six teams with realistic Heisman Trophy contenders on their rosters.
Needless to say, that's a recipe for some fairly outrageous predictions.
Outrageous College Football Predictions for the Pac-12 in 2016
Christian McCaffrey won't repeat as a Heisman finalist
It's almost as if the pundits are treating McCaffrey's likely trip to New York City at the end of the year like the sunset: only an apocalypic event can prevent it. Well, that combined with a brutal schedule and a lack of help on the offensive side of the ball. The Cardinal are going to lean heavily on McCaffrey thanks to a plethora of new faces in the offensive huddle — including at quarterback. Opposing teams know that as well and will focus on stopping McCaffrey and risk having another player beat them. To make matter worse, Stanford could very well have four losses after six games, effectively ending McCaffrey's Heisman campaign.
Cal's sub-.500 finish will mark the end of Sonny Dykes' tenure
Dykes is 14-23 during his three years at the helm in Berekely. He will field a team with just eight returning starters and will likely start six underclassmen on opening weekend. The only player that opposing coordinators on either side of the ball need to acknowledge is running back Tre Watson — and even that's a stretch. If the Bears don't beat Oregon State at home, they could very well finish without a conference win. Either way, the Cal job will be available next offseason.
Washington State wins the North
Mike Leach finally has all of the piece and experience to execute his offense at a high level and the talent on defense to put the Cougars in a position to win shootouts. Look for the linebackers and secondary to take another giant leap forward in Alex Grinch's defense. After an early-season stumble at Boise State, Wazzu faces a fairly manageable schedule the rest for the way — with the toughest road game being at Stanford. Look for Luke Falk to threaten some NCAA single-season records through the air en route to a Washington State run to the Pac-12 title game.
Washington goes 6-6 for the second year in a row
Only the Tennessee Volunteers have more hype surrounding them heading into the 2016 than the Huskies. Chris Petersen has recruited some talented horses since he arrived in Seattle, but those guys are still very young. The pressure of being divisional front-runners is likely to get to them. Well, that and a schedule that includes road trips to Arizona, Oregon, Utah and Washington State. On top of that, Washington hosts Stanford and USC. The Huskies are improving, but their 2016 slate will make it tough to demonstrate that improvement.
USC runs the table
The Trojans are loaded with impact players across the board and will be the most talented team on the field in every game — including the opener against Alabama. Quarterback Max Browne has been in the system for quite some time and should be able to effectively distribute the ball to arguably the best group of skill players in the country. Look for Adoree' Jackson to get some offensive touches and become the player everyone thinks Jabrill Peppers can be. The toughest opponent USC faces will be the injury bug, as its depth leads something to be desired. If healthy, the Trojans will be one of the five best teams in the nation from start to finish.
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.