USC: 2014 pac-12 blog poll

And so we will have a Pac-12 championship game at a neutral site.

Levi’s Stadium is going to give fans a new experience for the Pac-12 championship game and the opportunity to travel to a city that wouldn’t have been on their travel list before. The stadium itself is in Santa Clara, Calif. -- about one hour outside of San Francisco and 10 minutes from the San Jose (Calif.) International Airport.

SportsNation

If the championship game were to become a rotating-site event, where would you most like to see it hosted next?

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    38%
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    11%
  •  
    28%
  •  
    23%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,804)

But this got the Pac-12 blog thinking. If league commissioner Larry Scott ever decided that it would be a rotating neutral site for every season’s championship, where would you most like to see the game?

So we racked our brains and came up with three other stadiums. These three stadiums all fit a criterion, which we established. First, it must be a neutral site. As much as we love the view at Husky Stadium or the feel of the Rose Bowl, neutral means neutral and since we can’t go to Switzerland, our options became a bit more limited.

Second, it would need to be a sizable stadium with the growing interest in the Pac-12 conference, so we looked in the 65,000-plus seating level. And third, it needs to be in a favorable city. A championship game is going to bring an influx of football fans and those fans need food, drink and entertainment.

Thus, we came up with three fantastic options that span the entire west coast and give an array of options for football fans.

1. CenturyLink Field, Seattle. Though the obvious headliner for this stadium is the Backstreet Boys’ reunion tour (May 22, tickets still available), this would be an excellent choice for the Pac-12 championship game. The stadium seats 67,000 but can be expanded to 72,000 for special events. The field is fantastic and is the home of the Seattle Seahawks and the Seattle Sounders FC. The city of Seattle is a gem. Where else can you visit the original Starbucks, the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and go for an underground city tour all in one day? The main deterrent would be the weather. The average low in Seattle in December is 36 degrees and the average high is 47. So if fans are looking for a tropical getaway (and the Seattle Aquarium just isn’t going to do it for you), then this wouldn’t be the best place. But for a fan who wants good football, a great stadium and fantastic food and drink, this could be a very viable option.

2. Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver. Again, a great city, a great venue and another great option for the Pac-12 championship game. Like Seattle, it is a city that wouldn’t feature a tropical climate in early December (Average high: 43, average low: 17), but haven’t you ever watched the fans at Lambeau Field and wondered what it was like to bundle up and watch a game? (No? OK, fine.) But imagine the satisfaction you could get walking into the stadium and shouting, “Omaha! Omaha!” Similar to Seattle, it’s an easily accessible city and one that people would have no problem spending a few days in. Between the live music, the Denver Art Museum and food options, you can’t go wrong. And if you have a free day before the big game, head out to the mountains and get in a day of skiing or snowboarding.

3. Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego. All right, so here’s an option that would bring fans to a location where they wouldn’t have to worry about packing a parka. In December, temperatures range between 48 and 65 degrees, on average. So for those who would gripe about the Pac-12 North teams having such a huge advantage if the game were to be played in Seattle or Denver, this might be the best option for you. The stadium seats just over 70,000 and has 19,000 parking spots on site (the most of these three options). And who doesn’t want to visit San Diego? Between the opportunity to quote Anchorman, a trip to the world-famous San Diego Zoo or the USS Midway Museum, there’s plenty to see and do.

Poll: Top spring storyline

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
5:30
PM PT
There hasn’t been a shortage of intriguing storylines this spring in the Pac-12. Then again, there usually aren’t. From quarterback battles to disciplinary issues, the 2014 spring has given us plenty to talk about. But which one stands out as the biggest storyline? That’s today’s Pac-12 blog poll question.

What’s the biggest storyline in the Pac-12 this spring?

Your options:

SportsNation

What is the biggest storyline in the Pac-12 this spring?

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    43%
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    19%
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    17%
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    14%
  •  
    7%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,677)

Bralon Addison injury: The Ducks lost one of their top receiving threats when Addison tore his ACL in spring practice. There are options for the Ducks, who are never wanting for offensive talent. But Addison seemed poised to build off an outstanding 2013 after catching 61 balls for 890 yards and seven touchdowns -- not to mention his prowess as a return man. This is the third-straight spring a marquee receiver has gone down (Paul Richardson, 2012; Austin Hill, 2013).

USC quarterback: Cody Kessler is USC’s starting quarterback, for now. New coach Steve Sarkisian announced before the spring game that the incumbent had continued to distance himself from challengers Max Browne and Jalen Greene. It wasn’t a total shock -- given Kessler’s year of experience and the fact that he came on strong in the second half last fall. But USC quarterbacks will always garner national attention.

Quarterback questions marks: While 10 Pac-12 coaches have the luxury of having their QB in place already, two schools are still looking for their starter. Arizona has a host of quarterbacks to choose from. And spring has brought little clarity to the situation. At Washington, Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams split the snaps, but we won’t know much until Cyler Miles returns from his suspension.

ASU’s defense: Every team has to replace a few key players, but the Arizona State Sun Devils essentially have to replace its entire starting defense. With nine starters gone from last season’s defense gone -- including two-time Pac-12 defensive player of the year Will Sutton -- the competition level was upped to see who is going to step in.

