Aug 14

PAC-12 Preview

Posted By:Tim Thompson - Eugene, OR  Tags: Pac-12, CFB, college football

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Well, it’s that time of the year again! Every team has a fresh start and fresh 
hopes of having a stellar season! This year the Pac-12 is loaded with talent, with 
about five teams that feel they have a legitimate chance to make it to the first ever 
College Football Playoff. Below is a short preview of each team, with my predictions 
of how things will end up in the end! Here’s to an amazing year of college football.
 
 
 
Arizona Wildcats
 
2013 Record: 8-5 (4-5)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: @UCLA, vs. USC, vs. Arizona State, @Oregon
 
 
The Arizona Wildcats are an interesting team to look at. An offense-happy team 
under Rich Rodriguez lost its running back Kadeem Carey and quarterback B.J. 
Denker. If Arizona can replace these two guys, then things could be ok. They return 
star wide receiver Austin Hill and a good offensive line. Defense also looks to be 
solid as they return key players Scooby Wright and Jared Tevis. The problem is 
that the Pac-12 looks to be very deep this year, and though Arizona may produce 
a solid team, they have a tough opponent almost every week. Key games will 
include road games against Oregon and UCLA, and home against USC and ASU. If 
the wildcats can win two of these four matchups then it will be a successful year. 
However, the Pac-12 is absolutely stacked at quarterback this year, and Arizona 
could have major issues keeping up with the competition points-wise. 
 
 
Arizona State Sun Devils
 
2013 Record: 10-4 (8-1)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: vs. UCLA, vs. Notre Dame, @USC, vs. Stanford
 
 
The Sun Devils finally had a break through year as they made it to the Pac-12 
championship with key wins over Wisconsin, UCLA, and USC. However, they were 
crushed at home in the Pac-12 championship game to Stanford, and then were 
beaten handily by Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. This year ASU is looking to take 
it to the next level yet again and make it to the first ever college football playoffs. 
Doing so will be extremely difficult. Though the Devils return their key offensive 
players, like quarterback Taylor Kelly, running back D.J. Foster, and receiver 
Jaelen Strong, they lose many of their defensive playmakers, most notably star 
defensive tackle Will Sutton. The Devils escape having to play Oregon, but have 
to face Notre Dame halfway through the year. Their key games are at home versus 
UCLA, Notre Dame, and Stanford. If the Devils can protect their home field, they 
could very well be in the Pac-12 championship game again for the second straight 
time. However, road games against USC and Oregon State will also be telling. ASU 
will have to play its best all season with a questionable defense, so while a strong 
season appears to be evident, making the playoffs will be a major stretch.
 
 
 
California Golden Bears
 
2013 Record: 1-11 (0-9)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: @Northwestern, vs. Washington, vs. Oregon State, vs. BYU
 
 
The Cal Bears were an absolute failure last season. The won one game all season, 
against Portland State. This year Cal looks to improve and win against some FBS 
opponents. While the Bears return promising quarterback Jared Goff, they have a 
brutal schedule. They start the season on the road against Northwestern. In order 
to have a good chance at a bowl game, the Bears need to come out strong and win 
this game, because starting October 18th State, USC, Stanford, and BYU all in a row. 
Cal will be major underdogs in all of these games, including the one versus
Northwestern. It looks like a 3-9/4-8 season is on the horizon for the Bears, which is
a major improvement from last year’s 1-11. Sonny Dykes needs to make sure to get
Cal to a bowl game or else he may be on the hot seat next season.
 
 
Colorado Buffaloes
 
2013: Record: 4-8 (1-8)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: vs. Colorado State, vs. Hawaii, vs. Oregon State, @Arizona
 
 
The Buffs are still looking for their identity in the Pac-12. In their second season 
in the conference last year, the buffs got one conference win, against the Cal Bears. 
Colorado was a powerhouse in the 90s but has fallen into a deep pit for quite 
some time now. This will be coach Mike McIntire’s second year as coach, and 
his first year with his own recruits. Things may be looking up for Colorado soon, 
but it doesn’t appear to be this year with such a deep conference. They return 
quarterback Sefo Liafau and key defensive players Anderson Gillam and Greg 
Henderson. However, the Buffaloes must go through a strong Pac-12 class, and may 
even lose their first game of the season against in-state rival Colorado State. Don’t 
expect much from Colorado this year.
 
