Pac-12: Oregon State Beavers

Best of the visits: Pac-12

February, 1, 2015
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The final weekend for official visits before signing day saw some big trips taken to Pac-12 programs and a few important commitments, while one program got started in earnest on 2016 recruiting.

Beavers bag two

Oregon State coaches have rallied their class after taking over in early December. With several top prospects following former head coach Mike Riley to Nebraska and others leaving or being nudged out of the class, Gary Andersen and staff have done a nice job rebounding and filling their 2015 class. The top five commits have all made their pledges since Jan. 17, and two of those came this weekend in running back Deltron Sands and linebacker Christian Folau.


Folau is a former Stanford commit who also looked hard at Oklahoma State, Utah and Wisconsin. He is now the top-ranked prospect in Oregon State's class, while Sands continues the Beavers' reach into Florida. He is the fifth Sunshine State prospect in this class and the fourth to commit to Andersen.

UCLA's final push

The Bruins had several of their committed prospects on campus for official visits this weekend, including cornerback Colin Samuel, who received a strong late push from Michigan in an attempt to bring him out on an official visit. Samuel instead opted to firm up his commitment to the Bruins. He visited UCLA this weekend along with two significant Bruins targets in ESPN 300 cornerback DeChaun Holiday and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Joseph Wicker, both pictured alongside Samuel in this tweet.


Holiday is scheduled to announce his commitment later Sunday, and it would be a huge surprise if the standout defensive back lands anywhere other than UCLA. Wicker will announce on signing day and is down to Arizona State, Texas Tech and UCLA -- but again, he is likely to wind up with the Bruins.

Oregon's other visitors

Plenty of attention was paid late last week to Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams, who could very likely become an Oregon quarterback in the near future. Adams took a visit to Oregon this weekend and has an opportunity, should he choose to take it, to transfer schools without having to sit out a year as a graduate student.

But the Ducks are also looking to finish out the 2015 class at the linebacker position and have their sights set on Washington State commitment Jonah Moi.


This Ducks jumped on Moi in a big way after missing on a few other targets throughout the process and should have a good shot at flipping the junior college defender.

Oregon also got a visit this weekend from a standout 2016 talent in ESPN Junior 300 athlete Taylor Rapp, who already holds offers from Arizona State, Boise State, Northwestern, Oregon, Washington and Washington State.

USC's junior day

USC held its first junior day for 2016 recruits on Saturday, and many of the top prospects in the West region were in attendance. News and photos seemingly came from every recruit in attendance. All told, at least five prospects received offers from USC, including linebackers Curtis Robinson and Krys Barnes, defensive backs Jordan Parker and Shurrod Thompson and wide receiver N'Keal Harry.

Gardena (Calif.) Serra was well represented, with Oluwole Betiku, Brandon Burton, Blake Walls and Khalil Tate in this photo. Betiku, Burton, Tate and fellow 2016 Cavalier C.J. Pollard already held USC offers before the visit.


Burton is the nation's No. 76 overall 2016 prospect and part of what is going to be an absolutely loaded class of wide receivers in California.


ESPN Junior 300 defensive backs Treyjohn Butler and D.J. Morgan were also in attendance, with both waiting on offers from USC.


The state of Arizona was also well represented, with ESPN Junior 300 cornerback Byron Murphy joining Harry, along with former Arizona and current San Marcos (Calif.) Mission Hills quarterback Dakota Miller.

Pac-12's top recruiting visits 

January, 30, 2015
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It's the final weekend for official visits before signing day on Wednesday, Feb. 4, and Pac-12 programs are looking to make that final in-person push as they close in on finishing out their classes. We take a look at the top three visit weekends in the conference.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30
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Happy Friday.

Leading off:

Money, money, money, money .... Mon-ayyyyyy.

Yep, that's right. We're starting off Friday with conversations about dollars. It's one of the things you're not supposed to talk about at the dinner table, which means we'll absolutely discuss it on the Pac-12 Blog.

On Thursday, John Wilner looked into the salaries of each Pac-12 coach and compared the South coaches against the North coaches and came to a very interesting conclusion -- the South coaches are paid, on average, much better. He calculated that the North coaches' salaries came out to $13.95 million while the South coaches' salaries came out to $16.85 million.
One factor clearly is the artificially low compensation for two North coaches who were promoted from within. Mark Helfrich isn’t paid like a national finalists -- he’s a screamin’ deal -- and David Shaw would command more on the open market than he’s currently making with two of the past three league titles.

