2. Stanford Cardinal
Reasons Why They Will Win: The Cardinal, along with Oregon, are in the top tier of football programs in the conference and in the country. They’ve been dominant on both sides of the ball for four solid years now. They’re a perennial top-10 program. They’ve lost players, and coaches, and have continued to improve every season. Even with all of the losses this season, it should come as no shock if they end up winning the Pac-12 conference and advancing to the Rose Bowl or the National Championship playoff. Kevin Hogan, for all of his troubles, is 16-3 as starting QB and 10-1 against AP Top-25 opponents. Stanford defense is a bit thinner this year, but should be one of the best in the conference once again. It all comes down to November 1st at Oregon. If Stanford takes down the Ducks for the third straight year, they’ll likely be Pac-12 North Champs again.
Reasons Why They Won’t Win: The Cardinal have some huge piece to replace in 2014. The names Tyler Gaffney, Shayne Skov, Ed Reynolds, Usua Amanam and Trent Murphy may sound familiar. Stanford also lost Josh Mauro and three all-conference offensive lineman. That’s before we even get to perhaps their greatest loss: defensive coordinator Derek Mason, who is the new Head Coach at Vanderbilt. Mason was a killer defensive mind who has owned Oregon over the past two seasons. His loss is going to be huge; however, the system is still in place. Which is more important: the man or the system? I guess we’ll find out soon enough, starting with USC in week 2. The Cardinal are going to win games and be near the top of the conference and if everything goes right they may find themselves in a playoff for the National Title. However, they have a ton of parts to replace and their schedule isn’t exactly easy. SC in week 2, at Washington, at Notre Dame, at UCLA, AT OREGON! That’s a rough road to a conference title. It’s possible, but it’s less likely than last year.
Best Case Record: 12-0
Worst Case Record: 8-4