I feel like I could have used the same lede I had in last year's article, but there's a chance the Pac-12 could make something happen in 2022. The buzz surrounding USC is massive with Lincoln Riley, Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison all coming in. Still, the Trojans have to live up to some massive expectations, which it seems Pac-12 teams rarely do.
Related: Pac-12 Football 2022 Predictions
There's also a lot of buzz surrounding Utah, a team that some have as a potential College Football Playoff contender. There are several other teams that could make some noise, but we'll see as the year goes along.
(Win totals provided by Draftkings)
California (Over 5.5 EVEN...Under 5.5 -120)
Non-Conference Games: UC Davis, UNLV, at Notre Dame
Schedule Notes: Three of the first four are at home with the road game being at Notre Dame. The Golden Bears host Washington and Oregon in back-to-back weeks in October and close things out at home vs. Stanford and UCLA.
QB: Purdue transfer Jack Plummer
Roster Notes: Plummer is replacing Chase Garbers, who put up good numbers in this system. He started 13 games for Purdue over three years so there is some game experience. The problems will be that his WR group has a total of 33 receptions and the RB room is also a little light on experience. The defense isn't much better with five returnees, including just two of the top eight tacklers. This team will have to grow up quickly.
Prediction: Like the under here. Tough schedule.
Oregon (Over 8.5 -135...Under 8.5 +115)
Non-Conference Games: vs. Georgia (Atlanta), Eastern Washington, BYU
Schedule Notes: The Ducks don't ease into Dan Lanning's first season as they take on the defending champs in what will feel like a true road game in Atlanta. They have a modestly easy Pac-12 slate, getting Washington, UCLA and Utah all at home after their mid-season bye.
QB: Auburn transfer Bo Nix
Roster Notes: Nix is most likely going to win this job even if his coach still says it's a competition with Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield. Nix has immense talent, but he also has a knack for committing inopportune turnovers. Travis Dye and CJ Verdell are gone at running back so it's Byron Cardwell's backfield unless Minnesota transfer Mar'Keise Irving or WKU transfer Noah Whittington can show something in camp. The offensive line should be very good though. The defense has returning experience on every level including leading tackler Noah Sewell, who had 114 stops in 2021.
Prediction: Agree with the money move to the over, but not taking it at this price.
Oregon State (Over 6.5 +115...Under 6.5 -135)
Non-Conference Games: Boise State, at Fresno State, Montana State
Schedule Notes: Three of the first four are at home although two of those are Boise State and USC. The Beavers also host Oregon for the schools' late-season rivalry game with tough road trips to Utah and Washington.
QB Battle: Chance Nolan vs. Tristan Gebbia
Roster Notes: Nolan figures to win the job unless he flops or Gebbia really impresses. If Nolan retains the No. 1 spot, he needs to cut down on his interceptions (10 in 2021). B.J. Baylor is gone at RB, but the position group should remain a strength. The offensive line is not a huge worry as three starters return. Defensively, pretty much everyone is back although this unit allowed 30-plus points in five of the last seven games last season.
Prediction: Agree with the under move here as well.
Stanford (Over 4.5 +120...Under 4.5 -140)
Non-Conference Games: Colgate, at Notre Dame, BYU
Schedule Notes: The Cardinal open with two straight at home before a really early bye. One of these games is against an FCS opponent and the other is USC. After that six of the last 10 are on the road with trips to Oregon, Notre Dame, UCLA and Utah in that stretch.
QB: Tanner McKee
Roster Notes: Two of the last three years have not been great in Palo Alto as David Shaw's group has been rather bad on offense and not made enough stops or plays on defense. The same coordinators are back after the disappointing season that saw seven games with no more than 14 points. McKee had 15 touchdown passes to seven interceptions, but it was the ground game that was a disappointment. The top two RBs are gone so it's EJ Smith (Pro Football Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith's son) leading the way. The defense has seven returnees with experience on every level and special teams should be really solid as well with both the kicker and punter returning.
