Pac-12 media day has come and gone, and one thing is certain: teams are eager for the season to start. The day pretty much went as planned, however there were a few things that stuck out. Here’s what we learned:
1) The UCLA vs USC rivalry
When UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr was asked about the hit he put on Matt Barkley last season, he wondered aloud about what the offensive lineman was doing who let him through. Everyone knows last season Trojans’ offensive line struggled, but that’s salt in the wound. Barkley’s college career ended on that play and the trash talk for this season started in that answer.
2) Stanford is a national title contender?
When David Shaw was asked about being in the national title picture, he pointed out how close his team has been in recent years. In other words, he expects this year’s squad to be in the conversation as well. Last year’s team won the Pac-12 Championship game the year after losing the best quarterback in college to the NFL. Imagine what they will look like this season with Kevin Hogan having a year of experience under his belt.
3) Oregon is the team to beat?
Although Chip Kelly left Oregon for the NFL, the Ducks have still been selected as the favorite to win the Pac-12. That is difficult to believe seeing what a difference a coach makes in college football. Bobby Petrino left Arkansas (under much different circumstances than Kelly left) and the program fell apart. Jim Tressel left Ohio State and the program under-performed the next season. Coach Mike Helfrich has huge shoes to fill, and winning the conference could go a long way to doing just that.
4) Surprise team?
The media has been high on Arizona State and the direction of their program. Defensive tackle Will Sutton appears to be a top-15 draft pick waiting to happen. Coach Graham has had a season to get adjusted to the conference and that can only help his team. The Sun Devils have a difficult schedule this season but if they play up to their talent level, the Pac-12 title game is not out of the question.
5) Can Colorado finish higher than last place in the conference?
The Colorado program has struggled for the past few seasons to compete at all. The team at times has looked like it was going through the motions. Coach Mike MacIntyre has his hands full; to get the team to turn things around is going to be a monumental task. The team gave up over 500 points on defense last season. The goal this season may be just to compete harder.