Picking the PAC

I write a little conference picks piece for my real-life writing gig (I know, a real one!) every week that we preview a conference and this week we did the PAC 12, my personal favorite conference. Being a native Angeleno and a Southern bred gentleman, I know both sides of this nation’s college football landscape: ground and pound, defense first and high-flying, flashy, talented-looking fast people. I haven’t posted my picks on this site before because they really don’t matter, but the PAC 12 is the most fun conference and my picks shall be made public on not one, but TWO sites. Why not?

The 2013 PAC 12 may not be the strongest conference in the country but it will be the most interesting. High-flying offenses and better-than-average defenses make the PAC 12 the conference that is worth staying late up for.

The PAC 12 powers are in reload mode in various ways. Oregon has to replace Chip Kelly, their Head Coach, offensive guru and main reason (other than Nike) that the Ducks are relevant. While the Ducks shouldn’t miss a beat with Offensive Coordinator Mark Helfrich stepping in to Kelly’s system with Kelly’s players, there’s always a chance of a drop-off. Stanford lost running back Stepfan Taylor, key players on its defensive front seven and their Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton to the Indianapolis Colts but still has a dominant offensive line and a young star-on-the-rise at quarterback, Kevin Hogan. USC lost Monte Kiffin. He was fired, really. But the Trojans also lost four-year starter and Newport Beach blonde bombshell Matt Barkley, and have no idea who to start at QB in the fall.

USC has an “easy” schedule on paper, but knowing their history as I do, unfortunately, they’ll definitely lose a few games that are winnable. A Thursday night vs. Arizona, away at Cal with their new “Bear Raid” offense run by new Head Coach Sonny Dykes (USC is normally so good at stopping running QBs and spread offenses!), home vs. UCLA and Stanford and an imminent-death, trap-game-hellscape on a Friday night in Corvallis, Ore. against the Beavers make for an unhappy November in South Central L.A. Luckily, the Trojans avoid Oregon during the regular season but will end up playing them in the PAC 12 title game because of karma.

The interesting storyline this year will be if UCLA can repeat its success from last year. Brett Hundley is back at quarterback and Anthony Barr is back at linebacker for the Bruins, but I doubt they make it through away games at Stanford, Oregon, Arizona and USC unscathed.

Cal, Arizona, Washington State, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona State really have nothing to lose and should adopt the mentality of giant-killing because making the Alamo Bowl would be a big deal for some of these schools.

This season will come down to USC and Oregon. Stanford will be in the mix, and whoever scheduled the Oregon at Stanford game on a Thursday night should be immediately fired, but Stanford will have this season to reload. Next year, look out.

The only problem with USC doing halfway decent this year is that Lane Kiffin might keep his job. But maybe that’s a good thing, is what I tell myself to help sleep at night.

Pick: Oregon over USC.

MVP: Marqise Lee

Coach of the Year: Mark Helfrich

This article also appears on Crystal Ball Run

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