Stanford's RBs: Being a starting running back at Stanford means big production. The Cardinal have had a 1,000-yard rusher every year since 2008, so whoever replaces Tyler Gaffney is probably in for a big season. Though coach David Shaw told the Pac-12 blog earlier this month he’d prefer to have a committee approach, a natural No. 1 will likely emerge. Who that is, however, remains a question.

Poll: More pressure on Petersen or Sark?

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
12:00
PM PT
This week the Pac-12 blog had an opportunity to chat with new USC coach Steve Sarkisian and new Washington coach Chris Petersen, the man who replaced Sark in Seattle.

SportsNation

Which new head coach has the most pressure heading into the 2014 season?

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    9%
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    91%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,482)

Both schools present a different set of challenges and varying degrees of pressure and expectation. But which coach has the most pressure on him? Sarkisian’s and Petersen’s coaching careers from here on out will be closely intertwined, especially because Petersen was considered a candidate for the vacant USC job before withdrawing his name.

This has all the makings of a great Take 2. And maybe your Pac-12 reporters will tackle that one sooner rather than later. But for now, we thought we’d put it to a vote. Which head coach, Petersen or Sarkisian, has more pressure heading into the 2014 season?

Petersen: He comes to Seattle with a gleaming résumé. The name value alone means folks are expecting Petersen to do great things almost immediately. Whenever a big-time coaching job opened up, Petersen’s name was at the top of the list. But he chose Seattle because he felt the timing and the situation were right. But for all of the hype and expectation surrounding his hire, the simple fact remains that he has to replace quarterback Keith Price, who was the smiling backbone of the program; a Doak Walker finalist running back in Bishop Sankey; and the 2013 John Mackey Award winner in tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. There is some good talent at Washington, but that trio isn’t easily replaced. Sark did a good job pulling the program from the cellar, but many are expecting Petersen to get this team into the 10-win neighborhood.

Sarkisian: It’s USC -- one of the most desirable coaching jobs in the country. And with that comes nearly unparalleled scrutiny. Sarkisian took an important first step toward winning some credibility when he locked down an A-list recruiting class. But there are still those concerned that Sark isn’t the home-run hire befitting a season-long coaching search. Winning would change that, but a slow start would only amplify it. Not only does he have to prove he’s the right guy for the job, but he has to win back a fan base that’s grown weary of losing to Notre Dame and UCLA in consecutive seasons. The Trojans will soon be off sanctions, which should help in recruiting. However, if he doesn’t win right away, you have to question whether he'll be given enough time to fully implement his vision.

Poll: Top defense in 2014?

February, 14, 2014
Feb 14
1:00
PM PT
The shuffling of defensive coordinators appears to be over. We think. And as previously noted, all five of the top scoring defenses in the Pac-12 last year have seen changes at the top of the defensive coaching hierarchy. Three of the hires were internal promotions and two were coordinators who stayed with their head coach while switching schools.

This is how the top five scoring defenses played out last year:
  1. Stanford (19.0 points per game)
  2. Oregon (20.5)
  3. USC (21.2)
  4. Washington (22.8)
  5. UCLA (23.2)

Who got the better end of the deal? Sounds like a poll question for you to ponder all weekend long.

Which team will lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense in 2014?

Your options:

SportsNation

Which team will lead the Pac-12 in scoring defense in 2014?

  •  
    17%
  •  
    30%
  •  
    25%
  •  
    11%
  •  
    17%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,124)

Stanford: Derek Mason departed to become head coach at Vanderbilt and Lance Anderson was promoted from within. The Cardinal lose some marquee players but have others such as safety Jordan Richards and linebacker A.J. Tarpley returning.

Oregon: Out is longtime coordinator Nick Aliotti, who retired. In is longtime position coach Don Pellum. The Ducks lose some talent but return standout cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who gives the Ducks' secondary instant credibility.

USC: Clancy Pendergast was not retained by new head coach Steve Sarkisian. So Justin Wilcox is in after working his magic at Washington. The Trojans lost a lot of players to the draft, but a couple key players are back and there is a pretty good crop of young, talented players.

Washington: New head coach Chris Petersen brought his guy, Pete Kwiatkowski, with him from Boise State. The Huskies made tremendous strides in two seasons under Wilcox and have some pretty solid personnel returning.

Other: UCLA's Lou Spanos returned to the NFL and Jeff Ulbrich was promoted from within. Head coach Jim Mora will still oversee a lot of the defense. Though impact players like Anthony Barr and Cassius Marsh are gone, the Bruins have plenty of talent coming back. ... Arizona was sixth in the conference last year and made huge strides from 2012 to 2013. Can it keep the momentum going? ... Arizona State (seventh) also shuffled its defensive staff around with the hiring of Keith Patterson, though Todd Graham will still be heavily involved in the defense. ... Utah (eighth) is just two seasons removed from leading the conference in scoring defense. Can the Utes get back to the top?

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2013 TEAM LEADERS

PASSINGATTCOMPYDSTD
C. Kessler361236296820
RUSHINGCARYDSAVGTD
J. Allen1357855.814
T. Madden1387035.13
RECEIVINGRECYDSAVGTD
M. Lee5779113.94
N. Agholor5691816.46
TEAMRUSHPASSTOTAL
Offense174.2218.1392.3
TEAMPFPAMARGIN
Scoring28.521.37.2