Predicted order of finish
If he stays healthy, no reason the dual-threat quarterback shouldn’t be in Heisman conversation by season’s end. Threw for 3,665 yards and 31 TDs as a sophomore with just 4 interceptions.
Quietly rushed for 1,038 yards and 14 TDs on 168 carries in 2013, emerging as Ducks’ best back amid injuries to De’Anthony Thomas. Blend of power and speed makes him tough to tackle.
Considered one of nation’s best defensive backs. Recorded 84 tackles and intercepted three passes as a junior in 2013.
One of the most productive freshman running backs in the country in 2013. Rushed for 711 yards and 9 TDs on 115 carries, and should see the field much more often in 2014.
60 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks as a junior. One of two returning d-line starters who should help form a fairly salty pass rush.
A star quarterback, a pair of dynamic running backs and an experienced offensive line (losing LT Tyler Johnstone didn’t help, though) make the Ducks the clear favorite to win the Pac-12 North. It helps, too, that Oregon does not play USC or Arizona State, two teams likely to finish in the top half of the conference. If Mariota avoids injury and if the Ducks’ defense is simply serviceable, this should be another season full of lopsided scores and third-quarter blowouts in Helfrich’s second season at the helm.
Serviceable passer who threw for 2,630 yards, 20 TDs and 10 INTs in 2013. Also rushed for 355 yards on 84 attempts, and holds a 16-3 record as a starter.
Leading returning receiver after catching 61 passes for 958 yards and 10 TDs in 2013. Also a standout kick returner who ran two kicks back for scores last season.
Son of NFL Hall-of-Famer by the same name. Could be next in line to continue tradition of stellar running backs under coach David Shaw.
Was overshadowed at times last season by other NFL-bound Stanford defenders. But still managed 93 tackles for a unit that led the conference in scoring defense.
Big left tackle is only returning starter from Stanford’s 2013 offensive line. Second-team All Pac-12 selection last season after starting each game.
This isn’t Stanford’s most experienced team, and there are some questions about how the Cardinal will replace the losses of defensive stars like Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy. And players such as Puyallup native Joshua Garnett will have to step up along a remodeled offensive line. But Shaw has proven in the past that he can reload, and deserves the benefit of the doubt with an experienced quarterback, star receiver and seasoned defensive backfield. Here’s a guess the rest will fall into place like it always seems to.
He hasn’t attempted a pass in a college game, but Petersen liked his accuracy and decision-making during fall camp. Can the Mercer Island native hold onto UW’s starting job once Cyler Miles’ one-game suspension is served?
If he can hold onto the ball, Washington provides a dangerous combination of speed and power. Carried 47 times for 332 yards and 4 TDs in 2013.
Recovered fully from two ACL injuries and came back with 13 sacks (the most by any returning player) during a breakout 2013 season. Now plays the “buck” linebacker position with coverage duties added to his plate.
Considered one of the conference’s best corners. Was a second-team all-Pac-12 pick in 2013 after snagging five interceptions.
The fastest player on the team will start 2014 as the Huskies’ primary kick returner after returning a kick 100 yards for a TD last season against BYU. Looking to build off 16-catch, 208-yard totals as a freshman.
With a starting defensive line comprised only of seniors and the most experienced offensive line in the conference, the Huskies are stacked where it usually matters most. But questions remain about whether Lindquist, Miles or Troy Williams will be able to adequately replace Keith Price at quarterback, and three new starters in the defensive backfield have some wondering if there could be a drop-off there. Still, UW’s defense should be good enough to have it competing for a finish in the top half of the division, if not the program’s first 10-win season since 2000.=
OREGON STATE BEAVERS
Coach: Mike Riley, 14th year
2013: 7-6, 4-5 in Pac-12
Starters returning: 7 on offense, 7 on defense
Assuming he stays healthy, Mannion should own just about every Oregon State passing record by the time he graduates. Threw for 4,662 yards and 37 TDs as a junior.
Had 477 yards on 127 carries last season in an offense that didn’t run the ball real often. Also caught 47 passes, third-most on the team, for 440 yards.
Second-leading receiver on the team in 2013 behind the great Brandin Cooks. Caught 52 passes for 788 yards and 3 TDs, and OSU will need even more production from him this season.
The highlight of an offensive line that could be pretty shaky. But even Seumalo is a question mark, as he’s expected to miss action early in the season while recovering from a foot injury.
Six of OSU’s returning defensive starters are seniors, and Wynn leads that group. He had 67 tackles and 5.0 tackles for loss last season as a junior.
