It’s a strange time to be a Pac-12 team, considering the imminent departures of USC and UCLA. However, there’s still one normal season left in the books. Oregon had its two-year streak of winning the conference championship broken last season, so the Ducks will look to right the ship among the following slate of opponents.
The Cougars went 6-3 in conference play last year, finishing a game behind the Ducks. They’ve been a sneakily successful program, going to a bowl game in six of the last seven seasons. They should be a threat once again, as they bring in offensive coordinator Eric Morris and quarterback Cameron Ward from the University of the Incarnate Word.
Defensively, they’re losing veterans Jahad Woods and Justus Rogers, but they’re bringing in Nevada’s Daiyan Henley. They also have a First Team All-Pac-12 defensive end with Ron Stone Jr. With their solid defense and potentially improved offense, the Cougars could certainly be an upset candidate to look out for.
The rival Beavers went 6-0 at home last year and 1-5 on the road — good for a third-place overall finish. It was their first winning season in seven years. They’re a solid offensive team, led by quarterback Chance Nolan.
The Ducks’ faceoff against Oregon State will take place in Corvallis this time around. While the Beavers aren’t exactly a force, they’re on the upswing and could be a dark horse candidate.
The Golden Bears went 5-7 last year, losing five games by seven points or fewer. Despite a strong coaching staff, they’ve underwhelmed as a program in the Pac-12. They’re also losing their longtime quarterback Chase Garbers this year, so their success will largely hinge on how well Purdue transfer Jack Plummer adjusts to the conference.
The Huskies are another longtime foe of the Ducks, though they’re not much of a threat having gone 3-6 in Pac-12 play last year. They went 3-1 in the strange 2020 season where they were disqualified due to COVID-19 protocols. The current squad looks stronger defensively than offensively, but it’s unlikely they’ll be a serious contender.
The Cardinal had a bizarre 2021 season, beating the first-place Ducks but losing their last seven games of the year. They struggled in the running game on both sides of the ball. Stanford has a lot to improve on to get back into the mix with the strong Pac-12 teams.
The Utes serve as the biggest threat to the Ducks right now, as they took them down in both the regular season and the Pac-12 championship game last year. Neither game was particularly close. The Ducks also met the Utes in the 2019 conference championship, where Oregon was victorious.
Utah was simply a force last season on both offense and defense, led by quarterback Cameron Rising and the Pac-12’s best pass rush. All signs point to another Oregon-Utah rematch in Las Vegas this year.
The Bruins may be leaving the Pac-12 after this season, but for now they’re still one of the better teams in the conference. Led by former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, they had a solid offensive line last year with imperfect defense that gave them an 8-4 overall record. They’re losing lineman Sean Rhyan and leading tackler Qwuantrezz Knight, so they’ll need people to step up to have a chance at contending with Utah.
The Sun Devils aren’t a powerhouse, but they’ve often been a thorn in the Ducks’ side. This year, Oregon will miss them on the schedule. They could be another under-the-radar pest, as they’re coming off a season where they had arguably the best defense in the conference. They should be solid offensively as well, as they bring in transfers Paul Tyson and Emory Jones.
The other team leaving the Pac-12 went a mediocre 4-8 last year. The Trojans have a strong quarterback in Caleb Williams, but their defense is one of the worst in the conference. The offense will notably be bringing in former Oregon running back Travis Dye, one of the Ducks’ most dynamic players and a fan favorite. Dye will look to bring revenge on his old team and help the Trojans have a bounceback campaign in their final year of Pac-12 play.
The Buffaloes averaged the second-fewest amount of yards per game in all of college football last season. The defense is better, with players like Terrance Lang and Isaiah Lewis, but still nothing particularly special. Colorado had the same record as USC last year and doesn’t look primed to get much better.
The Wildcats went a brutal 1-11 last season under new head coach Jedd Fisch. However, their new batch of transfers and recruits should help them to a more respectable 2022 campaign. Their defense was decent last year, and their offense was largely marred by injuries. Jayden de Laura, a transfer from Washington State, should be a huge help. The Wildcats likely aren’t a contender, but they should have the means to at least double or triple last year’s win total.