The PAC-12 is loaded with talent especially in the North Division. Thanks to five returning quarterbacks the PAC-12 North is ready to claim its place as the best division in college football supplanting the SEC West.
Now, here are my 2014 preseason predictions for the upcoming season.
1. Oregon (11-1, 8-1) The Ducks bring back the best player in the country for the 2014 season in redshirt junior quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota, when healthy is absolutely lethal as a passer and a runner. This causes opposing defenses nightmares every week.The defense will most likely peak later in the season as Oregon returns just five starters. It will be up to senior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to lead the way for the Ducks defensively. Look for Oregon to lose at UCLA but still be in the mix for a playoff berth.
2. Washington (10-3, 6-3) The first year for Chris Petersen will get off to a fast start with four winnable non-conference games. The key game for the Huskies is on September 27 when they host Stanford. A win for Washington sets the tone for a run at ten wins this season.This game is why you hired Chris Petersen away from Boise State. It is a game that the Husky defense will find a way to win 23-17.
3. Stanford (9-3, 6-3) The road schedule that includes trips to Washington, Oregon, and UCLA will be too difficult for the Cardinal in 2013 to win the division. In addition, senior quarterback Kevin Hogan did not show enough consistency in 2013 to carry Stanford to a national title. For the Cardinal to be a playoff contender it comes down to getting improved play from Hogan.
4. Washington State (7-5, 4-5) The Cougars showed nice improvement under Mike Leach in his second season. The New Mexico Bowl was a good step forward for the program. The passing game should be strong led by redshirt senior Connor Halliday. The receiving core will be deep as always in a Mike Leach offense. The defense is the question especially with the graduation of all-everything safety Deon Bucannon. The schedule is favorable and should produce at least seven wins.
5. Oregon State (7-5, 4-5) For the Beavers it is going to come down to senior quarterback Sean Mannion. Mannion, threw for 4, 662 yards in 2013 but threw 15 interceptions. The ability to take care of the ball by Mannion will heavily dictate the fortunes of Oregon State this season.If Mannion can take care of the football and can find a replacement for Brandin Cooks then the Beavers will be a tough team to beat.
6. California (3-9, 2-7) This will be another long season at the bottom of the PAC-12 for the Golden Bears. Sophomore quarterback Jared Goff has a bright future for California and will put up points this season. The problem is the Golden Bears can’t stop anyone as they allowed 45.9 points per game in 2013. The pressure will be on new defensive coordinator Art Kaufman to get results right away. If the defense does not improve then head coach Sonny Dykes will be on the hot seat in 2015.