Fully aware of how this will fly here, I’m going to post this and then quickly, uh, duck.
I leave for Los Angeles a week from today to cover the Pac-12 Media Day that begins early the next day at Sony Studios. In advance of that, the Pac-12 asked those of us who cover the conference to submit our annual preseason picks.
Here’s what I turned in last week:
1. Oregon: Very few question marks with likely the most talented roster in the league. Marcus Mariota has all the tools to be the best quarterback ever at Oregon, and the light NCAA sanctions left the Ducks clear for takeoff again.
2. Stanford: QB Kevin Hogan adds a new dimension to the Cardinal offense, and eight starters return on a defense that allowed just 17.2 points per game in 2012. On paper, the Oregon-Stanford matchup at Stanford on Nov. 7 is the Pac-12′s game of the year.
3. Washington: There’s plenty of reason for optimism for the Huskies to take a step forward in Steve Sarkisian’s fifth season. Keith Price is the most experienced QB in the Pac-12, nine starters return on offense and the young linebackers have a chance to be elite.
4. Oregon State: A top-10 team for a time in 2012, the Beavers need to settle on a quarterback (Sean Mannion or Cody Vaz). A 7-0 start looks possible, but the schedule is daunting late: vs. Stanford, vs. USC, at ASU, vs. UW and at Oregon.
5. Cal: The “Bear Raid” attack under new coach Sonny Dykes will need time to take flight. A bowl bid looks like a long shot for Cal.
6. Washington State: The Cougars allowed 57 sacks last season, more than any team in the nation. That’s a dangerous recipe for an offensive that wants to throw as much as Mike Leach does.
1. Arizona State: Taylor Kelly came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the top QBs in the Pac-12 last season; add in a solid 1-2 punch in the backfield in Marion Grice and D.J. Foster, plus All-American DT Will Sutton, and the Sun Devils could make a run at their first Pac-12 title since 1996.
2. USC: Hard to know what to make of the Trojans after 2012’s disaster. Phil Steele has them as a preseason top-10, and they do still have as much front-line talent as anyone. Will a 5-2 defensive front under new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast vault them into Pac-12 contention?
3. UCLA: The defending South champs, the Bruins were the league’s biggest surprise of 2012 in Jim Mora’s first season. And with electric young QB Brett Hundley, they should contend again. But the schedule doesn’t do UCLA any favors with trips to Stanford and Oregon (in back-to-back weeks) and USC.
4. Arizona: Boosted by the nation’s No. 1 rusher, Ka’Deem Carey, the Wildcats had a nice turnaround in Rich Rodriguez’s first season in Tucson. The defense returns mostly intact, but Arizona still has to settle on a QB.
5. Utah: Dennis Erickson’s back in the league as the Utes’ co-offensive coordinator, but Utah lost its top running back and seven starters on defense.
6. Colorado: Well, it can’t get much worse, can it? Former San Jose State coach Mike MacIntyre steps in to restart the rebuild in Boulder. Just being competitive would be a major step for the Buffaloes this season.
Pac-12 Football Championship Game: Oregon over Arizona State.
There you go. Have at it, folks.