Here is Campus Confidential's Pac-12 preview.
Opening kickoff: The Pac-10 is now the Pac-12 with the additions of Colorado and Utah. Also, there are two divisions – the North and South – and a conference championship game that will be hosted by the school with the best overall conference record. There are plenty of stars in the Pac-12 this season, with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck and Oregon running back LaMichael James being serious Heisman contenders. USC has plenty of talent back and is my pick to win the South. The Trojans, however, will be ineligible to play for the Pac-12 title due to NCAA probation. Two key questions to consider as the season unfolds: did Luck make the right decision to return to school? He would’ve likely been the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. What will come of the NCAA investigation into recruiting practices at Oregon? Will that be a distraction for the Ducks? Two teams to keep an eye on: Washington in the North. The Huskies lost quarterback Jake Locker, but Steve Sarkisian has that program moving in the right direction. Watch for Arizona State in the South. The Sun Devils have talent and head coach Dennis Erickson needs a winning season to get off the hot seat. We’ll know more about the Sun Devils after this stretch of games: vs. Missouri on Sept. 9, at Illinois on Sept. 17, vs. USC on Sept. 24, vs. Oregon State on Oct. 1, at Utah on Oct. 8 and at Oregon on Oct. 15. Also, Utah is a team to watch with new offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Chow will be very comfortable in the Pac-12 after having coached at USC and UCLA.
CC’s predicted order of finish
- Oregon State
- Washington State
- Arizona State
CC’s preseason offensive player of the year: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
CC’s preseason defensive player of the year: Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State
Best game: Oregon at Stanford, Nov. 12
Why Stanford will beat Utah in the Pac-12 title game: As mentioned above, I’m picking USC to win the South division, but the Trojans cannot participate in the title game due to NCAA probation. So that would land the second-place team – Utah – in the inaugural Pac-12 championship game against the North winner. Since Stanford gets a home game with the Pac-12 title at stake, I like the Cardinal to claim the BCS automatic berth. It also helps that Stanford has some nice talent back, led by Heisman contender Luck.