Time to think about that college football playoff! Next year Pac-12 teams have a lower margin for error--all they need to do is finish in the top four and they should be good to go in getting their chance in the Playoff of Four.
3. Oregon Ducks: Marcus Mariota returns, and that's pretty much all you need to know. If Mariota is healthy, Oregon should be the Pac-12 title favorites again, but you have to worry about how much his legs will hold up. And the running back tandem of Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner is probably the most uncertain pairing you'll see up in Eugene in quite some time, as talented as they are. Still, hard to imagine not penciling Oregon in for nine wins.
4. Stanford Cardinal: This feels like a rebuilding year for Stanford--despite the return of Kevin Hogan, the Cardinal lose a lot on their offensive line, two key playmakers in Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, and probably draw one of the most difficult road slates in the Pac-12 next year. But who knows, it's Stanford. They seem hardwired for eight to nine wins and three toss-ups.
7. UCLA Bruins: With Brett Hundley returning, the Bruins seem like a force to be reckoned with going into next season. Even with the loss of Anthony Barr and Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA returns an incredible group of freshmen that should give them quite a talent advantage on most of their opponents next season. And they get Stanford and Oregon at home. The cards are aligned for a special season.
14. USC Trojans. This feels ... high. USC had an incredible finish to the 2013 season, but outside of their Stanford upset they beat pretty much everyone they should have beaten and lost to most of the good teams they faced. They will be a fun team to watch.
19. Washington Huskies. This is a pretty impressive ranking for a team losing all their offensive talent, but Washington does have an intimidating home-field advantage. And who knows if the Chris Petersen effect will take center stage in year one.
22. Arizona St. Sun Devils. It feels as if ASU missed their best chance at a Pac-12 title for awhile. They lose a LOT on the defensive side and they just have a lot to replace there. The offense will have to power them to their wins next year.