The Pac-12 North was the only division in the Power Five last season to produce four teams with at least nine victories.

The Big Ten East and SEC West only had three; the entire Big 12 had two.

That’s not to suggest the Pac-12 North was the best division in the land; the absence of a serious playoff contender greatly undermines its case for supremacy.

But for quality depth, the division held its own in ’18, and it looks ready for a repeat.

5 predictions and 5 questions at the end of UW Huskies spring practice

The Washington schools, Stanford and Oregon all emerged from spring practice with the foundations in place for first-rate seasons, and Cal isn’t far behind.

Here’s the Hotline breakdown of the division.

(Our assessment of the South was published last week.)

Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to The Seattle Times through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group. Wilner has been covering college athletics for decades and is a voter in the basketball and football AP polls, as well as the Heisman trophy. He shares his expert analysis and opinions on the conference for the Pac-12 Hotline.


Spring game wrap: The Bears scored five offensive touchdowns in their spring scrimmage, compared to the six they scored in the entire month of November … One of those March TDs came on a pass by Devon Modster, the former UCLA quarterback challenging Chase Garbers. We fully expect Garbers to win the gig, but the more pressure Modster generates, the better for an offense that desperately needs more efficient play from the position … The Bears are also in the market for a No. 1 tailback after Patrick Laird’s departure. Christopher Brown, a leading candidate, was injured early in the scrimmage but should be ready for training camp.


What’s next: Until we have proof of a trajectory change, the Bears look destined for a repeat of ’18: Ferocious on defense — the unit could be better than it was last season — but exasperating on offense (for Cal fans and coaches alike) … That combination should be good enough for another bowl berth and an upset within the division. But the Bears won’t seriously compete in the North until they add a consistent big-play element. (They were No. 124 nationally in yards-per-attempt last season).


Spring game wrap: Too bad all the spring games couldn’t be like Oregon’s; the event featured a true scrimmage with legitimate competition, full contact for everyone but the quarterbacks and a huge crowd (35,000) … Justin Herbert looked like you’d expect; backup Tyler Shough was impressive, as well — it’s easy to envision Shough providing high-level play as the starter in 2020 … So much of Oregon’s success depends on the play of the receivers. The unit was erratic overall, but Penn State transfer Juwan Johnson looked the part of a No. 1 option for Herbert … The defense might lack star power, but it has playmakers and experience on every level.

What’s next: The Ducks take over from Washington the role of Pac-12 team in the summer spotlight, thanks to a neutral-site duel with Auburn in Week One that looms large for the conference … The Hotline picked Oregon to win the North at the start of winter workouts, and we’re sticking with that projection through the close of spring … Developing options in the passing game — not only depth but the timing between Juwan Johnson and Herbert — is the priority during 7-on-7 workouts.

Oregon State

Spring game wrap: Another North team with a high level of competitiveness in its scrimmage, likely out of necessity: OSU’s young players need all the game-speed reps they can get … Quarterback Jake Luton wasn’t injured (!) and played well enough throughout the spring to unofficially secure the No. 1 job … Sophomore tailback BJ Baylor, who rushed for 50 yards, is ready to contribute but has Jermar Jefferson and Artavis Pierce ahead of him … Receiver Jesiah Irish, who had five catches in the scrimmage, will help stretch defenses.

What’s next: Pretty much any opener would be easier than last year’s assignment in Columbus, but the Beavers have an ideal situation with Oklahoma State visiting Corvallis: A Power Five opponent that maybe, just maybe, they can beat … Luton has more than enough support up front and talent around him to produce a respectable offense … The issues for OSU are whether the leaky defense can hold opponents under 40 early in the season (we’re skeptical) and whether it has the quality depth to hold foes under 50 late in the year, after injuries pile up (we’re extremely skeptical).


Spring game wrap: The lack of healthy offensive linemen forced Stanford to limit contact in an offense-vs.-defense format … K.J. Costello was solid, not dominant, but at least participated in the scrimmage (unlike last year) … There’s little clarity at running back, where Stanford must replace Bryce Love, or receiver, where JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Trent Irwin left a void. Both positions are stocked with options, all of them unproven … The defense outplayed the offense, with star cornerback Paulson Adebo in midseason form.


What’s next: For all the injuries, the Cardinal should have its key players available for training camp … There are a plethora of questions on offense as Stanford searches for playmakers and attempts to regain its mojo on the offensive line … We slotted the Cardinal in fourth place in our January projections and saw in the spring nothing to prompt a revision. The issues on offense, the lack of elite talent on the front seven and the brutal schedule form a daunting combination … Perhaps no team in the country plays a tougher first four games: The Cardinal opens with Northwestern (home), USC (road), UCF (road) and Oregon (home).


Spring game wrap: The Huskies mixed drills with full-contact, but let’s be honest: All eyes were on Jacob Eason whenever he set foot on the field. And the Georgia transfer who hasn’t played competitively since early in the 2017 season looked like he hadn’t played competitively since early in the 2017 season … Meanwhile, veteran Jake Haener is savvy and steady and pushing Eason for the Week One starting job … Because of the format and all the new faces on defense, it was difficult to get a feel for the front seven, but the secondary was stout. Might as well pencil the versatile Isaiah Gilchrist onto the Pac-12 all-conference team, if not in 2019 then 2020.

What’s next: Matters that don’t involve the quarterback position but will be monitored here: Hunter Bryant’s knee, Trey Adams’ back, the use of the tailback Sean McGrew in the passing game (to complement Salvon Ahmed) and the emergence of edge pressure: UW was 100th in the nation in sacks last season, which might come as a surprise to many … The Huskies have one game to get sharp, feisty Eastern Washington, before they host Cal in Week Two (and attempt to score more than 10 points).

Washington State

Spring game wrap: Entertaining, competitive and eye-opening for anyone who hadn’t seen Anthony Gordon on a daily basis this spring. The senior was the best quarterback on the field, mixing mobility with pinpoint passes (and three touchdowns) … Tailback Max Borghi played for both teams (Crimson and Gray), a fitting role given the load he’ll carry in the fall … The Cougars looked vulnerable on the defensive perimeter, which isn’t surprising given the attrition at cornerback … The pocket-collapsing pressure from the defensive right edge was something we rarely saw with Andre Dillard at left tackle.

What’s next: Finalizing the quarterback rotation. While Gordon is the apparent leader, Eastern Washington transfer Gage Gubrud will compete in training camp (assuming full health) … With Borghi and what might be the best group of receivers of the Mike Leach era, the Cougars won’t lack for Air Raid playmakers … If Gordon/Gubrud is efficient and the defense approaches its level from the previous two season, WSU should contend in the North … Don’t dismiss the road schedule: Salt Lake City, Eugene and Seattle.