Sport: Pac-12 has no clear favorite, but plenty of potential - PressFrom - US
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SportPac-12 has no clear favorite, but plenty of potential

05:25  15 august  2019
05:25  15 august  2019 Source:   ap.org

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The Pac - 12 's national championship drought hits 15 years this winter, and there are few signs of a respite. Post to Facebook. This conversation is moderated according to USA TODAY's community rules. Please read the rules before joining the discussion. Pac - 12 has no clear favorite , but plenty

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Pac-12's national championship drought hits 15 years this winter, and there are few signs of a respite. Several of the conference's traditional powers are in states of rebuilding or disarray heading into a season that's murkier than a Mike Leach metaphor.

Pac-12 has no clear favorite, but plenty of potential© Provided by The Associated Press FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2018, file photo, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham and his team prepares to take the field prior to their game against the BYU during an NCAA college football game, in Salt Lake City. The Utes were selected to win the Pac-12 in the preseason media poll and they're also ranked in the preseason coaches' poll. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Even the preseason media poll couldn't identify a clear favorite, with plucky Utah barely emerging on top after several schools essentially split the vote.

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Every Pac - 12 team has already suffered at least two losses, the only Power 5 conference with that distinction. While the conference didn’t wield any elite teams this season, it also didn’t help that its best teams were put in a perilous position You currently have no favorite writers. Manage Profile Log Out.

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But to the coaches entrusted with returning the West Coast's major conference to national competitiveness, this seeming parity actually underlines the overall strength of a league on the rise again. Elite talent is easy to find around the Pac-12, and several programs are in a position to potentially put it all together.

"There are not a lot of conferences out there that can legitimately look up and say more than half their conference has a chance to win the conference," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "The people that know football know how deep and how difficult this conference is. The people that only want to look in two spots, in the SEC and the Big Ten footprint, you can't win them over anyway, because they're not paying attention to the scope of college football."

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PHOENIX — The Pac - 12 North appears to be down to a two-team race. Stanford has yet to lose in conference and California is a game behind, though Washington may make a push before season's end.

The Pac - 12 has the presumptive No. 1 pick, but no crystal- clear No. 1 team. The Pac - 12 tournament’s watchability is also helped by the fact that the favorite to be the No. 1 The Bruins don’t have a lot of depth, but they have plenty of talent and can beat teams in a variety of ways on offense

Pac-12 has no clear favorite, but plenty of potential© Provided by The Associated Press FILE - In this April 3, 2019, file photo, Washington coach Chris Petersen watches players as they run drills during NCAA college football practice in Seattle. The defending Pac-12 champion Huskies lost numerous starters to graduation, but Petersen's team hopes to contend for another league title in a conference race that looks wide open as the opening week approaches. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Still, the Pac-12 doesn't have a traditional power in peak form after graduation losses at defending champion Washington and Stanford, Southern California's miserable 2018 season and the questions still looming around resurgent Oregon and its 5-4 conference mark.

Into the gap stepped Utah, the (relative) conference newcomer with numerous returning starters, an elite defense and promising quarterback Tyler Huntley.

Whether the Utes live up to their hype or another power emerges, Huskies coach Chris Petersen is confident this league is on its way up again.

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Pac - 12 media days 2015: Has the Pac - 12 bypassed the SEC as the premier conference in college football? Now before the emails and tweets start flowing in, let me make a few things clear . Add in Utah senior Travis Wilson and the potential of UCLA freshman Josh Rosen (the top-ranked quarterback in the 2015 class) and You currently have no favorite writers. Manage Profile Log Out.

Washington is the clear favorite in the Pac - 12 Conference and a strong contender for the College Washington leads Pac - 12 power rankings ahead of crowded field, including Stanford, Utah, USC. The next step is actually moving into the postseason, and the Golden Bears have that potential in

"Five or six years ago, the Pac-12 could do no wrong," Petersen said. "We were in the greatest position ever, and we were going to do this and that. And five years later, (people think) we don't even know how to play football anymore. It's always somewhere in between. I know we've got good players out here, and good coaches and programs. I think it's all cyclical."

Here are more things to watch during the Pac-12 football season:

UTES UP FRONT

Utah is the preseason favorite, but it's not going to anybody's head in Salt Lake City, according to coach Kyle Whittingham. In fact, he wants his Utes thinking not about national championships, but only about achieving Pac-12 supremacy, largely because the league's South Division teams are 1-7 in the league championship game. "We felt like we were going to have some preseason hype, and so we wanted to make sure that we got out ahead of it and talked to our players about just ignoring the noise and staying focused," Whittingham said. "We all know that the Pac-12 championship is our goal, as I'm sure it is for every team in the Pac-12, so the focus is not on the goal. It's (on) how we are going to achieve that goal."

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Stanford is making a change at quarterback, which makes eight Pac - 12 teams that has started at Meanwhile, Oregon (2-5, 0-4) is still waiting to reap potential benefits from its quarterback switch The rash of injuries helps explain why Arizona State has spiraled to 5-3 and 2-3 in the Pac - 12 after a 4-0

The Montana State transfer is the favorite to follow Marcus Mariota and Vernon Adams, but he has two capable competitors for the job at the controls of No coach in the Pac - 12 is in imminent trouble as the season begins, but Dykes certainly could use a strong year after Jared Goff's departure to solidify his

TROJAN HOT SEAT

Coach Clay Helton clearly needs a swift rebound with his Trojans coming off their first losing season since 2000, including five losses in their last six. USC finished 91st in scoring in the FBS despite a talent-studded offensive roster, and Helton addressed the problem by hiring blue chip coordinators Kliff Kingsbury and then Graham Harrell, who brings his version of the Air Raid offense to Tailback U. The Trojans' brutal early season schedule is an obstacle to a quick turnaround, but Helton knows what's expected — or else.

HERBERT'S RETURN

Quarterback Justin Herbert returned to Oregon for his senior season, and he'll finally have the same coach in consecutive years. Mario Cristobal's Ducks should contend for their first league title since 2014 if Herbert takes another step from his 3,000-yard season last fall. Herbert calls it "a huge bonus" to have the same coaching staff for the first time: "We go from having spent all this time learning to teaching. We're able to reach out to those younger guys, get them dialed up and up to speed so they are able to jump in as soon as we can."

HUSKIES RECHARGE

Although Washington is heading into its biggest rebuilding season in a half-decade after losing 13 starters from last year's champions, quarterback Jacob Eason has hopes running high in Seattle. The touted local product returned from Georgia last season in hopes of replacing four-year starter Jake Browning this fall. Petersen insists Eason is competing with sophomore Jake Haener in camp, but most expect Eason and running back Salvon Ahmed to step in for Huskies stalwarts Browning and Myles Gaskin.

THE CHIP DIP

UCLA is coming off its worst season since 1977 after going 3-9 in coach Chip Kelly's debut. Those Bruins largely got a pass due to the program's steady decline in Jim Mora's final seasons, and they also beat USC. But the deep-pocketed UCLA boosters who attracted Kelly will be looking for some return on their investment this fall, and they might get it if Kelly fields an improved offense around quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.

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