- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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With recruiting behind us and most schools in the swing of spring drills (the last of the bunch kick off next week), the Pac-12 blog thought it would be fun to examine each team's chances of winning its respective division.
This is not whether the team of the day can win the Pac-12. And we're not predicting any winners. Rather, this is our take on the team's chances of winning the North or South.
Buy or sell Oregon winning the North?
Buy: This isn't really a "buy." It's a hold, at least for many of you. If you've invested in the Ducks since 2008, your college football portfolio surely looks good, particularly in this down economy, which obviously is due entirely to free-spending, amoral SEC plutocrats.
Me? I got killed in the USC crash of 2012.
Oregon has 16 starters, including a top Heisman Trophy candidate in QB Marcus Mariota, coming back from a team that finished ranked No. 2 last fall, its third consecutive top-five rankings. While past performance doesn't guarantee future returns, the Ducks' fundamentals are strong, even if there are questions at running back, linebacker and (insert sigh from Ducks fans) kicker.
Of course, the big question is at CEO: The departure of head coach Chip Kelly to the Philadelphia Eagles will give some pause. There's no denying the sense that a major part of Oregon's rise was Kelly's cult of personality, which created an extremely focused and positive team-wide culture.
Ah, but new head coach Mark Helfrich and eight assistant coaches were part of that cultural shift. Continuity is there, despite Kelly's departure. Their intent is to maintain what has been built while also adding new ideas. We believe they will be successful doing this. Why? Kelly's main strength is his very large brain. Helfrich, who chose coaching over becoming a doctor, also has one of those.
The big question, really, is whether Oregon owns a more favorable "buy" rating than Stanford. That figures to be the $1 million question this fall in the Pac-12.
Buy: I'm buying, knowing full well that Oregon has to do something about its Stanford problem ... Did I really just write that?
It used to be the other way around: Stanford had the Oregon problem. But Stanford's win last year struck at the very heart of everything Oregon is about. The Ducks were bottled up and pushed around.
Ted is right -- past performance doesn't guarantee future returns. Meaning that what happened in 2012, while a nice gauge, isn't indicative of what will happen in 2013.
Besides, this series isn't about who is going to win the division. Rather, who is capable of winning the division. No matter what your personal power rankings are from top to bottom in the league, they better have Oregon and Stanford at 1-2, or 2-1 or 1A and 1B.
If Stanford is the most dangerous defensive team in the conference -- and it is -- then Oregon has to be the top offensive team in the conference -- and it is. You can make an argument either way for each team winning the division. And as the front-runners, it's not a tough argument to make for either team.
Oregon is a team that is used to being in the national spotlight. And the Ducks have a knack for replacing key players that leave for the NFL or graduate with seamless precision. I expect that to be the case in 2013. As Ted notes, there is continuity within the coaching staff -- which is pivotal anytime there is a change at the top.
I imagine the Ducks will be right back where they left off in 2012: a top five program that will challenge for the division, the league title and a spot in the national championship game. This is an easy buy.