Pac-12 preview: the biggest questions facing various teams heading into 2022

·8 min read

The start of the college football season is nine days away. Nine days. Yep, we have just about survived the offseason and are ready to move past realignment talk. Actual games begin on Aug. 27, though not in the Pac-12. Yet, it’s definitely preview time. It’s time to raise various questions about numerous teams in the conference and their key offseason changes.

Some of the questions are extremely simple and obvious. Some of the questions are layered and complicated. It’s good to ask questions no one else is asking, but that doesn’t mean the obvious question right in front of your nose shouldn’t be presented as well.

Jon Wilner and John Canzano are diving into the mysteries of the Pac-12 Conference and its various teams heading into the 2022 season. You know they are very inquisitive, so follow the trails they carve out in some of their preseason football musings.

CAN DAN LANNING COACH?

 

Oregon coach Dan Lanning directs football practice April 5, 2022.

From John Canzano:

I told Chip Towers, the long-time Georgia football beat writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, exactly that a few days ago. Towers is visiting Oregon, doing a series on Lanning’s arrival as a preamble to the Bulldogs-Ducks Sept. 3. season opener in Atlanta. Towers is asking a lot of good questions. But the biggest mystery is one that Lanning himself will have to answer over the next few months: Can the guy coach?

WHAT'S THE NEXT STEP FOR OREGON STATE UNDER JONATHAN SMITH?

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Oregon State Beavers coach Jonathan Smith speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

From Canzano:

The more you’re around Smith (and his players) the more you understand that the Beavers’ coach has a competitive fire, always percolating just beneath the surface. I asked him a couple of weeks ago what the next step was for his program.

“We want to win the championship,” Smith told me. “We want to go to Vegas and be in the Pac-12 championship game.”

He’s never said that out loud before, at least not to me.

WILL USC'S LINE PLAY MATCH THE SKILL-POSITION FIREPOWER?

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lincoln Riley speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Canzano:

The Trojans are dangerous at the skill positions, but will they be able to win in the trenches?

IS THIS THE YEAR CHIP KELLY RAISES THE BAR AT UCLA?

Nov 20, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly in the first half against the Southern California Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Canzano:

Is Chip Kelly about to break through?

IS UTAH READY FOR THE PRESSURE?

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Utah Utes coach Kyle Whittingham speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Canzano:

How will the Utes handle being the unanimous (Pac-12) favorite?

IS KARL DORRELL ALREADY ON THE HOT SEAT IN BOULDER?

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Colorado Buffaloes coach Karl Dorrell during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Canzano:

How patient will the university be with coach Karl Dorrell?

CAN JAYDEN DE LAURA MAKE A MASSIVE DIFFERENCE AT ARIZONA?

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats coach Jedd Fisch speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Canzano:

Is transfer QB Jayden de Laura good enough to keep games close?

WHAT DOES LIFE LOOK LIKE IN BERKELEY AFTER CHASE GARBERS?

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; California Golden Bears coach Justin Wilcox speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Canzano:

We know coach Justin Wilcox will be great on defense, but will the Bears find consistent offensive juice?

WILL ARIZONA STATE'S COACHES HAVE A CLUE?

Arizona State University head football coach Herm Edwards speaks with newly hired offensive coordinator Zak Hill during practice at the Verde Dickey Dome on campus in Tempe, Tuesday, December 17, 2019.

Canzano:

Can we trust the Sun Devils on game day?

IS STANFORD READY TO SPRING AN AMBUSH?

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal coach David Shaw speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Canzano:

Really good QB + talent and depth at WR and TE positions … is that why David Shaw is smiling like he knows something we don’t?

CAN KALEN DEBOER RESURRECT MICHAEL PENIX'S CAREER ?

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Canzano:

Will QB Michael Penix Jr. stay healthy?

Added note: Kalen DeBoer worked with Penix at Indiana two years ago before DeBoer went to Fresno State. This is a reunion of coach and quarterback, much like Graham Harrell and J.T. Daniels reuniting at West Virginia. New school, old reunion.

HOW GREAT CAN WASHINGTON STATE'S OFFENSE BECOME?

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington State Cougars coach Jake Dickert speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Canzano:

What is the ceiling for transfer QB Cameron Ward and new offensive coordinator Eric Morris’ “Coug Raid” offense?

CAN DAN LANNING GET THE MOST OUT OF BO NIX AT OREGON?

New Oregon coach Dan Lanning, right, oversees the first practice for the 2022 season for the Duck football team.

From Jon Wilner:

USC is set with Caleb Williams, the Oklahoma transfer. So is Arizona with Jayden de Laura, who’s coming off an impressive rookie year for Washington State. The Cougars, in turn, have a replacement lined up in Cameron Ward, the talented transfer from Incarnate Word who will be playing in a familiar system.

The next level of quarterback security finds Oregon with Bo Nix, the former Auburn starter; Cal with Jack Plummer, who threw 492 career passes for Purdue; Arizona State, which found Florida’s Emory Jones late in the transfer cycle; and Washington, where Michael Penix Jr., the Indiana transfer, is our frontrunner for the job.

USC has no worries at quarterback. Oregon does, or at least, it should. Can the Ducks get a level of QB play which narrows the gap with the Trojans?

WILL CAL BENEFIT FROM CONTINUITY?

 

Dec 30, 2019; Santa Clara, California, USA; California Golden Bears head coach Justin Wilcox during the second quarter against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Wilner:

All in all, just four teams (Stanford, Cal, Utah and Colorado) are starting 2022 with the same defensive coordinators they employed at the beginning of 2021.

What is asked of Cal can also apply to Stanford and Colorado, two struggling teams in need of improvement this year. Utah is obviously in a separate category. No one questions the Utes’ capabilities heading into 2022.

WILL ARIZONA STATE GET A DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR WHO CAN DO MORE WITH LESS?

Oct 30, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils head coach Herm Edwards during a time out against the Washington State Cougars in the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-Arizona Republic

Wilner:

Far less easy to assess than the quarterback competitions, but only slightly less significant, is the massive turnover at defensive coordinator.

Arizona hired Johnny Nansen, who spent the previous two years on UCLA’s staff.

The Bruins replaced Jerry Azzinaro, the source of deep fan frustration, with Bill McGovern.

Arizona State elevated Donnie Henderson to the post after Antonio Pierce escaped to the NFL.

Arizona State lost Eric Gentry and Jermayne Lole from its defense. The Sun Devils will need an elite level of coaching just to be reasonably competitive in the conference this year.

WILL WASHINGTON GET A HEALTHY, MAXIMUM-IMPACT VERSION OF ZION TUPUOLA-FETUI?

Jul 29, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Huskies coach Kalen DeBoer speaks during Pac-12 Media Day at Novo Theater. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Wilner:

Is Washington’s Zion Tupuola-Fetui fully recovered from the Achilles injury suffered in the spring of 2021? If so, he has All-American potential.

IS LINCOLN RILEY READY TO MAKE CALEB WILLIAMS A HEISMAN TROPHY FINALIST?

Apr 23, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lincoln Riley during the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Canzano:

I have a Heisman Trophy vote. So this college football season, I’m going to post occasional thoughts on that front. I’d be curious to know who you think will win the Heisman Trophy this season. Who should be considered from the Pac-12?

WILL USC CULTIVATE AN ELITE EDGE RUSHER?

Sep 18, 2021; Pullman, Washington, USA; USC Trojans defensive lineman Korey Foreman (0) against the Washington State Cougars in the second half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. The Trojans won 45-14. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Wilner:

Will any of USC’s edge options, which include ASU transfer Eric Gentry and former No. 1 recruit Korey Forman, materialize?

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire