Pac-12 Invades The Preseason Rankings
By Scott McCourtney
With the recent USA Today Coaches Poll rankings released, Pac-12 fans should be thrilled at the number six.
That is the number of Pac-12 teams that cracked the Top 25. Some may surprise you, but most deserve to be on there for obvious reasons. If anything, this gives respect to fans of teams that play in the Pac-12. The conference is full of talent and will be very competitive this year. Therefore, talk it up about how your school made the Top 25 and your school can play with the best. Anyone can now gloat to their friends of the Big 12 or ACC, if you actually have some, that your conference and school is legit because you know how right-coasters feel about left-coasters. Maybe we can all team up against the SEC. Either way, here’s a quick look at the six Pac-12 teams that made the Top 25.
No. 4 Oregon
Oregon claims the highest spot of any of the Pac-12 teams. With quarterback Marcus Mariota coming back after having a stellar 2013 season, having passed for 3,412 yards and thrown for 30 touchdowns, he looks to be in the hunt for the Heisman Trophy and a Pac-12 title. The Ducks are stacked on offense with all five offensive linemen returning and their two leading rushers from a season ago in Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner. However, they are light in wide receivers, so look for newbies at that position.
No. 7 UCLA
The top team in Los Angeles is looking strong for the first time in consecutive years. Jim Mora has really turned the program around and looks to make a run at not only the Pac-12 title, but perhaps even a FBS playoff bid. UCLA is favored to win the Pac-12 South with star quarterback Brett Hundley returning and the strong Eric Kendricks at linebacker. Both are leaders on their sides of the ball and both look to be All-Americans again. Also, look for RB/LB-hybrid Myles Jack to turn some heads…again.
No. 11 Stanford
The defending Pac-12 champs are looking to continue their run of success for 2014. With clutch quarterback Kevin Hogan coming back to lead the way, Stanford looks to make more noise again this season. They have leaders on defense with the likes of returning safety Jordan Richards. The only hole will be the five guys all vying for the top running back spot and the two wide receivers trying to live up to their potential. If all goes to plan, Hogan will help everyone be better on the offensive side of the ball.
No. 15 USC
Now that USC is out of the gutter of NCAA rules violations it looks to be back and the Trojans are hungry. Cody Kessler is returning from a solid 2013 season where the Trojans pulled out 10 wins — surprising many who thought they would just roll over. This year, they look to capitalize on their new freedom and dominate again. Whether they do or don’t is another question. Don’t count them out, though. USC has been recruiting well and Kessler does have the skill to make a run at the Heisman. The key is if their ground game can get going with Javorius Allen. Look for defensive tackle Leonard Williams and wide receiver Nelson Agholor to have good seasons, and keep your eye on freshman Adoree Jackson. The top recruit has been practicing at cornerback, receiver and taking kick returns.
No. 18 Arizona State
The Pac-12, and most of the West Coast conferences, are rich with quarterbacks. They breed them strong there. Taylor Kelly is one of those talent-rich quarterbacks. After the Sun Devils lost in the Pac-12 championship game last season, look for him to be even more eager to win this season. ASU also has wide receiver Jalen Strong and running back D.J. Foster returning. Both look to have huge impacts in games against top teams and rivals. Look for newcomers offensive guard Christian Westerman and cornerback Kweishi Brown to have impacts as well.
No. 25 Washington
The Huskies dodged a bullet when starting quarterback Cyler Miles had charges dropped from an altercation at a Super Bowl after-party in Washington. Apparently, not everyone was happy that the Seahawks won. He is going to be the key to the Huskies’ success, because as much as Shaq Thompson can carry the team on both sides of the ball, a solid quarterback is a difference-maker if the Huskies want to make a run at the Pac-12 championship. If Miles falters, look for sophomore Jeff Lunquist, redshirt freshman Troy Williams and true freshman K.J. Carta-Samuels to make names for themselves because somebody will have to if they want to stay in the Top 25.
USA Today Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Florida State
6. Ohio State
8. Michigan State
9. South Carolina
17. Notre Dame
18. Arizona State
19. Ole Miss
20. Texas A&M
21. Kansas State
23. North Carolina