Sophomores are the order of the day in the Pac-12 this football season. UCLA, Stanford and Oregon all broke in freshman quarterbacks in 2012 with great results, and now Brett Hundley, Kevin Hogan and Marcus Mariota are back for more. Then we add USC to that list, where soph Max Witten started in place of Matt Barkley at the end of last year when Barkley was hurt, and is the heir apparent this year.
These four teams lead up the favorites to be in the Pac-12 Championship Game. It’s the third year for this conference championship game and the Pac-12 is moving it from Friday night, to be a part of the complete menu of championship games going on Saturday, December 7. The league does still stand apart as the one conference that rewards its best overall team, by giving homefield advantage for the title game.
Contenders aren’t limited to Stanford/Oregon in the North and USC/UCLA in the South. The latter division has solid contenders in Arizona State and Arizona. And while Stanford and Oregon look head-and-shoulders above the North, there are good teams in Washington and Oregon State that can get a quality bowl bid and might be as good as the best in the South.
TheSportsNotebook’s college football coverage has broken down each of the two divisions at the links below. I’m taking Stanford to win the North, and taking a flyer on Arizona State in the South. There’s no doubt I have the Cardinal winning the conference championship, with the only question being whether Stanford merits being chosen to reach the BCS National Championship Game. In either case, that puts them in Pasadena for the second straight year.