The pandemic-shortened Pac-12 schedule worked out well for the Huskies, as long as the top priority is maximizing the number of wins in the conference. Washington drew Arizona at home. For all the historical trouble with teams from the desert, the Wildcats look like one of the conference’s weaker teams this season and they’re likely to pose less of a challenge than most of the other options from the South.
Today, let’s consider who we would most like to face if given the option of playing another Pac-12 South team. Would it be better to increase the odds of a bankable victory, or improve our overall resume against a more challenging foe? Do pride or rivalries enter into the calculation? Let’s take a look at the candidates.
The Trojans enter the season as the odds-on favorite to win their division. Although USC has gone about 8-4 like clockwork under Clay Helton, it looks like the stars could align for USC this year. They have a quarterback in Kedon Slovis who is at least competent and has the potential to play like a star. Their skill-position players on offense are probably the best in the conference, including Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown at wide receiver. Husky fans will remember the on-and-off recruitment of Bru McCoy, who will figure into the mix to replace Michael Pittman.
The team lost some talent in the trenches with both offensive tackles departing and standout DT Jay Tufele opting out, but there is plenty of skill to go around. The linebacker and defensive back positions are absolutely loaded with experienced, high-end players, headlined by safety Talanoa Hufanga. USC’s defense struggled last year. The question is whether it was due to youth and inexperience or something more permanent.
As persuasive as the roster is on paper, I remain skeptical of Helton’s stewardship. He has done less with more during his tenure. Nonetheless, the history, the uniforms, and the name brand make USC an enticing opponent. A win over a ranked USC team would mean a lot of the Dawgs and provide a signature victory in Jimmy Lake’s first season.
Herm Edwards was supposed to be a laughing-stock as the head coach at ASU. Then he went 8-5 in the Pac-12 South with the leadership of a freshman QB. Edwards brought in Offensive Coordinator Zak Hill to get the most out of Jayden Daniels’s diverse skill-set. While Brandon Aiyuk and Eno Benjamin are gone, they reinforced their offensive line with graduate transfers from Texas A&M and Stanford. The defense will shift from a 3-3-5 to a traditional 4-3 and they have plenty of talent and experience all over the field.
While there are question marks around the offense, the combination of Daniels and a stacked defense could be enough to contend in the division if USC stumbles. ASU has given UW fits for years, and as much as a trip to Tempe feels like a haunted house, it might be a challenge worth embracing. If you aren’t a believer in Helton or USC, then ASU might be the pick of the littler in the South and a win could be meaningful for UW in the short and long-term.
UW and Utah have developed something of a respectful rivalry over the last five years. The physical defenses, the collision in the conference title game, and the friendly competition between Chris Petersen and Kyle Whittingham gave extra meaning to the match-up. That era might be over. Not only is Petersen gone, but Utah lost a generationally successful QB, RB, and nine starters from one of the best defenses in the country. The team’s collapse in the conference title game against Oregon and the Alamo Bowl against Texas left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, but the Utes were the class of the Pac-12 for most of the season.
Now they look to reload. South Carolina transfer Jake Bentley appears to be the favorite to start at QB. They will plug holes and develop new stars all over the defense, as they have done for as long as they’ve been in the conference. Will it be enough to compete for the division again? My bet would be no, but the games between Utah and UW have been so consistently competitive and entertaining, that they deserve to be on this list.
Which Pac-12 South team would you most like UW to play in 2020?
This poll is closed