Then add Riley’s relatively low compensation, the result of being in one place for so many years, and the situation starts to make sense.

It's an interesting piece that's definitely worth your time. Note: The Stanford and USC dollar figures used are estimates, just keep that in mind.

Notes/team reports/recruiting updates:
Oregon State missed out on the postseason despite finishing the year with the No. 4 ranked total defense in the Pac-12, an improved running game and a quarterback likely to be among the first five drafted at the position.

Position to improve: receivers

Why it was a problem: Replacing Biletnikoff Award winner Brandin Cooks never figured to be easy, but his early departure for the NFL left record-setting quarterback Sean Mannion with few reliable threats in his final season. It certainly didn't help when Richard Mullaney, the team's second-leading receiver in 2013, was lost for the season with an elbow injury in the sixth game of the year. His absence left Oregon State with a pair of freshmen (Hunter Jarmon and Jordan Villamin) and a sophomore (Victor Bolden) to serve as Mannion's primary options next to tight end Connor Hamlett. Those four players combined for just 11 touchdown receptions as Mannion's touchdown total fell from 37 to 15.

How it can be fixed: Getting Mullaney back is a good start, and considering how young the group was there should be a realistic expectation for significant improvement during the natural maturation process. Considering the Beavers don't have any known receiver commitments (as of Tuesday), that will have to be enough. With a new staff in place under coach Gary Andersen, the receivers will benefit from a holdover in position coach Brent Brennan, who is well-liked.

Early 2015 outlook: Datrin Guyton, a three-star receiver from Texas who signed with the Beavers last year, redshirted last season and will provide a 6-foot-5 target for whoever ends up replacing Mannion. It's still hard to imagine the Beavers will be that much better — if at all -- without Mannion and no major additions. Although, Andersen brought in former Colorado State offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin to run the offense a year after he guided the Rams to 321.6 passing yards per game, which ranked eighth in the country. Receiver Rashard Higgins had 96 catches for 1,750 yards under Baldwin's tutelage.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 28, 2015
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So, Peter, you've become a pirate.

Leading off:

Super Bowl media day has come and gone. With it there were a few notable appearances and quotes by some former Pac-12 players (there are 18 former conference players and five former conference coaches between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots). Notes/team updates/recruiting nuggets:
Just for fun:

On Tuesday, Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici and safety Jordan Simone attended Super Bowl media day to add to some of azcentral.com's coverage of the event. We'll have a story later on today with Bercovici's thoughts on the day and his advice to other reporters (now that he has such a deep understanding of the profession), but as a preview to some of the in-depth and exclusive content you'll get from the Bercovici-Simone media team, check out this tweet:



We're sure it was enlightening. Someone get this man a Pulitzer.

Weekend recruiting wrap: Pac-12 

January, 27, 2015
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It was a busy weekend in the conference, as 14 prospects made commitments between Friday and Monday night and several others backed out of Pac-12 recruiting classes. It looks as though this could be a sign of things to come, as the conference recruiting race is heating up with little more than a week until signing day.


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Pac-12 recruiting class breakdowns

January, 26, 2015
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Here's a look at how programs in the Pac-12 are faring on the recruiting trail heading into national signing day on Feb. 4.

Arizona

Commitments: 28

ESPN 300 commitments: 1

Who they have: The Wildcats hit it big with their top two commitments in ESPN 300 offensive tackle Keenan Walker and ESPN JC 50 defensive tackle Anthony Fotu. Arizona also will add four-star tackle Cody Creason, three-star tackle Harper Sherman and three-star guards Alex Kosinski and Nathan Eldrige to the offensive line. There are a number of skill players on both sides of the ball, including running backs Orlando Bradford and Darick Holmes Jr., cornerbacks Shun Brown, Anthony Mariscal, Samuel Morrison and Dane Cruikshank, wide receiver Cedric Peterson and athletes Antonio Parks and Brion Anduze.

Who they want: There aren't many spots left in this class for the Wildcats, but there are a few important names left on the board. The wide receiver spot could see another addition with Jaylinn Hawkins, though rival Arizona State will put up a fight there. Arizona also will look to continue its run of success in Louisiana, as teammates Arthur McGinnis and Darrell Clark (New Orleans/Warren Easton) are two of the top prospects left for the Wildcats, as well as teammates of Arizona commit Kendal Franklin.



To read the rest of our Pac-12 recruiting class breakdowns, click here Insider.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26
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And in the morning, I'm making' waffles.

