NCAA Football Conference Preview: Pac-12

The Pac 12 Conference is seeking a shot at a national title in 2014. The conference feels they have the firepower to provide a team into the Final Four, which is new to the landscape of college football this season. The team with the best opportunity is the Oregon Ducks, who many feel could be the team to beat in all of the country this season. Oregon is not alone as a possible power in 2014. Stanford, Washington and UCLA all have a chance at running the table and getting a shot at the big trophy in January.

While the Associated Press Top 25 has yet to be released, the Coaches Poll has several Pac-12 teams in the running. Of course, Oregon comes in at #4 overall behind Florida State, Alabama and Oklahoma. Pretty good company for the Ducks, who have enough returning. UCLA comes in 7th in the poll, while Stanford is just outside the Top 10; at 11. After that USC comes in at 15, while Arizona State is 18th. The Huskies of Washington are ranked 25th while Oregon State and Arizona atleast garnered some votes. Outside of the SEC, the Pac 12 may be the nation’s deepest conference from top to bottom. There is sure to be a battle week in and week out, on the west coast.

Marcus Mariota returns for the Ducks, which gives them the nod over Stanford. The Ducks offense was fourth best in the country a season ago, and do not appear to be slowing down, despite the second year without Chip Kelly. Running back Byron Marshall is set to have a huge season in Eugene. Next, Stanford has Kevin Hogan and Barry Sanders back to form a solid offense, but just not enough and with the game between the Ducks and Cardinal being played in Eugene, the nod goes to Oregon. Stanford has four new starters on the offensive line, but should still hold off Washington. THe Huskies are replacing Bishop Sankey, who had a monster 2013 season. Cyler Miles is the new starter for Washington, and a positive for him, he returns five offensive linemen. Oregon State, Washington STate and California should round out the North Division.

In the South, the Bruins of UCLA and Trojans of USC will battle it out. UCLA looks to have a special season behind quarter Brett Hundley. He turned down a chance to play in the NFL, but Jim Mora’s group has a tough schedule ahead of them. The Bruins will have to replace Anthony Barr, who was a prized pick in the 2014 draft. USC returns Cody Kessler, who was sharp down the stretch for the Trojans. They will barely hold off Arizona State due to their defense. The Sun Devils of Arizona State will look to replace several key players from the conference divisional title of a season ago. Todd Graham will turn to Taylor Kelly after throwing over 3,600 yards a season ago. Finishing out this division should be Arizona, Utah and Colorado, likely in that order.

A few key games on the Pac-12 schedule include Oregon and Michigan State on September 6th, Oregon at UCLA October 11th and Oregon/Stanford on November 1st. The Ducks do not have to play USC this season. UCLA plays road games at Virginia and Texas before even starting the conference slate. They do get to host the Ducks on October 11th, and also see USC and Stanford come to their place the final two weeks of November. USC hosts Fresno State in the opener, before going to Stanford and Boston College to follow. The Trojans host ARizona State on October 4th and Notre Dame on November 29th in big tilts. Finally, Stanford plays at Notre Dame on October 4th outside of their huge Pac-12 contests.

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