12 Burning Pac-12 Summer Questions

Stephen Dunn

A number of questions are burning around the conference heading into the 2013 season.

We are in the heart of the long and painful off-season that exists between Pac-12 football and basketball so there is plenty of time to think (Or worry) about what might be the biggest issues of the 2013 football season and what are the big unanswered questions that are lingering between spring and fall camp. But what are those 12 most burning questions that Pac-12 teams are facing this summer?

Who will be USC's starting quarterback?

The three-man race between sophomores Cody Kessler and Max Wittek and freshman Max Browne was very tight during spring and despite Wittek being the back-up last year and Kessler having the strongest spring game - it is still very much unclear who will be the starter at the conference's marquee program in 2013. This is not only an intense question because of USC's standing in the conference, but also because the success of Matt Barkley's successor to lead the program to a good season may very well likely be a big factor in whether or not Lane Kiffin sticks around.

Can Mark Helfrich really keep Oregon running at Chip Kelly speed?

Helfrich was the number one guy on the planet to hire to replace Chip Kelly at Oregon if you wanted to keep things running at Oregon as they did when Kelly was head coach. However, Helfrich has never been a head coach and it's hard to imagine that things won't change at least a little bit with a new coach at the helm, especially with how one-of-a-kind Kelly was. The question is then, just how much things will change under Helfrich and if he can completely maintain the sky high bar set by Kelly?

Is Kevin Hogan truly an elite quarterback?

Stanford made the leap from very good team, to national title contender last year when they inserted Hogan for Josh Nunes mid-season as Hogan looked like the kind of guy who could become an All-American. Hogan has all of the physical tools and even though he played well toward the end of the season, he only flashed bits of his potential. He's still only a sophomore, but the Cardinal are going to need him to turn into an elite quarterback next season if they hope to win a national championship and it is still unknown if he can do that.

Who will be Oregon State's starting quarterback?

Junior Sean Mannion and Senior Cody Vaz were going back and forth as the Beavers' starter in the second half of 2012, and much like they did in games last season, neither was able to firmly grab hold of the starting spot in 2013 spring practice. Both are reliable, but dual quarterbacks almost never seem to work in college football so Mike Riley will need to pick one or the other in fall camp, but which one will it be?

Can a Pac-12 team win a national title for the first time in almost 10 years?

Oregon and Stanford will assuredly start the season ranked in the Top 5 and either could easily be ranked as high as the second overall team in the nation. Both teams have flaws, but are as strong as any Pac-12 team has looked in the pre-season since the heyday of the Pete Carroll USC teams. The two teams don't meet up until November and can't play in the Pac-12 Championship, so whoever wins that game, if they can avoid upsets, will have a very good shot at playing for the BCS Championship.

Are sanctions coming to Oregon?

It sounds like the seemingly never ending Oregon investigation is finally coming to a close soon, but there is still nothing close to concrete out there about what exactly may be the punishment for Oregon. With the Ducks already admitting some guilty, there will at least be some punishment handed down to Oregon, but the question now is exactly what will it be and how could it impact Oregon's 2013 season?

How hot is Lane Kiffin's seat in LA?

It has been a bumpy road for Kiffin during his time at USC and sometimes it almost seems like nothing can go right for the guy. Because of all of this, there's no doubt that Kiffin's seat is at least somewhat hot, but just how hot is unclear. The biggest question may be, what exactly level of success in 2013 may be required for Kiffin to keep his job - would eight or nine wins be enough?

Who will be Arizona's starting quarterback?

Many thought that athletic former USC player and junior college transfer Jesse Scroggins would come in during the spring and slide right past senior B.J. Denker into the starting quarterback spot at Arizona, but that didn't happen. Denker didn't grab the starting spot, but he held off Scroggins and might have the inside track heading into fall camp. However, it looks like it will still be an open competition during the fall.

Has Jim Mora truly taken UCLA to the next level?

Much has been made about Mora immediately leading UCLA to a nine-win season in 2012 and dominating recruiting, but the sample size for just how well Mora can coach at UCLA is still just one season. The Bruins are the arguable favorite to win the Pac-12 South going into the season, but there are still many skeptics questioning so how many wins will it take from the Bruins in 2013 to solidify Mora as an elite Pac-12 coach is unknown.

Who is the favorite in the Pac-12 South?

We recently put together a Pac-12 post-spring power rankings and UCLA was the unanimous choice for the top spot in the South, but that immediately drew the ire of tons of readers, so it is a very close race going into the season. UCLA, USC, Arizona State and Arizona all look strong going into the season and finished very closely last season so it seems like any one of those teams could be considered the favorite to win the South.

Can Washington finally break through under Steve Sarkisian?

It's been more than 10 years now that Husky fans have been eyeing their run out of the bottom and the middle of the Pac-12 and they have long pointed as 2013 as possibly being that magical year under Steve Sarkisian. The Huskies have a senior quarterback in Keith Price and return almost every starter from their seven-win 2012 campaign, but they play in a division with Stanford and Oregon, still have a very young roster and Price struggled in 2012.

Who is going to carry the ball for UCLA?

The Bruins rode the Johnathan Franklin train for all that it was worth and then some the past four years and it will look funny to see anyone else carrying the ball for the Bruins next season. There are a cluster of guys who have carried the ball a bit returning to the Bruins next year, but none is a clear cut successor to Franklin and it will be interesting to see if one can emerge as a full-time starter.

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