The Pac 12 enters the final season of the BCS as one of the deepest leagues and has a great shot at taking the title crown away from the SEC. The only thing standing in the way is the grueling in-league play that could lead to some bumps and bruises for every team.
Oregon, even with a new coach, looks poised for a title run. Stanford, defending league champ and Rose Bowl winner, hopes to take the next step as a program. UCLA won the South Division last year and got solid play from a freshman QB. With Jim Mora Jr. calling the shots and Brett Hundley tossing the pigskin around, the Bruins hope to stake their claim. The Men of Troy have a talented bunch and prognosticators and handicappers are all liking Arizona State, Oregon State and Washington as sleepers. Even Arizona is getting plenty of buzz after a very successful campaign under Rich Rod a year ago. About the only thing anyone can agree on is that Washington State and Colorado have a tough road ahead. As a side note, Arizona is currently 8th in the power rankings and Utah is the 9 spot.
Hopefully this isn’t your first time checking out our stock report, but if it is…The above chart is the power rankings of the league. The buying/holding/selling stock in a team is relative to preseason expectations, making a better bowl, or surprising the league and competing for a division title. Just because I’m buying a lot of stock in a team doesn’t mean I think they are better than the first place team. Now that we are all in sync, let’s get after it!
Arizona – Strange to say Rich Rod’s strength this season is defense, but the top 15 tacklers are back. That is also strange to say when you can only play 11 guys at a time. The Wildcats return Ka’Deem Carey, aka, the nation’s leading rusher a year ago. I know Matt Scott graduating looms large, but if Rich Rod wants to live up to his label as an offensive guru, then he will have his man game ready by week one.
Arizona State – Love or loath Todd Graham for his cut throat efforts at job climbing, the man can coach offense. ASU returns a ton of talent, including signal caller Taylor Kelly. The South might not be as good at the top as the North is, but it does look deeper. Look for this race to go deep into the season.
Oregon – Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas makes them good. That fantastic secondary makes this team great. As long as Mark Helfrich doesn’t get in his own way the Ducks can roll; however, Helfrich has been with the program for a while, am I crazy to think he’ll do a really good job?
Oregon State – The surprise team of a year ago looks to reload, not rebuild. Helping this is having both Mannion and Vaz back. They split time a year ago due to injury, but I think a coach as good as Mike Riley can use the competition to motivate, not divide these two. The Beavers’ offensive line is one of the best in the Pac-12 and will be a huge strength in a league still fighting the finesse tab.
Stanford – The Cardinal has road trips to Oregon State and USC, as well as Oregon, Notre Dame and UCLA on the home schedule. Did we mention these five games are five of their final six? Stanford has a very tough second half, but what’s not to like about this team. Great coaching, Shayne Skov crushing people at LB, the best OL in the league and maybe the nation AND a solid looking kid at QB in Kevin Hogan have this team looking like a real threat to the crown. If the Cardinal does make it to the BCS title game, they will have earned it.
UCLA – As mentioned, Brett Hundley is a true star in Westwood…something the football team hasn’t had for a while. The biggest concern after last year’s Pac 12 title appearance has to be that schedule. Roadies to Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State and USC. Yikes.
USC – Sanctions still affect the depth and Kiffin refuses to decide on a QB. Will this waffling continue into the season. Both kids might be looking over the shoulder once they get into the game, not the way I want to start a season.
Utah – Having five of the front seven and Trevor Reilly, their best defensive player, back gives the Utes some hope, but the schedule is brutal. In addition to their divisional games, they play Oregon State, Stanford and at Oregon from the North. Even the non-con is difficult with Utah State and a trip to arch enemy BYU.
Cal – I like Sonny Dykes and running back Brendan Bigelow is a talent, but Zach Maynard is so inconsistent it is hard to see this team doing too much…oh Zach Maynard graduated? In that case put me on the bandwagon….not so much.
Colorado – Mike MacIntyre was a miracle worker at awful San Jose State but it took him a few years to get the Spartans going. A nasty schedule (crossover games with the north include both Oregon teams and at Washington) mixed with lack of talent signal another long year for the Buffs.
Washington – I know, I know this is controversial. I had a very hard time with the Huskies but decided to sell, since this is based on preseason expectations. People have them finishing third in the North (ahead of OSU) and consider this team a sleeper. That is what I’m selling. First of all the schedule is a joke. Not a ha-ha joke but a sick joke. This thing is nearly impossible. At Stanford, Oregon and at ASU in back-to-back-to-back weeks? At UCLA and at Oregon State back-to-back? Arizona is also on the slate, a week before the Stanford stretch. They also open with Boise State, a team looking to spoil the final year of the BCS. I’m still waiting for Keith Prince to hit the next gear, and while Bishop Sankey is a solid back I’m just not high on the team overall. Steve Sarkisian hasn’t won enough games for me to be high on him either. The clincher was the game I saw in person last year. Against a beatable Arizona team they got smacked in the mouth and then went into a shell. They showed no fight and were, dare I say, soft. UW really needs to beat Boise or Arizona in the opening month of the year to have me warm up to this Husky team.
Washington State – Experienced, yes, but the talent gap still exists. Not helping things are their crossover games including both Arizona schools and USC (two of the three are on the road). If Leach can get Kevin Hogan going, the Cougs should be fun to watch at least, but in terms of win-loss, I’m not optimistic.