- Either Brett Hundley or Marcus Mariota returns for their senior season.
The batting average on quarterbacks who are supposed to be first round picks but return for another season anyways in the Pac-12 living up to expectations is pretty low so I think one of these guys is bound to get hurt or simply have an underwhelming season or both.
- Oregon finally beats Stanford... convincingly.
Stanford has physically dominated the Ducks for two-straight seasons, but the way that they play and their limitations of their offense puts way too much pressure on their defense to play perfectly to keep beating Oregon as long as the Ducks are strong. I expect to see a game like their 2011 matchup where the Ducks finally hit some big plays and the Cardinal don't have the offensive firepower to keep up.
- The LA schools begin to grab some of the balance of power away from the Northern powers of Oregon and Stanford.
UCLA might be getting a lot of attention for getting Hundley to come back, but the real reason to be excited in Westwood is how well-stocked the Bruins are with young talent at every position combined with the fact that Jim Mora is just leaving his infancy as a college coach. Down the road, USC is light on depth but brimming with top-level talent and finally has a coach that is already a proven winner in the Pac-12. I expect both teams to win more than 10 games this season and to keep their teams playing at a high level, relishing their current jobs which are probably the easiest to succeed at in the conference.
Up North, Oregon and Stanford who rely so heavily on scheme, have coaches who have yet to prove they can succeed against adversity and face a seasons where they lose a massive glut of talent and experience (Stanford in 2014 and Oregon in 2015), may have to start worrying about what is going on in the city of angels.
- Stanford wins 10 games again... but barely.
Losing a ton of talent and experience from last season, having a shaky quarterback and maybe the nation's toughest schedule makes 2014 a daunting season for the Cardinal going in. I think the Cardinal have too much talent to truly slip, but breaking in that many new players, my lack of confidence in Kevin Hogan and their tough schedule to me means that they will struggle to get to 10 wins and might need a bowl win to do it.
- Leonard Williams ends up being the top pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Thinking about the fact that Williams was banged up for much of 2013 should be a scary thought for the rest of the Pac-12 and I expect the Trojan star to have a season of epic proportions. Combine that with the fact that he should show up at the combine around 300 pounds and really be able to move and I think you have the first guy taken in 2015 in Williams.
- It becomes clear that USC made the right choice in hiring Steve Sarkisian.
I have went back and forth and back and forth on if I think USC hiring Sarkisian was a good idea and I think I am finally settled on great f****** idea heading into the season. Sarkisian is the rare hire that has already proven that he can win at another job in the conference that is much more challenging. Combine that with the fact that Lane Kiffin kept the shelves at USC stocked with talent and they are heading out of the sanction years. I don't think they will win the South this year, but I think the Trojans win at least 10 games and set themselves up for success in the years to come.
- Washington or Oregon State finally beats Oregon.
I am a little bit shaky on this one with how strong Oregon's offense looks, but the simple odds are that one of the Ducks' rivals are eventually going to beat them and it only gets more likely every year that goes by. The Beavers should have done it last year and Stanford and Arizona's undressing of the Ducks I think finally gives their rivals some hope that they aren't invincible. It has been nearly 20 total years since either of these teams knocked off the Ducks and that is simply too high to not come to an end soon.
- Washington starts five different players in their backfield over the course of the season.
The Huskies have three players vying to be starting quarterback and the frontrunner Cyler Miles is suspended for the opener. The running back position is just as big of an open competition with more than five players fighting over the shot and now clear frontrunners so I expect a handful of different players to start at the spot. After years of Keith Price/Jake Locker and Chris Polk/Bishop Sankey holding down those two positions, I can't help but think that this might not be a great thing for the Huskies.
- Taylor Kelly/D.J. Foster/Jaelen Strong is the conference's best QB/RB/WR trio.
Growing up in the Aikman/Emmitt/Irvin and Young/Waters/Rice days, I love QB/RB/WR trios. The conference is a little bit light on these trios this year, but the Sun Devils should have an awesome one. I like Kelly just as much as Hundley and Mariota, Foster is an exciting pass-catching back with top speed and Strong is the kind of long, athletic receiver that can go up and grab jump balls that I love. They are going to be a really fun trio to watch in 2014.
- Upsets galore in rivalry games - Washington State over Washington, Oregon State over Oregon, Cal over Stanford, USC over UCLA, Colorado over Utah... at least three of these will happen.
I like the underdogs in this season's rivalry games. A lot of the games where the underdogs are only slightly overmatched have the game at home and many of them are due to pull off an upset in the rivalry.
- Oregon State's defense bounces back to become one of the best in the conference.
The Beavers uncharacteristically under Mike Riley, couldn't stop anyone on defense in 2013, but I expect that to change in 2014. Even though they lose Scott Crichton and Rashaad Reynolds, the Beavers return talent and experience pretty much everywhere else and Riley knows how to turn a defensive unit into a successful one. The Beavers should have one of the best linebacker and defensive back units in the conference and an underrated talent at defensive end in Dylan Wynn.
- Arizona has a better than expected season due to a friendly schedule.
The Wildcats don't have high expectations as they break in a new quarterback and running back, but with a favorable non-conference schedule and conference schedule that gives them a lot of make-or-break games at home, I could see them getting close to 10 wins. Most importantly, I think getting Arizona State in Tucson means they beat the Sun Devils for the first time in a while.
- Connor Halliday and Jared Goff combine for more than 1,000 yards passing when they meet up in October.
Can't wait to watch Cal and Washington State's air raid offenses face off in Pullman since both teams have very questionable secondaries. Goff and Halliday both might not break the 500-yard mark, but I bet both total up for 1,000.
- Colorado pulls off an upset, maybe even two, of a Pac-12 team in Boulder.
The Buffs will continue to get better under Mike MacIntyre. I don't think they are finally going to get back to a bowl, but I think they will upset a better Pac-12 team that heads into Boulder this year and maybe even two. Look out Arizona State, UCLA, Utah, Oregon State and Washington.
- Cal improves, but not much in the win department and it puts Sonny Dykes' job in danger.
The Bears have talent and a little experience under their belt and can hopefully stay healthy so I expect them to be much better in 2014. Unfortunately they have a tough overall schedule and tough non-conference schedule while the rest of the conference around them is also improving so I don't how many more games they will actually win this season. I would predict the Bears to win maybe three or four games tops and as low as just one again which would easily make Dykes a candidate for the dreaded two-and-done coaching tenure.
- Utah fails to get to a bowl for the third-straight season.
Another program that I think will get better but suffer from the conference also getting better around them and a challenging non-conference schedule that has them playing at Michigan. I think it could come down to their final game against Colorado, but right now, I am not confident that the Utes can get back to a bowl game in an ultra-tough Pac-12.