The favorites to meet in the Pac-12 title game are USC and Oregon, and that should not be a surprise to anyone. However, that does not mean that there are teams that could challenge those teams for the North and South titles.
Utah could make a run at USC in the South, as they get them at home this year. Utah has possibly the best front seven in the Pac-12 and one of the best in all of college football.
In the North, it is all Oregon’s to lose, because even though Stanford is projected to finish second by nearly everyone, they are breaking in quarterback Josh Nunes to replace legend Andrew Luck. To get past Oregon, they will have to have the game of their lives.
A major theme this year in the Pac-12 is the slew of new coaches signed in the offseason. That includes Jim L. Mora at UCLA, who wants to bring in more discipline; Mike Leach, who is installing his air-raid system at Washington State; Rich Rodriguez, who is bringing his spread scheme at Arizona; and Todd Graham, who just made another coaching move to land at Arizona State.
As for who will win the divisions, we already mentioned our picks, but here are the reasons why they will win.
North Division winner: Oregon Ducks
The Ducks should not be challenged by any other team from within their division, even with breaking in a new starting quarterback.
There is currently a quarterback battle between Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota, and in Chip Kelly’s tenure with Oregon as their offensive coordinator and head coach, it has not mattered who was under center.
Whoever has been under center has just won games, and he will do that again this year. It also helps to have De’Anthony Thomas at running back, since he will be the focal point in Oregon’s fast-paced offense.
South Division winner: USC Trojans
The Trojans have everything in place to be the South winner as they have the best offense in the division. It all starts with their Heisman candidate, quarterback Matt Barkley.
They also have the best wide receiver duo in the league, if not the country, in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. And complementing that is a nice tandem at running back, with Curtis McNeal and Penn State transfer Silas Redd.
The only thing to slow them down is their depth, which is not very strong, since USC is still operating with fewer scholarships than most teams. If they stay healthy, they should be able to win the South title.
Pac-12 title game: USC over Oregon
This game depends on who gets home-field advantage; these teams are that close. USC gets Oregon at home in the regular season, and that game will more than likely will determine who wins this title game.
This prediction is based on USC staying healthy, because if they are healthy they have possibly the best offense in the nation and can go toe-to-toe with any team.
This game should be a high-scoring event, but in the end, USC has a more all-around offense and will get past Oregon.
Bowl projection: USC to BCS championship game.
Offensive player of the year: Matt Barkley, quarterback, USC.
What helps Barkley is that he has the weapons similar to the great 2005 USC team.
Then, Matt Leinart, in his senior year, was assisted by eventual NFL talents like Reggie Bush and LenDale White in the backfield and Steve Smith (formerly of the Super Bowl-winning Giants) and Fred Davis as receiving targets. Not too far off from what Barkley has at his disposal.
Defensive player of the year: Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle, Utah.
Who will win the Pac-12?
For starters, Lotulelei already has the accolades to show he's one of the most difficult players to defend. His stats back it up, and as a defensive tackle, he had 43 total tackles (nine for loss) and 1.5 sacks.
That was all done while being double-teamed for most of the year. Expect for Lotulelei to get double- and tripled-team so his stats may not be there, but he will open up chances for other players to make plays.
Freshman of the year: Bryce Treggs, wide receiver, Cal
This award could go to multiple players, but Treggs is the only one in line to be a starter at this time. Out of high school, he was rated as a 4-star receiver and a top-100 player nationally.
Treggs had offers from nearly every major school out on the West coast. He has great hands and has excellent route-running skills.