August 25, 2014

Pac-12 primer


With game week finally here, takes a closer look at the rest of the Pac-12 Conference, including some of USC's future opponents.


2013 record: (8-5 overall, 4-5 conference)

The skinny: Head coach Rich Rodriguez enters the ever important third season in Tucson having won eight games in each of his first two years, and the Wildcats are looking to take the next step in the division.

Key loss: RB Ka'Deem Carey (Round 4, Chicago Bears) ... Carey surpassed the 100-yard mark in every game last year and became the school's all-time leader in rushing yards (4,239), rushing touchdowns (48) and all-purpose yards (5,483).

Key returner: WR Austin Hill, who missed last year due to a torn ACL, but showed flashes of greatness as a sophomore in 2012 (1,364 yards, 11 touchdowns).

On the schedule: at Arizona, Oct. 11

Arizona State
2013 record: (10-4 overall, 8-1 conference)

The skinny: The reigning division champs must replace nine starters on defense, but head coach Todd Graham has a wild card in offensive coordinator Mike Norvell.

Key loss: DT Will Sutton (Round 3, Chicago Bears) ... The Corona native totaled 37 tackles for loss over his last two seasons on his way to being the back-to-back conference defensive player of the year.

Key returner: QB Taylor Kelly, who torched the Trojans for 430 total yards and three scores in what proved to be Lane Kiffin's final game.

On the schedule: vs. Arizona State, Oct. 4

2013 record: (4-8 overall, 1-8 conference)

The skinny: Head coach Mike MacIntyre got four wins out of this bunch in his first season at the helm, and there is optimism in Boulder that Year 2 could be another turning point of sorts.

Key loss: WR Paul Richardson (Round 2, Seattle Seahawks) ... The former Gardena Serra standout accumulated more than 1,300 receiving yards and 10 scores last fall.

Key returner: RB Christian Powell, who is on the Doak Walker Award watch list after leading the Buffs in rushing each of the past two seasons.

On the schedule: vs. Colorado, Oct. 18 (Homecoming)

2013 record: (10-3 overall, 6-3 conference)

The skinny: Back-to-back victories against the rival Trojans have given third-year head coach Jim Mora plenty of ammunition on the recruiting trail, and the Bruins now intend to parlay that into national relevance.

Key loss: OLB Anthony Barr (Round 1, Minnesota Vikings) ... Barr won the Lott IMPACT Trophy and was a finalist for the Lombardi, Bednarik and Butkus awards, helping the Bruins to consecutive wins against their crosstown rivals.

Key returner: QB Brett Hundley, who has more career scramble yards than any other player in the country and had 35 total touchdown in 2013.

On the schedule: at UCLA, Nov. 22

2013 record: (5-7 overall, 2-7 conference)

The skinny: An upset of then-No. 5 Stanford in Salt Lake City was the highlight for head coach Kyle Whittingham in 2013, as the Utes closed the season by losing five of their last six games.

Key loss: OLB Trevor Reilly (Round 7, New York Jets) ... The former team captain led the Utes last season with 100 tackles, including 16 for loss.

Key returner: WR Dres Anderson, who had over 1,000 receiving yards last year, making him the conference's returning leading receiver.

On the schedule: at Utah, Oct. 25


2013 record: (1-11 overall, 0-9 conference)

The skinny: A seven-point victory against Portland State in early September is all that kept head coach Sonny Dykes from going winless in his first year with the Golden Bears, so the pressure in Berkeley is mounting.

Key loss: TE Richard Rodgers (Round 3, Green Bay Packers) ... Rodgers did not play against the Trojans last year due to a thumb injury, but had an otherwise productive season in Sonny Dykes' offense.

Key returner: WR Bryce Treggs, who has made a switch from the outside to the slot position and had nearly 800 receiving yards as a sophomore last year.

On the schedule: vs. Cal, Nov. 13

2013 record: (11-2 overall, 7-2 conference)

The skinny: A blowout of Texas in the Alamo Bowl didn't soften the blow dealt by losses to Stanford and Arizona, but the Ducks again have national championship aspirations thanks to legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate behind center.

Key loss: RB De'Anthony Thomas (Round 4, Kansas City Chiefs) ... The former five-star recruit from Crenshaw had an electrifying stay in Eugene, grabbing school records in career kickoff return yards (1,885) and punt return average (17.1)

Key returner: QB Marcus Mariota, who has earned the nickname "Super Mario" after accounting for over 4,300 all-purpose yards and 40 total touchdowns as a sophomore last fall.

On the schedule: No

Oregon State
2013 record: (7-6 overall, 4-5 conference)

The skinny: Steve Sarkisian put up 69 points against the Beavers while at Washington last year, and head coach Mike Riley has a turnaround in mind for a team that dropped its final five conference games in 2013.

Key loss: WR Brandon Cooks (Round 1, New Orleans Saints) ... Cooks set the Pac-12 single-season record for receptions (128) and receiving yards (1,730) on his way to winning the Biletnikoff Award last year.

Key returner: QB Sean Mannion, who threw for a Pac-12 record 4,662 yards last season to go along with 35 touchdowns.

On the schedule: vs. Oregon State, Sept. 27

2013 record: (11-3 overall, 7-2 conference)

The skinny: Four defensive leaders are gone from a squad that made consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, but head coach David Shaw still has the services of efficient quarterback Kevin Hogan and another strong group of linemen.

Key loss: RB Tyler Gaffney (Round 6, Carolina Panthers) ... The two-sport star had 21 rushing touchdowns in his first year as the full-time starting running back.

Key returner: WR Ty Montgomery, who ranked second nationally with an average of 30.3 yards per kickoff return last year.

On the schedule: at Stanford, Sept. 6

2013 record: (9-4 overall, 5-4 conference)

The skinny: There is optimism for a school that finally convinced head coach Chris Petersen to leave Boise State, and that's only accentuated by the solid roster Sarkisian left behind in Seattle.

Key loss: RB Bishop Sankey (Round 2, Tennessee Titans) ... Sarkisian's go-to guy in his last season in Seattle set the single-season mark for rushing yards (1,870) and career rushing touchdowns (37).

Key returner: ATH Shaq Thompson, who has shown the ability to play both outside linebacker (78 tackles in 2013) and running back early in Petersen's tenure.

On the schedule: No

Washington State
2013 record: (6-7 overall, 4-5 conference)

The skinny: Head coach Mike Leach's bunch nearly shocked Auburn to start 2013, and then had surprising road wins at USC and Arizona on their way to leading the nation in passing attempts.

Key loss: DB Deone Bucannon (Round 1, Arizona Cardinals) ... Bucannon led the conference in tackles (114) and tied for the top spot in interceptions (six).

Key returner: QB Connor Halliday, who last year set a school single-season record with 4,597 passing yards and tied Ryan Leaf's single-season mark of 34 touchdown passes.

On the schedule: at Washington State, Nov. 1

PHOTOS: USC 2013 season recap

Ranking USC's 2014 schedule

USC predictions for the 2014 season

Blair Angulo
Recruiting Analyst

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