Pac-12 football is back!

OK, not completely. But TALKING ABOUT Pac-12 football — with actual members of the conference — will commence this week. And in a quirk of the schedule resulting from the elimination of two-a-days, some teams will start training camp before they travel to Hollywood for the league’s annual gab fest.

Pac-12 Media Days are set for Wednesday and Thursday. Per usual, the first bit of “news” to drop will be the results of the annual media poll.

Below you can find one reporter’s ballot, along with each team’s scheduled representatives, a projected conference record and a preseason forecast. The basic methodology for deriving those records: going through the schedule and predicting the outcome of each game. Tiebreakers are based on head-to-head results.

Media also had to pick the Pac-12 champ. The call here: Washington over USC. That likely won’t be the majority opinion.

North Division


Representatives: Coach Chris Petersen, QB Jake Browning, LB Keishawn Bierria.

Projected Pac-12 record: 8-1.

Outlook: The Huskies are loaded. They bring back the majority of their starters from a 12-2 team that reached the College Football Playoff, including the entirety of the Browning-led backfield. Washington doesn’t face USC — the only team to defeat UW before Alabama did in the playoff — during the regular season. Look for the motivated Huskies to avenge that loss in the Pac-12 title game.


Representatives: Coach David Shaw, RB Bryce Love, DT Harrison Phillips.

Projected Pac-12 record: 6-3.

Outlook: The difference between a good season and a great one for the Cardinal likely will come down to quarterback play. Will Keller Chryst (knee) be back and healthy? If not, then what? Stanford doesn’t have Christian McCaffrey anymore. But Love is a potentially dynamic replacement. The offensive line is a veteran group. And some believe the secondary could be among the nation’s best.


Representatives: Coach Willie Taggart, QB Justin Herbert, LB Troy Dye.

Projected Pac-12 record: 6-3.

Outlook: Taggart isn’t the most popular man in Tucson after he and his staff poached a handful of UA recruits. And the start of his Oregon career hasn’t exactly been controversy-free. But the Jim Harbaugh disciple can coach. He turned around Western Kentucky and South Florida, neither of which had resources on par with Nike U. Expect a quick bounce-back.


Representatives: Coach Mike Leach, RB Jamal Morrow, LB Peyton Pelluer.

Projected Pac-12 record: 5-4.

Outlook: The Cougars are one of the six best teams in the conference; they just happen to land at No. 4 in the stacked North. It starts with prolific senior quarterback Luke Falk, who isn’t attending Media Days for reasons unknown (We know you like to spread the wealth, Luke, but c’mon!). Ending last season with three straight losses is a tad worrisome, but not enough to preclude a third-straight bowl berth.


Representatives: Coach Gary Andersen, RB Ryan Nall, LB Manase Hungalu.

Projected Pac-12 record: 3-6.

Outlook: Andersen has the Beavers heading in the right direction, and OSU could be the Colorado of 2017. The problem is the Beavers’ conference schedule, which includes five road games and home contests against Washington and Stanford. Quarterback is a question mark, too. The best hope might be 6-foot-7 JC transfer Jake Luton, who passed for 3,551 yards and 40 TDs at Ventura College last year.

6. CAL

Representatives: Coach Justin Wilcox, RB Tre Watson, DT James Looney.

Projected Pac-12 record: 2-7.

Outlook: The 2017 Golden Bears might resemble the ’15 Beavers. That was Andersen’s first team, and it didn’t win a single Pac-12 game. Going from Sonny Dykes to Wilcox signals a significant shift in philosophy for Cal, which has just one bowl appearance in the past five seasons. The schedule is hellish. The first half includes visits to North Carolina, Oregon and Washington and home games vs. Ole Miss and USC.

South Division

1. USC

Representatives: Coach Clay Helton, QB Sam Darnold, LB Cam Smith.

Projected Pac-12 record: 7-2.

Outlook: The Trojans haven’t handled great expectations well in recent seasons, but that could change with Helton and Darnold leading the way. Darnold might be the best player in the country. There are concerns along both lines, and the receiving corps is talented but inexperienced. USC also has the dreaded no-bye schedule, with which Arizona is intimately familiar. None of it will matter as long as Darnold stays healthy.


Representatives: Coach Jim Mora, OT Scott Quessenberry, LB Kenny Young.

Projected Pac-12 record: 4-5.

Outlook: The Bruins’ second-half collapse last year can’t be pinned entirely on Josh Rosen’s season-ending shoulder injury. UCLA couldn’t run the ball efficiently at any point, and that remains a concern. The hope is that Rosen’s return and the arrival of new OC Jeff Fisch will spark a turnaround. (We’d ask Rosen about this, but he won’t be at Media Days. Sigh.) If not, Mora’s seat only will get hotter.


Representatives: Coach Kyle Whittingham, OG Salesi Uhatafe, DT Filipo Mokofisi.

Projected Pac-12 record: 4-5.

Outlook: The Utes are always tough and competitive under Whittingham, but this year could be especially challenging. Utah has to replace almost its entire offensive line and again is transitioning to a new offensive coordinator in Troy Taylor, who helped Eastern Washington lead the FCS in passing last season. Can Taylor turn Troy Williams into an upper-tier QB? Or will the pass game continue to hold Utah back?


Representatives: Coach Mike MacIntyre, RB Phillip Lindsay, LB Derek McCartney.

Projected Pac-12 record: 3-6.

Outlook: The Buffaloes finally broke through last year before faltering late with back-to-back blowout losses to end the season. A somewhat tumultuous offseason followed. Sustaining success is harder than attaining it, as the Arizona schools can attest. The offense should be excellent with almost everyone back and Steven Montez possibly upgrading the QB position. The defense must be rebuilt without ace coordinator Jim Leavitt, who’s now at Oregon.


Representatives: Coach Todd Graham, RB Kalen Ballage, DL JoJo Wicker.

Projected Pac-12 record: 3-6.

Outlook: New coordinators. Maybe a new quarterback. Same old ASU? Graham obviously is hopeful the changes he has made will alter the trajectory of the program. Like their in-state rivals, the Sun Devils have been trending in the wrong direction. They have enough playmakers at key spots to get back into bowl contention. But if you saw the Territorial Cup, it’s hard to get that collapse out of your head.


Representatives: Coach Rich Rodriguez, OL Jacob Alsadek, DL Luca Bruno.

Projected Pac-12 record: 3-6.

Outlook: So many questions, so few clear answers. This much we know: The Wildcats have the makings of a dynamic rushing attack. The defense should be better, because that’s the only direction it can go. Will that be enough for Arizona to get to 6-6, which, in theory, would save Rodriguez’s job? It could come down to Week 2 vs. Houston. The Wildcats need to start 3-0 to get back on the bowl track.