The Beavers are fortunate to have such a proven passer in Mannion, but they must find a way to replace Cooks’ production while also making sure Mannion stays upright. That could be difficult behind an offensive line that Riley in spring termed “a mess.” Getting Seumalo back will be big, presuming he doesn’t miss any more than the expected two games. OSU also hopes to run the ball better than it did in 2013, when the Beavers ranked 115th nationally in rushing offense.
WASHINGTON STATE COUGARS
The Pac-12’s most frequent passer in 2013 is back for his fifth and final year of eligibility. Halliday had problems with INTs last season (22 of them), but threw for 4,597 yards and 34 TDs in 714 attempts.
Took a while to adjust to NCAA competition last season, but still finished with 42 catches for 539 yards and seven TDs. More is expected out of the slimmed-down senior in 2014.
The centerpiece of WSU’s defense. Monroe finished second on the team in tackles last season with 94, and is the most obvious candidate to replace safety Deone Bucannon as the team’s leading tackler this season.
Steady, consistent receiver who put up solid numbers as a freshman: 46 catches, 614 yards, 3 TDs.
Tacoma native who started 22 games the past two seasons and is the anchor of WSU’s defensive line. Made 50 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks as a sophomore.
Nobody doubts the Cougars will be able to score points this season, provided Halliday has time to throw behind a few new starters on the offensive line. But WSU’s receiving corps deep and experienced enough to believe Halliday could have another record year in Leach’s Air Raid offense. The concern for WSU will be preventing opponents from passing against their ultra-thin secondary, which lists Teondray Caldwell – who converted from running back during fall camp – as a backup at one safety spot. The progression of the Cougars’ young and inexperienced secondary could be the key to WSU’s season.
CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS
Quietly broke California’s single-season passing record last season by throwing for 3,508 yards on a very bad team. Should only improve as a sophomore with a year of starting experience under his belt.
One of two quality targets for Goff. Led the team with 77 catches for 751 yards and a TD in 2013.
Caught 70 passes for team-high 852 yards and 5 TDs in 2013. Forms a strong duo with Treggs.
Injuries derailed his 2012 and 2013 seasons, but the Golden Bears hope he can return to his form and produce another season like his promising freshman season in 2011.
Led the team with 67 tackles in 10 starts and 12 games overall in 2013. Also intercepted a pass and recovered a pair of fumbles, and is listed as a team captain this year.
The key for the Golden Bears this season will be avoiding the kind of catastrophic injuries that decimated their defense in 2013 and turned them into the Pac-12 doormat. Already, though, they’ve lost a pair of players to ACL injuries, including linebacker Nathan Broussard. Cal ranked 122nd in total defense a year ago, and if the Bears want to be competitive in the Pac-12 again, they’re going to need to give Goff, Treggs, Harper and Co. a little more help in 2014.
Could be a Heisman Trophy candidate if everything shakes out the way the Bruins hope. Threw for 3,071 yards in 2013 and was also the team’s leading rusher with 748 yards on 160 carries.
Reigning Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Could also play a little running back again this year after rushing for 267 yards and 7 TDs on just 38 carries as a freshman.
Leading returning receiver with 43 catches for 471 yards and 4 TDs in 2013. Should help fill void left by departure of Shaq Evans.
Big-time prospect made 39 tackles in seven starts as a freshman. Should have more opportunities to disrupt opposing offenses this season.
Wasn’t relied upon all that much in 2013, rushing 101 times for 534 yards and 5 TDs. Combines with Paul Perkins to form a decent 1-2 punch in UCLA’s backfield.
The Bruins are a trendy pick to emerge from a difficult Pac-12 schedule as one of four participants in the first College Football Playoff. They do have a good bit of talent to replace defensively, given the losses of NFL draft picks Anthony Barr, Cassius Marsh and Jordan Zumwalt. But they still return 7 defensive starters and one of the nation’s best quarterbacks, so in a division with a little less proven talent than the North, the Bruins seem a pretty clear favorite.
Got past USC’s quarterback controversy pretty well last season after Lane Kiffin was fired, ending the season with 20 TD passes and 7 INTs. Sarkisian’s tutelage could lead to bigger numbers in 2013.
Rushed for 785 yards and 14 TDs last season, and has to like Sarkisian’s reputation for giving his backs plenty of carries.
Same goes for Madden. He had a nearly identical workload as Allen last season, carrying 138 times for 703 yards and 3 TDs.
Leading returning receiver who, rather quietly, had 56 catches for 918 yards and 6 TDs – more yards and scores than Marqise Lee.
An All-American and maybe USC’s best player on either side of the ball. Recorded 74 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks last season.
