- UCLA Bruins– 12 starters are returning and quarterback Josh Rosen is one of them. Although the offensive line will be without three starters from a year ago, UCLA will be fine in adjusting. Josh Rosen is aiming to build off his debut season in which he was named Pac-12 freshman of the year. The defense was hampered by injuries but they were still capable of shutting down the run. Eddie Vanderdoes will return after a lost season due to a torn ACL and his return will give the Bruins a huge boost in the defensive interior. The talent is there for them to be considered the favorites to win the South once again.
- USC Trojans– This will be the most intriguing team to watch in 2016. Clay Helton has had the interim tag removed and is now the new head coach and USC has one of the toughest schedules in the nation this year. They open things up against Alabama, face Stanford, Washington and UCLA all on the road then have some home tilts with Notre Dame, Oregon and Arizona State. Max Browne is now the starting quarterback in place of Cody Kessler and the rest of the offense is experienced and deep. Justin Davis and Ronald Jones will be counted on as a top running back tandem in the nation. The defense will look difference under Clancy Pendergast. The defensive line will be very inexperienced as no starters from last season are returning. The back will be strong but you need a nice set up in the front to have a successful defense.
- Utah Utes– It was another solid year in Salt Lake City for Utah under Kyle Wittingham. The offensive line will be a big time strength for them in 2016 but the rest of the offense has many question marks at different positions. They certainly hope Troy Williams is the answer at quarterback and Joe Williams is looking to build off a strong 2015 campaign. What hurt Utah’s offense was their receivers’ ability to get open down the field. The defense has the potential to be one of, if not, the best defense in the Pac-12 and they also thrive off the turnovers as they recorded 22 interceptions last season. The wins won’t be easy to come by this year as a good chunk of the team from 15 is gone but they will still be in the hunt for the division.
- Arizona State Sun Devils– After a disappointing season in 2015, the Sun Devils are looking to improve to get back atop the Pac-12 South. Todd Graham has always been an offensive guy and they’ve always carried the team on their shoulders but now, the defense made need to carry the team as the offense has many questions to be answered such as who will be the starting quarterback as losing Mike Bercovici will hurt a lot. If anything, the running backs will be asked to step it up control things offensively. The defense is also looking to improve as they gave up close to 34 points a game last season. The aggressive ways of Todd Graham won’t change one bit. They will look to get back to winning double-digit games once again after struggling to do so in 2015.
- Arizona Wildcats– Rich Rodriguez is entering year number five as head coach in Arizona and has compiled a record of 33-20 in his tenure there. Seven starters return on offense and two of them are looking to get back to their form from 2014: Quarterback Anu Solomon and running back Nick Wilson must play well if the Wildcats want to win football games. The receiving core is the most experienced unit of the entire offense with Trey Griffey, Samaje Grant and Nate Phillips has combined for 299 career receptions as a trio. During the off-season, Rich Rodriguez fired his entire defensive coaching staff and hired former Boise State Marcel Yates to remake this unit. This could be a tough year for the Wildcats.
- Colorado Buffaloes– They has struggled so much since coming over to the Pac-12 and they are still in a “rebuilding mode” frame of mind. Their offense took a big step back due to the inconsistent play of their offensive line but getting tackle Jeromy Irwin back will bolster their play up front. The quarterback job is up in the air but Steven Montez could be the guy opening things up for them when the season starts. The defense will be the strength of the team once again with many guys returning from last year’s unit.
2016 Predictions: I like UCLA to win this division in 2016. There may have been some departures of key guys on both sides of the football, but there is enough talent around for UCLA to compete and be in the thick of the Pac-12 South race.