Kirk Herbstreit identifies USC's biggest challengers at top of Pac-12

On3 imageby:Matt Connolly09/16/23


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USC is still considered the favorite to win the Pac-12 by most, but it’s clear just a couple of weeks into the season that the Trojans have plenty of competition in the Pac-12.

The league has eight ranked teams entering Saturday’s college football slate, with USC at No. 5 and Washington at No. 8 leading the way.

Other ranked teams in the Pac-12 include No. 12 Utah, No. 13 Oregon, No. 16 Oregon State, No. 18 Colorado, No. 23 Washington State and No. 24 UCLA.

ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit joined SportsCenter Saturday morning live from Colorado and shared which teams in the Pac-12 are the biggest challengers to USC.

“Besides being out here in Boulder and the buzz that they’ve created, I think there are eight teams right now. The ones that stick out to me that are new to the dance would be a Colorado, Washington State, with their win against Wisconsin. The real one to me is Oregon State,” Herbstreit said. “Oregon State is a team to look out for. They play a physical brand of football – both sides of the ball. DJ Uiagalelei comes over from Clemson, all of those experience reps that he has under his belt.”

It’s no surprise that Herbstreit went with the Beavers as they have looked excellent early on this season.

After going 10-3 in 2022, Oregon State is currently 2-0 heading into Saturday’s matchup with San Diego State.

The competition hasn’t been great thus far, but the Beavers have outscored San Jose State and UC Davis by a combined score of 97-24.

A couple of other teams Herbstreit mentioned to keep an eye on in the Pac-12 are Utah and UCLA.

The Utes are 2-0, despite being without star quarterback Cam Rising early on this season. Meanwhile the Bruins have been very good defensively thus far and freshman quarterback Dante Moore should get better and better as the season goes along.

“Utah is eventually going to get Cam Rising. And UCLA and Chip Kelly – I talked to Chip the other day – or texted with him. He may have his best defense that he’s had since he’s been there,” Herbstreit said. “He’s got a freshman quarterback. Once they get going in conference play, there’s really no off weeks, with the exception of [Arizona State]. Other than that, it’s going to be a grind every week.”

The Pac-12 conference will be gone after this year, but for now, the league is arguably the best in the country with plenty of contenders.