Heading into the season, I thought it would be interesting to think about what the realistic ceiling for number of wins each Pac-12 program should be expected to achieve in 2014 along with what the minimum amount of wins they should be expected to achieve and still keep their fans happy.
Maximum: 10 Minimum: 6
The Wildcats seem to be in perpetual rebuilding mode since they start a new senior quarterback each season and it severely limits their expectations going into each season. Having to replace Ka'Deem Carey this year makes things even tougher, but the Wildcats still have a solid amount of talent and experience surrounding quarterback and running back, so getting to 10 wins isn't unrealistic.
On the minimum side, Rodriguez has some leeway since he will have to have new starters at the two most-important positions in his system, so simply getting to a bowl will probably be enough to keep from getting too much scrutiny.
Maximum: 11 Minimum: 7
Todd Graham is creating higher expectations at Arizona State but no one seems to expect them to truly compete for the South title season, even though I wouldn't be surprised if they sneak into the race on the back of Taylor Kelly. While I don't expect many think winning the Pac-12 South is a realistic expectation with how many players the Sun Devils lost on defense from 2013, getting over the 10-win cap is with a senior quarterback and a solid coaching staff.
After building up cred by winning the South last season and losing basically his entire starting defense, Graham has some cushion this season and would probably be fine by finishing with a winning record.
Maximum: 4 Minimum: 2
Expectations are very low for Cal, but Sonny Dykes desperately needs to improve upon his showing in 2013 to avoid being the considered for the rare two-and-out coaching stint. Given their injury problems, lack of experience and the toughness of the Pac-12 North and then non-conference schedule, the Bears can't be expected to win probably even a full handful of games.
The Bears have to show improvement and win at least one game against a decent team or Dykes could be on his way out.
Maximum: 5 Minimum: 4
The Buffs made major strides in their first year under Mike MacIntyre and now it is time to take it to the next level and get close to bowl eligibility. It would be nice if they could get back to a bowl for the first time in a long time, but I think everyone will be happy if they can get to five wins.
While their expectation ceiling isn't very high, the Buffaloes also can't slip or stagnate at all in MacIntyre's second year.
Maximum: 15 Minimum: 12
The window for the Ducks to win a national championship might be closing for at least a little while after this season, so getting to 15 wins which would be an undefeated regular season with two wins in the playoffs is the ultimate goal for the Ducks.
On the minimum side, I think the Ducks need to at least win the Pac-12 and only lose a game or two along the way to meet minimum expectations and even that will probably still draw ire. The Ducks have a pretty favorable schedule, getting their two biggest games at home (Michigan State and Stanford), along with getting Washington at home and avoiding USC.
Maximum: 11 Minimum: 7
The Beavers are kind of stuck in a rut under Mike Riley and expectations tend to never be too unrealistically high in Corvallis, but with Sean Mannion a senior in 2014, this is a year where the Beavers have as good of a chance to compete in the North as they will have anytime soon. I don't think expecting them to win the conference is realistic, but getting to 10 or 11 wins and getting to a decent bowl is.
I don't know how long the Beavers can keep their fans happy by finishing every season in the 7-9 win range, but I think another year will be just fine as long as the Beavers finish with a winning record.
Maximum: 13 Minimum: 10
With their system and overall talent the Cardinal will be expected to win the Pac-12 yet again, but they lost so much experience from 2013, I don't think many expect them to compete for a national championship.
David Shaw and the Cardinal will get a bit of a break this season with having to break in so many new starters while facing a daunting schedule, but I don't think they can get away with slipping below 10 wins with how much talent they still have.
Maximum: 14 Minimum: 11
This is the big year for Jim Mora and the Bruins, their realistic, ideal goal is probably a Pac-12 championship and a major bowl win.
Being their money year, the Bruins have a very high minimum this year. They need to win more than 10 games and at least win the Pac-12 South or their season could easily be viewed as a disappointment.
Maximum: 12 Minimum: 10
Expectations are always high at USC and Steve Sarkisian needs to quickly prove that not only is he better than Lane Kiffin, but that he can also win more games than a Kiffin/Ed Orgeron hybrid. He can probably get away with not winning the South since the Trojans are really hurting for depth in a lot of units this season as long as he gets to 10 wins, but he probably needs to hit that 10-win mark with the pockets of talent that he does have to show that he is taking the program forward.
Maximum: 7 Minimum: 6
No team may have a narrower win gap than the Utes who don't really have the potential to win more than six or seven games, but are getting to the point where they need to get to a bowl for the first time in a few years.
Maximum: 12 Minimum: 10
The Huskies play 13 regular season games, so their numbers are little bit inflated. The Huskies lost their big three in Keith Price, Bishop Sankey and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, but return the rest of their team so expectations are very high in Chris Peterson's first season. The Huskies have a favorable schedule, getting almost every top-level Pac-12 team at home, so while they aren't expected to win the North, they are expected to put together more than 10 wins.
Peterson has a very high minimum for a program that hasn't won 10 games in nearly 15 years though because the additional game, returning experience, favorable schedule and expectations of improvement.
Maximum: 8 Minimum: 6
The Cougars picked themselves up under Mike Leach and finally got back to a bowl, but now it is time to take that difficult next step and start competing with the big boys of the conference. Getting to seven or eight wins would do just that for the Cougars who also can't risk slipping back into having a losing record, something that won't be easy in the stacked North Division.