In preparation for Tuesday’s Pac-12 Football Media Day in Los Angeles (Both Kyle Gunther and myself will be there live for 1320 KFAN) the conference asked the media for their predictions. Here is what I projected and why:
1. Oregon: The Ducks lost their quarterback (Darron Thomas) and top running back (LaMichael James) but this program is at the point where they can just reload with outstanding athletes. Add in a relatively soft schedule the Ducks should roll to a division title.
2. Stanford: I know the Andrew Luck era is over but they return their workhorse running back in Stephan Taylor and their defensive front seven could be one of the best in country. From a schedule standpoint their is nine winnable games with likely losses to USC and at Oregon and Notre Dame.
3. Washington: Quarterback Keith Price is a playmaker but he loses his two starting receivers and running back Chris Polk. Defensively this team was awful a year ago and it will be interesting to see if new defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox can make that unit respectable switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4. We’ll know if this team can be competitive by the way they play at LSU early in the year.
4. California: Jeff Tedford’s program seems to be finally creeping back up to being solid again but still has a ways to go. Zach Kline is a decent quarterback and does have a weapon in Keanan Allen. While returning their top three cornerbacks on defense they also lost both safeties, their best two linebackers and both starting defensive ends. Add in a road schedule that includes Ohio State, USC, and Utah it won’t be an easy climb to the top of the standings.
5. Washington State: Obviously all the focus is on Mike Leach who will have some young talent to work with. The question is if he has enough to run his “Air Raid” system. The potential is there for them to become bowl eligible with a relatively favorable schedule. You have to wonder how long though it will take Leach to change the school’s losing mindset.
6. Oregon State: A lack of depth and injuries killed this team a year ago. They have some solid pieces to build around in quarterback Sean Mannion and some playmakers at wide receiver. Definitely have to try to get a running game going to have any success and it would help if they can stop the run better than a year ago when they were absolutely atrocious.
1. USC: The Trojans are absolutely loaded and the clear-cut favorite to win the North, the Pac-12 title with a legitimate shot at the National Championship. Matt Barkley is the best quarterback in the country who has a variety of weapons to throw to plus a strong running game with Curtis McNeal returning to the backfield. Defensively they basically return most of their linebackers and entire secondary and should be able to just reload to replace the two starters gone on the line. The schedule is also set up for a run at going unbeaten.
2. Utah: The defense will be good once again led by Star Lotulelei although they’ll be young at linebacker. The key to the Utes success will be whether quarterback Jordan Wynn is a) strong enough to throw the ball downfield and b) can stay healthy. If both those things happen that will allow John White IV to continue to have success running the ball. If not then the defense will have to do what they did last year–that’s win games.
3. Arizona State: The rest of the South is a toss-up. If Todd Graham can successfully instill some discipline they have enough talent to be bowl eligible again. That is a big if though. The running back core is solid, the quarterback and receivers will be young. Defensively they are switching up to a more attacking style.
4. Arizona: Rich Rodriguez inherits a team that has a quarterback in Matt Scott who at least has a chance to be able to run his spread. He also has is entire offensive line that was young and struggled last year returning. The defense is hurting for talent but new defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel is well respected and the master of coaching the 3-3-5 system.
5. UCLA: New coach Jim Mora’s team could fall here or finish as high as third depending if he can find a quarterback and find a playmaker or two. Unfortunately he seems to have neither at this point.
6. Colorado: Last year they were young, talentless and ravaged by injuries. This upcoming year they continue to be young, talentless, and already hit by injuries losing their top receiver Paul Richardson for the season with a torn ACL. When the best thing you can say is they return second team all-conference tackle David Bakhtiari then you know this is a team that will struggle again. But they did end strong a year ago beating their “new rival” Utah.
Pac-12 Title Prediction:
USC over Oregon
Topics: Arizona State Sun Devils, Arizona Wildcats, California Bears, Colorado Buffaloes, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Pac-12, Pac-12 Media Day, Pac-12 Predictions, Stanford Cardinal, UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, Utah Utes, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars