- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
With the spring session of college football in the Pac-12 coming to a close, we certainly have no shortage of storylines across the conference.
The biggest storylines include new hires at two of the premier programs in the Pac 12 with Dan Lanning leaving Georgia to take over the Ducks team. USC went big game hunting when they brought Lincoln Riley over from Oklahoma.
Both Washington schools made changes at head coach. Jake Dickert was promoted from interim head coach to officially becoming head coach and removing the interim tag.
The Utah Utes got over the hump and finally won a conference championship for the first time since they left the Mountain West Conference. Can Kyle Whittingham pull it off again in 2022? Or will the Ducks or Trojans reclaim the Pac-12 throne?
We preview the upcoming season with every team’s biggest question ahead of the 2022 campaign.
Pac-12 North: California Golden Bears
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Can Jack Plummer be the guy at Berkeley?
Former Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer traveled west to California to earn a shot as a starting quarterback. The Golden Bears lost last year’s starter, Chase Garbers, after five years on campus. Plummer couldn’t overcome Aidan O’Connell in West Lafayette and now will take aim at being the guy for Cal. The big question is can Plummer help the team climb out of the doldrums of the Pac-12 North. – Patrick Conn, Regional Editor
Pac-12 North: Oregon Ducks
Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK
Does Dan Lanning have the coaching chops in Year 1?
There are a number of things you could have listed for Oregon’s biggest question in 2022. Who will the starting QB be, and how successful will they make the team? Will Oregon’s defense stay healthy enough to be dominant under the new coaching staff? Will Kenny Dillingham’s new offense provide the spark that’s been missing since Chip Kelly’s departure? However, none of those things will matter if Dan Lanning, a first-year head coach, is in over his head on the sidelines. There’s a lot more to coaching than drawing up a game plan. Lanning will now be in a position to call timeouts in late-game situations and make the game-changing decisions that can turn a loss into a win, or vice versa. We can feel great about his recruiting abilities and the schematics he brings to the table, but we need to see his prowess as a head coach on the sideline before the Ducks’ ceiling can be elevated. – Zac Neel, Ducks Wire Editor
Pac-12 North: Oregon State Beavers
Tom Hauck/Getty Images
Can Beavers make the jump into Pac-12 title contention?
Anyone who has been tuned into the Pac-12 over the past couple of years knows that the Oregon State Beavers are on an upward trajectory. A disappointing 2020 COVID season was bookended by encouraging seasons, and a 7-6 finish in 2021 has the OSU fanbase feeling good. The Beavers are starting to recruit at a higher level while competing at a mid-tier rate in the Pac-12. For them to be taken seriously, though, they will need to take another step forward and start beating teams like UCLA, Utah, USC, or even Oregon. In 2022 and beyond, we will see if Smith has his team in a place where they can potentially contend for a Pac-12 North division title, or if they are destined for low-level bowl games for the foreseeable future. – Neel
Pac-12 North: Stanford Cardinal
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Can David Shaw get over the hump in 2022?
Since Shaw took over the program in 2011 after Jim Harbaugh bolted to the NFL, Stanford had been among the best Pac-12 teams in that span. That was until the first losing seasons under Shaw in 2019 and 2021. The team won four of their six games in the 2020 COVID season. As the Cardinal prepare for the 2022 campaign, David Shaw will be under pressure to produce a winning season. – Conn
Pac-12 North: Washington Huskies
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Who emerges as the starting quarterback in 2022?
The Jimmy Lake era came to an abrupt end in 2021 and now Kalen DeBoer takes over the program after two seasons with Fresno State. With a new coach comes new opportunities. A familiar face will be in the backfield for DeBoer as Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr joins the talented group, DeBoer was the offensive coordinator for the Hoosiers in 2019. Dylan Morris returns after leading the team in 2021 and they also have five-star signee, Sam Huard. Which quarterback will earn the head coaches’ favor? – Conn
Pac-12 North: Washington State Cougars
Marvin Pfeiffer/The San Antonio Express-News via AP
Can Cameron Ward make the transition?
