Pac-12 Football

Questions abound for Pac-12 as season looms

2014-07-05T00:00:00Z Questions abound for Pac-12 as season loomsBy Jon Gold Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

As any coach or player would tell you, the football season never really ends. There’s always something coming up, whether it’s national signing day, spring ball or — finally, thankfully — the games themselves.

We’re about a month away from the start of fall training camps, so here’s a primer for what to watch for in the coming months:

10. Will the Sonny set?

His team slogged to a one-win season in Year 1, and his athletic director was just reassigned, so does that mean Sonny Dykes’ days are numbered at Cal? The offense needs to jump light-years ahead in efficiency, and the defense needs to mature rapidly. The former UA offensive coordinator could be looking for new digs in a hurry.

9. Is Mannion cooked?

Oregon State’s Sean Mannion had a brilliant season last year, but you’ve got to wonder how much of the shine came from Brandin Cooks. The speedster went in the first round of the NFL draft after a shockingly prolific junior year, and now Mannion will look to unheralded Richard Mullaney to deliver.

8. More crazy eights for Arizona?

The Wildcats have reeled eight wins in each of Rich Rodriguez’s first two seasons, and with a friendly schedule, a third could be in the offing. How significant would that be? Arizona hasn’t done that since 1973-75. Another successful year could signal big things to come in the desert.

7. Who’s the Heis-Man?

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston returns with the Heisman Trophy in tow, but repeating will be a tall task. Enter Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and UCLA’s Brett Hundley. Both veteran quarterbacks lead exciting offenses, and whoever wins the Oct. 11 matchup at the Rose Bowl could have pole position going forward.

6. Which running back will take the conference by storm?

Last year, the conference returned a pair of heavyweights in Ka’Deem Carey and Bishop Sankey. Now both are gone, and so is Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney and Arizona State’s Marion Grice, and the preseason all-conference picks are a bunch of no-names. Who will emerge as a workhorse?

5. Will Kevin Hogan get the respect he deserves?

Much has been said about Hundley and Mariota. Mannion and Taylor Kelly get their fair share of pub, but Hogan – who has gone 16-3 as a starter for Stanford – gets little of the attention he deserves. The Cardinal started opening things up a little last year, and that could pay off for Hogan this year.

4. Can Washington win for Pete’s sake?

Chris Petersen left the friendly confines of Boise and headed to Seattle to continue the Huskies’ gradual ascension. Things looked like they somewhat stalled out under Steve Sarkisian, who left for USC, but now that Petersen has brought his small-town sensibilities to Washington, look for Shaq Thompson & Co. to take a step forward.

3. Time to stick a fork in ASU?

The Sun Devils lost so much from both sides of the ball, especially defensively, that you might need a phone book to look up the cast of replacements. Does anyone even use a phone book anymore? ASU brought in an upgraded recruiting class and Todd Graham is a good coach, but a second straight Pac-12 South title might be asking a bit much.

2. Can USC reclaim old glory?

The Trojans are out from under the mire of sanctions and starting anew under Sarkisian. The offense took some hits, but USC’s fantastic defense brings back plenty, and the program added another stellar class.

1. Who wins when Oregon and Stanford lock horns again?

Pac-12 supremacy has gone to Palo Alto the last two years, but the Cardinal lost tons of experience while the Ducks retained more than expected. The return of Mariota and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu tilts the talent to Oregon, but then again, the Ducks have been plenty good the last two years but unable to solve Stanford.

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