2022 NCAA Football preview - Pac-12 North
Updated: Sep 26
With fall practices just days away and the beginning of the 2022 football season at the end of the month, we’re not far from our Saturdays being occupied with early morning chores and questions like “Who plans a Saturday wedding in the Fall” or "How late is (pizza place) open?"
Anyhow, if you’re like most fans, you may know all about your team, you might even be pretty knowledgeable about your rivals, but any team you aren’t going to see for certain you know less than nothing about them. That’s where I come in. I’ll give you the insight you’ll need to sound like you know what you’re talking about on Saturdays when the halftime conversation drifts into unfamiliar territory.
So, without further ado, let’s start out West with the North division in the Pac-12 (for now) where we got the news in late June that the next two seasons will be the last for Southern Cal and UCLA. Realignment strikes again. Teams are listed in alphabetical order and I'll have a predicted order of finish in the second part of each conference rundown as well as a conference champion prediction. With that, let’s get out to Berkley and see what the Golden Bears have been up to.
California Golden Bears (5-7 in 2021)
Head Coach – Justin Wilcox (26-28 in 5 seasons, 2 bowl games)
Top Recruit* – Jaydn Ott – RB – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Can Cal get back to a bowl game after a two-season hiatus?
If things go right. . . they manage to steal the game Vs. Washington and find a way to take two of their last three against @Oregon State, Stanford, and UCLA to finish 8-4.
If things go wrong . . . Purdue transfer Jack Plummer can’t play up to 2021 starter Chase Garbers’ level and the offense never gets going which leaves an inexperienced front seven (1 returning starter on the 2 deep) to pitch a shutout every week. That’s a recipe for disaster and a 4-8/5-7 season looms.
Likely outcome for the season is. . . a potential 6-1/5-2 start (losses @Notre Dame and/or Washington) peters out in the back portion of the schedule leaving the Golden Bears going bowling, but not much more.
Oregon Ducks (10-4)
Head Coach – Dan Lanning (First season)
Top Recruit – Devon Jackson – LB – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Can Auburn transfer Bo Nix be the QB (5 stars, Top 50 Nationally) for the Ducks that the Tigers thought they were getting? If the stats are to be believed, Oregon might be in for a long season. In 34 career games, Nix has had 12 games where he threw an equal or greater number of interceptions as he did touchdowns, that's over a third of his starts.
If things go right. . . a season-opening loss to HC Lanning’s former team (2021 DC for the Bulldogs) Georgia is corrected by a string of five winnable games and a bye week heading into the late October game Vs. UCLA; win there and they have the potential to finish with 10 wins.
If things go wrong. . . Georgia, UCLA, and Utah hand the Ducks losses, plus they drop one against either BYU or in the Civil War against Oregon State leaving them with a middling 8-4 record.
Likely outcome for the season is. . . nine wins with losses to Georgia and Utah plus one against an underdog (BYU, UCLA, or @Oregon State) and hoping they hold the tie-breaker against USC for the PAC-12 Championship game.
Oregon State Beavers (7-6)
Head Coach – Jonathan Smith (16-28 in 4 seasons, 1 bowl game)
Top Recruit – Damian Martinez – RB – 3 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Will the Beavers be able to make it to consecutive bowl games for the first time since 2012-13?
If things go right. . . Oregon State finds a way to win three of their first five games. That won’t be easy as they have Mountain West frontrunners Boise State and @Fresno State in the first two weeks and then USC and @Utah in Weeks 4 and 5. If they can, they have six winnable games before the season ends with a trip to Eugene for the Civil War. Get on a roll and they could find themselves in the PAC-12 Championship Game.
If things go wrong. . . the Beavers find themselves in a 1-4 hole to start the season and lose a few games that are, at worst, a toss-up. If that happens they could see the season snowball into a 3-9/4-8 mess.
Likely outcome for the season is. . . a 6-6 record with a tough opening schedule softening into a string of winnable (but not easy) games before the annual beating in Eugene where Oregon State has 2 wins in the last 14 games with an average margin of defeat of 22 points.
Stanford Cardinal (3-9)
Head Coach – David Shaw (93-45 in 11 seasons, 8 bowl games)
Top Recruit – David Bailey – EDGE – 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Would a fourth consecutive bowl-less season cost David Shaw his job? We know Shaw can coach and we know he can recruit, he had five 10+ win seasons in his first six seasons at the helm, so, what has caused this downturn of the last three years and how long will the University allow it to continue?
If things go right. . . an experienced offense (10 returning starters) propels the Cardinal to some unexpected wins and they go bowling for the first time in four years.
If things go wrong. . . Things get out of hand early and the season opener against Colgate is the only win on the schedule until late-season games Vs. Washington State and @California come along, and even those can’t be considered gimmes. With that said Stanford had three wins last year and #14 USC and #3 Oregon were two of them so who knows?
Likely outcome for the season is. . . three or four wins and they’re home for the holidays. I have to wonder how NIL and the transfer portal will affect Stanford long-term, as they can’t accept just anyone with their academics at the level they are and I’m not sure that the alumni base cares enough to make it an option for highly ranked players who do qualify.
Washington Huskies (4-8)
Head Coach – Kalen DeBoer (First season)
Top Recruit – Ryan Otton - TE - 4 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Can HC DeBoer get the program back on the tracks that Chris Peterson laid down? It wasn't that long ago the Huskies were in the College Playoff but previous coach Jimmy Lake has seemingly managed to undo that work in a little less than two years.
If things go right. . . the Huskies will be either undefeated or have only a single loss going into the mid-November showdown @Oregon which could decide the North Division and push the winner ahead in the race to be in the Pac-12 championship game.
If things go wrong. . . the Spartans thump Washington during their visit to East Lansing and UCLA does the same two weeks later when they visit Seattle. An unexpected loss or two and things snowball out of control. If that happens, UW is still looking at a six-win season and a bowl game.
Likely outcome for the season is. . . an eight-win season, doubling their win total from 2021 and righting a ship that feels close to capsizing.
Washington State Cougars (7-6)
Head Coach – Jake Dickert (3-3 in 1 season)
Top Recruit – Andre Dollar – TE – 3 stars
Biggest question for 2022 – Can Cameron Ward (QB-SO), a transfer from FCS Incarnate Word do enough to replace 2021 starter Jayden De Laura (transfer - Arizona)?
If things go right. . . Wazzu will be no worse than 4-4 going into the final four games of the season with a chance to go 8-4 (@Stanford, Vs. Arizona State, @Arizona, Vs. Washington).
If things go wrong. . . the Cougars will be 2-6 or 1-7 going into the last four and bowling will be something you do indoors with a lane, funny shoes, and nachos.
Likely outcome for the season is. . . 6 wins and while they would regress from 2021 record-wise, going bowling is a plus for any mid-level program.
There you are, a rundown of the PAC-12 North division and with all of the 9 and 10 PM kickoffs, I doubt you’ll be tuning in much, especially if you live in the Eastern time zone.
Oregon State looks like they might be pulling out of the funk they were in just a few years ago and Washington looks like they’re letting all the program building that Chris Peterson put in go to waste. I suppose we’ll see how things shake out.
*denotes the highest recruit from the 2022 recruiting cycle that has enrolled with the university in question as of August 1 2022 per 247 Sports.com