clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2013 Conference Previews: Pac-12

USC is looking to bounce back, Oregon wants to keep rolling along, and UCLA thinks it's a national power again.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Last season Stanford won their first Rose Bowl in 41 years and they don't appear to be going anywhere in 2013. Neither does Oregon. USC wants to get back on track as a West Coast power too. It's the 2013 Pac-12 Preview from One Foot Down.

North Division


Record: 11-1 (8-1)

Returning Starters: 15

The Ducks did lose head coach Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles but no program is set up to keep rolling along with a new leader like Oregon. Mark Helfrich takes over after being the OC in Eugene for 4 years and keeps almost the entire staff in tact. Kenjon Barner exits after a great career but most of their pieces are back on offense including rising superstar quarterback Marcus Mariotta, a pair of talented running backs, and all 3 top receivers of which Black Mamba is one. Oregon does replace 4 starters on defense but they've recruited really well and are filling holes mostly with strong talent. The schedule is also very favorable as they don't play USC or Arizona State in the South Division. Playing at Virginia and back home against Tennessee in early September is mildly challenging. The rest of the schedule breaks out with road games against Washington, Stanford, and Arizona with home games against UCLA, and Oregon State. I think they go 4-1 in those games but get tripped up somewhere along the way. Oregon is still a national title contender.


Record: 10-2 (7-2)

Returning Starters: 14

Summer opponent preview right HERE. Everyone knows about Stanford's defense and that they went into Autzen and upset the Ducks last year. I wouldn't argue someone putting the Cardinal ahead of Oregon. However, the schedule for Stanford is much more difficult featuring a game against Notre Dame plus both USC (on the road) and Arizona State. They're playing 5 teams ranked in the pre-season Top 25 and 7 teams in the Top 34. With so many questions on offense they're likely to drop a couple games in league play.


Record: 8-4 (5-4)

Returning Starters: 15

The Beavers are losing their top receiver but are bringing back almost everyone else on offense. In fact, Oregon State is bringing back a whole lot from their 2012 team (top 5 tacklers are back) and with an easy out of conference schedule this team is a real threat to win 10 games. Their final 5 games are pretty brutal though and unlike Oregon they do face USC and Arizona State. A lot of people think this could be one of the Mike Riley's best teams but in an improved Pac-12 things will be tough for the Beavers to get to the top of the conference.


Record: 8-4 (5-4)

Returning Starters: 18

Steve Sarkisian has slowly dug out of the Typocalypse but the Huskies have not been able to get over the hump going 7-6 each of the last 3 seasons. Washington is bringing back a ton of starters (although the country's top tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins is out with an injury for a while) and if Keith Price shakes off a bad 2012 this is another team that can make a bunch of noise. They do open up against Boise State in a renovated Husky Stadium and I actually think they'll win that game. However, they face road games against Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, and Oregon State plus home dates versus Oregon and Arizona. Can they go better than 2-4 versus that slate?


Record: 4-8 (2-7)

Returning Starters: 16

Mike Leach's first season back in college football didn't go too well and that was to be expected at a program like Washington State. The Cougars should be better in 2013 with 9 starters back on defense (not sure how much that matters in Leach's system) and another year soaking in a new offensive system. They do replace their starting quarterback, top running back, and top receiver---although projected QB Connor Halliday has made 6 starts in his career already. They'll definitely need fewer turnovers (21 interceptions a year ago) and an improved ground game is absolutely necessary after both top rushers last year didn't even top 300 yards a piece. Schedule-wise things look a little tougher than last year as Colorado (a team they lost to in 2012 by the way) comes off the schedule in favor of road game at USC plus the Pac-12 may be deeper than anything Leach experienced in the Big 12 while at Texas Tech. A season opener at Auburn should be intriguing as well---a win there could be a huge boost---but I don't see the Dread Pirate doing much more than a couple wins in league play.


