The Pac-12’s North division is arguably its deepest and strongest division, but the Pac-12 South not weak division either. Both divisions are well represented in the pre-season AP top-25 poll (three from the North, and three from the South); both divisions have a good chance of sending four representatives from each division to bowl games.
What’s going to make this season even more insane for the Pac-12 is that the schedule favors match-ups that look like they were created with the goal of upsetting the better squads. For example, Oregon makes the trip to Pullman, Wa. on Sept. 20th for both squads first conference game of the season. Washington State will be coming off of a home game against Portland state, and has a very good chance of being 3-0 heading into that match-up; if that happens, it’s highly likely that ESPN’s College Game Day could make it up to Pullman for the first time…that means Coug fans will not only be well lubricated, but tired and crazy loud as well.
Another early match-up that could lead to an upset is UCLA at Arizona State on Thursday Sept. 25, it’s going to be a nationally televised game and UCLA is widely considered favorite in the South. Something that the defending division champions (ASU) probably isn’t too happy about.
1) Stanford Cardinal: The Cardinal are returning their starting QB and the majority of their defense. Sure their offensive line is full of newbies…but Stanford has never really struggled with plugging holes in their offensive line with raw talent, which head coach David Shaw has recruited plenty of.
2) UCLA Bruins: UCLA’s head coach Jim Mora has had nothing but success during his time in Westwood. Expect that to continue this season as UCLA returns the majority of its offensive and defensive units from 2013; also, expect a lot more MYLES JACK love from the folks at ESPN.
3) Oregon Ducks: While Oregon is returning the vast majority of its offense, the defense graduated the bulk of its starters from last season. The question marks throughout the Ducks’ defense are worrisome enough for them to fall all the way to fall all the way to No. 3 in our pre-season power rankings.
4) Washington Huskies: The Huskies are replacing their coaching staff, their starting QB, RB, and TE, but they sit at No. 4 in our power rankings because that defense is going to be a major headache for Washington’s opponents throughout the season. UW’s defense is going to keep them in ball games, and give their offense a chance to win some games the squad probably shouldn’t.
5) USC Trojans: USC is in the exact opposite situation as Washington, as the majority of their offense is returning in 2014. The Trojan’s biggest problem however is that they are coming out of scholarship sanctions that have harmed the program’s depth. If the injury bug bites, the Trojans could be in some big trouble.
6) Arizona State Sun Devils: Arizona State is going through a period of reloading as the program watched a large chunk of its defense graduate this past spring. The offense should continue to dominate as its starting QB and RB are returning, but the defense is an area of concern.
7) Oregon State Beavers: Oregon State is returning the bulk of its defense from 2013; that defensive unit needs to improve across the board (heading into ’14) if the Beavers are going to improve off their 7-6 (4-5) mark from last season.
8) Washington State Cougars: Like ASU, the Cougars are returning a bunch of offensive talent in 2014; but the defense is missing a lot of the pieces that made it serviceable. For Washington State, the secondary was gutted by graduation and now it’s up to the young, inexperienced players to try to stop the conference’s plethora of talented QBs *gulp*.
9) Arizona Wildcats: The Wildcats were one of the best offensive attacks in the nation last season, and they did it thanks to the ground game and Ka’Deem Carey. Carey, and starting QB BJ Denker, graduated this past off-season and it’s up to head coach Rich Rodriguez to decide who will be starting in their places…ouch.
10) Utah Utes: Utah gets its starting QB Travis Wilson back, after a concussion led doctors to discovering a pre-existing condition that could have ended his career, but there are still glaring holes on the Utes roster. The Utes are returning six starters on offense and five on defense, that means that a bunch of young and inexperienced players are going to be seeing a lot of playing time this season.
11) Colorado Buffaloes: Colorado’s talent deficit is going to hurt the Buffaloes for the next couple of seasons. Fortunately for the Buffs, the experience on both sides of the ball should help make up for the lack of talent on the roster. It should be another tough conference schedule for Colorado.
12) California Golden Bears: The Golden Bears are entering their second season of the Sonny Dykes era, and the expectations are that the baptism by fire the “Bear Raid” received last season will lead to more wins in ’14. It helps that starting QB Jared Goff is returning, and the Golden Bears are hoping that the experience from last year will help their defense not suck.