Stanford Football: 2014 pac-12 blog poll

Earlier this week we took a look at the best wins and worst losses for each team in the Pac-12 in the last four years (between World Cups).

It was a fun exercise to look back at some of the great triumphs and frustrating losses over that span. That got the Pac-12 blog thinking. What about out-of-conference games during that same time period?

Sounds like a solid Friday poll to carry you into the weekend.

What’s the best nonconference win for the Pac-12 during the last four seasons?

Your options:

SportsNation

What is the best nonconference win for the Pac-12 in the last four years?

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    51%
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    19%
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    9%
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    10%
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    11%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,152)

Oregon over Wisconsin: The biggest knock on the Chip Kelly era at the time was that he hadn’t won a BCS game – yet -- after losing in the Rose Bowl in 2009 and the national championship game in 2010. But in the 2011 (season) Rose Bowl, the Ducks got over the hump with a 45-38 victory over the Badgers. The world was also introduced to “DAT” guy.

Washington over Nebraska: Rematches usually don’t make for spirited bowl games – especially since Nebraska had already thumped Washington 56-21 earlier in the season. But in the 2010 Holiday Bowl, the Huskies returned the favor with a 19-7 victory over the No. 18 Cornhuskers. It was Washington’s first bowl appearance since 2002 and a declaration to the rest of the conference that the Huskies, who had seen some lean years, were ready to make the move into the ranks of the league’s upper-echelon teams.

Utah over BYU: Which one, you ask? The Utes have won all three Holy Wars since joining the conference in 2011. But it’s the 2012 game we’re looking at. Just a week before, they had lost in overtime to Utah State – and lost their quarterback in the process. But in one of the more thrilling finishes in the history of the rivalry, Star Lotulelei blocked a 51-yard field goal attempt, only to have officials call a penalty on Utah fans prematurely storming the field. The ensuring 36-yard attempt from Riley Stephenson hit the upright, bringing an end to one of the most exciting games in the history of the rivalry.

Stanford over Wisconsin: We considered the 2010 Orange Bowl. That was, after all, the end of the Jim Harbaugh era and a routing opus for what he had started a few years earlier. But the 2012 Rose Bowl victory was the quintessential Cardinal. Get a lead, then hold it by shoving the ball down the opponent’s throat and playing smothering defense. The 20-14 win wasn’t exactly “pretty,” but if you like smash-mouth football, it was your kind of game.

Other: Because the polls are limited to five options, we simply can’t just throw a fifth one up when there are too many other solid wins to consider. UCLA’s win over Nebraska in 2013 tugged on the heart strings like no other. Arizona’s 49-48 win over Nevada in the 2012 New Mexico Bowl wasn’t of any great national significance, but it was one heck of an entertaining football game. There was also Arizona's win over Iowa in 2010, ASU’s win in 2011 over Missouri, UCLA’s win in 2010 over Texas and Oregon’s 2012 win over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. Plenty of choices, including a few I'm sure you'll remind me of.
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%
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    28%
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    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.
Pac-12 spring practices end on Saturday with spring games from Oregon and Oregon State, and many conference teams feel like they found answers to some of their nagging questions. But there also are major unresolved issues.

So which is the most pressing post-spring void?

Start at Arizona. While the Wildcats QB competition is far from resolved -- heck, four guys are still in the hunt -- the general feeling after spring practices ended is that the position is far better off than it was a year ago. Based on the quality of competition, there's not much concern that the next QB won't be at least solid.

SportsNation

Which is the Pac-12's most pressing post-spring void?

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    32%
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    21%
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    10%
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    9%
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    28%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,762)

Things now seem more uncertain at running back, where the Wildcats are replacing Ka'Deem Carey. The only returning RB with experience, Jared Baker, was out with an injury. The NCAA waylaid early-enrollee Jonathan Haden, and redshirt freshmen Pierre Cormier and Zach Green didn't distinguish themselves. Senior Terris Jones-Grigsby made a few plays, and incoming freshman Nick Wilson arrives in the fall. It's possible Rich Rodriguez will reach into his deep bag of receivers for help at the position.

The Wildcats running game should be productive because that's pretty much a given with a Rich Rodriguez offense. How productive, however, might determine where Arizona ultimately falls in the South Division pecking order.

Then there's Oregon State, which is only replacing the nation's best receiver in 2013, Brandin Cooks, a potential first-round NFL draft pick next week. The Beavers welcome back the experienced Richard Mullaney and the promising Victor Bolden, but asking them to replace Cooks' production and explosiveness seems far-fetched. With a strong-armed, veteran QB in Sean Mannion, the Beavers need to find more weapons in the passing game.

Meanwhile, UCLA exits spring practices with few obvious voids. There's a reason folks are projecting a top-10 preseason ranking. Yet OLB Anthony Barr was special. He's also a potential first-round NFL draft pick, and the Bruins don't have an obvious answer for replacing his 10 sacks. Kenny Orjioke flashed some this spring, and he and Deon Hollins seem to be a serviceable tandem, particularly if end Owamagbe Odighizuwa becomes a QB terror.

Still, Barr not only was everywhere last year, he made everyone around him better.

Often it's not just about physical skill, though Stanford LB Shayne Skov has plenty of that. Skov was more than the Cardinal's leading tackler. He was the locker room's emotional presence, its unquestioned leader. So it's not just that Stanford is replacing his production. It's also the leadership void he leaves behind.

At the end of spring, it was unclear who would take his place, as Blake Martinez, Noor Davis, Joe Hemschoot and Kevin Palma all are still in the mix.

Finally, Washington is replacing RB Bishop Sankey, its unquestioned offensive superstar, but the QB situation, where the efficient Keith Price needs to be replaced, seems more worrisome. The good news is Cyler Miles wasn't charged in an off-field incident that had him suspended all of spring. That would appear to clear the way for him rejoining the team.

Still, he might be in new coach Chris Petersen's doghouse, and he might not find it easy to catch up with Jeff Lindquist and Troy Williams in terms of learning the new offense. Further, neither Lindquist nor Williams seemed to make a decisive statement this spring. While the options to replace Sankey at RB -- unlike at Arizona -- have quality game experience, that only can be said for Miles at QB. Until Petersen reveals Miles' standing, this is a major question for the Huskies offseason and fall camp.

Each of these teams has high aspirations for 2014. It's unlikely they will meet those expectations without adequately addressing these voids.

So which is the biggest?

Poll: Top defense in 2014?

February, 14, 2014
Feb 14
1:00
PM ET
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%
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    25%
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    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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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
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Monday, 12/29
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