Prediction: Solid number as I have 4-5 wins.
Washington (Over 7.5 -130...Under 7.5 +110)
Non-Conference Games: Kent State, Portland State, Michigan State
Schedule Notes: Washington has a chance to run some wins off early with four straight and five of the first seven at home. It's a big one in week three with Michigan State coming to Seattle. The road is tough with trips to UCLA and Oregon while the Huskies have a manageable slate of Pac-12 home games.
QB: Indiana transfer Michael Penix Jr.
Roster Notes: It's year one of Kalen DeBoer in Washington and he gets Penix, someone he's familiar with during their time at Indiana, to be his QB. The WR corps is going to be better especially if this group can stay healthy after having some awful luck in that department last year. The backfield features plenty of options, including a pair of transfers in Wayne Taulapapa (Virginia) and Will Nixon (Nebraska). The secondary lost two early-round NFL draft picks but the defensive line should be very good.
Prediction: Solid number as I came up with 7-8 wins.
Washington State (Over 5.5 +105...Under 5.5 -125)
Non-Conference Games: Idaho, at Wisconsin, Colorado State
Schedule Notes: The Cougars have a very home-friendly start with four of their first five in Pullman. Unfortunately, Oregon is one of the matchups. They eventually travel to USC on Oct. 8 and host Utah later that month.
QB: Incarnate Word transfer Cameron Ward
Roster Notes: People may not realize it, but Ward is a very good quarterback who put up very good numbers for the FCS program. He'll fit head coach Jake Dickert's system and should adequately replace Jayden de Laura's production from 2021. The top two WRs are gone, but there's some intriguing potential while Nakia Watson returns to try and fill the void left by the running back duo of Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh. Wazzu's defense has six starters back and some intriguing transfers. This team could be better than people think.
Prediction: I want to take the over because I believe in Ward, but this is a little higher than I would like.
Arizona (Over 3 -105...Under 3 -115)
Non-Conference Games: at San Diego State, Mississippi State, North Dakota State
Schedule Notes: The Wildcats could be one of the few FBS losses to an FCS team in week three as they take on the powerhouse Bison. Last year Arizona lost to Northern Arizona 21-19 as a 26-point favorite. The Wildcats draw USC at home and Utah on the road in back-to-back weeks.
QB: Washington State transfer Jayden de Laura
Roster Notes: It was a rough rookie campaign for rookie head coach Jedd Fisch, who went 1-11 with the lone victory coming against Cal, a 10-3 win as an eight-point underdog. The Arizona offense scored 20-plus points just twice so the fact that seven starters return doesn't mean much. Getting de Laura was big although he'll have to adjust to a new system. The top four RBs return and UTEP transfer Jacob Cowing was a big add at wide receiver. The defense has eight starters back, but the unit was pretty brutal giving up 30 or more points to all but three of the Wildcats' FBS opponents.
Prediction: Lean under, but three is a pretty solid number.
Arizona State (Over 6 -105...Under 6 -115)
Non-Conference Games: Northern Arizona, at Oklahoma State, Eastern Michigan
Schedule Notes: Four of the first six games are at home, but the road contests over that stretch take the Sun Devils to Oklahoma State and USC. After an Oct. 15 bye, four of the final six are on the road with UCLA coming to Tempe.
QB: Florida transfer Emory Jones
Roster Notes: It's year five for Herm Edwards, who is 25-18 but under a lot of scrutiny and pressure because of the ongoing NCAA investigation and the player exodus that took place this offseason. Getting Jones so late in the game is interesting as it'll take some time for him to pick up the offense. Jones won't completely be able to fill the departed Jayden Daniels' (transferred to LSU) shoes but he'll try. Xazavian Valladay of Wyoming will assume the lead role in the backfield while the WR situation is unknown after the top four players left. The defense has just four starters back and will be looking for a new identity under coordinator Donnie Henderson.
Prediction: No real lean here.
