New Year’s Day came and went, and with it any any news out of the Pac-12 not related to Chip Kelly or Lane Kiffin. Kelly shocked the conference in bolting for the vacant head coaching position after reaffirming his commitment to Oregon. The other, Kiffin, has a lower approval rating than Bush or Obama ever had to deal with, as 75-percent of Los Angeles residents believe he should have been fired following the dumpster-fire of the 2012 season.
All the while, David Shaw has been sitting quietly in his office, enjoying the afterglow of Stanford’s first Rose Bowl win in decades. After watching quarterback Andrew Luck be selected No. 1-overall by the Indianapolis Colts, most left the Cardinal for dead. However, Shaw made the bold move of benching senior Josh Nunes in favor of redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan.
Now, Shaw has a Rose Bowl-winning quarterback on his hands for at least another year, if not longer. Hogan’s return is going to be key, as top running back Stepfan Taylor graduates to the NFL, and each of the program’s top five receivers were all seniors as well.
The same can be said for UCLA. Coach Jim Mora’s time as the head coach of both the Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons was up and down, but he seems to have really hit his stride with the Bruins. Like Shaw, Mora enters 2013 without his superstar running back in Johnathan Franklin. However, and again like Shaw, Mora has an entire offseason in which to watch Brett Hundley mature into a more refined passer and leader. After finishing with an unexpected nine wins in 2012, Mora has carried his momentum into the offseason and onto the recruiting trail.
Kelly may have derailed some of Oregon’s recruiting efforts, but at least he left behind two supremely talented players in quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back/wide receiver/blur De’Anthony Thomas. Former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is now in charge in Eugene, and he should be thrilled to make a run at yet another BCS bowl victory after the Ducks blew out Kansas State in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl.
Depending on who you are looking for, one Kiffin still remains at USC while another was shown the door following a disastrous year in which the Trojans finished 40th in points allowed. Son and coach Lane “encouraged” father and defensive coordinator Monte to find a new place to work for the upcoming season. The fourth redshirt freshman listed here is the Trojan’s Max Wittek. Wittek struggled in the injured Matt Barkley’s stead, but a full offseason of working timing routes with the nation’s premier wide receiver, Marqise Lee, may prove to do wonders for Mr. Wittek.
Oregon State was another Pac-12 team expected to simply go quietly into the night. Instead, coach Mike Riley’s squad ripped off nine wins and currently has that wonderful problem of having two quarterbacks with starting experience from which to choose from. Whether Cody Vaz or Sean Mannion starts, the Beavers may have a chance to move into the upper echelon of teams by shocking the sporting world and winning the Pac-12 title.
Whomever comes out of the Pac-12 will have to put up some extremely high scores against the likes of Arizona, Arizona State and Washington, as well as Helfrich’s Ducks and all the rest. However, as Stanford proved in 2012, defense wins championships — and Rose Bowls.
So, we’re just going to go ahead and ask it …