Pac-12: 2014 fearless predictions

Pac-12 fearless predictions

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
10:00
AM ET
Ivan Maisel offered up some bold national predictions for the 2014 season. Here's some we're calling in the Pac-12:

1. A Pac-12 team will win the national championship: As the Pac-12 continues to gain ground on the SEC in conversations about the toughest conference in college football, there's really only one more step to take: win a national title. It has been 10 years since USC hoisted the Waterford Crystal football, but the conference's title drought will end this year. Oregon, UCLA, Stanford and USC are all preseason top-15 teams and one of them will be the last team standing in the first year of the College Football Playoff.

2. A Pac-12 player will win the Heisman Trophy: The drought will end! The Pac-12 has not one, but two A-list quarterbacks who enter the season as front-runners. Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley have plenty of hype and the talent to match. Both play for preseason top-10 teams (and the more they win, the more voters will gravitate toward them) and both are going to put up premium dual-threat numbers. Both fit the current Heisman blueprint.

[+] EnlargeSefo Liufau
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesChances are good that QB Sefo Liufau and Colorado could upset one of the five preseason-ranked teams the Buffaloes will face in 2014.
3. No Pac-12 coach will be fired at season's end: The coaching carousel will hit the skids for at least one season. There are really only two Pac-12 coaches with seats above frosty -- Cal's Sonny Dykes and Utah's Kyle Whittingham -- and their temperature is tepid at best. If neither coach shows significant improvement in 2014 (that probably means a bowl game for Utah and at least a few FBS wins for Cal), then we won't make this declaration for 2015. But unless either really, really bombs, they'll be given another shot next season. And the Pac-12 blog doesn't think either will really, really bomb.

4. Cal and Colorado will be good enough to deliver a major upset this fall: There won't be many wins between the Buffs and Bears, but between the two, there will be at least one that no one sees coming. Utah set the precedent last season when it went 2-7 in conference play with one of those wins against conference champion Stanford. We like Colorado's chances better, but weirder things have happened.

5. The USC-UCLA game will be a battle of top-10 teams: We're almost there already. The Bruins are at No. 7 and the Trojans are at No. 15. Win or lose in Week 2 at Stanford, the Trojans probably wouldn't fall out of the Top 25. If they beat No. 19 ASU, the schedule is there for them to run off seven or eight wins in advance of the UCLA game Nov. 22. UCLA's showdown with No. 3 Oregon on Oct. 11 could bolster or bust UCLA's rankings. But with four games between the time it faces the Ducks and the Trojans -- including a trip to Washington -- UCLA could get back in the top 10 win or lose against Oregon. If the Bruins win, they'll be one of the top three teams in the country.

6. Oregon will cover the spread against Michigan State in Week 2: While the conventional thinking might be Michigan State beat the team that beat Oregon, as the Spartans slipped by Stanford, the Ducks' Pac-12 conqueror, in the Rose Bowl, that doesn't apply here. For one, Stanford was a familiar team to the Spartans. The Cardinal are built more like a typical Big Ten power team than most Big Ten power teams. The Ducks are a different matter. Michigan State hasn't seen anything like the Oregon offense, and you can't duplicate it in practice. Further, Oregon is playing in Autzen Stadium with a healthy Mariota. The Spartans are tough, but the Ducks should roll by at least two touchdowns.

7. The Pac-12 will go 3-0 against Notre Dame: Last season, Notre Dame went 2-1 against the Pac-12, beating Arizona State and USC and losing to Stanford. This year, the Pac-12 will take revenge. The Sun Devils and Trojans will roll at home, while Stanford wants its vengeance set at Notre Dame, site of its grand jobbing in 2012, when the Cardinal twice scored a tying touchdown in overtime that the referees just couldn't manage to notice. (This is when Notre Dame fans chime in with their reflexive counter. Easy response: The video evidence is UNQUESTIONABLE.) Part of this is all three Pac-12 teams are better than Notre Dame in any event. The other part is the Fighting Irish are dealing with suspensions and scandal that could lead to season-long distraction.

8. Whoever starts at quarterback for Arizona will pass for more than 3,000 yards: Rich Rodriguez announced that Anu Solomon will be starting for the Wildcats against UNLV, but after that, we'll see. The Pac-12 blog believes that by the fourth week of the season, Arizona will be settled on a starter. It could be Solomon. It could be someone else. Whichever quarterback it is, he'll pass for 3,000 yards. With Nate Phillips, Austin Hill, Cayleb Jones and Davonte' Neal (among others), he'll have targets downfield who are more than capable of turning the passer into a 3,000-yard guy.

9. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan will be the Pac-12's most improved player: Hogan has proved he's a winner -- two seasons, two Pac-12 titles -- but he didn't have the individual season many were expecting in 2013. Look for him to deliver in 2014 as he returns for a third season, along with a talented group of receivers and not much in the way of experienced rushers.

10. Six teams will be ranked in the final Top 25 at the end of the season: Six Pac-12 teams started the season in the Top 25 and guess what, six Pac-12 teams will end in the Top 25 as well. No promises that it'll be the same six, but there will be six.

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