College football: Pac-12 puts on a happy face for public

Optimism abounds, but we have questions to ask on Media Day
2012-07-23T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:36:48Z College football: Pac-12 puts on a happy face for publicPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
July 23, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Two days after hosting the Teen Choice Awards and three days before a concert featuring Barenaked Ladies and Blues Traveler, Gibson Amphitheatre will ring in the Pac-12 football season.

Tuesday at Universal CityWalk near Los Angeles, coaches and players alike will sing the typical hopeful July song. On Media Day, everyone is undefeated.

Here's a look at 12 questions we have entering the season's unofficial start:

1. Is USC back? The Trojans will start the season in the top three nationally, and are eligible for the postseason after two years of NCAA penance. They could be the best hope for a national title.

2. Meet the new boss. Four new faces will coach in the league this year - Arizona's Rich Rodriguez, Arizona State's Todd Graham, UCLA's Jim Mora and Washington State's Mike Leach.

3. What's with the Pac-12 Networks? The league's new stations - one main channel and six regional ones - launch Aug. 15, but has yet to reach distribution deals with Direct TV and Dish Network, among others. Look for the networks to name on-air talent this week, too.

4. Who quarterbacks the Cardinal? With No. 1 pick Andrew Luck in a Colts uniform, Stanford must decide between Josh Nunes, Brett Nottingham and others.

5. Is Leach home? The intelligent-but-awkward coach found what appears to be a perfect landing spot, away from the media, in Pullman, Wash. Can he make Washington State relevant again?

6. Does the league have its first Heisman winner since 2005? USC quarterback Matt Barkley is a favorite, though Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas, Washington quarterback Keith Price and Utah running back John White IV could be contenders.

7. What of the Ducks? Oregon lost Heisman finalist LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas to early departures. James was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers, while the undrafted Thomas has bounced around a few NFL mini-camps.

8. Is the league better? The Pac-12 went 2-5 in bowl games last year - Oregon and Utah won - but USC's postseason return should help.

9. Can Washington stop anybody? Gone is defensive coordinator Nick Holt, whose squad finished 106th nationally in top defense. In is Justin Wilcox, the well-respected former Tennessee assistant coach.

10. What difference does money make? The league's $3 billion television deal means that facility building is up, and patience for coaches losing is down.

11. Are the Buffs better? After giving up 218 more points than they scored - by far the worst mark in the league - in a 3-10 season, Colorado better hope so.

12. Will Bears' home be sweet? After going 12-13 the last two years combined, Cal needs the boost from Memorial Stadium, which reopens in September after a $321 million renovation.

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