 
Oregon Ducks
 
2013: Record: 11-2 (7-2)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: vs. Michigan State, @UCLA, vs. Stanford, @Oregon State
 
 
The Oregon Ducks have high aspirations this year. Heisman hopeful Marcus 
Mariota returns, along with every single starter on the offensive line. The secondary 
and linebacker corps are stacked, lead by players like Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Tony 
Washington. The big question marks for Oregon are the wide receivers, and the 
defensive line. The receivers are all young and athletic, but inexperienced. Running 
back will be another strong point, and expect Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyne
to split the job. Though the Ducks face possibly their toughest schedule in years, it 
is actually fairly favorable. The Ducks’ second game of the season will come against 
Michigan State, and is likely one of the top non-conference matchups in the country 
this year. Oregon must also face Stanford and UCLA. However, Michigan State 
and Stanford come at home. Also, Oregon lucks out by not having to face USC nor 
Arizona State, two of the toughest teams in the conference. Oregon definitely has a 
shot to make the playoffs, and we will get a good glimpse of how good they really are 
in week 2 when they host Sparty.
 
 
 
Oregon State Beavers
 
2013: Record: 7-6 (4-5)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: @USC, @Stanford, vs. Arizona State, vs. Oregon
 
 
The Oregon State Beavers have their best shot to contend for the Pac-12 North in 
a while. They return Heisman hopeful Sean Mannion, who I beg you not to sleep 
on. Mannion attended the Manning camp this summer, and was awarded best 
quarterback of the camp, over guys like Winston, Mariota, Petty, and Miller. The 
Beavers lost their best playmaker in Brandin Cooks to the NFL, but return Storm 
Woods and receiver Richard Mullaney, who are likely the next guys up in offensive 
production. The beavers also return almost every offensive lineman, and a few key 
defensive linemen, like Isaac Suemalo. The Beaver’s schedule is favorable, with 
road games against USC and Stanford, and home games against Oregon and Arizona 
State. Could this be the year the Beavers snap Oregon’s 6-game win streak over 
them? Quite possibly. This could be a big year for Oregon State, but more likely the 
Beavers are looking at 8-4/9-3.
 
 
 
Stanford Cardinal
 
2013: Record: 11-3 (7-2)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: vs. USC, @Notre Dame, @Oregon, @UCLA
 
 
The Stanford Cardinal lost more starters than any other Pac-12 team this season. 
Most notably, they lost linebacker Shayne Skov, running back Tyler Gaffney, and 
four all-pac-12 offensive lineman from a 2013 O-line that was arguably the best in 
the entire country. However, the Cardinal do return quarterback Kevin Hogan, as 
well as wide receiver Ty Montgomery. Expect the Cardinal to reload its lines and 
be one of the most powerful teams yet again in the trenches. If the Cardinal can 
improve its offensive production, then look out college playoffs. One thing to keep 
in mind, however, is the schedule of the Cardinal, which is arguably the toughest 
in the conference. Stanford must host USC in week 2, and then they face a daunting 
road schedule, as they travel to play Washington, Arizona State, Oregon, and UCLA. 
Not only that, but the Cardinal also must face Notre Dame on the road in week 6. A 
young team with a schedule like this is bound to make mistakes. However, if Coach 
David Shaw is able to make necessary adjustments, we could see Stanford in the 
college football playoffs.
 
