Conference Preview: Pac 12

USC quarterback Matt Barkley (Joe Raymond, AP)

                    Projected Order of Finish

North                                                               South

1. Oregon Ducks                                           1. USC Trojans

2. Stanford Cardinal                                     2. Utah Utes

3. Washington Huskies                               3. UCLA Bruins

4. California Golden Bears                         4. Arizona Wildcats

5. Washington State Cougars                    5. Arizona State Sun Devils

6. Oregon State Beavers                             6. Colorado Buffaloes

Conference Champion: USC Trojans

Offensive Player of the Year: Quarterback Matt Barkley – USC

     Barkley is simply the best quarterback in the country. He decided to come back for his senior season in order to compete for a Pac 12 title, a national title, and a Heisman Trophy; all of which he has a great shot to win. Barkley threw for 3,528 yards and 39 touchdowns (with only 7 interceptions) last season, and will have two All-American receivers to throw to this year in Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. This is a no brainer.

Defensive Player of the Year: Defensive Tackle Star Lotulelei – Utah

     Lotulelei’s impact on a game cannot be measured statistically (43 tackles,1.5 sacks last season). However, the 6’4 325 pound run stuffer demands double teams on every play and was the main reason why Utah had the nation’s 20th best rush defense in 2011/2012. Lotulelei is the reigning Morris Trophy winner; an award given annually to the Pac 12’s best defensive lineman.

Surprise Team: Washington State Cougars

     Despite their 4-8 record a season ago, it was clear that the Cougars took a big step towards competitiveness in the Pac 12. New head coach Mike Leach will have some impressive offensive weapons to work with in wide receivers Marquess Wilson (82 catches, 1,388 yards) and Kristoff Williams, and both potential quarterbacks (Jeff Tuel or Connor Halliday) have proven themselves more than capable of guiding this potentially potent air attack. Look for Wazzou to end their nine year bowl drought this season.

Best Game: Oregon at USC – November 3rd

     One team will be knocked out of the national title hunt on the first Saturday in November when the Ducks travel to Los Angeles to take on the Trojans. Both teams are likely to enter the game undefeated, creating an absolute monster matchup between these two Pac 12 powers.

     Honorable Mentions: USC at Stanford – September 15th

     USC at Utah – October 4th

     Stanford at Oregon – November 17th

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