The two biggest happenings in the league over the off season both revolved around Oregon. First, their highly successful coach, Chip Kelly, left the school for the head job with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles. His offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich is now the head coach at Oregon. Second, at LONG last the NCAA ruled on recruiting violations committed by the University of Oregon coaching staff - in particular their use of a recruiting service in Texas. To make a really long story short, Oregon cooperated fully with the NCAA, the violations were in a very gray area of the rules, they did not involve any players of consequence during the time of the violations, other schools did the same thing at the same time, and Oregon's head coach departed for the NFL. And the upshot of all that is the NCAA did not levy harsh penalties. So, the Ducks are ready to fly in 2013.
I will not predict records, but I will predict order of finish.
- Oregon - Ducks just re-load. But, with Stanford in this division UO may have to go undefeated in order to win just the North Division of the league. With the talent they have all over the field and a great returning QB, they are capable of doing it...and if they do, much more will be at stake than just the North Division.
- Stanford - This squad could win the North as it did last year by simply beating Oregon. But I don't think that will happen. The Trees lose some key players, including their great running back Stephan Taylor and a couple big, key TEs. None the less, they could easily end up in a BCS bowl.
- Washington - I know most are predicting OSU in the #3 spot in the North, and that certainly could happen. But, UW will be better this season. I think they will take a small step and get eight wins this year.
- Oregon State - Middle-of-the pack season coming up for the Beavs. Over rated at #25 in the coaches poll going into the season. They'll probably win a couple they should lose and drop 1-2 they should win, but in the end I'm not seeing this as a breakout year for the kids from corn valley.
- Cal - They may have the talent to finish a notch or two higher than I'm predicting, but I've got them here because of who they lose from last year and the fact that they've just underwhelmed the last couple seasons.
- WSU - Sorry Cougs. You will be more competitive on the field, but I don't see a strong finish in the league this season.
- UCLA - The hype finally matches the talent. UCLA repeats as South champion.
- USC - The Trojans lose some great talent, but it's still USC. So, they could challenge for the South title if things fall their way...which traditionally they do. However, between their 2012 run of bad luck and questionable coaching talent, I think the critical breaks coming their way will be bad instead of good.
- ASU - Another year, another rousing set of expectations for the Sun Devils. I put them in the middle-of-the pack because that's where they always seem to finish regardless of what's said about them in the off season or even how they actually perform in the early part of their schedule.
- Arizona - A step back for the Wildcats this season with the departure of their QB and continuing changes brought in by new coach Rich Rod.
- Utah - More mediocrity out of the Utes in 2013. Not looking for much from them.
- Colorado - Oh why did they join the Pac-12?
This game is played between the winner of the North and the South divisions with the victor claiming the Pac-12 Championship and an automatic bid to the Rose Bowl. If the winning team is ranked #1 or #2 in the final BCS rankings, however, they would go to the National Title game instead...also to be played in the Rose Bowl stadium this time around.
Oregon vs. UCLA - I'm picking a repeat of the inaugural Pac-12 title game in 2011 and I'm predicting the same outcome...a win by Oregon. However, I'm going to also predict that the Ducks don't get to the National Title game and have to "settle" for the Rose Bowl.