Leading off:

The 2015 Senior Bowl has come and gone, and there were plenty of great showings from Pac-12 players. Here's a brief compilation of some of the content you can find regarding the event:
  • CBSSports' Senior Bowl stock report of 10 players who looked good -- one Beaver shows up on this list and it's not the one you're thinking of ...
  • FOX Sports made a list of guys who helped their NFL draft stock the most. On this listing you've got a Husky and a Ute (these are probably the ones you're thinking of).
  • Sports Illustrated had some similar praise to that of FOX Sports. SI's Chris Burke writes that "[Danny] Shelton's showing for the North team solidified his status as a likely first-round pick."
  • The Atlanta Journal Constitution put together a photo gallery of the weekend.
  • Former Wazzu receiver Vince Mayle does a video interview for the Senior Bowl.
  • Former UCLA defensive lineman Owamagbe Odighizuwa also did a video interview at the Senior Bowl.
  • Catching up with Sean Mannion following the Senior Bowl.
  • Henry Anderson wrote six "diary" entries from AL.com during Senior Bowl week. You can check all of them out right here.
  • Nate Orchard picked up some MOP honors at the Senior Bowl.
News/notes/team reports:
Just for fun:

There was some #Pac12Trolling happening Sunday as former Arizona State defensive lineman Will Sutton decided to comment on Taylor Kelly and Jaelen Strong's autograph session. Always nice to see a few (fun) shots taken between teammates when it comes to this kind of stuff.

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Also, if anyone has a chance, check out Sutton's photo at the top of his Twitter page. It's pretty fantastic. Especially if you're a fan of The Lion King ...

Best of the visits: Pac-12

January, 25, 2015
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It was another big weekend for visits in the Pac-12, as programs are looking to line up strong finishes in the run up to signing day on Feb. 4.

Bruins looking to close with Clark

UCLA and Michigan are in a neck-and-neck battle for ESPN 300 tight end Chris Clark. And after visiting the Wolverines two weekends ago, Clark was in Los Angeles this weekend.


The Bruins also received some help from former UCLA and current Jacksonville Jaguars tight end Marcedes Lewis.


Clark would be a significant addition for either program, and the Bruins are hoping they can sway him into becoming the lone true tight end on the roster and a potential immediate-impact player.

UCLA also hosted LSU offensive line commit Maea Teuhema. The nation's No. 71 overall prospect has been committed to the Tigers since February, but the Bruins are looking to make the nation's No. 2 offensive guard part of their strong finish in the state of Texas.


And although not from Texas -- but close enough -- ESPN 300 offensive guard Josh Wariboko could also be part of a massive closing stretch for UCLA. The No. 105 overall prospect was in Los Angeles for the B2G West Coast Bowl over the weekend and had an opportunity to spend time with UCLA commits Colin Samuel and Bolu Olorunfunmi.

Sun Devils host two standouts

Arizona State hosted ESPN 300 defenders Rasheem Green and Porter Gustin this weekend, and the Sun Devils look to be in competition with USC for both prospects.


While Arizona State hasn't been discussed much in terms of top classes during this recruiting cycle, Todd Graham's program has an opportunity to close in a big way with some impact prospects still on the board. And speaking of impact, Green had an opportunity during his visit to meet an NFL superstar who can make an impact with any recruit (regardless of the typo in his last name).

Oregon State's big weekend

The new Oregon State coaches hit the ground running when they took over the program after Mike Riley took much of his staff with him to Nebraska. Gary Andersen's staff has reshaped much of the recruiting class and added a big one recently when they were able to flip defensive end Keivonnis Davis from his Syracuse commitment. Davis was on his official visit this weekend and took some time to get to know the Oregon State mascot.


Oregon State is also in on fellow defensive end Simi Moala, who holds offers from Miami, Utah and Washington State. At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, Moala is an intriguing prospect along the defensive line.

Cal hopes to catch another

The Golden Bears have done well at the wide receiver spot in this class, but head coach Sonny Dykes obviously feels there can't be enough talent at that position on his roster. High three-star Texas receiver A.D. Miller took an official visit to Cal over the weekend and had a simple question for Golden Bears fans.

Utes host commit

Part of Oregon State's recent run on the recruiting trail has come at the expense of Utah, as former Ute assistant coaches made their way to Corvallis and were able to flip two commitments in the process. But Utah still holds a strong class, especially with the recent flip of former Cal commit Johnny Capra. The offensive tackle makes four nice additions at that position for the Utes, including three-star Arizona prospect Nick Carman, who took his official visit to Utah over the weekend.

