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Sean's PAC 12 Conference Preview

League: All Leagues
By: Sean Higgs Published on: 08/24/2013

Heading out west to look in the PAC 12. Let's see what we have going on here on the left coast. 
 
NORTH DIVISION 

1. STANFORD - Giving the Cardinal the nod here. These guys won the PAC 12 Title last year, and with QB Kevin Hogan behind a loaded OL, this team should repeat. Stanford should eclipse the 10 win mark again. The defense is probably the best in conference. Them and Oregon will be the teams to beat and the winner of the November 7 game will have National Title in their sites. 
 
2. OREGON - I put the Ducks at 2 here just because Mark Helfich takes over for Chip Kelly. Now, Helfich was the OC under Kelly, and the Ducks only went 34-3 in conference play. QB Marcus Mariota will lead the attack. This team has been to 4 straight BCS bowls, so the bar is set high. 
 
3. WASHINGTON - HC Steve Sarkasian has a talented bunch on his hands. He has 10 starters back on offense. Last year was a step back, but I think this year the Huskies can take another step forward. If they were in the PAC 12 South, these guys would be division favorites. 
 
4. OREGON STATE - This team is loaded up with 9 returning starters on offense and 8 more on defense. They were so good last year that Nike rolled out new uniforms the Beavers! They should be undefeated when they face Stanford Oct 26. Another bowl is a forgone conclusion. The quality of that bowl will be based on how they do against Stanford, USC, Washington and Oregon.
 
5. WASHINGTON STATE - HC Mike Leach is back for year 2 of the rebuild. He saw his streak of 10 consecutive winning seasons get flushed in a 3-9 beating last season. He played a ton of freshman last year and is rewarded with 16 returning starters, 8 of each side of the ball. Leach's 'Air Raid' led the Pac 12 in passing, and with a more experienced group, will be looking to move out of the basement.
 
6. CAL - Sonny Dykes takes over and is looking to bring his instant offense from Louisiana Tech with him. Unfortunately, his QB options bring a collected total of zero pass attempts to the table. The Bears have question marks all over the field. His defense was ranked dead last. I think this is a rebuilding year in every sense of the word. 
 

SOUTH DIVISION
 
1. UCLA - Jim Mora brought some glory back to UCLA after 9 years of staleness. Though a blowout bowl loss to Baylor stings, it will energize the team for the new season. QB Brian Hundley returns and has plenty of talent around him. They should be able to overcome some defensive shortcomings to take the division.
 
2. USC - Trojans looking to rebound from a terrible 7-6 season. Lane Kiffin has to be on the proverbial hot-seat after that showing. Who knows if the team will even respond to him after dropping 5 of their last 6 including a bowl loss to Georgia Tech. He has lost 13 games the last 3 years. USC lost that many the previous 8 years combined. This is still USC and it has tons of talent. 8 offensive and 7 defensive starters return. They should sail through the first half of their schedule until heading to ND October 19th. Let's see if Kiffin can get the troops to perform this year.
 
3. ARIZONA - Wildcats and Sun Devils at 4 can easily flip-flop. But I like RichRod to continue his thing here. The defense returns 10 starters and hopefully they can improve on allowing 35ppg, ranked 102 in the nation. This team couldn't stop the rush. 
 
4. ARIZONA STATE - Sun Devils open with Sacramento State. Then the fun starts. Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and ND. We will know exactly how good these guys are by mid October. 
 
5. COLORADO - I will take the Buffaloes to lead over Utah here. It is easy to stick a team that went 1-11 last year and place them in the basement. New HC Mike MacIntyre took a 1-12 San Jose State and turned them into 10-2. There are 17 returning starters to work with. Maybe these guys just didn't have faith in Jon Embree. Maybe they will be re-energized with a new coach. 
 
6. UTAH - Utes had a tough time last year in the PAC 12 ranking 11th in passing. They bring in an old dog, Dennis Erickson to help out OC Brian Johnson call the plays. Unlike his Miami U days, Erickson isn't being given keys to a Porshe and told not to crash it. This team is on a mission though after missing out a bowl for the first time in 9 years.