As Pac-12 Media Day wrapped up on Friday, the media cast their votes as to whom they believe will be crowned the kings of the Pacific coast come December. The outcome of the balloting was really no surprise as the the Oregon Ducks grabbed 13 out of a possible 24 votes to take the conference crown. With eight starters on offense returning, which include standout QB Marcus Mariota and all-everything threat De’Anthony Thomas, and seven on defense the Ducks could be considered a virtual shoe-in to take the trophy in 2013.
Well, that is if they don’t have a repeat of last season.
While they still enjoyed a trip to the BCS, the Ducks are not the defending PAC-12 Champion. That distinction goes to the team that will again be their stiffest foe in the North Division this season, the Stanford Cardinal. These two will meet this year on Nov. 7 in Palo Alto with a chance at redemption for the Ducks. This should undoubtedly be the game of the year in the conference as Stanford has a wealth of talent returning as well.
Led by QB Kevin Hogan who impressed last season after taking over for Josh Nunes, the Cardinal and their eight returning defensive starters–who were able to hold the dominant Oregon offense to just 14 points last season–will make the race in the North one of the most exciting to watch in 2013.
While I can see where Oregon would have garnered that many votes to win the conference, David Shaw and the Cardinal should have been given a bit more respect. But in the end, I think that’s how the Cardinal like it.
Now, whether it’s Oregon or Stanford who come out of this race, who’s going to be waiting for them from the South?
The media’s pick at the top here wasn’t surprising at all again really. The UCLA Bruins, who came within three points of a Rose Bowl appearance in 2012, were the popular opinion. Jim Mora and the Bruins bring back 12 starters, including QB Brett Hundley for his sophomore campaign. If they can get a suitable replacement to make up for the loss of Johnathan Franklin and his 1,734 yards rushing, then the Bruins could easily be eyeing a chance at getting to Pasadena.
Again, having UCLA at the top is understandable. But, the pick at the second slot in the South surprised a few.
With their stock among most in the college football world continually dropping, the USC Trojans were picked third behind an Arizona State Sun Devils team that many seem to be high on. With a brunt of their defense back and ready to mature, coupled with Taylor Kelly back to man the offense at QB, Arizona State may be ready to solidify themselves as a legitimate threat throughout the entire conference.
Folks that were dumbfounded by what they considered a snub of USC need to realize that the Trojans have a lot to prove. After last year’s underwhelming performance, this vote showed that Lane Kiffin and his Trojans need to get themselves back in everyone’s good graces by reverting back to the dominant USC teams that we’re used to seeing.
But please don’t be fooled by this vote, should Max Wittek indeed develop into the breakout QB that everyone predicts him to be, this squad has enough talent to show everyone that they are back to where USC Football needs to be–they just merely took a year off last season.
When you look up and down this conference, anything can happen this year, especially in that South Division. I do believe that the North is a two-team race with Oregon and Stanford, no question about that.
The South is the place that has me intrigued. Aside from the teams mentioned above, Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats have the entire defense returning and a near 2,000 yard rusher in Ka’Deem Carey. If B.J. Denker is the answer at QB, this is a program that could seemingly blindside everyone in 2013.
While they don’t garner as much attention overall as some of the other conferences, this group of teams has the potential to be one of the most exciting to watch this season.
Jack is a College Football Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackJ14RS