Pac-12 morning links

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
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You've gotta ask yourself one question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?

Call it, Friendo.

Two quotes today... because Happy Friday.

Leading off

In case you suffer from football withdrawals at any point this weekend, take solace in the fact that plenty of elite college talent will be suiting up for the Reese's Senior Bowl this Saturday. The Pac-12 is sending an entire gaggle of representatives to this game. Most will be representing the North team, but UCLA's Anthony Jefferson and Owamagbe Odighizuwa will play for the South.

There'll be a nasty collection of defensive line talent on the North team: Think Danny Shelton, Henry Anderson, Hau'oli Kikaha, and Nate Orchard -- all on the same unit. Seeing that group play together should create a fun dynamic for avid Pac-12 fans who have watched those players terrorize quarterbacks over the past few seasons.

On the other side of the ball, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion may have a chance to throw to receivers from Stanford (Ty Montgomery) and Washington State (Vince Mayle).

Other Pac-12 representatives: Hayes Pullard and Josh Shaw (USC), Eric Rowe (Utah), Damarious Randle and Jamil Douglas (ASU)

This one will feature plenty of hustle, as it's the final live game opportunity for these seniors to raise their NFL Draft stock.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun
Did you know Ronnie Lott played basketball at USC? That guy needs to be on the football team. Sign him up!

Season review: Oregon State

January, 22, 2015
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Our 2014 season Pac-12 team-by-team grades continue. If you want to check them out, click here.

Oregon State Beavers

[+] EnlargeTerron Ward
Brian Murphy/Icon SportswireTerron Ward and the Beavers hit their high note of 2014 with an upset of No. 6 Arizona State.
Offense: Certainly the expectations were higher given the fact this was Sean Mannion's senior year. He did end up breaking the Matt Barkley's Pac-12 passing record, which was a slight consolation prize considering the Beavers finished the season without becoming bowl eligible. But offensively, Oregon State never really found consistency. In a high-powered, offensive-minded conference the Beavers tallied just 393.5 yards per game, just about 80 yards fewer than what their instate rival managed to pass for per game. The Beavers converted a Pac-12 worst 31.7 percent of their third-down attempts and their fourth-down conversion percentage left the Beavers second-to-last in that category. Mannion registered a league-worst adjusted QBR -- that's on both Mannion and his offensive line. Coach Mike Riley thought maybe the Beavs could get a run game going this season between Terron Ward and Storm Woods, but that never really came to fruition as Oregon State averaged just 31.3 rushing yards per game. Of the Beavers' 376 rushing attempts, about a quarter were held for no gain or pushing behind the line of scrimmage. Yes, this was an offense that suffered some injuries to crucial players that Mannion relied on, but at the end of the day this offense just wasn't that impressive. Grade: C.

Defense: Overall, the Oregon State defense finished fourth in the league, allowing 406.2 yards per game. The only teams to allow fewer yards were Stanford, Utah and UCLA -- pretty good company. On the surface, a lot of the Beavers' defensive statistics look pretty good: They held opponents to rushes of 0 or negative yards on 26.5 percent of rush attempts and held opposing quarterbacks to 6.8 yards per pass attempt (fith-best in the Pac-12). Those stats certainly don't look like statistics from a five-win team. But they just didn't get the job done in some of the areas that matter most. The Beavers tallied just 29 sacks all season (10th in the Pac-12) in a quarterback-heavy conference -- that's not good. Despite keeping opponent yardage down the Beavs gave up 47 touchdowns eighth in the Pac-12) -- again, not good. Overall: C.

Special teams: Oregon State actually led the Pac-12 in field goal percentage (86.4 percent) and were middling elsewhere. Their punt team/coverage team were decent as well as the kickoff and kickoff coverage teams. On average, opponent offenses started 74.1 yards from the end zone after kickoffs and 72.1 yards from the end zone after punts. The Beavers finished fourth in the conference in kickoff returns (24.1 yards) but 11th in the conference in punt returns (6.1 yards). Grade: B-.

Overall: The fact the Beavers didn't make a bowl game this season was a bit surprising. Losses to USC and Stanford on the road were understandable, and the double-OT loss at home to Utah was a bit of a heartbreaker. But Oregon State should've been more competitive against Washington and probably could've beaten Washington State and Cal, too. Not the season Mannion deserved for his finale. With a coaching change and QB change heading into 2015 this will be a team to watch, but in 2014, well, it wasn't really that. Overall: C+.
Strength of schedule is an important part of the College Football Playoff selection process, and cross-league battles are a fun way to gauge the strength of each conference. Here's a look at the 2015 nonconference slate of the Pac-12 North. A look at the Pac-12 South's agenda is coming later today.

