The Pac-12 Conference in 2014 should be quite competitive from top to bottom. This season the level of talent should be at its highest since the conference went from 8 to 12 teams. Last season, 9 teams from the conference played in a bowl game, one more than in the 2012 season.
On NFL Draft day, 34 players for the conference were selected, the third highest of any conference in college football. Over the past two seasons, 62 players have been drafted by the NFL, which is also third most of all the football conferences.
Leading the way with players being drafted was the UCLA Bruins with five.
While having starters return from the prior season is a good way to gauge for the potential of the team the next season, a better indicator is arguably the condition of the team’s offensive line.
Looking into that even further, the number of returning offensive line starters is likely the best barometer in determining future success.
According to data pulled from Bovada and sportsbook.com, Oregon has 107 game starts on the offensive line returning this season, while Stanford has just 15. However, leading the Pac-12 is Washington with 124. UCLA has a high number at 89, while USC has just 53.
Summer recruiting camps have become popular for schools as a way to bring in recruits to impress them and a way for the assistant coaches in the program to earn some extra cash, but the amount of monies invested in those camps have become a controversy.
The North Division of the Pac-12 will likely be ruled by the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks will have 9 starters returning on offense and 5 on defense. Oregon lost running back De’Anthony Thomas and wide receiver Josh Huff, who both moved on to the NFL.
Marcus Mariotta the starting quarterback returns from a season of 4,380 total yards. In addition, Byron Marshall who ran for over 1,000 yards will return with Bralon Addison a wide receiver who caught passes for 900 yards.
Even more impressive, five starters from the offensive line return.
The Oregon defense held opponents to just 16 points or fewer in 7 of the 13 games Oregon played.
Last season Oregon was second to last in time of possession in the nation, as their offense was explosive and quick scoring.
North teams to watch: Stanford, California, Oregon State, Washington State
The South division of the Pac-12 will be very competitive but the likely frontrunner this season will be the UCLA Bruins.
UCLA returns 8 starters on both offense and defense. Brett Hundley the talented and versatile quarterback, who threw for 24 touchdowns last season, while rushing for 11 others, returns for his junior season.
On defense, Myles Jack a linebacker played both ways last season. He rushed for 4 touchdowns versus Washington.
Other South division teams to watch: Arizona, Arizona State, USC