Can Anyone Challenge Oregon?
He’ll never admit it, but Chip Kelly’s decision to bolt from Oregon to the NFL likely had something to do with impending NCAA violations. Smart move, just ask Pete Carroll. Kelly leaves behind a heap of offensive talent. Oregon was a great program when he took over, they’ll be a great program well into the future. As for the 2013 Ducks, their offense will be unstoppable even without Kelly calling the shots. Marcus Mariotta is one of the best QB’s in the land and he’ll have De’Anthony Thomas, an explosive back, alongside him. Oregon’s offense will be good enough to win games even on night’s where the defense struggles.
The Ducks aren’t the only team in contention in the Pac-12. Jim Harbaugh built a heck of a program in his short tenure at Stanford and passed that onto David Shaw. Stanford has plenty of talent coming back on defense. But there are some concerns on the offensive side of the ball. Who is going to replace Stefan Taylor at running back? Fortunately, whoever steps in to replace Taylor (Anthony Wilkerson and Tyler Gaffney are the frontrunners) will be running behind one of the best offensive lines in the country.
USC appears in turmoil under Lane Kiffin. But, on paper, this is still a very talented squad. The biggest concern is defense. However, USC does have the offensive firepower to out-score opponents. It’s make or break year for Kiffin. Either USC wins or he’ll be on his way out of town. If he’s going to win in 2013 he’ll need sophomore quarterback Max Wittek to become the player he Wittek claims to be. Wittek talked a big game last year after replacing the injured Matt Barkley. Now is his chance to prove he’s more than just talk. Helping him out is all-world wide receiver Marqise Lee and Penn State transfer Silas Redd at tailback. Redd and Lee are experienced, talented, and are going to have to carry this football team.
Now let’s get to our predictions for 2013…
- Oregon State
- Washington State
- Arizona State
Pac-12 Championship Game: Oregon over USC
Bowl Eligible Teams: Oregon, Stanford, Oregon State, Washington, USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Arizona
North Division Overview: It’s Oregon and Everyone Else
Oregon will disprove the theory that defense wins championships. They might give up 30 points, but they’ll score 40. If Oregon State is going to factor into the division race, they’ll need running back Storm Woods to step up. The Beavers have a pair of quarterbacks that can play – Sean Mannion and Cody Vaz – and a talented receiving corps. But they’ll need a balanced attack if they’re going to get into the end zone inside the red zone this year. Woods was good as a first-year starter, but his improvement is crucial to the success of this team.
Stanford is likely going to finish second in this division, but it’s going to be interesting to see how Washington State fares in its second season under Mike Leach. The Cougars managed just a 3-9 record in Leach’s first year, but his offensive system is so much different than what his players are used to. But the fact remains, Washington State simply doesn’t have much talent. They’ve been the worst college football program over the past decade and not much is likely to change in 2013.
South Division Overview: A Whole Lot of Average
The Pac-12 will have some surprises this year. They always do. But as we head into the fall, there don’t appear to be any dominating teams in the South Division. There are 3 or 4 quality teams, but not that we expect to challenge Oregon. USC, Arizona State, and UCLA are the favorites in this division. Many think Arizona State is the top returning team. Games between teams in this division not involving Colorado will be close and entertaining.
Arizona is another intriguing team. Much like Washington State, they’re in the second year of a brand new offensive system under Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez failed miserably at Michigan but surprised some teams last year. They had big wins against USC and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats will be inconsistent again this year. Give RichRod some time to implement his system and recruit. Arizona will be very good in a year or two.