1 . Utah football has surprisingly little buzz going into the 2023 season despite back-to-back conference titles. One of the reasons for optimism is the return of Cam Rising, the dynamic, play-making QB the Utes lacked for many years before his arrival. Rising tore his ACL in Utah’s Rose Bowl loss to Penn State to cap the season. At Pac-12 media day, head coach Kyle Whittingham indicated that there is at least some question as to whether Rising will be ready to open the season under center against Florida. Last year’s season-opening loss in The Swamp put a damper on an otherwise sterling season for the Utes, so they will desperately want their offensive star available for the potential revenge game.
2. One of the most indelible memories of the Mike Leach era at Washington State was a strong start for the Cougars, high hopes from the fanbase, and a crushing defeat in the Apple Cup. I don’t know if Jake Dickert will keep the Cougs in the Pac-12 title mix like Leach did, but the schedule might help them build a bit of a buffer. WSU has the second-easiest schedule among power five teams. The non-conference slate includes a weaker Wisconsin squad at home, Northern Colorado, and Colorado State. In conference, they miss both USC and Utah. Could it be a recipe for another hope-smothering Apple Cup? We can only hope.
3. USC enters the fall as the the media favorite in the Pac-12, due in part to their depth. Significant work in the transfer portal augmented that depth, especially in the trenches. Three transfer linemen (Jarrett Kingston from WSU, Michael Tarquin from Florida, and Emmanuel Pregnon from Wyoming) all have experience and plenty of reason to expect early playing time. USC also returns three linemen who likely see themselves as probable starters, which gives Lincoln Riley some work to do in sorting out the starters along the line.
4. The inconvenient truth for the Husky football team is that our best player and emotional leader has an injury history longer than the Oppenheimer runtime (and much less fun to watch). The silver lining is that Dylan Morris has at least shown flashes of strong QB play in his Husky career and is probably well above-average among backups in the conference. Not so for our rivals to the south. After Bo Nix, the Oregon QB depth chart gets dicey in a hurry. Besides two unplayed freshmen, the Ducks have Ty Thompson, who has struggled enough in his brief playing time that the coaches decided they needed to grab Bo Nix from the transfer portal. Health is key for any contender, but UW and Oregon both need their QBs to stay upright to have a chance to win the conference.
5. Despite injury risk, the Huskies have embraced their talent level and talked openly about their goal to win the conference and make the CFP. If that sounds optimistic to you, imagine how it sounds coming out of Corvallis. After a breakout season in 2022, Jonathan Smith’s team has high hopes to go even further. The Oregonian walks through what it would take for the Beavs to make it to the CFP.
6. Most eyes are understandably trained on football season in the fall, but basketball teams are putting in work at the same time. Arizona State is currently touring Europe, from Paris to Athens to Mykonos, for practices and exhibition games. Bobby Hurley is using the trip to help the nine new players on the roster familiarize themselves with each other and the team’s scarce incumbents. After two losing seasons, Hurley brought the Sun Devils back to the NCAA tournament last year to reduce the temperature on his coaching seat. Nonetheless, he has his work cut out for him this season with unprecedented roster turnover.