 
 
UCLA Bruins
 
2013: Record: 10-3 (6-3)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: @Texas, vs. Oregon, vs. USC, vs. Stanford
 
 
The UCLA Bruins may be the most complete team in the Pac-12. Oregon is 
notoriously the best offensive team in the Pac-12, while USC and Stanford have 
been dominant defensively. However, looking at this Bruins team...something 
special could be...bruin. It’s a bad pun but its true. UCLA returns Heisman hopeful 
and one of the top 2015 draft prospects, quarterback Brett Hundley. Hundley 
is extremely dangerous with both his arm and his legs. They return a total of 9 
starters on offense, notably running back Jordan James and their entire offensive 
line. Defensively, UCLA may have the strongest secondary in the Pac-12. Myles 
Jack returns as one of the best linebackers in the conference, and lineman Eddie 
Vanderdoes and Ellis McCarthy will highlight a solid defensive line. Simply put, 
this team has national championship aspirations. However, the Bruins schedule 
is not forgiving. In non-conference play, the Bruins must travel to play Virginia 
and Texas. Then in the Pac-12, UCLA travels to ASU and Washinton, while hosting 
Oregon, Stanford, and USC at home. This is an extremely tough schedule. Oregon 
and Stanford will be marquee matchups, giving Hundley and the Bruins national 
attention. And don’t sleep on USC...the Trojans could easily beat UCLA. Therefore, 
while UCLA may have the right team to make it to the college playoffs, it will have to 
dodge a mantra of tough teams in order to do so. 
 
 
 
USC Trojans
 
2013: Record: 10-4 (6-3)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: @Stanford, vs. Arizona State, @UCLA, vs. Notre Dame
 
 
The USC Trojans are a question mark this year. Talent and athleticism-wise, USC can 
compete with anyone in the country. The defensive lines and secondary are going 
to be scary good, and lookout for Hayes Pullard and Su’a Cravens. However, the 
offense will be a bit more of a question mark. USC does return starting quarterback 
Cody Kessler, who has shown flashes of both excellence, and mediocrity. USC loses 
running back Silas Redd, and most notable receiver Marquis Lee. Don’t expect USC 
to have trouble replacing them however. Receiver Nelson Agholor and running 
back Tre Madden should come in and give the offense solid performers. USC also 
has a new coach, Steve Sarkisian. Some fans are disgusted with this hire, but the 
majority seem to be optimistic. Sarkisian brought the Washington Huskies from a 0-
12 season in 2008 to a Pac-12 contender. However, things are different at USC, as 
are expectations. Its going to be very interesting to see how Sarkisian handles this 
team in his first year. The schedule is pretty tough for USC. They escape matchups 
against Oregon and Washington, but virtually replace them with non-conference 
stints versus Fresno State and Notre Dame. USC’s second game of the year comes as 
a road test at Stanford. This game will be a good gage of how both teams will be this 
year, as both are question marks. USC will host Arizona State and Oregon State, and 
will end pac-12 play on the road against rival UCLA. If a couple close games go USC’s 
way, we could very well see them in the Pac-12 championship game, and maybe 
even the playoffs. But this seems to be a long shot...for now.
 
 
 
Utah Utes
 
2013: Record: 5-7 (2-7)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: @Michigan, @UCLA, vs. Oregon, vs. USC
 
 
The Utah Utes were the key addition to the Pac-12 when they and
Colorado joined four years ago. However, since the Utes have joined, they have 
struggled. Last year the Utes pulled a huge upset when the beat Stanford at home, 
but then struggled against team with far less talent then the Cardinal. Coach Kyle 
Whittingham is on the hot seat, and that could prove to be VERY problematic 
for him thanks to Utah having the #1 toughest schedule this year per ESPN. 
Quarterback Travis Wilson is a great player, but sometimes he can be shaky. 
They return top receiver Kenneth Scott, and look out for running back Devontae 
Booker. Utah’s defensive line is notoriously a good unit, and they should be a 
defensive strong point again this year, especially behind Nate Orchard. The 
secondary was not great last year, but they return a lot of young guys which should 
make the corps much stronger this year. Back to the schedule, the Utes must face 
Fresno State in week 2, and then travel to Ann Arbor to play Michigan in the Big 
House. The Utes will need to put up a strong performance in this game in order to 
prove that this is the year the Utes make some noise out of the Pac-12. Once October 
 hits, the Utes have six straight games as the underdog, and they could very easily 
lose each one if they are not careful. The six include home games against USC and 
Oregon, with brutal road trips to Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA, and Stanford. 
Throw Michigan in there, and Utah probably has the toughest road schedule I 
have seen in years in the Pac-12. Keep an eye on the Oregon game November 8th
This will be the first time the Ducks have ever played Utah in Salt Lake City, in a 
tough environment at Rice Eccles. The Ducks will have just finished a game against 
Stanford, and this could easily become a trap game. Utah will need to pull some 
upsets like this in order to have a good record by the end.
 