September 5
Eastern Washington at Oregon
Weber State at Oregon State
Washington at Boise State
Portland State at Washington State
Grambling State at California
Stanford at Northwestern

Weekend take: Don't forget the 2014 game in which Eastern Washington rolled up 52 points and 475 passing yards at Husky Stadium. The Eagles start their campaign at Autzen Stadium in 2015, so a reloading Oregon team must be sharp right out of bed -- they won't be kicking off their next season with the traditional cupcake gimme.

Chris Petersen's return to Boise supplies an early marquee nonconference battle. Washington's visit will be the Broncos' first game since their Fiesta Bowl victory over Arizona, so this is an early opportunity for the Pac-12 to exact some revenge for that defeat. It's tough to play on the blue turf, though, and the Huskies are confronted with enormous questions entering next season. Can they replace loads of star power on the defensive end, or can they find the offensive productivity to mask those big losses? The season opener will mark a trial by fire for Petersen's crew in his second year at the helm.

Stanford's trip to Northwestern pits two of the top academically performing programs in college football against each other. The Wildcats lead the nation with a 97 percent graduation rate, while the Cardinal aren't far behind at a stellar 93 percent. On the field, Stanford looks to have the definite edge, but this game is certainly a much bigger challenge than their 2014 opener against UC Davis.

September 12
Oregon at Michigan State
Oregon State at Michigan
Sacramento State at Washington
Washington State at Rutgers
San Diego State at California
Central Florida at Stanford

Weekend take: The action heats up in Week Two, as the Pac-12 North faces only one FCS opponent (Sacramento State). A trip to East Lansing promises to be an early sink-or-swim test for new Oregon quarterback Jeff Lockie. The Ducks must find their footing fast if they aspire to return to the College Football Playoff next season. Coincidentally, both schools from the Beaver State will play in Michigan on the same day. New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will make his home debut against new Oregon State coach Gary Andersen in Ann Arbor. That promises to be a potential tone-setting game for two programs looking to get up off the mat under new regimes.

Washington State will have its chance for revenge against Rutgers following a heartbreaking loss in Seattle this past year, while Stanford kicks off a rather exotic home-and-home with Central Florida. The Knights are in the midst of a very successful stretch, so that could be a hard-hitting match-up against a Stanford team harboring high hopes entering 2015.

September 19
Georgia State at Oregon
San Jose State at Oregon State
Utah State at Washington
Wyoming at Washington State
California at Texas

Weekend take: As league play approaches, the North's nonconference slate in the season's third week isn't quite as illustrious as the Saturday prior. But there's still some sizzle here: Cal's visit to Texas will certainly remind Bears' fans of their 2004 BCS nightmare, when the Longhorns jumped their team in the final regular season rankings. This shut the Bears out of their best Rose Bowl chance in decades, and one can bet that this game means a little something extra to the program because of that whole episode. This also happens to be a critical game for Sonny Dykes' team, which will be gunning for bowl eligibility under its third-year coach.

In other action, Washington shouldn't sleep on Utah State -- the Aggies have been on a successful run of their own over the past few seasons.

November 28
Notre Dame at Stanford

Weekend take: This one is obviously very far away, but if Stanford proves it can maintain systematic defensive success while carrying over its late-season offensive spark into 2015, it may mean a whole heck of a lot. The Cardinal and the Irish have delivered dramatic finishes in two of the past three seasons, and Stanford will again be looking for revenge here. It should be noted that David Shaw's club has a strong 2015 nonconference schedule -- this clash with Notre Dame caps off a slate that also includes Northwestern and Central Florida.

Daily Social Roundup: UCLA checks in with Iman Marshall 

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
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Wednesday marked the two-week point until national signing day and coaches were out in force on the recruiting trail, with UCLA's visit to No. 4 overall prospect Iman Marshall leading the headlines.


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Pac-12 morning links

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
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Leading off:

The NCAA is investigating 20 colleges, according to Brad Wolverton of the The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Wolverton reports that 18 of the cases are with Division I programs, so Pac-12 fans should certainly pay attention. Even if it's not affecting one of your programs it might be affecting a program that you're playing in 2015.
The cases are at various stages, from preliminary inquiry to awaiting a hearing with the Division I Committee on Infractions, and they involve a variety of missteps, including allegations that players received impermissible assistance from professors, academic advisers, or people outside of an athletic department.
News/notes/team reports:
Just for fun:

Pac-12.com did a fun #ExplainThe90s theme today on Twitter and the results are quite entertaining. Anytime there's a 90's throwback, the Pac-12 Blog is there, so we're all about this.