Former Incarnate Word quarterback Cameron Ward was among the top transfer portal quarterbacks and he followed his former head coach to Washington State. Eric Morris returned after spending 2012 with the Cougars under Mike Leach as the inside receivers coach. Familiarity with Morris should help the transition but can Ward lead the Cougars to a consecutive victory in the Apple Cup for the first time since 2008? – Conn
Pac-12 South: Arizona Wildcats
Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK
Can Arizona avoid another poor season?
The first year under Jedd Fisch went about as bad as they could go. Their lone win came against California in early November, 10-3. The Wildcats lost four games by one possession. With one of their best-recruiting classes in school history, can Fisch find a way to win a few more games to start building a foundation for Arizona football? – Conn
Pac-12 South: Arizona State Sun Devils
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Can Paul Tyson fill the void left by Jayden Daniels?
The Arizona State football program is as close to a soap opera as you’ll find in the Pac-12. There was a mass exodus of players and coaches alike, now former Alabama quarterback Paul Tyson heads to Tempe. With Daniels heading to Baton Rouge, Tyson gets an opportunity to be the guy after backing up Bryce Young in Tuscaloosa. Can Tyson quiet the news surrounding the program and lead the Sun Devils to another eight-win season or better in 2022? – Conn
Pac-12 South: Colorado Buffaloes
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Can the Buffs replace a depleted secondary?
In the span of just a few months, the Buffs’ secondary was torn to shreds due to players entering the transfer portal. They lost starting cornerbacks Mekhi Blackmon (USC) and Christian Gonzalez (Oregon), as well as starting safety Mark Perry (TCU) — all three going to opponents Colorado will face. In replacement, the Buffs will rely most heavily on sophomore cornerback Nikko Reed, who had a nice end to last season, senior safety Isaiah Lewis, and sophomores Trevor Woods and Kaylin Moore. The Buffs also have a pair of talented incoming freshmen in CB Joshua Wiggins and S Dylan Dixson. But besides Lewis, experience is lacking in the secondary. – Jack Carlough, Colorado Buffaloes Wire Editor
Pac-12 South: UCLA Bruins
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
How does defensive coordinator Bill McGovern perform?
Chip Kelly replaced the highly ineffective Jerry Azzinaro with an obscure choice, Bill McGovern. Obscure doesn’t necessarily mean “bad,” but McGovern was definitely not a splashy hire, an indication of how little interest there was in UCLA’s defensive coordinator position from highly credentialed candidates. This suggests that candidates wanted no part of coaching defense against Lincoln Riley’s USC offense. UCLA has to thrive this year. If it doesn’t, Riley’s USC program should roar into gear in 2023. This is the one year to take advantage of the Trojans’ weaknesses under Clay Helton. If UCLA can’t do something special, Kelly’s time in Westwood will come to an end. – Zemek
Pac-12 South: USC Trojans
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
How does the defensive line look in 2022?
The Trojans are very thin at this position, and the obvious problem connected to a weak defensive line is that if opponents can run the ball well, Caleb Williams will stay on the sidelines. USC needs to win shootouts this year, but if the opponent is controlling the ball for 35 to 38 minutes per game, USC simply won’t get enough possessions to score big on a regular basis. The Trojans have to work the transfer portal and get a lot more bodies in the door. Right now, this is clearly the team’s most pressing need, also its greatest uncertainty. – Matt Zemek, Trojans Wire Editor
Pac-12 South: Utah Utes
Chris Gardner/Getty Images
Who steps up and replaces Devin Lloyd?
The Utes’ defense last season was led by Devin Lloyd, and his presence helped lead Utah to the Pac-12 Championship after besting the Ducks twice in three weeks. With Lloyd heading to the NFL, Kyle Whittingham and Morgan Scalley have quite the task at hand in filling the void left by Lloyd. The defense added former Florida linebacker Mohamoud Diabate. He finished the 2021 season with 89 tackles, which led the Gators’ defense. – Conn