The Trojans still don’t possess the kind of depth they would like, a result of the scholarship sanctions placed upon them by the NCAA. Because of that, they’ll have to rely on more freshmen than Sarkisian would like. Still, they return a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, including their quarterback, leading receiver and two most productive running backs. The coaching transition could lead to growing pains, but if the Trojans don’t win in Sarkisian’s first year, it won’t be for a lack of talent.
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS
He’s not talked about in the same reverent tones as Mariota and Hundley, but Kelly is coming off a monster season and plays in an offense that will again be conducive to big numbers. Threw for 3,635 yards and 28 TDs and rushed for another 608 yards and nine scores last season.
Will be Kelly’s primary target one year after catching 75 passes for 1,122 yards and 7 TDs.
Easy to forget amid Marion Grice’s big numbers in 2013 that Foster actually put together a pretty good season himself – 93 carries, 501 yards and six TDs on the ground, plus another 63 receptions for 653 yards and 4 TDs.
One of only two returning defensive starters. Tied for third on the team with 71 tackles last season.
There’s a reason Graham chose to bring Douglas with him to Pac-12 media days. He leads an experienced offensive line that features three returning starters.
Graham has said on numerous occasions that this will be the best offensive team he’s ever coached, and there’s evidence to support that belief. Kelly might be one of the least talked about stars in the league, and he’s got weapons such as Strong and Foster to distribute the ball to. But that defense. It was so good in 2013, and they lost everybody – Will Sutton, Chris Young, Carl Bradford, etc. That’s a ton of high-end talent to replace, so ASU’s young defensive players have a lot to prove.
Missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but he’s healthy now and if he’s 100 percent, he could be one of the conference’s top receivers. Totaled 1,364 yards receiving and 11 TDs in 2012.
Named the winner of Arizona’s quarterback competition. Led Bishop Gorman High to four state titles as its starting QB, but redshirted in 2013.
One of a bevy of skilled receivers returning this season for the Wildcats. Caught 51 passes for 696 yards and 7 TDs as a true freshman.
Same goes for Grant, who had a solid freshman season with 47 catches for 373 yards and a score.
So, is he going to play? Bondurant appeared to quit the team for a brief time earlier this camp, and has been trying to work his way back into Rodriguez’s good graces. Stay tuned.
You can never doubt an offense led by Rodriguez, especially after he took what appeared to be a pretty shaky quarterback in B.J. Denker last season and turned him into a decent leader of his up-tempo offense. But there is again a question-mark under center. Solomon came out of high school with solid credentials, but starting a freshman is always a risky proposition – especially in a conference as loaded as the Pac-12. A soft early schedule should help.
Recovered from a career-threatening concussion last season to win Utah’s starting QB job. He’s big and tough to tackle, but needs to improve upon his passing statistics (1,827 yards, 16 TDs and 16 INTs before he got hurt last year).
Best player on the team after catching 53 passes for 1,002 yards and 7 TDs last season. A healthy Wilson would help his cause this year.
Leader of a pretty stout run defense a year ago. Recorded 50 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks, but is only returning member of Utah’s starting defensive line.
Started 22 games his first two seasons at Utah, and leads what could be a pretty tough offensive line that returns a senior and another junior.
Led the Utes with 607 yards rushing on 149 carries (an average of 4.1) and two TDs in 2013. If O-line is solid, Poole could have a bigger year.
Utah hasn’t had the smoothest transition into the Pac-12, failing to really establish itself as an opponent to be feared. They’re helped in 2014 by the return of Wilson, who some thought might never play again after the concussion that cut his 2013 season short. Anderson is a nice weapon, and Poole showed flashes of being a pretty good back last year, too. Can Utah re-vamp its defensive line and continue to stuff the run effectively?
QB problems for the Buffaloes forced Liufau into duty as a true freshman last season. He fared well, all things considered, completing 59.4 percent of his passes and throwing 12 TD passes with 8 INTs.
Pac-12’s leading tackler in 2013 as a freshman with 8.9 per game. Returns as one of Colorado’s best defenders.
Powerful back who rushed for 562 yards on 147 carries last season. Will be running behind offensive line that returns three starters.
Buffaloes’ defense struggled all of last season (and the season before that). Bell, who had 71 tackles and 3 INTs last season, leads a secondary that will try to amend that in 2014.
Colorado’s top option to help replace Paul Richardson. Spruce had a solid year himself in 2013, catching 55 passes for 650 yards and 4 TDs.
This could be one of those seasons in which the Buffaloes improve, but don’t see a bump in their win-loss record because of how tough the conference is. Liufau showed promise as a freshman, and there’s no reason to think he won’t improve as a sophomore. But Colorado’s defense remains a big concern – they do return eight starters, but that’s from a group that ranked 106th in total defense a year ago. Maybe experience gained through all those losses will help turn that around.