Record: 3-9 (2-7)

Returning Starters: 11

The 11-year reign of Jeff Tedford came to a close last season and in comes Sonny Dykes from Louisiana Tech. Dykes inherits a fairly talented but inexperienced team---one that went 15-22 over the final 3 years of Tedford and just 9-18 in Pac-12 play. They have the fewest returning starters in the conference and added to learning new systems it's probably not going to be a great year for the Bears. True freshman Jared Goff will start at quarterback and while that's scary he may very well be an upgrade over Zach Maynard. Some playmakers will have to step up because 6 of the team's top 8 rushers are gone as is all-time school receptions leader Kennan Allen. They do trade Utah and Arizona State for Colorado and Arizona in league play which makes things a little easier. Unfortunately, Cal faces two ranked teams in Northwestern and Ohio State early while also having to go on the road to play Oregon, UCLA, Washington, and Stanford. This doesn't look like a short-term reclamation project.


South Division


Record: 10-3 (7-2)

Returning Starters: 15

Summer opponent preview can be read right HERE. USC loses a couple key pieces on both sides of the ball but should have better depth than last year. Their only major question on offense is at quarterback where Max Wittek and Cody Kessler are both battling it out and quite talented. There are some big issues with their secondary---and a couple true freshman will likely be called upon to play a lot there---so that will have to be rectified at some point. The schedule isn't that difficult as they miss Oregon and get the Stanford game at home. The South Division lacks the nationally elite teams that are seen in the North Division and I think USC ultimately rises to the top.


Record: 9-3 (7-2)

Returning Starters: 15

Summer opponent preview can be read right HERE. The Sun Devils have a lot of pieces returning from a solid 2012 campaign which includes their starting quarterback, top receiver and running back plus 6 starters from their front seven on defense. Todd Graham has loaded the roster with JUCO's and this should be a very dangerous team this fall. The schedule is brutal early (Wisconsin, Stanford, USC, Notre Dame all in a row) but it's not so bad after that with road games at Washington State, Utah, and UCLA. They also miss Oregon and should benefit from playing in the weaker division within the Pac-12.


Record: 8-4 (5-4)

Returning Starters: 17

I originally had Arizona fourth in the South Division but I don't see how they finish that low with an easy schedule and a bunch of starters coming back. Rich Rod does have to break in a new quarterback and stud receiver Austin Hill tore his ACL though. Those are not good things yet all starters are back on defense so there should be solid improvement from a woeful effort last year. The Wildcats non-league games are a joke (Northern Arizona, UNLV, and UTSA) plus they get Utah, Colorado, California, and Washington State in conference play. That should be 7 wins right there and Arizona could knock off a couple more teams in conference too.


Record: 7-5 (5-4)

Returning Starters: 12

The Bruins are a curious case. They come into 2013 ranked inside the Top 25 and they signed a great recruiting class this past February. Jim Mora has injected some life into UCLA and many see them on the rise but it's important to remember that they did lose 5 games last year, including blowout losses to California and Baylor. Offensively they should be okay with a more experienced Brett Hundley at quarterback, yet they do lose a great running back in Johnathan Franklin plus three out of their top four pass-catchers. The Bruins are also breaking in an entirely new secondary which is dangerous. The schedule really isn't that favorable as they travel to Nebraska out of conference and play USC, Oregon, and Stanford all on the road. I believe UCLA takes a small step backward this season.


Record: 4-8 (2-7)

Returning Starters: 12

During Utah's last 3 seasons in the Mountain West they went 21-3 in league play. Over the past two seasons in the Pac-12 they've gone 7-11. It's a lot tougher road for the Utes and this record is predicted more on their competition than anything else. They should be solid and can flirt with a bowl bid, although the schedule isn't doing them any favors. Utah State and BYU are tough games out of conference, and they face both Oregon and Stanford on the road. I like Kyle Whittingham but his team is competing at a new level now and it won't be easy to get to bowl games.


Record: 3-9 (1-8)

Returning Starters: 16

It has to get better at some point. Winning two more games than last year is progress for the Buffaloes.