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College Football: USA Today Projects Pac-12 Standings

How the Buffaloes season could shake out in 2017

Colorado v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

With two weeks left before the start of the season, it’s projection time in college football. USA Today surveyed all 130 FBS teams, breaking down each conference and projected the Colorado Buffaloes to finish 7-5 (4-5 in the Pac-12). A prediction similar to the win total set by Las Vegas’ oddsmakers back in May and June.

No game-by-game results were provided, so here’s a breakdown analysis according to the projected numbers.

Colorado stays undefeated in three non-conference games against Colorado State (in Denver), Texas State, and Northern Colorado (FCS). Four conference victories starting with Arizona and California, adding road battles with Oregon State and Arizona State.

A total of five losses throughout the season for the Buffs, two at home to Washington and USC, with three on the road at UCLA, Washington State, and the season finale in Salt Lake City against Utah.

USA Today Sports

Quack attack?

What’s interesting is Oregon improves to 8-4 with Willie Taggart’s first-year coaching staff on board in Eugene. A program considered a powerhouse was reduced to a 4-8 record last season, one of the worst marks for Oregon in two decades. The “un-mighty” ducks defense was the worst among conference teams, surrendering 41 points per game last year.

A bounce back year for UCLA?

It’s hard to believe after a 4-8 season, the Bruins could put together a nine-win season in 2017, as USA Today projects. Jim Mora hopes quarterback Josh Rosen’s performance leads UCLA back to prominence and keeps him off the hot seat.

USC’s lone loss will be to Stanford?

The Cardinal caught the Trojans in an early season transition for a 27-10 thumping, due mostly to Christian McCaffrey’s 260 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. To do it again for a second-straight season, Stanford will be on the road facing what could be one the nation’s best teams.

If a Stanford upset over USC isn’t what’s being projected, an alternate scenario has the Trojans’ loss likely on the road at Washington State, or at Colorado.

Eight wins for Utah is questionable?

After losing eleven starters, including offensive leaders Joe Williams and Tim Patrick, the Utes show signs of trending backwards. Oregon transfer Darren Carrington joins the Utah roster, but in order to hit eight plus wins on the season, head coach Kyle Whittingham needs help on defense.

Who’s likely to be Washington second loss?

It’s evident from the projection, UW loses at home against Stanford on Nov. 10, leaving back-to-back games with UCLA or Oregon within upset range. A two-loss season would be a step back for last season’s College Football Playoff semifinalist.

The rest of the conference

Underrated Washington State is expected to have one less win in 2017 at 7-5. Last season’s non-competitors Oregon State, Arizona State and Arizona are projected to each add a win to their respective totals.

Two teams are projected to suffer non-conference losses, Oregon State with one (Minnesota) and California — slated to finish last in the Pac-12 — with two (at North Carolina, Ole’ Miss).

Stanford wins the Pac-12 North to meet South champion USC in the conference championship at Levi’s Stadium on Friday, Dec. 1. USA Today having Stanford over Washington in the North is surprising, but nothing ridiculous.

You can see USA Today’s complete projections here.

Footnotes

The Pac-12’s 102nd football season kicks off with a day-to-night doubleheader on Saturday, Aug 26.

A week before the Rocky Mountain Showdown, Oregon State travels to Fort Collins, opening the new Hughes Stadium against Colorado State (12:30 PM, CBSSN).

For a second-consecutive year ‘Pac-12 after dark goes down under’ in Sydney, Australia. The international affair with Stanford and Rice (8 PM, ESPN) closes out college football’s opening night.