 
 
Washington Huskies
 
2013: Record: 9-4 (5-4)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: vs. Illinois, vs. Stanford, @Oregon, vs. Oregon State
 
 
The Washington Huskies have lost a lot since 2013. Star quarterback Keith Price, 
and star running back Bishop Sankey are gone to the NFL. Head coach Steve 
Sarkisian is also gone now, as he will now be coaching the USC Trojans. Ex-Boise 
State coach Chris Peterson comes in with a lot of wins and experience, but the 
transition from WAC/MWC to the Pac-12 will come with some speed bumps. Keith 
Price will be tough to replace, and therefore it looks as if the Huskies will have the 
worst starting quarterback in the quarterback-dominated conference. Dwayne 
Washington comes in at running back with some promise, as does receiver Jaydon 
Mickens. The Huskies also lost defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox, and brings 
in Pete Kwiatkowski from Boise State. Kwiatkowsi had success for the Broncos, 
and it will be interesting to see what he brings to the table. Shaq Thompson will 
return to give the Huskies a strong secondary, but the Huskies lost a lot of defensive 
starters from last season. The schedule starts off relatively easy, with games against 
Hawaii and Illinois. The huskies then get all their tough opponents at home except 
for Oregon, such as Stanford, ASU, Oregon State, and UCLA. If Washington can fill the 
necessary holes and defend home field, which is a tough stadium to win at, then they 
could surprise people and compete for the Pac-12 North. But with new coaching and 
offensive leadership, this will be a tough task.
 
 
 
Washington State Cougars
 
2013: Record: 6-7 (4-5)
 
Key 2014 Matchups: vs. Rutgers, vs. Oregon, vs. USC, vs. Washington
 
 
The Washington State Cougars are a team that likes to pass. Head Coach Mike 
Leach came in and implemented the Air Raid offense, and it has yet to produce 
great results. In the game against Oregon last year, Connor Halliday set records 
as he threw a total of 89 passes, completing 58 of them for 557 yards and 4 
touchdowns...with 4 interceptions. Halliday returns this year and is poised to set 
more records, however, he needs to keep his turnovers down, as he threw a total 
of 22 interceptions in 2013. Wazzu also returns a bevy of receivers, including guys 
like Gabe Marks, Vince Mayle, and Dom Williams. The passing game will be firing 
on all cylanders, but until the Cougars can establish a decent running game, they 
are going to continue to have trouble. Marcus Mason started last year, but senior 
running back Theron Williams shows promise, and the team may need him to 
step up. As far as defense goes, the Cougars are in trouble. They had the 97th
defense last year, giving up 32.5 points per game. In an offense-happy conference, 
this number must go down for the team to have any chance to compete. They do 
have some big playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, like defensive tackle 
Xavier Cooper and promising linebacker Kache Palacio. Yet they must replace 
almost all of their secondary. As far as the schedule goes, the Cougars start off 
with two great matchups against Rutgers in week 1, and Nevada in week 2. The 
Cougars can very well win both of these, and they need to. In the Pac-12, they must 
face Oregon, USC, and rival Washington at home, while travelling to play Stanford, 
Oregon State, and Arizona State. The Cougars are going to need to pull some upsets, 
but realistically they could be looking at another 6-6 regular season.
 
 
 
 
Predicted Pac-12 Final Standings:
 
North:
 
1. Oregon
 
2. Stanford
 
3. Oregon State
 
4. Washington
 
5. Washington State
 
6. California
 
South:
 
1. UCLA
 
2. USC
 
3. Arizona State
 
4. Utah
 
5. Arizona
 
6. Colorado
 
 
 
Pac-12 Championship Game in Santa Clara, CA:
 
Oregon vs. UCLA


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