The 2013 college football season didn’t end favorably for the Pac-12, as the conference’s top two teams both lost their respective bowl games, and the preseason favorite finished below expectations. With the 2014 season rapidly approaching, there’s a lot of optimism among the top contenders in the Pac-12, and the conference hopes to produce its first national champion in a decade.
For the fourth time in five years, Oregon has been pegged as the favorite to end the year atop the Pac-12 standings. The Ducks lead the preseason media poll with 24 pollsters picking them to claim the North Division title and go on to win the 2014 Pac-12 Football Championship Game. UCLA is expected to meet them in the championship game, as they claimed all but two votes to win the South Division.
Oregon and UCLA have separated themselves from the rest of the conference, ranking fourth and seventh, respectively, in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll. Both teams have a strong chance to be a part of the inaugural college football playoff, as they are led by two of the nation’s top quarterbacks.
Besides defending Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston, Oregon signal caller Marcus Mariota might be the leading candidate to win the award, following a season that saw him total 40 touchdowns and just four interceptions. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley isn’t far behind, as he finished 2013 with 17 combined passing and rushing touchdowns and just one interception in his final six games.
The Ducks and Bruins won’t have an easy route to the championship game, as four other Pac-12 teams find themselves in the Top 25 poll. Stanford comes in at No.11, fresh off their appearance in the Rose Bowl. Steve Sarkisian will lead a preseason top 15 team in his first full season as USC’s head coach. Defending South Division champ Arizona State and Washington also find themselves as ranked schools.
Many of the games that will determine the fate of the conference are likely to take place in November. On the first day of the month, Stanford is scheduled to visit Oregon, who’ll be looking for revenge after last year’s upset loss. UCLA will be home in the final two weeks of November, hosting USC and Stanford in consecutive contests. Arizona State and Arizona will also square off to close out the season.
Below are predictions for the 2014 Pac-12 standings, including what two teams will face off in the conference championship game.
3) Oregon State
5) Washington State
2) Arizona State
2014 Pac-12 Football Championship Game
UCLA over Oregon