The debate has already begun swirling in regard to Pac-12 play in 2015. So writers Chantel Jennings and David Lombardi sat down to debate what team is the early frontrunner in both the North and South Divisions of the Pac-12.

They started with the North…

Lombardi: Stanford’s offense didn’t click until the very end of the 2014 season, and that cost them. But when it finally came together against UCLA, the Cardinal looked like a 10-plus win team. With most of the offensive pieces returning, expect the Stanford attack to carry its late success over into next season. Sure, there’ll probably be some drop-off on the defensive end -- eight starters depart -- but since the Cardinal actually improved defensively this season after losing a ton of talent, who says Lance Anderson’s system can’t reload again?

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesWith Kevin Hogan and a bunch of contributors returning, Stanford might have the offensive firepower to cruise to a Pac-12 North title.
Jennings: I'm totally with you David, I think the Cardinal are going to be very strong next season and will look and play better than they did in 2014. It's just so crazy, though, because I feel like the Pac-12 North in 2015 is going to be like the Pac-12 South in 2014. It's such an open race and cases can be made for many different teams. A lot of people think Oregon will be a strong challenger again, but I'm not sold on the Ducks yet. Jeff Lockie hasn't looked like a confident QB to me yet and even with so many weapons around him, if there isn't a confident QB running that offense it's not going to be very efficient. Plus, the defense loses a ton of starters and that defensive performance against Ohio State gives me very little to go on for what that group will look like next season. I think Gary Andersen could get a good thing going at Oregon State. I covered Luke Del Rio when he was a high schooler and he impressed me then, so I think he could do big things with the Beavers. Heck, if California makes as big of a jump from 2014 to 2015 as it did from 2013 to 2014, who's to say the Golden Bears couldn't be a dark horse? And with a new defensive coordinator and with what Luke Falk showed at the end of the 2014 season, could Washington State make a push? Honestly, is there any team in the North that doesn't have a shot?

Lombardi: I see that you’re taking the prudent approach, Chantel, but I’m going to go out on a limb and take the foolish one: I think that Stanford is in a good position to emerge as a clear winner. I know, I should have learned my lesson from the minefield that was the Pac-12 South this past season. Given the post-Marcus Mariota uncertainty at Oregon, there's a chance that the North will follow suit and lose any semblance of order this next season.

But at the end of the day, I still think that the Ducks and the Cardinal are a cut above the rest of the division. Andersen will need time at Oregon State, Cal still needs to prove that it can play competent defense, Washington is losing considerable star power on defense, and Washington State is in a similar boat as the Bears.

Until I see tangible on-field proof from those programs, Stanford and Oregon are the two frontrunners in my book. You mentioned most of the questions facing the Ducks, but I think the loss of Jake Fisher is particularly huge: They gave up an average of six sacks per game when he didn’t play in 2014. The Ducks must reload quickly, because I think the schedule really lines up in Stanford’s favor. Aside from missing Arizona State and Utah, the Cardinal get Oregon at home.

Jennings: That's all fair. But remember when we started this season and Brett Hundley and UCLA were the favorite in the South? After that it was USC... Arizona State... and then Arizona. This is the #Pac12AfterDark. No one even considered Utah as anything other than an afterthought. Yes, maybe Stanford is a cut above the rest, but this is the conference gave us multiple Hail Marys, this is the conference that gave us insanity after everyone on the East Coast thought it was safe to go to bed. Maybe Stanford is going to be the most talented team in the Pac-12 North next season, but I'm not sure if that's enough to really make me buy them as the eventual representative in the Pac-12 championship game. I think we're going to have a crazy, crazy season, which makes me want to go with a dark horse candidate.

Lombardi: I just have to see to believe, Chantel, and I haven’t seen any convincing signs of life from the rest of the Pac-12 North in a long, long time. In fact, Oregon and Stanford have combined to go 39-1 against the other four Pac-12 North teams this decade (I’m including 2010 in that tally). The only blemish on that record is Stanford’s 2012 loss to Washington. That’s staggering, and for me it’s convincing: The Cardinal and Ducks own this division until proven otherwise.

Jennings: And I think there’s a solid shot that in 2015 “otherwise” could occur.

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