Colorado (Over 3 -110...Under 3 -110)
Non-Conference Games: TCU, at Air Force, at Minnesota
Schedule Notes: Three very tough opponents open things up for the Buffaloes, who follow that up with UCLA at home to start Pac-12 play. They close the year with Oregon, USC, Washington and Utah so the wins better come early.
QB Battle: Brendon Lewis vs. JT Shrout
Roster Notes: Lewis started all 12 games last year for the Buffs but only threw 10 touchdown passes (vs. 3 INTs). Running back Jarek Broussard departed for Michigan State, but Alex Fontenot returns and he's pretty solid. The WR group got a boost with the addition of Baylor transfer R.J. Sneed II. The defense should improve, but depth could be an issue if there are injuries. The secondary could be a massive issue because it's a very young group.
Prediction: Could be a very rough season. Three seems about right.
UCLA (Over 8.5 -105...Under 8.5 -115)
Non-Conference Games: Bowling Green, Alabama State, South Alabama
Schedule Notes: The Bruins should start 3-0 thanks to a pillowy-soft, home-friendly, non-conference schedule. It's part of an opening stretch of five of the first six games in LA. Utah and USC come to the Rose Bowl as well.
QB: Dorian Thompson-Robinson
Roster Notes: Not going to lie, but it feels like DTR has been in school for a very long time. He fit into Chip Kelly's offense rather well and will do so once again. His top three receivers are gone but Duke transfer Jake Bobo should have an instant impact. The backfield boasts 1,100-yard rusher Zach Charbonnet. Only two starters return on defense, edge rusher Bo Calvert (4 sacks) and safety Stephan Blaylock (53 tackles). New defensive coordinator Bill McGovern takes over after coaching in the NFL (inside linebackers for the Chicago Bears) last season.
Prediction: Slight lean to the under here as I don't trust Chip Kelly.
USC (Over 9.5 -110...Under 9.5 -110)
Non-Conference Games: Rice, Fresno State, Notre Dame
Schedule Notes: The Trojans' biggest games are Oct. 15 at Utah and Nov. 26 vs. Notre Dame. If USC is for real in year one under Lincoln Riley it needs to win these two games, or at minimum keep things close. The home schedule is certainly manageable with the next-toughest road test being the crosstown rivalry game with UCLA.
QB: Oklahoma transfer Caleb Williams
Roster Notes: There will be a Sooner feel to the USC offense with the new head coach and signal-caller. Williams burst on the scene last season but he slowed down a little as teams got more film to study. We'll see how he fares behind an offensive line that is very experienced. The skill positions are basically being restocked by transfers with reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison the big name at wide receiver and a pair of Pac-12 transfers – Travis Dye (Oregon) and Austin Jones (Stanford) – in the backfield. The offense should be explosive and entertaining but a defense that returns just three starters could be an issue. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has 10 transfers to integrate so it may take a few games to find the right mix.
Prediction: I'm not as high on USC, but the schedule should produce plenty of wins.
Utah (Over 9 -125...Under 9 +105)
Non-Conference Games: at Florida, Southern Utah, San Diego State
Schedule Notes: Any College Football Playoff talk gets squashed if the Utes lose their opener in Gainesville. They then have four of their next six at home, including USC, so that should help Utah stay in the mix for another Pac-12 South title. The toughest conference road games are probably against UCLA and Oregon.
QB: Cameron Rising
Roster Notes: The Utes return plenty of starting experience and have the dean of coaches in the Pac-12 in Kyle Whittingham. Rising emerged in a big way last season, finishing with 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions, and his numbers could take a step forward in 2022 with five of his top six receivers back. There's also running back Tavion Thomas, who scored 21 times on the ground. This offense could put up some big numbers. The defense will feel the loss of All-American linebacker Devin Lloyd but don't expect too much drop-off from a unit that will play physical and get after the opposing quarterback.
Prediction: This number depends on how you feel Utah does on the road in its opener against Florida. You are on the over if you think the Utes win and probably a push or under if you think they lose.
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.